Monday, August 18, 2008

Latest from Georgia

I intended to post some more thoughts on the situation in Georgia. Over the weekend, however, I received the following information from friends there. The first is an impassioned letter from Jonathan (John) Wurdman. The second is a link to John Graham's blog, an almost hour-by-hour account of events there. I can add nothing to what they say. Please take time to read both, and continue to pray for Georgia.

Upalo Shegvitsqalen!

Dear Friends,

I have distaste for group e-mails and forgive me for writing one. So many people have written and reached out to our family and friends during this conflict period, and written their concern for Georgia and all of us. I want to thank you for thinking of us and for such an outpour of love and support. The last week has been an explosion of events that are very complicated and a tangled mess. The history of these problems is rooted much less in ethnic differences than Russian greed and imperialism. While it is also hard to understand for us being on the ground, having it unfold before our eyes has given us an up close, if bias point of view! Everyone knows about our love for Georgia and so what I am writing is not an indifferent cold report of facts, or the hard reality it has our feelings and subjective ideas at its core.First although there are some 100,000 + refugees and hundreds if not thousands killed I want to reassure you that nobody that you know or that was close to our family or friends has directly suffered injuries, at least not as far as I know. With one exception, Ketevan and Shalva had a Cousin named Goga that was a surgeon working 24/7 in Gori in the hospital helping Ossetians, Georgians and Russians wounded in battle around the clock, he went outside for some fresh air and was shot in the back of the head by a rocket from a helicopter above. This was a tragedy, they continued bombing the hospital!?There has been enough blame and fiery words thrown back and fourth from pain, resentment and disgust that I am sure you have seen in the news and internet. Georgians are a very emotional people and there has been a tidal wave of deeply felt hurt and no restrain by politicians, soldiers, or citizens in expressing this. The history of these regions and root of conflict is very convoluted, but Georgia has resented efforts by Russia to colonize and Russify it for many centuries. There was not great love for the northern bully before this conflict, I am afraid the wounds created now will span many more generations and be lemon juice on the soars. Georgian kids are asking why is our whole country being bombed by the Russians?There is no doubt that Saakashvili and his team acted in haste and did not foresee the reaction that Russia would have, and in times of war, people do commit war crimes and undoubtly there has been plenty of atrocities commited by all the multiple parties involved. The marauding of the Russian soldiers as well as their "volunteers" who where hired mercenaries from the North Caucasus, has created hell on earth of West Georgian cities. The so called 2,000 killed in Ossetia is not recognized as possible by Georgia, they said because of squirmishes and cross fire in the area most of the inhabitants in non Georgian villages had already started to evacuate Tskhinvali before the first attack launched against an illegitimate rebel army, and an impotent 300+ Russian so-called peace keepers. The majority of deaths on the Russian-Ossetian side are believed to be armed men. The Russian Government has not proved the amount of deaths nor are they letting independent experts or journalists in to research. They are also experienced liars that fabricate situations for their benefit. Georgia was attempting to liberate one of its territories and hoping to win the support of the locals Ossetian and Georgian alike therefore it would go strictly against their aim to ride over old woman and new born children in tanks as Putin alledges took place. Those of you that know Georgia and Georgians can't believe that! The Russian "peacekeepers" created anything but peace they had a nesting ground for the black market sales of drugs, human trafficking, and arms sale. They did what they liked in ethnic Georgian villages and shot anyone that resisted, this continued for 16 years. They don't tell you this in CNN. Georgia however has suffered as a result of a tug of war and power showdown between world powers as well as been made the guinea pig experiment in the region for Putin and his pseudo soviet regime to send a message that they will not be mocked and that they want to control what they call as the "near" abroad. Georgia is a freedom loving people that have been conquered over the millenniums by virtually every ambitious expanding empire in Eurasia. It has however retained so much culture, heritage and faith. This testifies to its high culture and national consciousness as well as to its tenacity. It may cost Georgia a lot more blood and chaos but they have had parts of their country trimmed away from the 12th C onwards while never annexing anyone else's territory. They will never settle for a Georgia without Abkhazia and