Archive for September 13, 2008

Bakytzhan’s Grandfather – Open Heart and Open Home

Almost everyone has heard older people say the “new generations are worse than previous ones” or “we used to study/work harder than present generation”, etc. But when I remember my grandparents, I generally agree with this. They definitely were the people that devoted their entire lives to make others’ lives easier and better.

My grandfather Bernar was a surgeon. He came to Almaty in 1950s, as many of young Kazakhs did, to get a degree in medicine. Although he came from a relatively affluent background (his father was an influential journalist of that time), his life was not easy. He and his older siblings remember severe famine that affected most of Kazakhstan in early 1930s. Their family used to bring other people’s children to their house, and saved them from starving to death. They used to share that little that they had with people around them, and did not require anything in return, though, of course, they enjoyed respect and admiration from others.

My grandfather graduated from Medical Institute with very high marks, when met my grandmother and eventually married her. After he completed his studies, he was ordered by the government to go to countryside to work in a local hospital. He would tell me different fascinating stories about his experience there, because at that time he was the only educated medical professional in that area. Although he was a surgeon, he had to perform various other tasks, sometimes not even related to medicine. He said that this experience was incredibly important in his later career, as it gave him a sense of confidence and wide knowledge and understanding of other fields in medicine.

Later, he returned to Almaty, where he was offered a job in a large new hospital. There his outstanding performance and talent ensured his career growth, and by a few years he was promoted to the position of Chief Surgeon. He would supervise all surgical operations that took place in his hospital, and performed operations on hearts himself. Therefore, he would save people’s lives, and thousands of people all around Kazakhstan, who had cardiovascular diseases treated in his hospital, still owe their existence to the skills and professionalism of my grandfather and his colleagues.

Similarly, my grandmother came to Almaty to study in Pedagogical Institute. After she graduated from it, she went to work in a school, where she used to teach Physics. She is a very educated person, and she passed her love to literature to her children and grandchildren. She used to work very hard, and despite low salary she was always devoted to her job. She retired a few years ago and now she concentrates on her grandchildren, my cousins.

Although my grandparents did not always have a large house, its doors were always open to anyone. This was a true Kazakh sense of hospitality that is being lost in modern times. According to my mother, they always had one room in their apartment occupied for guest(s). My grandfather’s personality was so welcoming and open-minded, that many people admired him and maintained good friendship with him. Therefore, when he deceased in 1999, hundreds of people came to his funeral, and shared grievance and mourning with us.

When I was born, I was the first of his grandchildren and thus enjoyed full love and care from my grandparents. My parents divorced soon after my birth, and my grandparents decided to take care of me, in order to help my mother to pursue her own academic career. They were probably the best grandparents in the world. They used to explain everything to me, without becoming irritated, as some parents do, and they always encouraged me to study and learn more. They both kept saying me that only educated people are truly respected, and that this is the only right way to succeed in life. Moreover, their devotion to work despite low pay and tough environment stands as a very good example for me. I am very grateful for all the knowledge and values they gave me and wish future generations such grandparents.

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