On Friday I had my composition students download the free version of the book titled “Two Kyrgyz Women” by Marinka Franulovic. About five years ago, I had had my ten Kazakh students read this book in hard copy that I had been gifted with from Marinka. Now I am glad I can have my American students read the free e-book version. Here it is: http://www.free-ebooks.net/ebook/Two-Kyrgyz-Women
I think it is always a good idea for the teacher to read or do whatever assignment he or she is giving to their students. I’ve read this book several times before but now I see it with fresh eyes after what I have learned much more about modern day slavery. Actually this book helped to jump start me on this path as an educator to inform others about this great evil. In any case, I will quiz my students on Wednesday whether or not they have read the first story about the first Kyrgyz woman who was in slavery in a tobacco plantation in Kazakhstan.
On p. 24, the first slave named Ainura revealed a little bit about her husband who had become an alcoholic and didn’t help support the family with their two children. He would often tell Ainura, “Nobody is getting rich by working.” This was according to the Kyrgyz Post-Soviet moral relativism that pervaded the country soon after the fall of the USSR. When my American students read this part, it will go against everything they have been taught by their parents and grandparents who worked hard to own their farm or run their business. My students have a high cultural value of believing in hard work or having a good work ethic. Most of my students value hard work and they had better because I am going to work them hard in the next ten weeks of this semester.
Interesting to read on p. 29 “Some of the world’s most spectacular architectural treasures were built by slaves, and no one is embarrassed to appreciate them.” Immediately I think of the Great Wall in China and KNOW that there were thousands of slaves who died creating that monster structure which can be seen from outer space, maybe even from the moon. Marinka, the author, further wrote: “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.”
On p. 32 the slaves were reminded by their “owner” to NOT speak in Kyrgyz if they met anyone who was a stranger to the farm. These Kyrgyz slaves who had been brought up to their northern neighboring country didn’t have the right documents. The manager put more fear into these “slaves” that they may be beaten or imprisoned if the Kazakh police found them without proper IDs on the farm. Apparently on the next page, one girl who was from the Krygyz city Osh and not used to rural life spoke a different kind of Kyrgyz. As it turns out, Altanay was much more educated than the other slaves and she just did not know how to work quickly like they did. The masters dubbed her with the name “White Hand.” She did NOT last long under their abusive jokes and shaming techniques. Actually she was only on the farm for two weeks before she disappeared.
I have seen the movie “Nefarious: Merchants of Souls” and will probably go again next month to another screening of this 1 1/2 hour documentary of slavery in our modern 21st century. Nothing is new under the sun and the unfortunate like Altanay who was called “White Hand” probably ended up as a sex slave. Many young girls are picked off who do not come from a loving home where the father protects but rather assaults his own daughter. According to this documentary, some mothers in other lands sell their daughters off to be sex slaves. The question was asked, how can a loving mother do this? Some of their responses were that they love their daughters enough to sell them to local dealers and not to dealers in some place far off.
These two Kyrgyz women were mothers who happened to be married to selfish and uncaring husbands. I found out from Marinka that the two women ended up going back to their family and their husbands because what they had been through as a slave did NOT compare to what they thought was a bad home life. They were desperate enough to believe a lie about getting a job in Kazakhstan to support their family. Little did they know they could have died under the conditions they were subjected to. In their shelters they were separately told to NOT tell anyone in their family what they had gone through with slavery, they would have been ostracized by the very people they needed to love them.
Anyway, I hope to have some spirited conversations with my students on Wednesday when they come back to our class after a LONG weekend. Today is President’s Day so we have the day off. Good thing, I could use the break as I know my students can too. However, reading this 150 page book will open their eyes to the depravity of man. It is NOT just in Kazakhstan, it is all over the world and slavery is going on right at our doorstep.