SUKHUM / AQW'A — In the cultural heart of Gudauta, the House of Culture, a distinguished gathering convened to commemorate Volunteer Day. As a precursor to the main event, a ceremonial laying of flowers was held at the monument, a tribute to volunteers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Patriotic War of the Abkhazian people of 1992-1993. This landmark stands adjacent to the historic building that served as the wartime headquarters of the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus.
Zamir Chkok, the military commissioner of the Gudauta district, initiated the proceedings. He emphasised that come September 30, Abkhazia will be engulfed in the remembrance of a pivotal moment – the Victory Day of the 1992-1993 Patriotic War. "A mere day after the outbreak of the war, the first volunteers set foot in Abkhazia, embodying solidarity and providing invaluable support to their brethren," Chkok articulated. Drawing attention to the profound impact of their contributions, he recounted that over 2,000 valiant volunteers were actively involved in combat. Of them, 51 were bestowed with the esteemed title "Hero of Abkhazia." Meanwhile, 247 received the distinguished Order of Leon, and 623 were honoured with the "For Courage" medal.
Chkok poignantly highlighted the sacrifice, stating, "295 volunteers laid down their lives for Apsny. Their origins spanned from Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, Ukraine, South Ossetia, Adygea, North Ossetia, Turkey, Ingushetia, Syria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Estonia, Transnistria, to Poland. Moreover, 106 volunteers from various Russian cities – from Moscow and St. Petersburg to Novosibirsk and Vladivostok died defending Abkhazia," Chkok reminded.
At the gathering, Moris Sanakoev, Chairman of the Union of Volunteers of South Ossetia, conveyed a heartfelt message from the President of the Republic, Alan Gagloev, in honour of Volunteer Day:
"31 years ago, after faltering in its bid to obliterate South Ossetia, Georgia embroiled itself in expansive aggression against Abkhazia. However, this aggressor, with ambitions of swiftly subjugating Abkhazia, grossly underestimated the indomitable spirit and unwavering resolve of the Abkhazian people in their quest for autonomy and liberty. The rapid emergence and momentum of the volunteer movement supporting Abkhazia, which resonated throughout the North Caucasus, took the Georgian nationalists by surprise. The invaluable contributions of these volunteer brigades were pivotal in derailing Georgian military ambitions over Abkhazian territories. The defence of Abkhazia also saw the valiant participation of South Ossetian volunteers, with hundreds joining the Abkhazians at the frontlines. Tragically, many of them made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of freedom and sovereignty for their Abkhazian brethren. Their sacrifice and legacy will forever be cherished," reads the official correspondence from the President of the Republic of South Ossetia.
President Gagloev underscored the monumental importance of the volunteer movement, emphasising, "Neither war nor peace were paths we opted for; both Abkhazia and South Ossetia were thrust into the arduous journey of defending their intrinsic rights — the rights to existence, linguistic heritage, and the flourishing of their unique cultures," articulated in Gagloev's message.
Vakhid Kerimov, Chairman of the Union of Chechen Volunteers, while acknowledging the festive essence of the day, also underscored its sombre undertone, a day of remembrance for the comrades they lost.
"The 14th of August, 1992, marks a pivotal moment in the journey of the Abkhazian people towards their long-cherished dream of independence. Numerous brave souls sacrificed their lives to ensure that Abkhazia stands independent today," articulated Vakhid Kerimov.
Kabardian (Circassian) Volunteer Arsen Efendiev (with Abkhaz flag) and Polish Volunteer Yanusz Godawa.
Valeriy Avidzba, Deputy Head of the Administration of the Gudauta District, took a moment to reflect on the events three decades prior. "Three decades ago, during a trilateral summit in Moscow, there was a pressing call for 'mercenaries' to vacate Abkhazia. The Georgians chose that term. However, Vladislav Ardzinba, faced with political intricacies, referred to you as volunteers. But as we navigated that tumultuous journey side by side, it became evident that the term 'volunteers' doesn't quite capture the depth of your commitment. You proved yourselves as our unwavering allies, as our brethren in the truest sense. Drawing from the wisdom of Musa Shanibov, 'A nation that honours the legacy of its heroes ensures its own survival.' It's your dedication that has allowed us to immortalise our heroes," remarked Avidzba.
Expressing the heartfelt gratitude of the Abkhazian people, he celebrated the indomitable spirit of the volunteers and wished them on Volunteer Day.
Ruslan Likhov, a revered war veteran and recipient of the distinguished "Leon" order, reminisced about the war and the invaluable contributions from the North Caucasus volunteers. "This harrowing war commenced 31 years ago. The journey to regain our homeland was fraught with challenges, claiming the lives of countless brave men. Yet, their sacrifices paved the way for the liberation and freedom of the Abkhazian people. With profound reverence, I pay homage to the mothers of those valiant heroes from both Abkhazia and the North Caucasus, who laid down their lives for Abkhazia's liberty," expressed Likhov.