Amina’s Grandfather Played Opossum

Our family takes origin from a place called Unai ravine, which is far way from Almaty, in eastern Kazakhstan near to Semipalatinsk. We belong to a well-known tribe Naiman of Orta (Middle) Zhuz. My grandfather’s name is Zhangasy. He was born in the end of XIX century, in 1882 year, in a family of Bi-Sary. From Kazakh “bi” means judge and “sary” – yellow. So Bi-Sary, his father, was a judge which was elected by people for his honesty and nobility. Bi-Sary is origin of my surname Bissarinova.

As you can guess Zhangasy was born in quite wealthy family. As in early ages he became an orphan he had to make something for living. Time passed and he had his own mill with workers on his fields. Zhangasy participate in First World War and in Civil war. But after the October Revolution in 1917 all his fortune was taken away. He didn’t struggled a lot for it because he thought that the time came to become equal with everyone.

After some years he was volostnoi which means that he ruled in Unai acres. In years of NEP (New Economy Policy in 1920s) he made a new fortune, but the Soviet government took it away again. So he started to work with a famous ataman of those times, ataman Anenkov.  But because of this, two officers came to shoot him, they were so drunk that they missed twice and didn’t understand that. My grandfather just pretended to be dead.

Then he moved to a big city, and for those times, it was Semipalatinsk. There, in the time of Second World War he was too old to fight, he met his second wife, Umit. She was a 19 years old widow with a child from her first husband, who died fighting against fascistic soldiers, and my grandfather was 59. When my father was born in 1959, my grandfather was 77.

Other interesting fact is that my fathers eldest sister from first marriage was 2 years elder than my fathers mother. After my father there were born a sister, but she had deadly disease caused by radiation of Semipalatinsk polygon. Zhangasy worked until 96, he wanted to work more, but the employers were afraid of his health. In spite of such age he felt very strong and healthy, also he was visited by gerontologists from Russia. After his retirement, he said that he won’t live for a long time anymore, because he needs to work to feel alive. He died in 1984 for two weeks to his 102 birthday.

I didn’t know him in real life, but I feel like I did. My father used to tell me a lot about him since I was a child. I’m proud to have such grandfather, he always helped poor people, when there were dzut [famine] (when a mass murrain [herd of cattle] and people had nothing to eat) he used to give them wheat bags. As I heard he was very strong until his last breath. My father used to ask which time my grandfather liked most, he answered – the time of Russian Imperia. He had a very vivid life, went through the most significant events for the last 100 years and had a big family.  I wish I could have known him.

3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    […] the rest here: Amina's Grandfather Played Opossum « Kazakhnomad's Blog: A … Tags: a-place-called, feel-alive-, Healthy, his-retirement, place-called, russia-after, […]

  2. 2

    Naiman said,

    glad to find out your great weblog on the net .
    and so happy to be reader of your articles .
    good luck

  3. 3

    tania norman said,

    thank you for your interesting story about your grandfather, he sounded like a good man. I am interested in Semipalatinsk as my father was born there in 1924. His early life is a mystery to me as he passed away when I was still quite young
    I was born in England

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