When Russian airplanes dropped bombs on Gori, Georgia, Monday morning, 26-year-old Nikri (who was afraid to give his last name) rushed home to check on his family. The carnage that awaited him was almost too much to bear. A woman's severed hand lay by the entrance to his shattered apartment building. Upstairs, he found his wounded wife and one of his daughters alive. But his 2-year-old daughter was dead, the victim of a piece of shrapnel that hit the wall above her bed.
"I do not have my Annushka," the father cried, showing a reporter the gaping hole in the wall. As Nikri fled the building with his wife and surviving daughter, looters were removing valuables from the apartment building.
As civilians and Georgian military personnel fled Russia's expanding offensive, many were asking why the country's allies, including the United States, haven't come to their aid. The head of Georgia's National Security Council, Alexander Lomaia, told NEWSWEEK on Monday, "If all countries together said [to Russia], 'We are not buying your gas and we'll exclude you from all international organizations, you will be an international pariah,' [then] they would stop."
After surviving a bombing, David Tshimashvili, the commander of a military tank base in the capital Tbilisi, said, "We thought Bush was our friend. We supported them in Iraq. Where is Bush? Will he come here now?" Tshimashvili remembered when thousands gathered in Tbilisi's Freedom Square in 2005 to hear the American president, who declared that the "sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia must be respected."
Tshimashvili had his tanks evacuate the base two days ago, but he was still on site when Russian bombs hit, injuring him in his arm, shoulder and chest. From Tbilisi Central University Hospital, where he is recovering, the commander said, "I still believe in Democratic values, but never again in America. We feel very disappointed that there is no real help from the U.S. and Europe."
Civilians interviewed by NEWSWEEK in Gori and surrounding towns said they never thought Russia would attack their country. When two Russian soldiers entered farmer Roman Melanishvili's house Sunday night, he quickly jumped out a window and ran with nothing but his jacket in his hands. "I first saw tanks driving along our village road. Then my neighbors screamed, 'They are killing'," Melanishvili, 28, said Monday morning as he fled Kekhvi village, about six miles from the South Ossetia border. "I do not know if I ever can come back to my home or if it is now going to be occupied by Russians. I never thought Russia would attack us."
Lali Nikoshvili, 45, was at work Sunday at a medical clinic in Gori when she heard an unbearably loud boom. As a thick cloud engulfed the room, Nikoshvili, a nurse, felt sharp pains in her breast and face. When the dust settled, she saw that the walls and windows were gone and she felt blood running down her right cheek. Lying on a stretcher at the hospital, Nikoshvili was one of about 200 patients with shrapnel and other wounds.
"We thought this could happen only in Chechnya. Now our homes look like in Grozny," said Sirafima Miladze, 77, who sat at the hospital with her blind husband.
The National Security Council's Lomaia said the Russians have bombed at least 15 Georgian sites including military bases, cities and villages. He said he was most concerned about the Russian Army's Tochka missile, which was deployed in Tskhinvali and shown on Russian TV. "In Georgia, the Tochka can reach the five largest cities," Lamaia explained. "They have not shot it yet, but why did they bring it?"
Back on the Georgian boarder in Tirzinsi village, five old men sat on the side of the road Sunday evening watching thousands of Georgian troops march out of South Ossetia. Two days earlier, these men had watched the same troops marching in the other direction. Ambulances zip by every few minutes with loud sirens and airplanes fly overhead every few hours. "One woman from our village and her cow were killed on this road yesterday," one man said. "We are poor enough, no war is needed to bring more trouble to Georgia."