It is a regular derelict two-storey building in a perfectly normal Georgian village. However, far from being empty it has 13 families living in it. And amongst these people, who have been displaced by the war in August, is an unusual sight, one young girl, Ana, is lively and smiling,though it's impossible to understand why.
Ana is maybe five or six years old. She was forced from her home by events she had no control over, by circumstances that she does not understand. As the news bulletins report about checkpoints, boundaries, “legitimacy”, what is happening about the safety and security of children like her ? Can it be right for her to be cold and hungry, in a strange building , in an area she does not know?
The forty people in the concrete building that nominally was the village's polyclinic share two stoves. They have water from an old well in front of the building. They have no bathrooms.
“This isn't living” a woman says. “This is only barely existing. We can't return to our home in Akhalgori, because we will be harassed. It's not South Ossetians or Russians or whatever responsible for all this – it's just common, ordinary criminals. I am Georgian, but we never had any problems with the Ossetians or the Russians in Akhalgori: I studied in Russia, I've worked in Russia... But no one stops the criminals from destroying everything!”
The woman speaks very good Russian. She's wearing well applied make up which contrasts with the poor conditions she is living in. It is as if she is trying to keep up an appearance of normality, of order. Others seem to have given in to their fate. They wear morning-gowns and slippers, just as if they are fresh out of bed, though it's late in the afternoon.
The August war forced many people to leave their homes. Immediately after the war approximately 128, 000 were displaced because of the fighting. Many have since returned; others have no homes to return to, or can't return because of fear of harassment. The Georgian Government and NGOs are providing many houses for those affected, but there are some, like these families, who until our EU Monitors came across them, were not known about.
The EUMM is looking to see what can be done for this particular group. But ultimately it is by seeking co-operation between all sides, Georgian, Russian, South Ossetian and Abkhazian that we will ensure the stability and security needed to allow these families and many more to survive the winter and ultimately have the confidence to return to the areas from which they originally came.
“We have stoves, but no firewood, we have nothing but beans and macaroni. If it wasn't for the help of friends and relatives, we wouldn't be able to cope,” the woman says.
Ana is with us all the time, listening, and smiling but not really understanding what is happening. She simply wants to return to the safe life she knew before.