After 74 years a Georgian woman finally receives news of her brother.
With her hundred years Ketevan Tchelidze is already a noteworthy inhabitant of Bazaleti. But now, after having received news from the far-away Netherlands, her name is on everyone’s lips in the hamlet between the foothills of the Caucuses.
Only recently did Ketevan, who was born during World War I, learn that her brother Akaki was killed in the Netherlands. At the end of the Second World War the Germans shot him without mercy in the Wijkermeerstraat in Beverwijk. An hour before they had already executed fifteen Georgian brothers-in-arms in the nearby Fort aan de Sint Aagtendijk.
Ketevan had never heard from her brother anymore since he was drafted into the Red army 74 years ago and left for the front, where he was taken prisoner. An estimated 3 million POWs from the Soviet Union perished in the prison camps. Being a Georgian Akaki was given the chance of escaping the terrible conditions by putting on a German uniform. That is how he ended up in the coastal town of Zandvoort with a guard battalion of over 800 other Georgians.
At the end of 1944 the so-called Georgisches Infanterie-Bataillon 822 was moved to the island of Texel, but a number of troops were sent elsewhere: to Munitionslager Monika, the name the Germans had given to the Fort aan de Sint Aagtendijk in Beverwijk. On 6 April 1945 the battalion on Texel revolted. The Georgians in the fort had also been thirsting for revenge for quite some time. On 20 April, Hitler’s birthday, they were caught stealing 88 hand grenades for the Dutch resistance. The Germans showed no mercy and shot them that same evening. Fifteen Georgians were exhumed after the war and brought to Amersfoort, where they were given a final resting place in the Soviet War Cemetery.
But there happened to be a sixteenth Georgian: Ketevan’s brother Akaki. He was absent from the fort at the time of the executions because he was visiting his girlfriend in Beverwijk. The Germans quickly located and shot him. His body was never found and his family remained ignorant of his fate.
Until Remco Reiding decided to try and trace Akaki’s family on behalf of the Soviet War Cemetery Foundation. At least then they will know that he died in the Netherlands, he thought. In Georgia volunteer Zaza Miladze got to work with the research data that Reiding provided and after a while he brought joyful news. Not only had he located the next of kin, the century old sister of Akaki Tchelidze still happened to be alive!
Ketevan worked practically her whole life as a pharmacist. She lives in the old wooden cottage of her brother. She has outlived her husband and son. On 8 March her one hundredth birthday was solemnly celebrated in the cultural center of the area. She still looks full of life but is rather deaf.
Ketevan asked Miladze all sorts of questions about her brother. She was blown away by his story and had difficulty controlling her emotions. Ketevan managed to dig up a photo from a family album of her brother Akaki, who was unmarried and had no children. Miladze has made this picture available to the Soviet War Cemetery Foundation, as well as a photo of Ketevan and a copy of her ID-card. So that now, after more than 70 years, Akaki Tchelidze has finally gotten a face.