sHEROes, a Book about Heroines of the 2008 August War, Launches in Tbilisi

Ten years have passed since Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, but the pain left by the war has not yet lifted. The conflict, often referred to as the first war of the 21st century in Europe, erupted on 7 August 2008. Georgia tried to retake control of its region of Tskhinvali (so called South Ossetia), following a series of clashes when Russian forces launched an assault and pushed further into country, shelling Georgian cities and occupying large swathes of territory.

The conflict lasted five days before a ceasefire was agreed. Russia pulled back, but built up its military presence in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

As a result of the war, more than 400 people were killed, up to 2000 were wounded, more than 20,000 people were internally displaced and 22 villages were lost.

In relation to the 10th anniversary of the war, two Georgian women, writer Salome Benidze and photographer Dina Oganova, teamed up to tell the story of the other side of the war. Their joint work remembers and introduces us to those women who suffered in and because of the war, and who were no less warriors than the men. The book presentation and photo exhibition symbolically took place on August 7, at the Silk Factory Studio. The book ‘sHEROes’ published by ‘Books in Batumi’ unveils the stories of women with different backgrounds and age, whose lives were forever changed; who fought, who did not abandon their burning villages; who saved many lives and lost their own loved ones.

“This is the most important work in my life so far, since this is Georgia’s recent history,” Dina Oganova told GEORGIA TODAY. “Everyone should have a copy of this book so as not to forget this war. This is an ongoing war in our country. It was very painful for me that I could not go to the war and capture what happened. I wanted to uncover the story of a different side of the war. Men and soldiers are considered the main heroes of any war and are spoken about most, but there are women who have experienced no less pain and struggle. No one speaks about those brave women who experienced all the hardships of the war and whose deeds are less visible to society. So, this project aims to reveal the brave and strong women Georgia has.”

Oganova is Georgian, a freelance documentary photographer focused on personal, long-term projects in Georgia and post-Soviet countries. In 2012, she won her first Production Grant from the Open Society Foundation to individual photographers from Central Asia, the South Caucasus, Afghanistan, Mongolia and Pakistan, and in the same year attend a workshop with Thomas Dworzak (Magnum ),Yuri Kozirev (Noor), Adrian Kelterborn and Andrei Polikanov.

In 2013, she was selected among the world’s 12 best young photographers to attend World Press Photo’s Joop Swart Masterclass. Her Long term projects: “I Am Georgia,” “My Place” and “Frozen Waves” was exhibited in: France, Italy, Spain, USA, Poland, Germany, Turkey, Sweden, Denmark, Lithuania, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Singapore and Georgia. Oganova is author of the first Georgian handmade limited edition (87 copies) photo book “My Place,” which is about the new generation of Georgians- the first generation living after the collapse of the Soviet Union and brought up in an independent country. Now she is working on a second handmade limited-edition book: Frozen Waves.

“It took us around two years to complete sHEROes. The working process was very difficult and emotional at the same time,” Salome Benidze told GEORGIA TODAY. “We visited many villages as well as densely populated settlements and as a result came up with a book that incorporates 60 stories of women. The stories are so deep that I think each of them deserves a separate book. I want to thank Dina for her idea and for suggesting we work together on it.

I want to thank the publishers and those who helped us bring it all together. I’m also grateful to the heroines of our book who opened up to us, shared their stories and without whom this book wouldn’t have happened. The stories they tell are distinct and come from women with different ages, backgrounds, and experiences. I want to thank them all for their openness and bravery,” she said.

Benidze is a contemporary Georgian author who is already well-established in the Georgian literary scene. In 2012, she received the literary award SABA for the Best Debut of the Year, which brought her nationwide recognition. She has since been nominated for many awards. One of her latest novels, “The City on Water” (published by Books in Batumi in 2015) became a national bestseller and was awarded the Tsinandali Award. The main heroes of the book are strong women, like sHEROes. In 2013, 2014 and 2015, her stories The Lovers of my Lover, The Survivor, and Lidia were included in the popular anthology ‘15 Best Short Stories’ published annually by Bakur Sulakauri Publishing.

After the book presentation and exhibition in Tbilisi, the presentation of sHEROes is touring the cities of Gori, Kutaisi and Batumi.

By Lika Chigladze

09 August 2018 19:21