Georgia is a small nation that borders Russia, and in fact, was part of Russia at one time. The two nations had been at odds for a long time, and tempers just seemed to be simmering, with a deep heat that threatened to boil over into an all-out war. On August 8, 2008, the conflict finally hit the boiling point. What followed was a shooting war that while brief, was the most violent episode in a conflict that began more than a decade before.
As the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was breaking up in 1991, the nation of Georgia decided that it was time to declare their independence. A group of pro-Russian separatists decided that they were going to take control of two regions a short time later. The regions were composed of a combined 20 percent of Georgia’s territory, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. That, being unacceptable to Georgia, created a stalemate. In addition, in 2008, President George W Bush announced his support for Georgia’s and Ukraine’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, something that should never have happened, and a move that Russia viewed as tantamount to putting a hostile military on its borders. I would have to agree with that assessment, and I think we are seeing the continued effects of that move to this day. I’m not saying that the people of Georgia and Ukraine are bad people, but the governments are questionable, causing Russia to take the steps it has taken.
With relations between the two nations already tense in 2008, and the aggressive nature of Vladimir Putin, who is in power in Russia, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, declared his intent to bring Abkhazia and South Ossetia back under Georgian control. This didn’t go over very well. Putin and Saakashvili accused each other of acts of aggression throughout the spring and summer of 2008. On August 1st, South Ossetian troops violated the ceasefire by shelling Georgian villages. Sporadic fighting and shelling ensued over the coming days, until Saakashvili declared a ceasefire on August 7th. The separatists refused to honor the cease fire, so Georgia’s military launched an attack on Tskhinvali in South Ossetia. Russian troops had already illegally entered South Ossetia, and so they responded quickly to the Georgian attack. The fighting spilled over into Abkhazia when Georgian troops seized Tskhinvali. The initial Georgian advance was pushed back and within a few days Russia seized most of the disputed territory and was advancing into Georgia proper. The two sides agreed to a ceasefire in the early hours of August 13th. While the war was short lived, it was fierce. During the five-day conflict, 170 servicemen, 14 policemen, and 228 civilians from Georgia were killed and 1,747 wounded. In addition, 67 Russian servicemen were killed and 283 were wounded, and 365 South Ossetian servicemen and civilians (combined) were killed.
After the war, Russia formally recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, but stayed in occupation of them, in violation of the ceasefire. They took similar action concerning Ukraine in 2014, when they annexed the Crimean Peninsula, backing separatists in the west of the country. The Russo-Georgian War displaced an estimated 192,000 people, many of whom fled ethnic cleansing of Georgians in the separatist territories. The situation remained tense, and then once again came to a boiling point in 2022, as we have all seen.
Over the thousands of years since man has been on the Earth, amazing people, as well as evil people, have made memorable speeches. Some speeches were never expected to be memorable or historic, and others were expected to be so, because they were designed to be uplifting, inspirational, morale building, or a tribute filled with gratitude. It was the latter that inspired Sir Winston Spencer Churchill to make his speech on August 20, 1940. Europe was entrenched in World War II and things weren’t going as well as they had hoped. They had taken a few rather large beatings from the Germans, and morale was not as high as they had hoped. The speech was given as the United Kingdom prepared for the expected German invasion. After a series of defeats for the Allies over the prior months, Churchill was trying to tell the people that they were in a much better position now. He was correct, of course. Shortly after the speech, the British won the battle, the first significant defeat for the previously unstoppable Wehrmacht.
Times of war are often when great men make speeches to inspire the military troops to persevere. They can be a battle cry of sorts. Or they can be a reflection of such deep gratitude that it leaves us awestruck. Churchill was first moved to utter those famous words upon his exit from the Battle of Britain Bunker at RAF Uxbridge on August 16, 1940. He had been the Number 11 Group RAF Operations Room during a day of battle. Afterwards, Churchill told Major General Hastings Ismay, “Don’t speak to me, I have never been so moved.” His emotions were so deep, that he had to think about this for a time. The two were silent for a few moments, and then Churchill said, “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.” That declaration became the basis of his speech to the House of Commons on August 20, 1940.
In his speech, Winston Churchill said, “The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day, but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate, careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power. On no part of the Royal Air Force does the weight of the war fall more heavily than on the daylight bombers who will play an invaluable part in the case of invasion and whose unflinching zeal it has been necessary in the meanwhile on numerous occasions to restrain…”
Words can be so powerful. They have the power to change the course of history when they are used to inspire soldiers in battle to a victory that seemed impossible just moments before the words were spoken. Sometimes, all it takes to bring about a victory is to listen to the one person who sees that victory, no matter how many defeats have preceded it, is still possible. Great men…men who have inspired victory…have been around a long time. These men, and women too, refuse to accept defeat. And they have the ability to speak powerfully to convince others that victory can follow defeat.
I love that I have connected with so many family members over the past few years. It seems like each connection brings another connection, and then it keeps blossoming into more and more connections. Yesterday, I got an email from my cousin, Tracey Schumacher Inglimo, telling me of some information she came across in FamilySearch.Org. Some of it I already had, but there was quite a bit of it that I didn’t. It was like opening an early Christmas present. It was given to me for no reason other than to further the family tree for all of us. I seriously can’t tell you how big a blessing Tracey has become, and she continues to grow more and more important to my life every day. It was the connection with her that started all the open doors in the Schumacher family in the first place. From there, the Schumacher side of the family has grown to the point where I’m not sure just how many we know…and that is awesome!!
As I said, some of the information was information that I already had, but some of it was new to me. One of the things I found most exciting is that Tracey had found, what I now believe to be the long lost picture of Christian Schumacher, who is my great great uncle, and the brother of my great grandfather, Carl Schumacher. According to my great aunt, Bertha Schumacher Hallgren, “Christian was a soldier (he joined very young, perhaps 20), straight and tall when he stood in his uniform, the photo of which Elsa and I used to love to look at when we were small. He served in the first World War, having stayed in the reserves throughout the years, and fighting men became so few in the closing years of the conflict that Germany had to call up all the reserves, regardless of age. When the Russians entered Poland, he was captured and never heard from again. He had married a Polish girl and lived just inside the border of the two countries, operating a wholesale grocery business. They never had children and she did not continue writing after this tragedy.”
It is my hope that the picture Tracey found online is the same one Aunt Bertha mentioned in her story. It had seemed all but lost, and to find it among the things Tracey had found excited me beyond measure, as I know it will for all the other family members who have been hoping to see it. It is exactly what was described to me, and I know that there are others in the family who have seen it, so I hope they will be able to confirm that is the one they had seen.
I have found, as I have taken this journey of discovery to find other family members and more information on our history, that two heads…or ten, are better than one. They are far better, in fact. We all tend to look different places, and look for different information, and yet before you know it, the information found by one turns out to be the information that someone else was searching for. I guess I would have to say that my main reason for connecting with family is the family…for sure, but finding out so much more about the family is definitely a plus. So, today I want to thank Tracey for giving me and the rest of the family such an amazing gift. We all love you very much!!