In September 1993 civil war broke out in Georgia. Russian–backed Abkhasian seperatists were fighting government forces for the key town of Sukhumi.
I had already covered several stories on the break-up of the Soviet Union and I was keen to cover it. Colin Jacobson at the Independent Magazine gave me a commission and I set off as soon as I could with the contacts I had managed to make in the few days before I left.
In a run-down 60’s era hotel in Tblisi I met Polish photographer Chris. We were both keen to get to Sukhumi as quickly as possible and we agreed to share our contacts. I had a lead to follow at the foreign ministry and he had one with the TV station. Later that morning I had got us press passes and he had got us a ride with a one–man tv crew in an old Lada Estate leaving early the following morning.
We drove all day until the early afternoon where we entered the town of Zugdidi. The streets were empty. We were stopped by soldiers at a check-point, and showed our press passes. You need passes from President Zviad Gamsakhurdia we were told, and were directed towards a local government building where, after much waiting, we met Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Georgia’s deposed ex-president. We were keen to get back on the road. The TV cameraman did a short interview, Chris and I took some pictures and we were given new press passes, signed by Gamsakhurdia himself.
I sat by the window as we drove north listening to the BBC World Service on my small Sony short-wave and heard the news that Sukhumi had just fallen. We decided to head for Ochamchire, the next town south of Sukhumi where the new front-line was likely to be.