My story: Nunuka Chkadua -- A wartorn life begins to heal

My name is Nunuka Chkadua, I am 37 years old. I am married and have four children. The youngest is only 3. She was a baby when the 2008 war began.

Nunuka Chkadua
Nunuka Chkadua and her daughter.
Photo: CWS

My name is Nunuka Chkadua, I am 37 years old. I am married and have four children. The youngest is only 3. She was a baby when the 2008 war began.

We ran from the burning village Avnevi late at night on August 7, 2008, leaving behind us years of peaceful and happy life. It was a true nightmare that has changed our lives forever. We couldn’t even imagine that the spattered shooting from the Ossetian border would turn into a hell.

With my little girl in my arms and my other children--the eldest, 11--running on both sides of my husband, we headed for the garage to take the bare necessities and get into our car.  But the car wouldn't start.  We left everything there and walked all the way to Georgia. It took us hours and hours. 

The children were crying.  We were desperate, and we cried together with our children. Neighbors wanted to help, but all the cars were packed and many people had to run alongside with us. The bombs were blasting around us and people were killed in front of our eyes. My husband was wounded, but thank God he was still able to walk, so we didn’t stop. We ran to the forest and hid there. The bombs were not the only threat:  We were on the lookout for Chechen and Ossetian marauders and other criminals, who had mercilessly tortured Georgians since the war started, committing rapes and kidnappings. It is hard to imagine how people could survive in those circumstances and remain sane.

We reached Tbilisi. But, the city was in panic.  People were packing things, saying the Russian military had come too close, and that the bombing would start soon.

We stayed in an abandoned kindergarten building with no windows and doors. Inhuman conditions, no money, and no hope that something would change tomorrow.  These were our first weeks after we left our village. My little 9-month-old daughter was continuously crying from heat, fear and hunger. For days we survived on bread and water, and nobody came to calm us down and give us hope. People were left to fend for themselves.  Some started looking for their relatives or friends in Tbilisi, some were begging in the streets, some disappeared and nobody knew what happened to them. In a while, the government started providing some food--sausages and pasta--but we didn’t have anything to cook on or with, so food spoiled and the children suffered from stomach infections. It was an endless nightmare!

After four months, we were moved to Tsimanzgvriantkari village, located close to Tbilisi. Since then, and together with other IDP families, we live in a dormitory of the former technical school. Before the war my husband worked as a car engineer and I stayed at home raising our children. Today, my husband is unemployed; he often goes to Tbilisi looking for any job. When we moved to this IDP center we received some food from the government--oil, sugar, and flour--but in the past six months no one has brought anything. The only assistance we get from the state is 28 Lari ($15.80) per month. To buy 1 kg. of beef we need to pay 8 Lari ($4.5).

One day we were asked by the local village administration to come to a community meeting which was organized by the representatives of a non-governmental organization--Tbilisi Youth House Foundation, as I learned later. I went there without much enthusiasm since many people came promising some changes, but nothing ever happened. But there was something I liked from the very beginning--the fact that all of them were women. They told us about a new project funded by CWS and explained the possibilities that participation in the project could give us. I really got interested, so I joined the project because I wanted to change my life and try something new that might help me and my family. I have never participated in such a project before. Also, I hoped that new knowledge and skills would help me to find job--at least a temporary job, which is not a bad start.

Regardless of the hardships I experience today, like many other IDPs all over Georgia, I eagerly attend training courses provided by Tbilisi Youth House Foundation within the framework of the Community Development in Galavani - Reducing Rural Poverty and Enhancing Food Security project funded by the Church World Service. I liked the women’s leadership course.  It gave me a lot of information on such important questions as gender equality and legal issues.  The psychological part helped me to strengthen my self-confidence and learn to hope for the better. At proposal writing sessions we started developing small project proposals--there are so many needs in our community that can be addressed by the community itself. I've come up with an idea to start an NGO, or we could start a small business. Why not? We are active, young women open to new knowledge and life experiences.  We want to be creative and make a difference!

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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