Repatriation of Crimean Tatars to Their Native Land After the Deportation: A Perspective of a New Generation in Four Stories 

15 / 06 / 2021

Every Crimean Tatar family has its own story. CrimeaSOS asked four young people to share the stories of their families. Our respondents talk about how they found out about the tragedy of their people and how this story influences their lives.р 20 лет назад. 

Nara, 34 y.o. 

My family consists of five people. After the deportation, we lived in Uzbekistan. There were many nationalities in the city, but Uzbek children often called me “Tatar” and “unclean.” They used to beat me and run away. I did not understand anything. At that time, I knew little about the hardships that my grandmothers and grandfathers live through. Nobody told us about that. Although we lived with our great grandmother, she did not want to talk about this, to bring those memories up. 

I heard about Crimea from childhood. Family members spoke about it every day: “When we return to Crimea…” I always dreamed and waited for that time. I imagined Crimea as a sunny place with the sea and beaches. That was the way it looked on pictures of my relatives. At some point, we finally sold our apartment and left. That was us, three children and our mother. We spent three or four weeks going to Crimea by train. This was how we appeared in Aqmescit. That is Simferopol in Crimean Tatar. 

It was very hard to settle in. We rented a small apartment, living conditions were awful. Back then, I asked myself, “If that the Crimea that I wanted to return to so much?” 

I found out about the deportation at school when we learned about it during the lessons in the history of Ukraine. I was truly surprised to see that the school curriculum had topics like “how Tatars attacked the Zaporizhian Sich” [Early modern Ukrainian Cossack fortress – ed.], and there was nothing about the deportation of the indigenous people of Crimea. My classmates looked at each other, pointed fingers at me, and in general, I felt the negative attitude addressed at Crimean Tatars. 

Аблаева (Эдилерская) Айше Амет къызы 1909-1987 фото Leilya AshikAblayeva (Edilerskaya) Ayshe Amet qizi 1909-1987/

photo: Leilya Ashik

That was when I became interested and began to learn what is “wrong” with my nationality. This was how I found out that every generation of Crimean Tatars suffered from something. They lived through hardships of exile, repressions, deportation, and leaving the homeland because of persecution. Every time this history repeats with our nation and nobody can stop and change it. I live with a sense of injustice towards Crimean Tatars as if you have a clenched heart because of all the stories I read and heard. 

It is important not only to remind about this horrible tragedy but educate others because, in Ukraine, not everyone knows about this crime. When I was a student, I was returning from the meeting dedicated to the Day of commemoration of victims of the deportation of Crimean Tatar people in 1944. I was on a trolley bus. When we passed the square of Lenin, some passengers were outraged that “those Crimean Tatars again meet and demand something.” 

I could not take it, so I started telling them why we organized a meeting and why this tragic date is important to us. I do not remember what happened nextbut I went home on a different transport and could not hold tears. For sureI will never forget this episode of my life. 

I live in Kyivand I am involved in social work. I develop democracy. My great-grandmother’s carpet moved to the capital with me. It survived several moves, and it reminds me of the family. 

Khatidzhe, 27 y.o. 

I am a scholar and a professor. I live in Simferopol. I returned to my homeland after I studied abroad, and now I am in quest of myself. 

I learned about the deportation at around five years of age. I began attending annual marches on May 18th, which finished with meetings on a square in Simferopol. My anam (mother) and rahmetli babam (deceased father) were the first to tell me about the tragedy. It was important for them to emphasize and explain the importance and history of this sorrowful date to children from an early age. 

Back during my childhood, stories about deportation cause horror and fear. There was a feeling of unfairness and big astonishment. Ougeneration was born on the blood and sweat of our ancestors in a fight against violence. My generation that was born in Crimea did not know this. We only heard stories and saw tears of parents, grandmothers, and grandfathers. 

Intergenerational trauma indeed exists. It possiblbecomes weaker, but it does not lose its actuality for the separation between “us” and “others.” Right now, the understanding of the reasons and consequences of the deportation is more clear. It has been studied; it is more obvious than it was in the past – in the young emotional intellect of a child. 

Первые дни крымских татар на Родине.С.Молодежное.1991г. - Рихат Якупов

First days of Crimean Tatars in the Homeland. Molodizhne village.1991. Photo: Rihat Yakupov

I studied documents and conducted research on deportation at the university. I personally studied stories and memories of forcefully deported compatriots. I admit I was subjective in my research. But how could I be indifferent? 

