Bay Area girl escapes war in Georgia

August 13, 2008 12:31:21 AM PDT
Twelve-year-old Amanda Kokoeva is back in Walnut Creek as Georgian and Russian officials reached a ceasefire agreement.

Russian troops are now pulling-out of Georgia under the terms of the deal brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The ceasefire also means refugees and humanitarian workers can return.

A Bay Area girl faced quite an ordeal while visiting relatives.

South Osettia is a disputed territory between Russia and Georgia. The United Nations recognizes the region as a part of Georgia, but many of the people in South Osettia align with Russia. Last week, a Bay Area girl was caught in the middle of the conflict.

12-year-old Amanda likes to swim and hang out with friends in Walnut Creek, but what she went through just five days ago in South Osettia shocked her and shook the world.

"On the 7th, we were in a cafe and then all of a sudden we heard a bunch of bombs going off and explosions and we got scared," said Amanda Kokoeva, from Walnut Creek.

Amanda was at the end of a month and a half long visit with relatives in South Ossetia when a battle broke out between Russia and Georgia. The fighting forced her to spend the night in her uncle's basement.

"Through all this there's explosions everywhere. It was really scary because I had never really heard these kinds of sounds in my life so loud and the whole sky would light up all the time," said Amanda.

The next morning, Amanda and her uncle fled to North Ossetia, she was able to reach Moscow the next day and fly back to the Bay Area. Her aunt was happy to get Amanda back home safely, but she's still worried about relatives left behind in South Ossetia.

"He just called me and said two words. House is burned, house is bombed and I don't know if I will survive or if I will make it," said Laura Tedeeva-Korewiski, Amanda's aunt.

Her uncle survived, but thousands of others did not. Laura says she was thankful the Russian troops were there to protect the Ossetians.

"I'm very sorry for what she has gone through," said Lasha Tsatuva a former Georgia citizen.

Tsatuva came to San Francisco 10 years ago from Georgia. He says he's sympathetic to Amanda's ordeal and the victim's of the latest fighting, but believes this is a dispute between Georgia and its region, not Russia.

"This region is going to remain part of the Georgia and without Russia's participation things are going to get back to the way things used to be," said Tsatuva.

Tsatuva hopes the latest peace holds, but for one girl back from her homeland, it was something she wanted to leave behind.

"I just wanted to come here, home as fast as possible," said Amanda.

Amanda's father is currently flying to South Ossetia to check on family members. Much of the area's phone lines are out of service, so getting information is difficult.


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