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Germany

Georgian Students Living in Germany Express Outrage at Russia

In Germany, a group of Georgian students have found themselves far from the conflict tearing through their homeland. And though they're too young to remember the Cold War, they still feel the old grievances.

A closeup of a Georgian woman's face with tears on her cheeks.

Georgians living in Germany are angry with Russia for their actions

Mariam sits in the main garden outside the university in Bonn, Germany. It's a warm August evening and the sun has just set. Mariam doesn't notice. She is too caught up in the thoughts running through her mind. Mariam, a university student, says she is afraid every day. Afraid for her family and her country.

"Each day I call my mother in Tbilisi and if she doesn't answer I am totally overcome by fear. I'm convinced that a Russian bomb landed on our house," she says.

Rage towards Russia

Mariam Akiashili sitting at the Hofgarten in Bonn.

Mariam fears for her family's safety

For the past four years Mariam has lived in Germany, studying economics. She would like to return to her homeland, but at the moment she doesn't dare. She and her Georgian friends follow the unrest in her native country on the television and the internet.

Mariam and her sister, Mtvarisa, are furious with Russia and the Russian president. Mtvarisa says that Russia just cannot deal with the fact that Georgia is developing in a Western fashion.

Georgia has a very strategic position. Gas and oil pipelines pass through our country, and of course the Russians want to control them, she adds.

"We have to defend ourselves"

Georgian peace keeping forces on patrol.

Georgian soldiers are out in full force against the Russians

Nino also firmly believes in her country and the Georgian president. She finds Saakashvili's actions commendable. "We have to defend ourselves," she says. It sounds like something memorized at a young age. Nino has been in Germany for a year, and is waiting for a spot to open up for her to study medicine.

She has just turned 20. She never experienced the Cold War. Nevertheless, even she feels some of the old hatred when she sees the former frontlines re-outlined: East against West, Russia against America -- and Georgia in the middle, sitting on the fence. Georgia is like a buffer state with an overpowering adversary standing at the door.

Enemies at the disco

Closeup of Nino Kargishvili, sitting in the Hofgarten in Bonn.

Nino completely supports her government

For the young Georgians, a Russian is someone to hate, not to have as a friend. That's how it's always been. Because of that, Nino could never imagine herself falling in love with a Russian boy, not even here in Germany.

"After everything that has happened between our countries, it isn't possible anymore," she says defensively, shaking her head.

The young Georgian has brought this hate, anger and fear with her to Germany. Luckily there aren't any Russians living in her dormitory, she says. Though she came across a few in the street one evening recently. A couple of Russian students who were looking for a disco asked Nino and Mariam if they knew where one was.

Mariam recognized the accent immediately. When she and Nino told the Russians where they were from, the mood darkened, she explains.

"And when they asked where we were from, and we told them that we're Georgians, they became aggressive. One boy screamed: 'Russia will kill Georgia'. I said, you are our enemies, but we will gladly help you find a disco," she says.

"There is no peace"

Russian soldiers jumping out of a tank.

Russian soldiers have still not withdrawn from the country

The only solution is for the Russians to leave, agree the two students. They are afraid that Russia will simply annex Georgia and remove the government.

"I could never live under a Russian government," says Mariam. "I am Georgian and proud of it."

"There is no peace," says Nino, "The war is over, but the people are still afraid of the Russians. They are still in Georgia and refuse to leave. They’re aiming their rockets at Tbilisi."

"M-schwi-do-ba"

Georgian students Mtvarisa, Nino, Tamta und Mariam sitting together in the Hofgarten.

Mtvarisa, Nino, Tamta und Mariam

Occasionally the students have doubts about their hatred for Russia, though it's rare. Sometimes they meet Russians who are actually very nice. Like the woman at the language course at the community college. Mariam quickly became friends with this potential enemy. It didn’t last. "The politics destroyed our friendship," she says, sadly.

Because despite all the anger, the Georgian students only want one thing: "M-shvi-do-ba," they say.

It's Georgian, and it means peace.

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