I believe that a commemorative meeting dedicated to the Day of commemoration of victims of the deportation of Crimean Tatar people should occur. Those meetings provide symbolism and emphasize the importance of memory for ourselves and those who know nothing about this history. On the most basic level, this is another reason to tell this story on TV, motivate people to read a book about deportation, or read a social media message. 

Eskander, 39 y.o. 

My family is not large. But we have a tradition – to pass Koran from generation to generation. I use it to read dua (the prayer – ed.) before sleep. 

Grandmothers and grandfathers did not tell me about the deportation on their own, only if I specifically started asking questions. When I was a child, I was not really interested in this topic. As far as I remember, the same was with my age-mates. The understanding that this is the information that I should know came later. 

Early years of my life in place of deportation. I remembered them as light, happy and secure time. Семья Садыха.Биюк Озенбаш.1991г. - Рихат Якупов

The family of  Sadykh.Биюк Озенбаш.1991г. – Рихат Якупов

The process of repatriation was not the same as others had. My father was in the military. And because he was Crimean Tatar, he could not transfer to Crimea. The closest point to which he was able to transfer was the Donetsk region. We moved to Crimea only in 1994 after my father passed away. We exchanged an apartment in the Donetsk region for a home in Simferopol. 

I did not have special expectations related to the repatriation because it happened in tragic circumstances. That period was associated in my mind with the absence of hot water, constant electricity cut-offs, letters to relatives, phone calls from telephone booths for which we had to stand in line. Those were the hard 1990s, and often you could not get a job because you are Crimean Tatar. 

I understand that the effects of the deportation have not been overcome yet. For those who came to replace the deported Crimean Tatars – it was comfortable to believe all myths and false accusations transmitted at that time. And for the younger generation of Crimean Tatars as their parents they continue thinking within this discourse of victims. But I believe that commemorative events dedicated to the Day of deportation should be organized until there is at least one living person who was born in a foreign land due to the deportation and lived through the repatriation. 

I live in Kyiv now, my parents live in Simferopol. I have one family relic with me – an embroidered headscarf that my grandmother received from her grandmother, and I received it from my grandmother. 

Suleiman, 31 y.o. 

I came from Simferopol. I work as a lawyer at an international company. 

I was born in Uzbekistan. From the vivid stories by those who lived through the forced deportation and examples, I know that the early years after 1944 were especially hard. Horrible living conditions caused thousand[s] of deaths after the deportees arrived at “special settlements.” Those were mostly elderly people and children. 

I now understand how phenomenal is the fact that most people in deportation managed to reach an adequate level of life, according to standards of those times. And that was despite multiple barriers created by the Soviet authorities. We were not allowed to get higher education, be involved in a number of professions, occupy certain positions. 

Even ouability to move was significantly restricted until 1956. In order to leave your village, one would have to get permission. 

My family returned to Crimea when I was three years old. This is why I began understanding the meaning of the words “Fatherland,” “return,” “home” (not just in the sense of four walls and a roof above your head), and apatride (a person without citizenship – ed.) quite early.  

I took the repatriation as a new game. Five days, two trains, new places, new faces, excitement. I believe that the generation of our parents is true heroes. They managed to return, were not afraid to change their lives completely. And all that happened without the support of the state at the time: mass repatriation started in the USSR in 1989. 

From my point of view, those who witnessed the deportation lived through the repatriation differently. It was more sacral for them. I heard several stories about how people kissed their native ground after the return. I saw the faces and emotions of people who visited their former homes from which they were forcefully deported. 

In 90% of cases, the local population had a hostile attitude towards us. Of course, Soviet propaganda contributed to that. It spoke about Crimean Tatars as a “traitor-nation.” In kindergartens, schools we faced bullying. Adults could not find jobs according to their qualifications and education. 

I remember how my age-mates attacked me in kindergarten and accused me of some unknown treason. Tutors did not react. I only dreamed of peace and tutors to stop making me draw with the right hand, which was uncomfortable for me. 

I also dreamed of a good large house for my family. But the fulfillment of that goal took many years – we did not have enough money and did not have land. For a long time, we lived in an unfinished house located in the area where other Crimean Tatars built similar homes. BesidesI remember that often our compatriots organized crews to help each other in construction. This solidarity and mutual help are deeply embedded in my memory. 

However, in addition to that, many people were truly interested in our history, culture, language. Some of them knew the situation well. Others wanted to know why we “appeared” in Crimea. As a result, they understood that we had not just “come” or “escaped” from Central Asia but returned home. 

Echo of the deportation will sound for other generations of Crimean Tatars. It has its influence even on subconsciousness. Sometimes my eyes catch the numbers 19.44 [7.44 pm in military time – ed.] on watch, and whatever I do at that moment, th


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