Christopher Langton
Director of The Independent Conflict Research & Analysis (ICRA). He spent thirty-two years in the British Army. During that time he served as the Deputy Commander of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) as well as holding various attaché posts in Russia, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia. 

It was early December 1995. I stood on the south bank of the Inguri river waiting for the arrival of a newly appointed ambassador to Tbilisi who wanted to be briefed on the situation in Abkhazia.

Looking across the river on that cold dark afternoon as the wind came down from the mountains, I could almost see the village where stood the remnants of a school I had visited a few days before.

I reflected on my visit to that place in the Gali region; a place that had suffered the trauma of the war, and from which people were driven from their homes. Many to perish as the fled into exile. Many more to remain in exile for the rest of their lives. The children of the conflict would become the adults of the same conflict. Some I would see in Zugdidi after the so-called 5-day war in 2008; still displaced; still unemployed; waiting for a future.

What did it all mean? War, displacement, refugees, broken homes, casualties. Is this a necessary consequence of ethnic divide in humanity? I have no answers. However, a glimmer of light in 2022 during the unnecessary and brutally dangerous war in Ukraine was to read that a group of Abkhaz called for an end to the fighting having suffered a long and brutal war themselves. Perhaps this is a consequence and lesson of war that can be used louder and more effectively to urge those who perpetuate conflict to see reason. The Abkhaz people being of the same region have that unique possibility to speak out based on their own brutal experience.[1]

But on that day in 1995 all I could do was to begin writing a poem that recalled my sadness on visiting the school in Gali region, but also the courage of those children.


                                                                           Children of war[2]

The school had few windows

There was a partial roof

Yet the children sat in perfect quiet

As the teacher read the book.


These the children of the dreadful war

Children whose parents long lay dead

Whose homes were burned and lives destroyed

Sat quiet while the teacher read.


The shell hole in the playground.

A shell hole full of putrid water;

Pock-marked walls now crumbling.

The rain crying; the children playing.

Unsmiling, wide-eyed childrens’ faces.

The faces of a thousand places.

Where blow the winds of war.


The pig trotted down the track

Past the shell holes dark and black

With fetid oily water

Reminders of the genocidal slaughter

Which took away in just one day

The parents of the children now at play

In the dirty filthy water black.

Parents who would not be coming back.


Then down the track; the aged man

On the donkey cart began

To chant an old Mingrelian rhyme

Reminding of a time

When, as a child, he had played

In peace in the scented shade

Of the towering protective trees;

Eucalyptus, their scented cool

Long since burned for heat

In the broken childrens’ broken school.



[2] Published under the pen name of Roland Christopher in “Wild Blue Geraniums” ©Christopher Langton