“Three days ago, they moved the fence 30 yards closer to my home,” says Georgian farmer Georgi Chatlitschvi. “The Russian border guards told me my orchards were no longer mine—they were part of South Ossetia, not Georgia. Those apples were my livelihood. Now they sit behind the fence, on land they tell me is part of a different country.”
Georgi continues, his face washed out with exhaustion: “We are scared. I haven’t slept for days. Maybe tomorrow I will lose my house. This is our land—we’ve lived here all our lives—and it’s being stolen from us.”
I’m told that, during the summertime, the hills, valleys, and farmlands around the Georgian village of Gogeti are lush and beautiful. Today, a bone-shearing December wind blasts along the Tskhinvali Valley. The muddy, half-thawed expanse in front of us looks like a wasteland.
In the near distance, the green, motion-sensitive fence erected by the Russians runs the entire length of the horizon. Behind it, on the South Ossetian side, sits the towering hulk of a Russian military base. Farther on, the Caucasus Mountains run northward, all the way into Russia.
James Rippingale é o autor da reportagem RUSSIA IS STILL BUILDING A ‘RURAL BERLIN WALL’ THROUGH GEORGIA, para a Vice.