Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Heroes' Welcome

On Tuesday a Russian Emergency Ministries plane carrying 150 Georgian citizens who were being deported from Russia arrived at Tbilisi airport. In Moscow one of the Georgians, a man named Tengiz Togonidze, who was an asthmatic, died on the way to the flight. More than half of the deportees had valid Russian visas, though some had let their documents expire. In Kommersant, Olga Allenova describes the tumultous welcome the deported Georgians received in their home country:
When the people from the MChS plane cleared passport control and began to trickle into the arrival hall, they were surrounded by a wall of journalists so solid that it was difficult to push through it. Those who arrived did not want to comment. Someone shielded his face with his hands, and another covered his head with his coat as he pushed through the throng. The men, frowning, haphazardly attired and with unshaven cheeks, were irritated and embittered, and the women were distraught. One of them, who was carrying a child in her arms, stopped as a microphone was thrust at her. "Why did they arrest you?" she was asked. "My visa was not in order," said the woman. "What will you do now?" "I don't know! I have no idea what to do!" The following dialogue was had with another man:

"How long did they hold you in the isolation unit?"
"Ten days."
"Ten days?!! How did they treat you?"
"Badly."
"Why did they arrest you?"
"Because I'm a Georgian."
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