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Lela Babutsidze
Lela Babutsidze. Photo: Tim Judah

Lela Babutsidze is a refugee from the August conflict in South Ossetia. She is six months pregnant. She had just finished university before the conflict began. She was born in Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's main town.

I was born in December 1987, but there is a mistake in my passport. It says I was born in 1985. Both my parents are Georgian and my father was from a village in South Ossetia.

When I was very young my father worked as a technician at the Soviet Ossetia newspaper and my mother was a housewife. Then, when the conflict broke out in 1991, we were expelled from Tskhinvali. My father was beaten up and our car was stolen.

One of my first, hazy memories is from when we were forced out of Tskhinvali. We were in the back of a Ural lorry. The Ossetians were shooting at it and they wanted to stop it because they wanted to take us hostage, but the driver did not stop.

We went to Gori for a few months and then on to Achabeti, a village just north of Tskhinvali, part of a Georgian enclave in the region claimed by the South Ossetian separatists. My parents did not have jobs but lived off the food they grew and that which they sold in the market. Sometimes we had to leave because of sporadic violence.

I had a good childhood and went to school in Achabeti. I studied music and dancing. When I was young I did not have any particular plans to leave.

In 2004 I started university in Gori. I studied law. I wanted

September 2008

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