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'Embarrassed To Be Russian'

Georgians take each other's pictures in front of the Russian checkpoint outside Poti.

10:15 p.m. local time (6:15 p.m. GMT)

I managed to go and see the Russian checkpoints at Nabada and the Seventh Kilometer. It had just rained, the surroundings were muddy and wet. The Russian soldiers had lit campfires, and, despite the rain, were sitting around bare-chested. I saw their armored vehicles too. I did not get too close, stayed at a distance, so I had no problems -- there was absolutely no aggression directed against me. It seemed to me that their number had increased, but then I checked and was told that their numbers, as well as personnel, had remained unchanged.

I also heard the story today of a young boy who has come to Poti from London. He is half-Georgian, half-Russian. His Russian father passed away, and his mother lives in Britain. Turns out this boy, Oleg, met a Georgian girl, Irina, on the Internet and fell in love. By some coincidence, this girl is from Poti, the town where Oleg's grandfather, uncle, aunt, and other relatives on his mother's side live. So Oleg -- who speaks Georgian, Russian, and the local Mingrelian language -- decided to come to Poti and meet Irina in person. He arrived in late July, and very soon after that the hostilities started. Irina has suffered a lot recently -- her brother was serving at the Senaki reservists' base and was wounded in a Russian air strike. So now Oleg wants to change his surname, and adopt his mother's family name. After everything that has happened, he says he is embarrassed to be Russian. He has already approached his uncle with this request.

As for the general situation in Poti, I learned that in the coming days, public transportation might stop operating after 6 p.m. Turns out the number of passengers has plummeted dramatically during the evening hours. I attribute this to fear. During the day, there is life on the streets, pedestrians move around and use public transport. But in the evening, people don't travel much.

This, however, is not to say that the streets are deserted -- right now, I am looking out my window, watching a group of my neighbors sit around and chat. People also visit each other's homes -- a good friend of mine came over today, she wanted to check her e-mail. But it is still impossible to access many Russian websites. And a lot of my good friends still keep away from Poti, afraid that things here are not stable. One of them came back only to get groceries for her kids, who are in a nearby village -- she went to the market, did her shopping, and quickly left town again.

At home, things are as usual. My father-in-law keeps calm, telling us that everything will be fine. My mother-in-law, by contrast, has been very anxious since those critical days -- she even had to take tranquilizers to calm down.

It's a quiet evening in Poti, and we are having yet another family night at home. My in-laws are watching the kids, I am working at my computer, and my husband has still not returned from work. As I wrote earlier, he works at the customs office -- and these days they have to work until very late.