The town of Gori in north Georgia has become a barometer for the high pressure, international conflict entering its sixth day with an uneasy and unheeded cease-fire.
Refugees from the town, which is close to Georgia’s border with the breakaway region of South Ossetia, were thirsty for information from staff members of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee on Thursday.
Amir Ben Zvi, a worker for the JDC here in Tbilisi, could only tell them what he knew. A JDC driver had attempted to make a run to Gori early Thursday and was turned back by Russian troops on the road.
The troops fired their weapons at the ground near those trying to enter the city. The driver then headed back to Tbilisi.
JDC has launched an effort to match their client lists of local Jews with those they have found from the area, but the process is slow, Ben Zvi said.
“It’s just a mess, just a mess. There’s a lot of information missing,” he told JTA.
The JDC staff has made several trips to the embattled city, now under Russian control, bringing in food packages and taking out local Jews. Many of those refugees are now scattered around Tbilisi.
A mother and daughter, Bella and Tina Pshavtoshvili, hid in the basement of their apartment bloc as bombs fell through the night on Saturday. They heard that Jewish organizations had helped people escape the fighting before, and they reached out to the JDC, which promised a car on Saturday and delivered on Sunday.
But that is only partial consolation to Tina Pshavtoshvili, whose husband remains behind in Gori.
Ben Zvi gave out the only reachable number he knew in the city, the wife of a local doctor, who has been trying to connect with the remaining Jews in the area – the sisters, fathers and grandmothers of those who have already fled.
“I left everything and I want to turn back,” she said.