When we talk to each other through Skype, Beso Burduli likes to move the camera around to give me a glimpse of his current workplace. Burduli is team captain of the Georgian team for the Invictus Games. He recently moved to a beautiful new Rehabilitation Centre in Tserovani. Here, wounded soldiers are able to work in peace on their physical and mental recovery. And the final preparations for the Invictus Games in May are being done here.
By Edward Swier
At a later time, his team sent a link with pictures of the facility. And it must be said. The complex – the whole name being The National Hero of Georgia Mariam Makashvili Military Rehabilitation Centre – is a unique facility. It opened in January this year. In Tserovani, wounded soldiers can recover both physically and mentally.
Wounded soldiers and their families can work together there and in peace, on the recovery. The complex includes a swimming pool, fitness center and gym. All facilities are available for both physical and psychological treatment. The Georgian team for the Invictus Games train on a regular basis. “And we will for sure be training more when the Invictus Games are fast approaching.” The sitting volleyball team and the wheelchair basketball team both frequently use the sports hall, swimmers are also able to train well. “Some come here every day, others once a week. It also depends on what stage you are at in your recovery process.”
It was not a coincidence that the complex was opened on January 27th. In Georgia, that day will be regarded as Wounded Warrior’s Day from now on, as a sign that there is more and more attention in Georgia for the well-being of physically and mentally wounded soldiers. The festive opening hosted many dignitaries, including several important military representatives from the United States. The rehabilitation complex was partly possible thanks to a contribution of no less than 4 million euros from the United States, an important strategic partner of Georgia.
Georgia built this complex, not only to honour the soldiers who defended the country at the expense of their own health, but of course also want to make a crucial contribution to their recovery. Burduli: “This complex makes you feel really happy. It is nice to realize that you are thought about. And that you can get help in different aspects.”
Burduli is not only proud of the training complex, he talks enthusiastically about his country, which became an independent republic when the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991. “Did you know that Georgia is a very mountainous country? We have a number of mountains that are at least 5000m tall here. We have a varying climate here, spanning from a subtropical to semi-arid climate. Wine grapes grow really well here, we a really good wine country.”
Georgia is coming to The Hague with twenty athletes. Both the sitting volleyball team and the wheelchair basketball team train together regularly. “At least three times a week.” There is a lot of support, for both psychological and sports-related aspects. “For everyone who needs it.” Burduli will participate in sitting volleyball, but will also row and run in The Hague. “These sports are new to me, it really appeals to me.”
As proud as he is of his country, he is also enthusiastic about his role at the upcoming Invictus Games. The fact that he was chosen as team captain makes him look forward to the event in The Hague even more. “At the same time, it is also a big responsibility. It is now of utmost importance to communicate well with everyone.”
Georgia participated in the Invictus Games for the first time in 2014. “We only participated with six athletes the first time, but they did win a number of medals. That provided for a lot of media attention. The Invictus Games then also got aired on TV, the event has really become popular in a short time span. Personally, I have always closely followed the progress of our team.”
All in all, Georgia is coming with a delegation of around 50 people. “We are looking forward to it, it is wonderful that Prince Harry made such an effort to set up the Invictus Games and is now also working hard for wounded soldiers. For me and many of my colleagues this has created a goal for us to work towards. It will be the first time I will be going to the Netherlands, that will also apply to most of my teammates. What do I expect? We will train hard and do our best. We want to make the most out of it. That does not necessarily have to be a medal of course. The most important thing is that, also from a mental point of view, we will come back stronger from our trip to the Netherlands. It will be a great experience.”