What do you really know about Crimean Tatar deportation? We present 10 stories of Crimean Tatars who were deported from Crimea in 1944. In these stories there is an echo of the tragic May morning, long days in boxcars, years in foreign land and returning home... In the portraits you will see the conviction that Crimean Tatars have always returned to their Homeland. This is how it was and how it will be.
I was born in Bakhchisarai on my parents own land. There were four of us, my father worked as a sewer and mother - dressmaker in the guild. In June 1941, I was graduated from the high school, dreaming about the future, but the war turned everything upside down. The years of occupation were very difficult, we often went hungry. When Crimea was released, we were very happy - did not know that the Crimean Tatars would be evicted soon.
May 18, 1944 at night, we were awakened with the armored militaries which ordered to leave the house. My father thought they would lead us to shot, so took nothing to go. My younger brother Mustafa took only a violin made by himself. He said: "If I die, so only with my violin." I did not take any documents only album with photos. Besides me, none of our family spoke Russian, all spoke Crimean Tatar language. When it became clear that they will not shot us, my father returned for his r sew making tools and grabbed some food. Being aimed with the weapon, we were taken to the station in Bakhchisarai and brought to the baggage train.
My younger brother Mustafa took only a violin made by himself. He said: "If I die, so only with my violin."
There were little stops on the roads, we went out and collected stones to make a fire and cook food with the staff we managed to take with us. On the road, none died in our carriage, but in the neighboring carriages people were dying. We even did not have time to bury them on the stops, so dead people were just left there.
We were brought to Uzbekistan in Suphan village. Uzbeks met us well. We lived here closely, several families in one room. Each family lived in every corner of the room and some had small children. We lived in a special mode of settlement; we were forbidden to leave anywhere. Parents worked on the farm - collected cotton, worked in the field. Since I did not have any documents on education, I had to learn all over again in the last grade of the school. Then I got a job working as an accountant at the collective farm. When we have settled a little, parents started earning with their business, repairing of shoes and sewing.
In order to be closer to the native Crimea, our three children and we moved to the Krasnodar region in 1969. We got back to Crimea in 1989 when I was already retired. Firstly, Crimean Tatars were denied in residence permission, buying houses, and refused to employ without a paper on the residence permission. Local people which we met, often treat us hostile. We settled in Simferopol, were we had more opportunities to find a work. Unfortunately, my mother, father and brother died in a foreign land, and not waiting for opportunities to see the native land again.
I had a mother and a sister of 16 years old. I had no father. I remember, one morning soldiers came to us and told to leave the house. We did not know where they supposed to transport us. People were gathered in the village centre, we were loaded in boxcars and drove away. Our village was one of the first to move to Chervonyi Mak: some people came and took us away to their houses. We lived here for about half a year. When we left home, my mother closed the door, took the keys and held them on the nail in the house, where we stopped. Once she went away and I did not know where she left. When I returned, I was told that there is nothing in the place of our house, only rotten apples on the road.
6 months we lived at neighbors’ house. And then we were drove in Bakhchisaray. I remember almost nothing of what was happening then. Remember, that everyone feared. We drove across the steppes, at stops moved out of the train and tried to cook something in cauldrons. Not always we had time for that, and once I was almost left out of boxcars which started moving - a man grabbed me and pulled back to the train. That’s how we found ourselves in Uzbekistan, and later in Chirchik, Tashkent region.
I remember that times well. We were accommodated in old schools, had nothing to eat, therefor, went to steppe gathering berries and herb. Later, sister employed to the factory, for construction. If we managed to bake few little cakes, we had something to eat. For us, 3 persons, we were given 1,2 kilograms of bread, in little pieces. After 12 o’clock sister brought the bread, we got up after sleeping and ate it, sprinkled with salt.
We were accommodated in old schools, had nothing to eat, therefor, went to steppe gathering berries and herb. If we managed to bake few little cakes, we had something to eat.
We lived in barracks, moved from one barrack to another. Here we lived in an industrial area, only sister worked in our family. One day she did not come to work because her clothes and footwear was very wet and she had no dry clothes or shoes. The next day, she knew that the next month we are going to receive half the bread promised.
