We met Leila (center) in Zugdidi, Georgia over a year ago. Like so many others, she and her friends at the market have probably been evacuated recently.
We'll likely never know.
Zugdidi was not much of a tourist destination, but it was home to one of our tastiest and most touching experiences.
Now it’s at the front of a growing conflict in and around Georgia and the disputed regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The latest reports from Zugdidi indicate that it has just been occupied by Russian military troops.
We previously wrote of the lingering effects of civil conflict throughout Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in the 1990s in a piece we entitled This Land is Not Your Land. The latest conflict is yet another chapter of personal stories, refugees and displacement in the Caucasus — a region that may yet prove to be the Powder Keg of Asia.
The News Becomes Personal
Yesterday, as we consumed the news wires for stories on South Ossetia, Georgia and Russia, we exchanged emails and SMS text messages with friends in Georgia to find out if they were safe.
A friend in Tbilisi sent us the following SMS:
Hi! Thank you for your care and kindness. We're OK but situation is really dangerous. Russian airtroops are bombing whole the Georgia. Many people are wounded and killed. Hope international community will support us with negotiation process peace will come.
We are wondering where this is all headed. Something tells us that neither the pundits nor the geopolitical experts know for certain.
In the meantime, the faces of people we met last year in Georgia play in an endless loop in our minds.