Wounds that won’t heal: S. Ossetia remembers Georgian attack

At this time exactly one year ago, the South Ossetian capital Tskhinval was shuddering under fire. For some, last year’s events are a nightmare from which they have not yet awaken.

On the night of August 7 2008, Georgia unleashed heavy shelling, followed by a massive ground operation to regain control of the republic. Hundreds of people were killed and injured during the assault and the city was almost razed to the ground.

Today, one year on, the wounds of war are still raw.

Images from the commemoration services in South Ossetia and Moscow.

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Never-ending nightmare

Taisia Sytnik has become a shadow of her old self – always dressed in black, with no will to live. In last year’s war she lost her son, but unlike many in the grief-stricken city of Tskhinval, she’s never recovered. Her anguish continues, eating her from the inside.

“Why didn’t I feel anything?” she keeps on asking herself. “Why didn’t my heart shrink at that moment? I could have protected my boy, I could have saved him.”

Her son Georgy was killed by a piece of shrapnel on August 9. He died in her arms, and for several days she was trapped in the basement with his decaying body.

Fresh out of university, Georgy was Taisia’s pride and hope. She said she loved him more than her younger daughter, who hasn’t taken her black veil off in the entire year since her brother’s death.

“I thought that Mom paid him more attention, but it’s all childish,” she said.

Wherever Taisia goes, the recollections of happier times make her suffer. In their apartment, half-destroyed by a Georgian rocket, every corner holds memories of her son.

Even if Taisia wanted to move on, the realities of life in Tskhinval wouldn’t let her.

Seeking revenge

Her neighbor Lili Bestaeva lost her brother in the same attack that took Georgy’s life. Neither of the women can find solace in anything but revenge.

“Let me not die until I’ve tasted Georgian blood,” said Lili.

“Curse them all, every single one,” Taisia echoes her neighbor. “Let Saakashvili see his sons in the same condition as Ossetia has seen its sons.”

Lost and numb most of the time, Taisia comes to life only at the cemetery. She turned Georgy’s grave into her sanctuary, a place where she can talk to him and feel his presence.

She’s already reserved a place for herself next to Georgy’s grave. That’s the only thing she’s looking forward to as she turns 45.