I remember how we planted a small plot of land near the barracks. We grew and sold vegetables, engaged in households. Thank God, life became a little bit normal. In 1948 my sister got married, our family has become easier to live. I worked for 22 years at transformer plant and then could have returned to Crimea.
In 1992 I returned to Crimea, the children - a little earlier. Crimea met us well, no one told us the wrong words. All of us here were Muslims – no matter what door to open, everywhere we were warmly welcomed.
There were three girls in our family, my brother, who was a soldier, my mother and my grandmother. That day my pregnant sister's husband was taken to the labor army. In order not to leave her alone, my sister Iffet was with her in her house. At night somebody knocked our door. There were just three of us: my mother, grandmother and me. We were woken up, given 15 minutes to get ready. My grandmother took Koran and a bundle of things that she had prepared for the funeral.
I remember everything as if it happened just yesterday, my mother took some dried figs. We were taken to the cemetery. There we met my sisters. They took nothing with them. Iffet returned to our house to grab some belongings but I closed the door, so she could not enter. Some villagers saw us walking without any utensils and said "Come to our house, take at least a cup or a pot". But who would go to someone else's house to take anything?
We were literally pushed into boxcars, it was dirty everywhere. Two people died during the journey. We could see other dead people left outside of the boxcars. On June 6th, 1944 we arrived to the station Hakulabad in Namangan Region. There was literally no one. My grandma went down on her knees and began to read the prayer Elham. It turned out, people were watching behind their fences. They were just scared. Then they slowly began to show up saying: "Oh, it turns out, the Muslims arrived". Over the time we joined someone's houses to live in.
We were literally pushed into boxcars, it was dirty everywhere. Two people died during the journey. We could see other dead people left outside of the boxcars.
Locals were starving too. I was in our family the healthiest, so I was sent to the mill for wheat. My mom warned us that we should not eat apricots and drink water. That year many people died of dysentery. When my sister's husband returned from the labor army, my sister and their child went to Samarkand to him. My mother was arrested because her daughter had gone to meet her husband. As a punishment my mother swept the streets two weeks. Soon, some sort of containers with people were sent to Crimea. On May 8th, we arrived to Crimea. Me, my daughter-in-law and two grandchildren moved there. My son stayed there to put a monument dedicated to my mother and then he joined us.
Soviet Union turned our house into a kindergarten. I hoped to live in our village, Ai Vasyl (now located within Yalta), that's why we requested to get some land site. We were told: "Do not come, we will reply". They've been still replying. The second time I went there in 2002. They said that all the land sites were distributed. We couldn't even get 400 meters of land even though my archival document stated we owned 1.5 hectares of land.
We live at home. Wherever I was - this is our homeland. We always prayed to return. Our people have overcome so much, but we've always done everything according to the law. I want my people to remain the same: civilized, educated and never carry on war with anyone.
I remember that night very well: on May 18, 1944 I was about to turn 10 years old. At 4 o'clock in the morning soldiers came to our house. My mother, me and my 3 siblings were at home. We were told that we were being evicted and we had 15 minutes to get ready to leave. No one explained anything. My mom had 20 minutes hastily to put clothes on us all and at 5 o'clock in the morning we were at the station. We boarded boxcars, there were 60 people in each, but no one knew where we were taken to. To be shot? Hung? Tears and panic were taking over the people.
The journey took 17 days, we had neither food nor toilets. Only when we reached Kazakhstan, they started giving us soup with millet once a day. Somehow people managed to prepare some dough, during stops they tried to burn it and make bread. People died on the way, they were put outside and left by the boxcars, because there was no time to bury anybody.
When we arrived in Samarkand, we were escorted to the stadium "Spartak" and were allowed to take a bath. The things we left, they either burned or stolen. So we were dressed in clothes of wounded or dead soldiers and were divided by districts. We got to the village Chirek, Samarkand region.
The first days we slept at the door of the school, then we went to work at the farm. There we got sick with malaria. About a week after, some old people began to die, but there was nothing to bury them in. We gathered together in a group of 25-30 people to somehow bury them. There I have lost father, brothers and sisters, and my mother died later. I had just my older sister, who soon got married to Uzbek guy.
