South Ossetian Update 8/17/08

August 17, 2008
Dear Jason,

Thank you very much for your letter. Really, me and my friends appreciate your attention and comfort very much. We all need strong minds here to survive such a big tragedy. Even for believers, because many of us have relatives in and from South Ossetia. It”s difficult to stay indifferent when we listen to such ‚  awful stories which happened to our people – children, women, old people, and young men. But as I see it, what”s amazing is this – refugees want to return to Tskhinvali, because that”s where their homes are, and they don”t want to disturb or impose upon other people. I see that South Ossetian people are very special. As we visited victims – they are all open to accept us and appreciate any kind of attention and concern. They were always very kind, open, and simple. But what happened to them? These are the refugees” stories and a short chronicle of what happened.

On Friday night, when people (South Ossetians) were sleeping, the Georgian army suddenly attacked South Ossetia. Some hours before that, Georgia’s president (Saakashvili) proclaimed on TV that Georgia wouldn’t fire any shots – that he guaranteed peace. But after some hours they started, not shooting, ‚  but bombing the capital of South Ossetia (Tskhinvali) with heavy bombers and heavy artillery! Tanks went into the city and villages and did not sort out children ‚  or women, or between people’s houses or buildings. All night without stop heavy artillery with tanks and mortars bombed the city and villages.

The next day everybody was waiting for help but there was not any help. When they heard sounds of airplanes, many ‚  people left their shelters and went out in the street to meet what they thought was Russian help. People waved their hands and headscarves with the hope that help had finally come. BUT, the airplanes flew down, under top of trees and bombed the people (South Ossetians). These were Georgian planes. There were more people killed in the street then there were during the night.

Most Ossetians hid in cellars, moving from one to another. As the Georgian army occupied one region and then the next one in south Ossetia, during their move from one village to another the Georgians went down into people’s cellar and shot the simple people hiding in them; they burned down the houses with the Ossetian people inside them, or the Georgian soldiers flung their grenades and then went into the cellars and shot down women and children. There were many atrocities committed – barbarities, which are even difficult to describe. Georgian people, who consider themselves to be one of the highest cultures in the world ” “ they cut people’s throats, burned homes to ashes, and raped our women.

36 ” “ for thirty six hours there was not any help. Perhaps this time was given for all of us – first in South Ossetia, and then in North Ossetia – to pray to God for mercy and help. That was the only hope of everybody. All Churches here, believers – and even non-believers – were praying. And help finally came. Thanks be to God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! God sent help by the Russian army and the Russian people. There are mountains around our country and the roads are very narrow for the army to travel on, and so perhaps that is one of the reasons that the help came so late. Perhaps another reason was that the Russian army had no law allowing them to go into the territory of another country, until there were “enough”  victims. It is a crazy law, isn’t it? I heard that the Georgian aggression plan was called “Clean Field”  – to make the South Ossetian territory empty, without buildings or people.

There were many stories we heard as we visited refugees, and I want to share a few ” “ about how God showed His mercy to us. All refugees that I visited said that it’s a miracle that they are alive after that nightmare and horror.

I call Nelly’s story, “To Share Suffering.” 
A week before the war, Nelly was traveling from Tskhinvali (in south Ossetia) to Vladikavkaz (in North Ossetia). In that moment she was struck with great love for her people and country. All her thoughts were about South Ossetia. She prayed: “O Lord! I want to share about all the suffering of my people, if it possible” . A week later she decided to return (to South Ossetia) and do some light remodeling of her apartment in Tskhinvali. And that’s when the war started. Three days and three nights with her sister, she moved from one cellar to another, and prayed with ‚  her neighbors. Now she says “I don’t understand how to live after all this. I used to think that I was strong, but now I understand that I am very, very weak.”  When they left their shelter on the third day, Nelly noticed that her hands had strange spots on them – in the middle of both of her palms she had blue circles with a white point in the center. She understood that South Ossetians are very precious to Christ, that He is near to us, and that He is among us.

