Abkhazia: fragile beauty

We are sitting under vine leaves, listening to the frogs and watching the night gradually draw in as the fire flies start their flickering dance. He was born in this house, he mimes. It was built by his father. Brick by brick. Both his parents were killed during the war of 1992-3, as was his first wife and many of his friends and comrades. He fought himself as an officer. He doesn’t speak English, and his Russian wife, Irina, whom he married only recently, either doesn’t want to translate, or doesn’t know how to convey the intensity of feelings. Or perhaps he doesn’t really want to talk about it. ‘Daour says it was awful. Awful.’, is all Irina says, as she shakes her head and looks down at her hands. Silently.

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Border crossings in Abkhazia

Borders are strange things. They are artificial creations; lines and limits, indicating something starts and ends at a particular, precisely indicated place. In the case of countries borders do work of course in precise ways in administrative and legal sense. And often we assume, by extension, that these borders also exist between people. That in a different country people are different, live different lives, eat different foods, believe different things. And to some extent that is of course the case. In all the countries I cycled through there were some very specific cultural ways; whether it concerned food, architecture, dancing, what you can and cannot say or do, and the political and social concerns people have. But in reality I found we share so much as human beings, and I felt at home in most of the places I have been.

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