At 4pm on 2nd August 2017, the lives of grandmother Elena and her family were shattered when an explosion ripped through a weapon store close to their home village of Primorsky, Abkhazia. Thousands of bombs and explosives were thrown across the surrounding area, creating complete devastation. Three people were killed and 64 injured.
For the past two years, HALO has been working to make the area safe and the village is beginning to rebuild.
However, the trauma of that day has had a lasting impact on Elena and, most especially, her five-year-old grandson, Agop. Their story shows the vital importance of HALO’s work to secure and make safe obsolete weapons stores—preventing other families from experiencing the terror of Primorsky.
“I moved to Primorsky 45 years ago. I live here with my son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. My eldest grandson, Agop, is five years old and my granddaughter, Milena, is four. My youngest grandson is Sergei and he is just two years old.
When the explosion occurred, I was with my son and daughter-in-law visiting our neighbor. My daughter and grandchildren were at home. At first, I thought it was an earthquake. We ran outside and were told to hide. Someone said the warehouse had exploded.
Then I saw a big flash and a large plume of smoke which reminded me of the mushroom cloud seen in Japan following the nuclear bombings during the Second World War. We were frightened and hid inside the barn so that nothing would fall on us. Everything landed in our village and in the forest.
When the explosions had stopped, we ran home. There was no time to escape so we rushed the children and our dogs to our neighbour’s basement before eventually moving everyone to the next village to stay with my parents. Our house was heavily damaged with all the windows blown out and cracks running down the walls inside.
We were lucky that the children were not hurt. Usually they always play here in the yard, but on that day my son had parked his car there and the children went to play at our neighbour’s house. During the explosion, his car was struck by falling ordnance and the windshield was broken. It is good they were not playing here.
I was very worried about my grandchildren—we wouldn’t let them go outside after dark for a long time. Agop has not spoken since the explosion—he has been silent for two years.
There were explosive items everywhere after the accident. My son checked the yard but we did not go into the kitchen garden until HALO cleared it.
HALO has come and cleared our kitchen garden and our neighbours’ kitchen garden and cleared the village of shells. If someone found something, HALO would come at once and take it away. If they had to destroy an item, they always warned us and made sure we felt secure.
I would like to thank everyone at HALO who cared about us. It was so terrible but now everything is safe.”
HALO's work in Primorsky has been made possible thanks to the local authorities and all our supporters, including the Government of the United States, the UK Government through CSSF and the European Union.