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6 Aug, 2009 04:47

Painful memories of S. Ossetian War

It is almost one year since Georgia launched its assault on the Republic of South Ossetia. In the days that followed scores of Ossetians died and homes were reduced to rubble, and the scars of war still remain.

The trip from North to South Ossetia normally takes no more than three hours. In August of 2008 it took the RT crew three times longer. The road was blocked in both directions. Tanks and armored vehicles were streaming in, while buses and cars with refugees were pouring out.

Nowadays the road offers a very different view: tanks are replaced by excavators; soldiers give way to repair teams; but security is still tight – no stopping at the tunnels and no filming.

If there is one single thing that had decided the outcome of the war, it was the Rocket tunnel. In August of 2008 it was the only functioning road linking Russia and South Ossetia. If Georgians had captured this strip of concrete, they would have taken South Ossetia by the neck.

Georgia, however, failed in their efforts, and the tunnel remained the only life-line for the tortured and starved capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinval.

A year later, Tskhinval looks almost like any other city in the Caucasus. Bright colors and high hills are back in fashion, rollerblading is the sport of the season, but life is not as careless as it may seem. Behind the sunny facade are still plenty of grief and deprivation.

“During the winter time it is difficult with electricity and gas, a lot of people don’t have homes – their homes are destroyed. But now things are getting on track, things are starting to flourish, reconstruction is happening,” said Joe Mestas, a US citizen living in South Ossetia.

While the reconstruction is in high gear, many buildings are still what they were a year ago: burnt-out and deserted.

Eduard Kulimbegov’s apartment came under tank fire on the second day of the war. He lost his home and his father.

“That night after shelling the building was somehow not destroyed. Early in the morning my father came out onto the balcony, he was probably in shock. Over there, at a crossing stood Georgian tanks, they fired upon our house. He was lying right here, dead,” Eduard recalls.

Eduard has been promised that the apartment will be repaired by the end of the summer, but for him it will never be the same again.

“Our home has gone forever. Even if it’s redone completely, it just would not feel the same to me,” he says.

Even a year later the footprint of the South Ossetian war is all too visible – a war that cost many lives and displaced thousands more.

Read also With war in South Ossetia, the West crossed Russia's red line