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Mariam Vepkhvadze: We have the same enemy
Vogue Leaders17. 10. 2022
The year 2022 marks the 14th anniversary of the so-called five-day war or August war, namely the conflict between Georgia and Russia. It will always be hard for me to remember the summer of 2008, the summer that left a great trauma not only in my memory but also in the memory of my country. „We have different lands and different countries, but we have the same sky and we have the same enemy,” is a saying of a popular Georgian novelist Dato Turashvili and one of many Georgians flying a Ukrainian flag outside his home.
Every day was filled with fear, especially when we could hear the sound of Russian military helicopters from a distance. I was only eight years old then and my four-year-old brother and I slept with our clothes on every night in case we had to escape into an impossible situation, and it became the biggest trauma of our lives. At that time we were in the West part of Georgia, a village called Tvishi, and our parents were in the East part, in the capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi, and the only reason we were separated was because of the Russian army, which made us think that we would never see our parents alive again. Anxiety, nervousness, and fear, as if they have become a part of our daily life, and 14 years later, I have the same feelings today, when I see that many people's lives are being sacrificed to Russia's aggression again.
It was 2008, 7th august when Russia launched air strikes, sent in troops, and declared war on Georgia. Apartments and businesses were bombed, several hundred people were killed and hundreds more were displaced. The fighting lasted for five days. In the end, Russia gained control of two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and so-called South Ossetia, which Georgians refer to as the Tskhinvali region. They are now separated by checkpoints and barbed wire from the rest of Georgia.
If the Red army flag flies over Kyiv, it may soon fly over Tbilisi, Sofia, Prague, Warsaw, Bucharest, Riga, Vilnius, and Tallinn.
Due to the Georgian-Russian war of 2008 and the tense relations with Russia in general, the population of Georgia perceives the Russian invasion of Ukraine as very painful. The absolute majority of the population of Georgia believes that the fate of the world is decided in Ukraine today. In the aftermath of the war, thousands of rallies in support of Ukraine are constantly held in Tbilisi and various settlements of Georgia. The population is still actively collecting humanitarian aid, which is sent to Ukraine in an organized manner; the Involvement of Georgian volunteers in military operations is a separate issue.
Back in 2014, parallel to Russia's annexation of Crimea and hostilities in Donbas, dozens of volunteers went from Georgia to support Ukraine. The so-called Georgian Legion has been actively involved in military operations for the past eight years. Currently, going to war in Ukraine has taken on completely different dimensions. It is difficult to determine the exact number of Georgian volunteers, however, Georgians make up the largest part of foreign fighters in Ukraine. Before and immediately after the start of the 2022 war, many Georgian fighters fought and are fighting on the side of Ukraine.
The history of 2008, 2014, and no 2022 should make clear that for Putin – like all militaristic expansionist dictators – the appetite grows with the eating. Ukrainians are the ones fighting him today, and they need more help. If we fail, history shows, Putin’s next aggression will be bigger and more dangerous.
We should understand that today in Ukraine, blood is being shed for the world as well. If the Red army flag, the former USSR national flag, flies over Kyiv, it may soon fly over Tbilisi, Sofia, Prague, Warsaw, Bucharest, Riga, Vilnius, and Tallinn. It will be the end of freedom and democracy. These countries were part of the great Soviet empire or under its influence, but broke free and gained independence. That is the reason we have the same enemy, that is the reason we should fight together and that is the reason we have to win this war together!
Mariam Vepkhvadze is a law and politics graduate of the Georgian Institute Of Public Affairs (GIPA). She completed internships in several companies in Georgia, including the Georgian center for security and development (GCSD), and worked on the topics such as Gender equality policy, Anti-corruption strategy. The final internship was done in July of this year, in Prague, at a law firm Legalité. The article was also published in Czech. Join Vogue Leaders on LinkedIn.