Yamze Kapba, a distinguished veteran of the Patriotic War of the people of Abkhazia (1992-1993), has been honoured with the Order of Leon. The demise of her brother, Nurbey Kapba, in December 1992, while fighting for Abkhazia’s freedom, became the catalyst for Yamze’s decision to bear arms in pursuit of revenge.
In a poignant interview, this war veteran shared insights into her military journey and her life in the aftermath of the war, with Lana Abshilava facilitating the conversation.
The Onset of an Unexpected War
When Georgian troops invaded Abkhazia, Yamze Kapba was working at the first tea factory in Ochamchira. The instant news of the burgeoning conflict reached the factory’s workers, a collective rush towards the exit ensued, their eyes set on witnessing the advancing tanks. However, the factory director, of Mingrelian ethnicity, cautioned against the potential peril and advised them to remain within the safety of the premises.
Kapba reflects on the incredulity that permeated the air; the unfolding reality seemed unfathomable. By the third day, a group of women, children in tow, resolved to vacate the town on foot, aiming for their ancestral villages. Their journey, however, was fraught with challenges – Georgian soldiers impeded their progress.
"They halted us near the village of Tsagera, where Georgians had positioned themselves, barricading the road with Kamaz trucks, detaining us for an enduring five to six hours; the cries of children, infants included, filled the air. A Mingrelian neighbour interceded, invoking the conscience of those contemplating holding us captive. He implored them to at least release the women accompanied by infants," Kapba narrates.
Following protracted negotiations, the group secured passage, and the individuals proceeded towards their respective villages. Yamze directed her steps towards her home in Arasadzih, where her children awaited her arrival. After an arduous journey, an exhausted Yamze reached her abode, only to discover that her brother, Nurbey Kapba, was contemplating joining the war.
"His wife was with child, and my brother disclosed his decision to join the war, expressing his wishes regarding the naming of his unborn child: Oksana if a girl, and a name of our choosing if a boy. He completed the first shift, then the second, and during the third shift, a daughter was welcomed into the world. It was the 10th of December, and by the 26th, he had fallen," she recounted.
Into Battle for a Brother
Yamze’s brother was laid to rest on December 28th, and that very evening, she found herself marching to the front, swiftly encountering a skirmish in the village of Baslahu. Though she could manage the automatic weapon, her experience was limited to the military training received at school. The veteran concedes that the demise of her loved one steeled her heart, extinguishing any flicker of fear as she stepped into war.
“I resolved, come what may, to take my brother’s gun and join the front. I was warmly welcomed, Daur Kirtadze was present, may he rest in peace, along with several individuals from the village of Arasadzih. I declared my intention to avenge my brother; there was no alternative path,” Yamze emphatically shared.
For six months, she fought valiantly as part of a diverse group hailing from several villages. She was escorted to the village of Kutol, the site where Nurbey met his untimely end, and was shown the trench he occupied during the fatal shelling. The veteran acknowledges the prevailing uncertainty surrounding her survival from each ensuing battle.
“Acclimating to battles, fear dissipates. I entertained the thought, if it’s my destiny to perish, so be it. Admittedly, concerns for my children and family weighed on me; one brother had been lost, the other was stationed at the Gumista front. However, amidst the intensity of the moment, a sense of calm prevails, overshadowing thoughts of potential demise,” the veteran reflected.
Fate had not destined her for a warrior’s demise. In the wake of Victory, she chose to devote her life to military service, joining a military unit in Ochamchira. For thirty years, she has been serving as a cook-instructor, nurturing a maternal affection for the soldiers she has nourished throughout the post-war years. Despite contemplating a departure from her role on several occasions, she remains undetermined to leave.
Yamze, a stalwart veteran, attests to the resolve of today’s soldiers, poised to defend their country if called upon. Despite the advancing years, she stands ready to contribute and assist in any capacity. On the cusp of the 30th anniversary of Victory, Yamze Kapba extends her heartfelt wishes for peace, prosperity, and a brighter future to the people of Abkhazia.