Georgians Rebuild in War's Aftermath

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TBILISIS, Georgia - This month displaced people from the war in Georgia began returning to their homes.

Georgia's attack on South Ossetia this summer sparked a massive retaliation by Russia. Now the families of that region are coping with the aftermath.

The Road to Recovery

Here in Tbilisi life is getting back to normal. In fact, there wasn't much damage from the Russian invasion at all. But not far from Herek, near the South Ossetian border, life will never be the same.

Tears welled in the eyes of Georgian women looking on what was left of their homes.

Like many houses in the area that was occupied by the Russian army, it's unclear if they were destroyed by the fighting or by marauders.

Locals say Russian troops looked the other way while Ossetian mobs destroyed their homes.

"We came back and there nothing here now," said one survivor. "We can't even bring in the harvest."

Even with European Union peacekeepers in the area, they say militia are firing into their territory and crossing the border to terrorize at night.

Many Georgians are now coming back to their villages near the South Ossetian border and it will take quite a few years to rebuild. But many aren't coming back at all because there's nothing to come back to.

A kindergarten in Gori is housing more than 100 displaced Georgians. Here, blankets serve as walls.

One couple, who lived in South Ossetia for more than 40 years, was forced to leave their home.

"We weren't able to take anything with us," they explained. "When we were told to leave, we left without going back to our house. We have only our clothes on our back. We feel that even God has forgotten about us.

Fifteen-year-old Marita spends her days on the computer she won for earning good grades. It serves as a welcome distraction from the suffering she and her mother have endured.

"I don't want to think about it period, to recollect all those things," she said. "I want to be back at my house with my friends with my family, I want the same situation."

"We had everything," her mother said. "We didn't have to ask anyone for anything and now we have to ask for everything, for help.

Relief Agencies Intervene

The Christian relief agency World Vision is providing aid to the victims. It's also taking responsibility for feeding 25,000 displaced people in Tbilisi.

On this day, the group is handing out bags of pasta, beans, and cooking oil.

"I'm old, I'm a pensioner," said one elderly man. "If I didn't have this food my wife and I wouldn't have anything."

One government official says non-governmental organizations have kept such victims from falling through the cracks.

"The government didn't expect so many IDPs (internally displaced persons) would come to Tbilisi and other cities and it wasn't prepared, so the help of humanitarian groups was very important for the government because they weren't ready for it," the official explained.

In Georgia, where the orthodox faith is predominant, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is partnering to help.

In the first days of the fighting, IOCC sent aid to churches in the war zone.

"We tried to send them food, non-food items, whatever the request would be coming from the local priests who never left the area where were staying for the population to support them," one IOCC employee Darejan Dzotsenidze said.

Bishop Isaiah of Nikozy nearly paid for his dedication with his life. He was in a building attacked by a Russian plane.

"Just after the dinner he and the monks were starting. for the prayers in the monastery," Dzotsenidze recalled. "All of a sudden. the bomb hit directly on the residence where the monks were staying and, although the residence was destroyed, they all survived and also the church was not damaged."

Miracles in Tiny Bundles

One woman was pregnant with her daughter Maria when she fled her village on foot.

Maria was born just three weeks ago in the bethel center, a nursing home run by the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia.

The Baptists are a tiny group in this country, but its members are committed to serving their people in this time of need.

"The main role of church is not to preach but to serve and that is the main reason we took part," one Baptist member explained. "It doesn't matter if you are 5000, 50000 or a million you can help.

She continued, "Church is a prophet in the society - not to talk about the future but to say 'what is right thing to do.' must be the first to show what Christ would do. So first of all if Christ would see the homeless people, if Christ would see the people who have lost their loved ones - he would be the one to wipe their tears and that's what we're trying to do."

Of course the Georgian government is taking the lead in this recovery effort.

They've promised a new home to every family that has lost one. Construction has already begun.

*Original broadcast November 7, 2008.

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