Larisa’s story ” “ “Noah’s Ark.” 
“I have a strange neighbor, she is believer. She always was strange. A week before the war she started to strengthen her cellar. She put cardboard there, a big mattress, lots of food, and so on. Her cellar was like a cellar within a cellar, deep and strong. We all laughed at her and said, ” ˜Are you going to live there?’ Only later, when we hid there for three days and nights with our neighbors, we understood that perhaps it was the best place for shelter in the city. Thank God that He saved us through this woman.” 

David – “Faith and War.” 
We, almost all protestants in Russia, have a pacifist view to war. We do not accept the idea of carrying a gun. But there was a situation when children and women were killed and an old man tried to defend them with a gun. Nearby was a believer, who was praying all this time. When ‚  there were no men alive around him except that old man, the believer took the submachine gun and started shooting. The old man later told him, “Now I see that you are a real man and love your people, your country, and that you haven’t got a heart of stone.” 

There was also a tragedy in the Russian Orthodox Church ” “ some worshippers were killed when they were praying on their knees. They are blessed, because they are with our Lord now in Heaven.

This is not the first war – it is the third war in 19 years in which Georgia has attacked South Ossetia. In the first two wars there were also victims, but there was not as much help from Russia as we’ve recently received. Russia was weak.

People in South Ossetia are humble enough to forgive insults, although they have a strong spirit. They are tired of wars. Christians often pray about ‚  peace in South Ossetia: how long must we wait? We Ossetians are not as eloquent, popular, or keen in political plots as the Georgians are, and so nobody knows about us or defends us. But today God defends us through Russia. He also comforts us through such brothers as you. May we never forget His help and power, and may we always praise Him!

In the beginning of the last century, one of the Georgian leaders ” “ Geordania – burned down Ossetian villages in South Ossetia. For what? We all always respected Georgian people, but why don’t Georgian people respect others? In Tbilisi (Georgia’s capital) they always say, “She is a good person, but she is Ossetian” , or, “He is good, but he is Armenian,”  or “Russian,”  and so on. Georgian leaders in President Gamsakhurdia’s time (in 1990), used their very popular slogan: “Georgia is only for Georgians.”  And they said on TV, ” ˜Can you imagine that even the dumb Japanese live better than us cultured Georgians?!’ Maybe such self-conceit looks funny, but maybe it is also a high level of arrogance which provides the course for genocide. May God heal this nation and our president, and keep all of us from such illnesses.

After the first war, about 18 years ago, some Georgians beat an old man within an inch of his life. When he prayed, “God, forgive all my sins and take my soul,”  one of the Georgians said, “What?! Do you pray to God? Don’t you know that God is only the Georgian’s ‚  God?!”  That old man is a member of our church now in Vladikavkaz (North Ossetia).
In Soviet time, Georgia was always quite rich in comparison with other places in the Russian Federation; South Ossetia was a poor colony of Georgia. How can people in Ossetia believe the promises of the Georgian government any more? Perhaps, this is God’s war. As I see it, this is not the common people’s fault” ¦ it is our (believers’) fault. People are open to The Gospel, but perhaps the churches are sleeping here. There were always very few (and inactive) missionaries in South Ossetia. We can do great things if we will listen to God’s voice. There are many things which I want to write – more information – but hopefully I’ll write you later.

Jason, I think that you would be very helpful here. But perhaps you can be helpful in the US also.
About help, thank you very, very much for such wishes. I told Sergei Totiev (a pastor in Beslan who lost two of his children in the terrorist attack) that you want to help us, our Church and refugees. There are now several refugee camps in North Ossetia in which the South Ossetian refugees are living; there are camps in Beslan, Alagir, Nagir, Ardon, and other areas as well.

Jason, do you remember Beslan? There ‚  also was suffering there for three days and three nights. Maybe it is the sign which is needed to be understood ” “ the North (Beslan, North Ossetia) and the South (South Ossetia).

By the way, I gave your last disc to one musician (he is also a businessman) from South Ossetia.

Thank you for praying, that is what is really needed for our health – there are too many emotions. May God bless you and use you for His glory, ‚  and make you very fruitful!

Your sister in Christ,

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