I managed to survive only because I took care of camels which belonged to Kazakhs. I helped the Kazakhs and they fed me. It lasted for 2 years. I lived in an orphanage, but eventually had a break down and moved to my sister and her family. I returned to Crimea to Simferopol being already retired in 1993. My children returned earlier. When we got to the peninsula, there was no water, we had to steal electricity. Soon water was distributed by cars. Thus we've survived.
When we got to the peninsula, there was no water, we had to steal electricity. Soon water was distributed by cars. Thus we've survived.
I knew what Crimea was like. If it was up to me, I really would not have come back. I was aware there was no work, no great prospects or opportunities. But my children wanted to come back. After they left for Crimea, I also decided to join them. I did not even think that Soviet Union would give us the peninsula. I fully settled down in Uzbekistan, where I had a cottage house and everything was fine . Of course, I was homesick, but did not expect to be allowed to return.
I was born in Uzundgi village, Balaklava region (after 1945 - renamed Kolgospne). Some time later, our family moved to Simeiz.
Once, my father met two workers, who asked him to read a newspaper they had found. He did, and the workers denounced him to NKVD (the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs). My father was arrested and sent to Arkhangelsk, where he was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor. My mother was left alone, 29 years of age with seven children.
At the age of eight I went to school, but soon the war broke out. When the Germans came, we continued to study at school, but had to use the Latin alphabet. Then, the Russians came back again and started to force people to leave their houses. We did not understand what was happening – all inhabitants of the village were evicted from their homes. Nobody came for us, because we lived in the area in a so-called “Suvorov” building and everybody thought that only Russians lived there. Once, one of our relatives came to us and started crying that all Tatars are being removed from the village. My mother stood up, got dressed, grabbed a blanket and a scarf. My sister quickly kneaded the dough and baked two pieces of unleavened bread. When we reached the market, the head of kolkhoz (collective farm) saw us crying and gave us 18 pieces of bread.
We were put in a truck, which took us to Kokkoz (after 1945 - renamed Sokoline). Then, we were led to the boxcars and we were locked up. We spent 18 days in the train. We had one big kettle and a water bailer for drinking. Occasionally, on the stops we boiled the balanda (tasteless soup) in a big dish. That was how we reached the destination point - Samarkand.
We were put in a truck, which took us to Kokkoz (after 1945 - renamed Sokoline). Then, we were led to the boxcars and we were locked up. We spent 18 days in the train. We had one big kettle and a water bailer for drinking. Occasionally, on the stops we boiled the balanda (tasteless soup) in a big dish.
Upon arrival, we were picked up by the cars which took us to Chelek region. We washed ourselves and were sent to kolkhoz (collective farm). They gave us a room to share with an old lady and her son. Three days later, my mother and sisters began working in the field weeding the cotton. A week later the harvest season started. After working in the fields all the kids, including me, were gathering ears of wheat. There was a mill not far from the place we lived in, where we grinded the grains of wheat into flour. That was the only way we could survive since our daily food portion was half a kilo of bread and a handful of cereal grains.
My mother went to Samarkand and asked our relatives to send an inquiry letter with the request to transfer her family. Soon, we received the approval. With a bag of grains on a donkey, we spent three days on the way to Samarkand, sleeping close to the side of the roads under the open sky. Upon arrival, we occupied one of the rooms in the house of a man from our village.
We could afford renting our own place when mother got a job at Taligulanska hydro-electric power station. My father returned in 1947 and we collected enough money to buy a barn from one Uzbek.
In 1990 we sold the house in Samarkand, which we had just finished, and finally moved back to Crimea. We couldn’t afford a house, since the money we had on the savings accounts was devaluated, so we had to build another one again. In the meantime, we lived in a soldier tent, we fetched the water with buckets and had no light. God bless, slowly, we were building the house…
Project organizer is a public organization "CrimeaSOS"
Idea – Zeinep Tasheva
Photographer of Saiid and Shevkiie – Vladlen Melnikov
Design – Olexandra Ryzhyk