Posts tagged Germans

Buddy Bear is “Bear”back

What is with this Buddy Bear exhibit? What does this have to do with Kazakhstan?  Well, I believe it has a LOT to do with this culturally rich country.  As many bears that are out on display, 125 close to the Baiterek tower, that’s how many different nationalities co-exist in this lightly populated country of 16 million people. This land is the size of 3 or 4 state of Texas and has an eastern border with China, a country that has over 1 billion Chinese.  There used to be many more Germans and Russians in Kazakhstan and there are also Uighurs, Tatars, Korean, Turks, Kyrgyz, Mongols, Turkmen, Uzbek, etc.  Where China has many more people and a great variety of different Chinese, Kazakhstan has fewer people but many nationalities.  With different cultures, you will have diverse languages and religions.

I believe Kazakhstan prides itself in being able to handle the steady mix of people groups.  I know when I lived in Almaty for two years I was surrounded by different nationalities and enjoyed it. But then again, I’m an ESL/EFL teacher, my job is to teach English to those people who want to learn it.  I’ve studied or tried to learn eight different languages and am a master of none.  The Kazakh people by law have a mandate to know three languages: Kazakh, Russian and English.  Will that work, can they do it?  As I’ve written before, it is a do or die proposition because another alternative could be Chinese.  If I were Kazakh or Kazakhstani, I would try to learn all three languages simultaneously too.  I’ve studied Chinese, I’ve written its calligraphy, I know just how difficult it is to speak in the four tones.  What is so very interesting to me is that among all the nationalities represented in Kazakhstan, China has a very low profile.  Enjoy my photos of more Buddy Bears, especially Vietnam’s quote: “Who doesn’t love, doesn’t live.”

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Saule Z’s Grandfather was a Soviet Spy

I always admire my Grandfather and the older I become, the more I realize that I am very lucky that I had such a grandfather. His name was Aman Baimuratov. And he had a difficult but bright life. He was born in 1920 in Kzyl-Orda in the family of peasants and from 13 years old, my grandfather started working in the collective farm (at that period in 1930’s there were a collectivization of all villages). He was very smart and after graduation of the Institute of Agriculture, he continued his work as an accountant and later he became a chairman in one of the collective farms where he was working.


Under the leadership of my grandfather, the collective farm was in prosperity and every family living there was sure in their safety because grandfather was a very kind and Solomonic person. In childhood I was spending holidays with my grandparents and I was taught about how to be an honest and high-minded person through their life example and most importantly about love and respect for others. Furthermore, my grandfather participated in World War II. And I realize that thanks to our grandparents we are able to live nowadays. In memory of my Great Grandfather I would like to tell about one war story that happened to him that gave a chance to me to be born.

 This story happened in 1943. My grandpa was a spy in Soviet Army. To be in intelligence army was a very honorary and the word “intelligence” itself sounds prideful. Many of military missions were successful but after one of them my grandpa was captured by the enemy in Ukrainian forests. This was a terrible feeling to know that soon you will be shot. Two long days my grandpa and three of his fellow soldiers were in capture preparing to death. During the imprisonment the spies noted how fascists were afraid of forests because of Partisans. And their fear was so great that they were blazing away every tree and every bush in the forest.  This was very funny in this story and it played a very important role in the rescue of the spies’ lives.

On the morning of the third day of capture, my grandpa and his fellow prisoners were taken out to the yard in order to be shot. By a lucky chance at that moment the Soviet planes appeared in the sky. Occurrence of the Soviet planes had caused a panic at the enemy camp. Prisoners took advantage of the turmoil and ran toward the forest. And this was the unique chance to survive, because the enemy was not watching them. After successful escape the spies came back to the Soviet army and continued the defense of their country. My grandfather reached Berlin and the Victory found him there at the walls of Reichstag. 

