“Smile-a” Should Have Been an Envoy of Peace”
02 October, 2015
“Smile-a” Should Have Been an Envoy of Peace”
On September 22nd, another Georgian soldier died in Afghanistan on the ISAF mission. Vasil Kuljanishvili, private of the 4th Mechanized brigade of the 43rd Battalion, is the 31st Georgian ISAF casualty in Afghanistan. He always had a smile on his face, and this is how Kuljanishvili is remembered in the army, among his friends and neighbors. This was the reason why he was nicknamed “Smile-a.”

“We saw him off to Afghanistan. We understood quite well where he was going, so we
couldn’t have happy looks. ‘What’s wrong with you guys, ‘Smile-a’ will be back soon,’ he said. But he couldn’t keep his promise; only his smile remained with us.”


On that ill-fated day, Georgian soldiers were ambushed while on patrol, and Sgt. Paata Rostobaia was wounded. Vasil Kuljanishvili tried to save his comrade-in-arms, but a bullet fired at the would-be rescuer turned out to be fatal.

Kuljanishvili turned 21 years old on August 8. He was scheduled to come back to his motherland on October 20. Tragically, his young life and his nearly completed tour were cut short. Giorgi Korghanashvili, his comrade-in-arms, accompanied his body home from Afghanistan.
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Vasil and his brother were brought up by their mother in a tiny flat on the ninth floor of a refugee dormitory near the nitrogen plant in Rustavi. After finishing school, Vasil immediately enrolled in the army, wanting to become a professional serviceman. His brother is in the army as well, as a conscript.

Rustavi met the deceased soldier from Afghanistan with special honors. Both civilians and soldiers made a human chain from the city entrance to Vasil’s house. The departed soldier was accompanied from the airport by an Interior Ministry honorary entourage, Minister of Defense Tinatin Khidasheli, Major-General Vakhtang Kapanadze, Deputy Ministers of Defense and high-ranking military officers. On September 29, they returned to Rustavi to attend the soldier’s funeral.

Giorgi Kharebashvili, Vasil’s friend:

“It seems that we all aged a few years on this day. He was so full of life, so joyful that I couldn’t even imagine that his life could be somehow put in danger. Vasil was trying to care for everybody, his mother and brother included. He had a girlfriend and was going to get married. He promised his brother that he’d buy a new apartment and leave to him the house where they were born. But he did not live to see any of his plans and dreams come true.”

Gogita Khachidze, Vasil’s friend:

“Vasil’s death put an end to our childhood. He was an extremely kind boy. I knew that he was a good rifleman, a good soldier, but his constantly smiling face and his warrior’s nature did not seem compatible. He should have been an envoy of peace somewhere. Despite the fact that he never lacked in physical strength, he never quarreled or got into fights. We saw him off to Afghanistan. We understood quite well where he was going, so we couldn’t have happy looks.

‘What’s wrong with you guys, ‘Smile-a’ will be back soon,’ he said. But he couldn’t keep his promise; only his smile remained with us.”

His Last Wish

Some time before his death, Vasil Kul­janishvili offered his brothers-in-arms to make a video and send it to support the Georgians participating in the World Rugby Championship in Britain. Although he did not live to see his dream come true, his brothers-in-arms turned his idea into reality. Accordingly, the Georgian rugby players dedicated the match with Argentina to Vasil’s memory.
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