Tears amongst the ashes: Ossetia’s mourning continues

According to the Russian Prosecutor’s office, the Georgian attack last August killed 162 Ossetians and wounded 250. For people who lost relatives in the attack, the grieving continues.

One year after the war, vigils are being held in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinval to remember those who were killed in the Georgian attack.

Local churches will be holding dozens of memorial ceremonies over the course of the next four days.

“You know, a lot of children died during the first night of shelling by the Georgian side,” said Bishop Georgy from Alan Eparchy of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Bishop Georgy expressed remorse that the attack was “carried out after midnight when people have already gone to bed and were caught unawares in their sleep.”

Taisia Sytnik (R) who lost her son in the war and her daughter visit the genocide memorial in Tskhinval, August 8, 2009 (AFP photo / Dmitry Kostyukov)

South Ossetian men rarely shed a tear, but these days it’s becoming a more familiar sight. Indeed, hearing the heart wrenching stories from local residents, it is impossible not to share in their grief and suffering.

Last year, Zaur Dzhisoev, a resident of the capital Tskhinval, lost his son and two of his teenage grandchildren. Shortly after the war commenced, the children were gunned down by a Georgian tank while they were attempting to escape from the besieged town. The mother, Nelly, witnessed the death of her two children; one year later she cannot bring herself to speak about the personal tragedy.

Nelly did not know she was pregnant when she lost her husband and her children on the first day of the war. In May of this year she gave birth to a son. The grandfather says that his grandchild is the only reason to continue living for him and his family.

Dzhisoev was in Tskhinval when the war began and he describes what he saw as genocide.

“I would savage them to death,” he said. “And that’s the Georgian leaders. They are fascists. These guys do not take prisoners; they just shoot down everyone, including elderly people and children. It makes no difference for them. The only thing that matters is that he or she is Ossetian.”

Zaur Dzhisoev’s grandchildren were 14 and 15 years old, and all that was left of them to bury were their ashes.

Russian peacekeepers fought to protect South Ossetian civilians and also became victims of the aggression.

However, Georgia’s position on the war has not changed one iota: it was Russia who initiated the attack, they say.