Report from Georgia. (updated with photos)
We just posted a Web exclusive from Laura Sheahen of CRS–a journal from the first week of her deployment as an aid worker in Georgia.
Day Three: Friday, August 15
A CRS colleague waits in a tedious bank line to transfer $25,000—a first installment of several to come—so Caritas Georgia can buy urgent items for the displaced people. The bank system is unsettled and it takes hours.
We meet with the region’s bishop, who describes the plight of families who fled the bombed city of Gori and sought refuge at a Catholic retreat house nearby. The bishop says he’s heard from all his priests except one in Abkhazia, another disputed region of Georgia. “I have no reason to believe he’s not OK, though.”
In a parish rectory, I talk to Sasha and Georgy, two of the men who left Gori. “No one expected this,” says Sasha. When Georgy first heard the planes, he hid in the basement. Later, he reached his wife and children, who were a few miles away. The four of them, plus ten other people, got in his brother’s minivan and drove to safety.
Sasha’s father is diabetic; a priest from Gori, Fr. Vladimir, got him medicine. Fr. Vladimir was outside Gori when the bombing happened, but drove back into the city on Sunday August 10 to see the situation and say Mass. “The doors and windows or the chapel were blasted by the shockwave,” he says.
I visit the 3 p.m. meal at a Caritas soup kitchen. Fifty more IDPs have recently arrived, and they’re now serving over three hundred people at that one shelter alone. The food looks pretty good: meat stew, barley kasha, bread, tomato salad. Too busy to eat, I haven’t had more than a Twix bar all day. I eye the tomatoes wistfully.
I learn that people from villages around Tskhinvali will probably never be able to go home. Many of them have lost farms, cows, and orchards. The shock of fleeing from bombs and losing their homes is compounded by the shock of knowing they’ll have to begin again, perhaps in this unfamiliar urban environment, when the only life they’ve ever known is farming.
Read the rest right here.
Update: Technical difficulties are preventing me from inserting Laura’s photos into her story page, so I’m going to post them below for now.