As we mark the 30th anniversary of the victory in the Patriotic War of the Abkhazian people of 1992-1993, we present an account from war hero and veteran, Levan Mikaa. He recalls the significant moments and poignant events of that tumultuous year.
Levan, reflecting on the Georgian-Abkhazian war of 1992-1993, which episode do you perceive as the most pivotal?
– The turning point, in my eyes, was Vladislav Ardzinba's impassioned plea to the Abkhazian populace. He beckoned every ethnic group in Abkhazia to rise in defence of our homeland. It was in this very address that he urged us to bear arms and resist the invaders with all our might. This clarion call was the initial and foremost catalyst.
Later, another profound call came from Musa Shanibov, President of the Confederation of the Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus. He exhorted all Caucasian communities to rally behind the defence of Abkhazia, championing the cause of the Abkhazian people and their quest for liberty.
Were you directly involved in these pivotal moments?
– I was unarmed during those initial stages. But after the events at Gagra, I secured a machine gun and with it, continued my involvement in the war. That episode at Gagra was also significant; it allowed us to acquire weapons and armoured vehicles from captured stock.
The subsequent phase, undeniably, was the helicopter incident, the tragedy at Lata. It was then that we grasped the grim reality: our adversaries sought our total annihilation. We understood that our only path to survival was a decisive victory in the war.
Levan, could you shed light on the tragedy surrounding the helicopter incident?
– Certainly. It's an episode seared into our memories: when civilians, including small children and pregnant women being evacuated by helicopter from Tquarchal to Gudauta, were shot down. It's an immense tragedy, one that will reverberate in the hearts of the Abkhazians for as long as our legacy endures.
What followed this episode?
– The subsequent significant event was the January offensive. Here, our determination shone as we valiantly sought to reclaim our nation and its heartland. Notwithstanding the overwhelming forces of the adversary, we pressed forth, signalling our unwavering commitment to liberating our land.
This was closely followed by the March offensive. Although not successful, it underscored the indomitable spirit of the Abkhazian people.
Could you expound on this resilience?
– Of course. You see, in Abkhazian culture, a paramount rite after a person's passing is to ensure their bones are interred. So when parents couldn't retrieve the bones of their lost children, it constituted an immense tragedy, particularly when viewed through our cultural lens. But following this offensive, a poignant moment unfolded in Gudauta. The grieving parents professed that victory superseded everything. Their children had sacrificed for Abkhazia, and wherever they lay, that ground was now hallowed Abkhazian land. After achieving victory, they pledged to grant them a dignified burial. This moment further underlined the unyielding resolve of the Abkhazian people in their fervent quest for freedom.
And what about the subsequent offensives?
– The June offensive marked a strategic shift. The Abkhazian forces, now evolved into a cohesive army, made significant inroads, reclaiming vital vantage points above Sukhum such as Kaman, Shroma, Akhalsheni, and Akhbiuk. This series of victories epitomised the unified leadership and strategic vision of the Abkhazian army. Within this phase was the tactically brilliant Tamysh landing. These successes validated our capability to execute intricate military operations and make astute tactical decisions, especially since seizing these strategic heights set the stage for future city liberations.
Then came the September offensive. By this time, bolstered by extensive combat experience and with the Eastern Front effectively stymieing Georgian reinforcements, our coordinated military strategies began bearing fruit, culminating in a resounding victory.
This encapsulates the pivotal episodes of the war from my vantage point.
During the tumultuous year of the war as you stood your ground, were there instances when fear took hold, or when you questioned the eventual outcome of the conflict?
– In all honesty, personal fear never gripped me. My apprehensions lay more with my mother; her anguish for my safety was palpable. My comrades, especially those under my charge, were my priority. Whether it was intrinsic to my nature or some other factor, fear eluded me. Never did I harbour doubts, even after a failed offensive, about our ultimate goal: the liberation of our land. I perceived our setbacks as challenges that needed addressing. With each misstep, we strived to evolve, honing our strategies for subsequent confrontations. Victory was always in sight, at least through my lens.
Is there a particular episode from the war that repeatedly revisits your memories?
– There's an incident involving our Kabardian allies I often reflect upon. Being fresh reinforcements, we were yet to get acquainted when they found themselves on the frontlines. Their inexperience led them into an artillery onslaught, leaving three injured. An ambulance would take too long, so Sergei Matosyan, our commander, and I decided to transport them to the frontline medical facility in his compact "Moskvich." We managed to place the wounded trio in the back, with me holding them in place, ensuring their condition didn't exacerbate. As we raced through the artillery-laden path, one of the injured soldiers gestured me closer, imploring, "Duck down; you could be hit." In that harrowing moment, he was more concerned for my well-being than his own. It was profoundly poignant.
What became of those soldiers?
– Tragically, one succumbed to his wounds, but the other two survived.
Veterans occasionally voice sentiments like "we didn't sign up for this outcome" or question the purpose of their sacrifice. What propelled you into battle then, and how does it correlate with the present?
– The challenges faced post-war aren't exclusive to Abkhazia. It is the issue of a lost generation that fought and struggles to find its place in peaceful life, especially if they went to war young. Many have such thoughts due to their unsettled lives. But I believe that we did the most important thing in our lives. We not only protected our people from the genocide that threatened us, but we also created the Abkhazian state. The foundation of our state was laid with the blood of our fallen boys. I can proudly say that, led by our leader Vladislav Ardzinba, we restored an independent Abkhazian state. Now it needs to be developed and strengthened not only with weapons but also with hard work, diplomacy, and various other means. Building an independent state is not a momentary task, but a lengthy process. However, we laid the foundation, and the rest, I believe, will come to us, because our people's spirit is very strong, and we know how to overcome difficulties.
This interview was published by Ekho Kavkaza and is translated from Russian.