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Georgia's on his mind

COC instructor concerned for friends in Russian republic

Posted: August 11, 2008 7:30 p.m.
Updated: October 13, 2008 5:01 a.m.

In this undated file photo, Kevin Anthony, center, stands with the friends he made in Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia, last May. Anthony is keeping in touch with his friends now that Russia has begun bombing the territories around their city.


Bombs are dropping all around the capitol city of Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia, but as far as Kevin Anthony knows, the friends he made during his visit to the city in May are still safe.

The conflict between Russia and the Republic of Georgia seems distant for most Americans, but not for Anthony, chair of hotel management at COC, who traveled to Georgia last May to lead a customer service workshop for students at Tbilisi Ilia Chavchavadze State University in the Georgian capitol.

Now, he is concerned that the students he met during his visit may be in danger.

"We knew in May that the Russians were coming, and that it possibly might even happen while I was there," Anthony said. "The students were really hoping that this wouldn't happen. They have their whole future ahead of them, and they just want to get an education. Now, instead of planning for their future, they have this elephant in front of them."

The conflict between Russia and the small, former Russian republic erupted last week after Georgia launched a military offensive to gain control of the Russian-backed separatist region of South Ossetia.

"Both sides are saying the other side shot first, and I honestly don't know how it started," Anthony said.

"This is a very serious situation, and not just because I have friends there."

Anthony has been in contact via e-mail with his Georgian friend, Tata. Anthony requested that her last name not be used to protect her from any possible reprisals.

On Saturday, Tata wrote that the Russians were not bombing Tbilisi yet, but that she had heard that they planned to do so. Anthony told her that if any of the students could get out of Georgia, they could stay with him in an extra bedroom.

"The situation right now is not that bad to leave Georgia. They are not bombing Tbilisi, though as I said they are bombing territories all around Tbilisi and near Tbilisi, and as we can see, the Russians are not going to stop," Tata wrote in an e-mail to Anthony on Sunday. "Thank you so much for your support. You don't know how much it means for me."

Anthony said the students do not have the resources to leave at this point. Plus, it's just too dangerous.

"I don't think they could get out right now if they wanted to," Anthony said. He said he wants the warring to stop and for the Russians to get out of Georgia, but fears the opposite may happen.

"The Russians, I feel, are going to roll right into Tbilisi, and once they've got something, I don't think they're going to let it go," he said.

Anthony will present a lecture on the Republic of Georgia, which will include his thoughts on the current conflict, at 7 p.m. Aug. 27 in Room 101 of Aliso Hall on COC's Valencia campus.

"I'm just going to give people a background of the area, and a look at what's happening now from the perspective of someone who's just been there," he said.


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