Language as a Bridge


In the Republic of Georgia, Lela Avidzba holds a special status. Of course she is a spokeswoman for the Georgian government but what sets her apart is her background. Born from an Abkhaz father and a Georgian mother, Lela is fluent in Abkhaz, a language with a bewildering, 64-letter alphabet and complex phonetics. A lot of Abkhazians themselves cannot speak the language and use Russian.

Until 1992, Abkhazia was part of the Republic of Georgia when civil war broke, Abkhazians claiming afterwards independence. The conflict, one of the bloodiest in the post-Soviet area, remains unresolved as Russia and a handful of other countries have recognized Abkhazia as an independent country while for the rest of the world it still belongs to Georgia.

Lela was a happy teenager living in Sukhumi, the Abkhazian capital, when the war broke. Her parents sent her to Tbilissi for her safety while they stayed behind. Since then, Lela is torn between the two places but has been an ardent promoter of peace between the two belligerents. For example, she hosts a TV show in Abkhaz on Georgian television.

In 2004, with her mother, she helped organize a visit to Georgia for Abkhaz children who lost parents in the 1992 war. The kids were thrilled by the trip although such gestures of reconciliation cannot overcome easily the deep animosity between Abkhazians and Georgians. Lela knows that but she is nevertheless determined to persevere using her unique language skills. Via

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