Archive for February 27, 2008

Kazakh Students Write about Soviet Union

A young girl named Ardak wrote about Soviet times:  “After the Second World War, Stalin ruled the country.  This period of time was heavy and difficult for people.  There was no food, no clothes, no medicine and a big number of invalids.  For our grandparents, it was a testing time.  People didn’t know how people abroad lived because the government did not allow to show American or European films, music, books, television, radio and literature were under administration control.  People who listened to foreign music or who wore clothes made in foreign country were punished.  So, they lived in a country, without any assumption [knowledge] of what was happening in the world.”

 Nastya is happy that she lives in a peaceful nation such as Kazakhstan, however, she knows from her grandparents stories it wasn’t always true:  “But really harmful and stressful time was after II World War.  This is a time when my grand grandfather and g.g. mother were young and they got married.  G.G. father was Kazakh, his name was Fedohmet A. and G.G. Mother was Russian, her name is Vera C.  It was a time when a president of Soviet Union was Stalin.  My ancestors had three children and they lived quite normal.  G.G. father worked in the government.  One day some people came to our house and took him away.  These persons were called “troyka”  My G.G.father was innocent but he was condemned and killed…my g.g.mother had to take her surname in order not to be killed.  And this is an example just from my family.  But in that time a lot of intelligent people were killed because of cruel politics of Stalin.”

 Another classmate of hers by the same name of Nastya wrote something similar and shows her gratefulness for times past:  “I’m so happy that I live in Kazakhstan and not the Soviet Union.  I’m so sorry that there are so many sad pages in our history.  I do not have any of those feelings that my ancestors had.After the 1990s there had appeared books with “real history” not the history our parents were made to learn.  How many facts were hidden from people!  “Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Leaders of socialism tried to move away from European model of economy which was based on market relations.  But in fact, it was the best.  Nowadays, Kazakhstan is moving to market economy.  Every event that was important for people is printed in newspapers.  No more queues in front of shops.  No shortage of clothes or food.Sometimes when I’m lazy to go to the shop for something, Mum begins telling about Soviet Union times.  IN most of these cases I want to laugh but in fact, it’s really sad.  Everyone had to go to another part of the city and stand for two or more hours just for milk and bread!  For us, it’s unbelievable!So we should be glad for everything we have nowadays.”

 Nazira wrote with pride about her grandmother and the many stories she heard from her.  “She was a seamstress and at the same time chairman of the Soviet Union’s group.  And as she told me, it was a very difficult time, because it was the time after World War II and all the industry didn’t work so good.  That’s why she used to do more than it was written in a lot of the orders and even she hadn’t got any time to be at home with her family.  As she had told me, at this time (from 1950-…) people were very industrious and they worked hard because they loved their country very much.  There weren’t any free food, any free clothes even any free time.  All they have only their hands which can bring all this useful things.  But if we can compare with nowadays time, I can say that now there is not so many factories, farms, because it was time of decay and government hadn’t got enough money to build it again after the war.But from the other side, it wasn’t so bad, as my grandpa said, if you were on the high post it wouldn’t be difficult for you to go to other countries, to have a good rest and etc.  And to become a boss, wasn’t so easy, because you had to be always “on eyes” of Soviet Union’s group and of course work hard as you can…”

 Another classmate by the name of Elnira wrote about what her mother had told her about Kazakhstan’s sad past:  “My mother told me about some history facts about time after this war.  This was terrible and hard time for all Soviet Union.  And because of that, Kazakhstan was the part of it, that time was terrible for my mother and her relatives too.  She told me about the time when they even couldn’t find any food to eat.  But because of that my grandfather, my mother’s father, was a very purposeful man.  (He had six children and of course he had to take care of them), he found a job and the family became more happy.In the 1960s to Mangyshlak came Taras Shevchenko, who was sent there to the exile.  And after that the building of a new town began the first name of my home town is Shevchenko, then it was renamed Aktau, which translation is White Mountain…”

 It can be said that the Soviet government ruined families as is the case with Dariga’s stories about her grandparents. “…it was a very hard time for our country.  I think it was the time of war.  And the village in which my grandfather lived was suffering from famine.  So the government decided to take all the children from their parents to some better living conditions.  And my grandfather with his little brother were taken too.  I don’t really remember, but it seems to me that the children were taken from Shymkent to some children’s houses.  Eventually my grandfather and his brother ran away and got home with a lot of adventures on their way.  What is sad is that no other children went back home when the war ended.  Parents of that village lost their children forever.”

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Our Balcony View of the Mountains

mountain topsmountainsThese photos show the view from our back balcony of the mountains to the south, beyond that is the small country of Kyrgyzstan.  Why I continue to think that mountains should always be in the north and going downhill in Almaty means south, defies any rational explanation.  (Others suffer the same mistaken notion) The reverse is true, going downhill in Almaty is north.  Maybe it is because I come from the flat plains of the Red River Valley in northwestern Minnesota.  When people in Colorado declare what height a certain mountain is in their vista, it means nothing to me.  7,000 feet versus 4,000 feet high has no bearing from one who comes from land that is as flat as a pancake.  I’m not even sure if we are below sea level.  No, what mountains mean to me in the different countries I’ve lived in such as the Philippines or Kyrgyzstan is the promise I take away from Psalm 121.

One day back in 1982 when I was a Peace Corps volunteer near Kalibo, Aklan I was going through a very difficult period.  My teaching job was fine, the students were great but I was lonely.  A song came to me and the refrain of it kept going through my mind as if to pacify my hurting spirit. I used a concordance to look up the precise location of the words which was from Ps. 121:1-2.  Spiritually I KNEW I needed help.  “I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber.”Now THAT is a promise I can hang on to while living in Almaty, Kazakhstan!!!

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