In conclusion, we had won fascism by incalculable victims, and it was believed that the winners will reward according to the deserts for their soldier’s feat. Thanks to our grandparents we are able to live in free and independent country today. And we will never forget the Great Feats of our Grandparents!



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Nuriya’s GREAT Grandmother

My grandmother Lati (in fact, she is my great grandmother) was born in 1910 in a small village at the foot of a mountain situated about 150 km from Almaty. She was the first child in her family. At the age of 5 or 6 she lost her mother who died of some disease. Since her father was a young man and the house needed woman’s hands, he married again. Usually it is hard to live with stepmother but my granny was lucky to have a kind woman who could love and replace mother. Granny Lati always told “though she wasn’t my mother, she brought me up like her own daughter”.


So, when she was 8 or 9 her stepbrother was born. Germans have a proverb “One child is egoist, two children are half egoist, three children are children”. But in spite of this, the family of my granny was united.


When my granny was full of age she got married (at that time Kazakhs could marry even at the age of 13) “bai”- a rich man whose wealth was estimated at thousands of sheep, hundreds of horses and cows. She became his third or fourth wife. The attitude of other wives of her husband to her was awful. They treated her as a domestic servant because she came from ignoble family and was the youngest of the wives. In the end, maybe unfortunately or fortunately, the newly married couldn’t be compatible. My granny divorced with a little girl on her hands. She took her little child and went 30-40 km on foot back to her father’s house. It was a brave and at the same time objectionable action at that time, because women were afraid of divorcing. She realized that people would blame her, it would be hard to rear a child without a husband but my granny was a woman of character and did what she thought best. I think it was really hard for her to live among people who treated her as a white crow (maverick) to some extent.


When five years passed, she met a man who became a father for her three children. It seemed that at last came an end of her unhappiness, but suddenly news of the Great Patriotic War broke in her house, which just was restored to happiness and poise. Again she was hit hard by her destiny. Her husband was called to arms. Hard times came not only for her but for all women throughout the Soviet Union. All women worked their fingers to the bone. Those who were in rural areas had scanty nourishment, all the food was sent to the soldiers who fought for the future of their country, children, and generation. I remember my aunt, who was in fact my grandmother, told that her mother always gave more fried wheat to her son because he was the only son, the transmitter of life and had a strong resemblance to her husband. My aunt always remembered that with indignation and laughter at the same time.


When the war was over my grandfather was considered as missing in action. In 1970s young pathfinders found his grave in Moldova. My granny reared her children alone, faced many difficulties of life but could keep her kindness, compassion and readiness to help others. She always told that people should do all the good to help each other and be kind-hearted, and even if a person whom you helped didn’t pay back in kind, God would do it. It’s like in Kazakh proverb “If you give with right hand, you will receive with left hand”. My granny lived to a great age and died at the age of 85. Though I was only ten when my granny died, I will always bear in mind her proverbs, which became principles (guides) of my life. 

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Laura K.’s Versions of the Three Babushkis Visit

       The first babushka who gave a speech was Valentina Romanovna. She was born in Russian village in 1930. There were 9 children born in her family including her however 3 children died when they were little and 2 at older age. They were very poor and during the WWII they were starving. She said that they had no candy, no food, and no clothes. Her mother was a very kind and giving woman. This lady studied in school only for 1 year. When the war started she was 10 and already began to work so she could help her mother. During Collectivization period they had to give a lot of milk and eggs to SelSovet otherwise they would get sued. People had to pay high taxes on everything. All of her life she worked in the mine and retired at age of 45. Her pension was pretty high during Soviet Union times but after Perestroika become a very little. Later she started to talk about her family. Valentina Romanovna had two sons who died at relatively young age. The oldest son Anatoly died while serving in the Army in Vladivostok, Chechnya. Another son by name Nikolay went for hunting and died by falling under the ice of frozen river. Later her husband went to the place where her son died and started to drink heavily, and soon died from liver decease. She was left to live with her mother who lived 100 years and 3 months.


