Evacuation from Tbilisi

This morning foreign embassies began evacuating their citizens from Georgia, having decided that the situation here is too unpredictable and that foreign nationals should leave.

Some European countries sent their own aircraft to Tbilisi to retrieve their citizens but the majority are organizing vehicle convoys to the Armenian capital of Yerevan, three hours south. The rules are strict. Only passport holders of those countries which organize convoys can board their buses: The U.S. embassy takes care of Americans, the Polish Embassy of Poles (and also the citizens of some friendly European nations represented by Poles in Georgia, like Estonia and Slovakia).

For the evacuation I am separated from Jason Maloney, my colleague with whom I have traveled for nearly two weeks around Abkhazia and Georgia. Jason goes with the Americans, I with the Poles. He pays for his bus seat to Yerevan 35 US dollars; the Polish government pays for our buses. In Yerevan Jason and the other Americans will be left on their own, they have to take care themselves of their accommodation and travel arrangements. The American Embassy promises them only limited consular assistance. The Polish government flies us home to Warsaw for free. We laugh with Jason about the relativity of things, what evacuation means for whom.

When we came we felt some tension, but the tension is always here. At the beginning of our trip we had plenty of time for detailed discussions with politicians, journalists, military and simple people. Now I am headed home, and hopefully from there on to Moscow, in the meantime thinking of all that has happened in a few short days to produce the situation of our departure, in an humanitarian evacuation convoy.