Quotes from “Two Kyrgyz Women”

I’m speed reading for the second time the book I recommended for our international women’s group to read as a group, we will discuss together this Thursday. The book is titled “Two Kyrgyz Women.”  Bravery and courage is written throughout by the author, Marinka Franulovic. She writes with brave confidence, as well as, eloquently about these two women’s escape from slavery.

You will have to find this book from IOM (International Organization for Migration) or perhaps the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (I’m not sure it is on Amazon.com though it should be) It should be a best seller for the painful truths that it reveals.  I’m particularly interested in not only these two women’s stories but about the sad legacy of the Soviet past that are indelibly stamped on their families and affecting the future of Kyrgyzstan.

This book was written in 2007, before the instability and the quick overturn of Kyrgyz government April of this year.  These testimonies help explain the desperation of two Kyrgyz women from the Osh and Bishkek area.  Reading the following quotes I typed out from Franulovic’s interviews with the women puts things in perspective while living in Astana, Kazakhstan.  Read on, better yet, try to find your own copy to read, this is just a teaser:

Two Kyrgyz Women by Marinka Franulovic

p. 17 “Ulan’s family was poorer than Ainura’s, and could not pay kalym (dowry) to Ainura’s family.  To get around this, there is an established practice of bride kidnapping, which has become a common way for Kyrgyz to get married as no one loses face and tradition is upheld.”

“The men laughed at her [Ainura], “We are going to bring you to the ‘Pot University’” This is the coded phrase used to indicate a bride kidnapping, and now the young woman understood her situation; she was about to be kidnapped.”

p. 21 “Ainura’s fellow travelers were all offspring of the Soviet generation that had adopted the lifelong habit of not asking too many questions.  Their parents respected submissiveness.  The Soviet era taught them too well to respect authority, meaning in concrete terms not to question it at all.  The State did not encourage creativity and everyone understood where those with too many ideas would finish.  The most acceptable social behavior was to be quiet.

Most parents of the poor and deceived Kyrgyz travelers, who sat in the two overcrowded vans on their way to Kazakhstan, were once employed by the Soviet kolkhoz, which told them what to plant in their land, how much of a certain crop to sow, and generally what to do and how to do their work.  In return, uncertainty did not exist for these workers; a salary was given for their work, education was provided for their children, free medical service was offered and even solicited to them, and a livable pension awaited them in old age.”

p. 25 “Although this land on the other side of the border did not differ much from their own, it was visible that money had arrived in Kazakhstan.  The travelers concluded that their northern neighbors were just much luckier than themselves.  The Soviet Kazakh who lived exactly the same life as their Kyrgyz counterparts, in the same Soviet country where they all had lived, who resembled them and spoke basically the same language, suddenly became rich while the Kyrgyz remained poor.  Where was the justice in this?  Why did Kazakhstan have oil while Kyrgyzstan had only mountain peaks? Was it their fault that everybody dearly needed the former and nobody the latter?

p. 28 “Not long after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan underwent land reforms which transformed some government land into private farms…Some of these private land owners had worked the land during Soviet times.  They were various professionals who worked for the kolkhoz, who knew well how the land breathes, sleeps and delivers. These planters usually had ten to fifty-year plans, and they hoped to see their grandchildren working on their farms.

But a new type of farmer emerged after the Kazakh Land reform with the sole purpose of getting rich quickly.  They wanted, no, or minimal labor costs with the maximum yield, a wish made sometimes possible by enslaving others.  Some of the world’s most spectacular architectural treasures were built by slaves, and no one is embarrassed to appreciate them.  Some of these new land owners in Kazakhstan may earn money by using foreign workers for free, and they do not seem embarrassed by this either.”

p. 29 “Many Kyrgyz people from the south of the country are familiar with work on tobacco plantations.  If not specifically familiar with how to harvest tobacco, they generally know how to work the land and are well at home with soil under their nails.  During Soviet times, tobacco was part and parcel of Kyrgyz farm culture and proud farmers boasted of their superior quality tobacco.  Legend holds that Winston Churchill, a connoisseur of fine tobacco, enjoyed the flavor of the Kyrgyz cigar.  He could not have imagined that the Kyrgyz tobacco industry would eventually disappear as fast as the smoke of his cigars.  Not even the Kyrgyz Tobacco Museum still exists.”

2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    […] their stories to a very good writer. I wrote some of the quotes from the earlier part of the book in yesterday’s blog. I thought the author did a nice job of portraying Kyrgyz customs of marriage, funerals, rituals […]

  2. 2

    […] looked back a week ago to when I blogged about the eloquence of Marinka’s  writing. She was just as articulate and passionate in speaking on this topic of human trafficking […]


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