South Ossetia (which by the way was called Inner Kartli) until the 1950's. The Russian government runs a brutish illogical, isolationist gov't that has as little morals as the Mongol horde did when it raped Russia in its entirety. Unfortunately Russia's level of civilization does not equal its might and wealth. Russia has decided they don't want to become part of a world community, they have their own personal economic and geo political agenda and they will walk over other peoples and raze their countries to the ground if they get in the way. For all the high culture and all due respect to the Russian Church it seems the general masses remain at a very low level of consciousness whose muck blinds them from being able to have common empathy and respect for cultures more ancient and gracious than their own. I am not talking about all Russians, you know how many friends I have there, but, the masses are a victim of the same hate machine that has attacked Georgia, they are victims of mass misinformation and spiritual darkness, may God help them! Georgian Mothers know what their sons died for, God knows if these poor Russian Mother's even understand the conflict that took their dear sons lives.Our Patriarch has said that Georgia's strength comes from constant martyrdom. Its patron saint is St. George who was martyred at the hands of the Emperor Diocletian. The Russians forgot that they were fighting a people who had 100,000 of its people beheaded on one bridge in Tbilisi at the hands of the Persian Murwan the Deaf in a single day, that fought for over 3,000 years of constant war to protect its tiny piece of beloved earth. They thought they could break Georgia, bring its people to their knees, they thought through mass rape, murder, bombs, and torture they would create such confusion that Georgians would start to shrink away from Saakashvili and his gov't and fall into mass panic. Russia will not break Georgia as long as one Georgian is left. This is not a regular people, they do not except becoming slaves no matter what they have to endure. Georgia's aspirations to have a free, democratic country open to trade and opening their doors to the West has cost them great pain and hardship.What can we do? Continue singing Georgian songs, paint pictures of its beautiful county side, make amazing wine, and keep visiting and conducting our business here and show Russia that not only Georgians but the friends of Georgia will not become the slaves of their program to instill fear in Georgia's partners.I hope Saakashvili's gov't shows restraint, in the upcoming days, and I hope Russia has a grain of respect for itself and shows the world that there is some conscience left in its dark mind. I also feel America's hands are mixed in this blood they have been stout supporters of Georgia, helped them build this army trained them asked for Georgia's contribution in Iraq, bolstered their decisions to move towards NATO and the EU and finally in Georgia's time of need their has been little more than some humanitarian aid and empty threats that aren't followed with real action, and a fairly impressive Diplomatic support that so far hasn't created real yields. Russians are not diplomats they don't understand or relate to diplomacy. "Don't cast pearls before the Swine" If you want to speak to a Russian military person you have to use a language he can relate to. I am a peace lover and a pacifist but you can't fight an enemy that is bombing you from state of the art artillery by throwing marshmallows at him. I hope that the world sees Russian's neo imperialistic ambitions and makes a decision, whether or not this is a superpower they are ready to bow down to. It is easy to distance the problem if you live in a different world, but all the countries that have been victimized by Russia and have lived through its repressions have spoken out loudly in support for Georgia. Especially Ukraine, the Baltic Countries and other Eastern bloc nations that were experimental projects of Russia's uncontained aggression and ambition. May God give each man his share and a cross he can carry, we have almost collapsed under the spiritual and physical exhaustion of the past 7 days! Currently The Russians have broken their commitment to withdraw their troops to the status quo of Aug 6th and they continue to move troops into Poti, Gori, and Senaki, where they are conducting barbarious acts there! They have sunk ships, stolen computers furniture, children, they have started fires in the national parks, and killed multiple journalists local and foreign alike, bombed churches and assault Bishops, and Priests. Today aside from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali a third of the country is under Russian control despite all international pressure! Our world is a theater and I don't see the final act, I see some possibilities, but they all seem grave for Georgia! Sorry for a torrent of words, but many of you have been asking my feelings! May God protect this land that we all love! Amen! Amen! Amen!

Keep us in your prayers,

John, Ketevan, Lazare and Gvantsa

John Graham's blog, here.

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