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Internally displaced in Georgia face uncertain future

It's been five years since the war between Russia and Georgia, and many people displaced from South Ossetia during the brief conflict are still living in settlements funded by the Georgian state. DW takes a look.

Along the road between the Georgian capital Tbilisi and Gori are row upon row of small white houses with red and blue roofs. These are the settlements for Georgia's "internally displaced."

They had to leave their homes in South Ossetia during Georgia's conflict with Russia in August of 2008. Back then, Georgia had lost control of the breakaway region. Moscow had already recognized South Ossetia's independence and had stationed its own troops there; to this day, Russia and Georgia both blame each other for instigating the conflict.

There are twelve displacement camps in Georgia. In the Shavshvebi settlement, located 70 km (43 miles) from Tbilisi, there are 560 people. At first glance you can see people standing around in front of the newly-painted buildings; some are playing backgammon. When the conflict broke out, these people initially fled for Tbilisi. Later in 2008, they were given homes here in Shavshvebi. Each family was given a home with approximately 63 square meters (670 square feet).

Social aid runs out

Bildergalerie Grenze zwischen Georgien und Südossetien

Galina Kelechsayeva was given a house for four people

On the edge of the Shavshvebi settlement, one finds the home of Galina Kelechsayeva. She's from South Ossetia and grew up in the village of Didi Liachvi. "When we set foot in this house, there were four beds, one kitchen table, and four cups and four plates. It was equipped for precisely four people.

The Georgian state continues to cover all repair costs in the settlement, while residents have to pay for community services themselves. One problem that persists is the lack of a sewage system. But, on the whole, one has the impression here that the people have what they need to survive. Kelechsayeva even has a television, comfortable furniture, and fruit and sweets are on the kitchen table.

According to some residents, this "standard of living" has also had its negative consequences. Before, every family living here was entitled to social aid. However, following an assessment conducted by public authorities in which televisions, refrigerators and other household appliances were found, the amount of the aid payments was reduced by half.

Now the displaced who qualify for social aid receive a monthly installment of 10 euros, something that has many here outraged. "Bureaucrats! They come in our homes and take note of every tiny thing. Much of the stuff we didn't even buy. It was given to us," Nugsar Otenashvili, a 69-year-old man from Didi Liachvi, told DW.

Decades of displacement

Many residents here had their social aid taken away completely after the inspection. Like Nasi Beruashvili, a 51-year-old woman who has been displaced for 22 years now. She doesn't believe that she will ever be able to return to her hometown in South Ossetia.

Bildergalerie Grenze zwischen Georgien und Südossetien Schlagworte: Georgien, Russland, Krieg, Südossetien, Grenze, Flüchtlinge Zulieferer: Sergey Gushcha 07 - Nasi Beruaschwili, georgischer Flüchtling aus Südossetien. Autor: Amalia Oganjanyan, DW-Korrespondentin in Tbilissi, 30.07.2013.

Nasi Beruashvili told DW she is proud of her garden

Like all residents in Shavshvebi, Beruashvili has a garden where she tends to her homegrown vegetables. Most grow potatoes, tomatoes, wheat and sun flowers. Others even keep bees for honey. These gardens are much smaller than the ones they remember in their hometowns, however.

Vladimir Zubashvili is another of the residents here that fled the South Ossetian village of Didi Liachvi. He still hopes to return to his hometown one day. He says he always retained a good relationship to South Ossetia. "Russia is the reason why ties between Georgia and South Ossetia worsened," Zubashvili told DW.

Small shop on wheels

On the outskirts of the Shavshvebi settlement one finds a shop - located inside a truck. Business is not going well for shopkeeper Manana Batshetshiladse. Most of her customers have debts with her. But Batshetshiladse, who lives in a nearby village, has compassion for the displaced people here. One of them is Sidonia Gotshashvili, a 71-year-old woman whom Batshetshiladse walks home - even if she has to leave her shop unattended.

Bildergalerie Grenze zwischen Georgien und Südossetien

Batshetshiladse has set up her shop in a truck

Gotshashvili can barely walk and has no relatives in the settlement. Her daughter has moved away and her son was killed in a car accident. Gotshashvili told DW that her son was tortured in the village where they were living when the war broke out in 2008. With anger in her eyes, she remembers how her house and those in the nine villages in this valley were burned to the ground.

She doesn't see a way of ever returning to her village, which is now under Russian control. Her one solace is that her social aid has recently been increased. Now she receives around 27 euros per month.

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