     The second babushka was Natalya Nikiforovna. She was born in 1931. Her birthplace is village in Semipalatinskaya oblast, Kazakhstan. This lady said comparing to Valentina Romanovna who lived in Russia during the war their family didn’t starve because they had a fertile land and own garden where they grew corn, sunflower and other fruits and vegetables. There were two children in her family. Her father died in WWII. Grain seeds and livestock were sent to soldiers who were fighting against Germans. She studied at school for 7 years and later worked as an accountant for 22 years. Natalya Nikiforovna had two children as well and died at young age as well. She blames Semipalatinsk’s polygon. That place was known for its nuclear tests. Those tests began in 1946. At that time they didn’t know that it was so dangerous for their health and lives. Her only left granddaughter has a son who was born with many deformities simply to say he is invalid who will never be able to live by himself and possibly will not live long. Many people suffered from radiation that they were exposed to when they lived in Semipalatinsk closed to the Poligon.


     The last babushka I am going to write about is Raisa Nikolaevna. She was born in 1932, in Kirov, Russia. There were 4 children in her family. Her father died during WWII while fighting against German Fashists. When Germans came close to Kursk they were evacuated to live in Zabaikalie. She started to work at the age of 9 in order to be able to her mother. Her education is 7 years of school. In the morning she would go to school and after school she went to work. Her mom made clothes out of parachute material that was found on the field. There was 1 cow and chickens on their premises. Later she got married and went with her husband to Tashkent. Over there she went to Medical School and later became a medical nurse. After that they went to live close to her mother to Ulan Ude. They worked at animal farm as a veterinarian. That farm was producing different animal furs like mink and etc. Later she moved again to live in the North, Magadanskaya oblast. She taught native people-chukchi everything. Chukchi elected her as deputy official. The furs that they made were sent to auction to Leningrad.   



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Eleven GREAT Kazakhstani students!!!

Kazakhstani students





If you have been following my students’ narrative essays you will have learned more about Kazakhstan’s recent history during the former Soviet Union. They are in reverse order starting on June 28:

 1. “Thirty Minute Shoes in Exchange for a Suit” by Olga – whimsical story about her mother and father’s courtship during the former USSR days.

2. “A Taste of Warmth” by Irina – about her Korean father who was saved from starvation by Kazakhs.


3. “Grandmother is Our Bright Star” by Gulnar – her husbands family were highly regarded in Uzbekistan but they lost much.


4. “Time We Remember” by Yuliya – Her grandmother lived through the starvation period of the 1930s in Kazakhstan.


5. “Strong Belief” by Nurganym – Her father-in-law talks of his family living in China and what happened to their family in Beijing.


6. “Time Will Not Turn Back Again” by Maya – Her family came from Russia to Kazakhstan during the Stolypin reforms.


7. “Shell that Saved Lives” by Dinara – about her grandfather who fought in WWII against the Germans alongside an Uzbek comrade.


8. “Despite Anything” by Yelena – her Korean ancestors and what they endured through the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s.


9. “One Tragedy in One Family” by Elvira – Her great grandfather was one of the many victims of Stalin’s purges.


10.  “Kazakh Grandmother” by Kanat – he came from a rich and noble Kazakh family who were dispossessed of their accumulated wealth, his grandmother threw a gold belt into the fire.

11. “Russian Grandmother” by Alexandr – his grandmother came from the Siberian village and survived much hardship and were forced to move to Uzbekistan.

Read these accounts of each student and find out what a rich heritage they have inherited from each of their families.  Imagine what a rich classroom experience I had learning from them in these short narrative essays.  What other stories are being left unwritten?  I want to find out more while their grandparents are still alive to tell their stories.


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“Despite Anything” – Yelena’s Narrative

Koreans have been living at the territory of Post Soviet Union for more than 100 years and about 70 years in Central Asia and Kazakhstan.

The 1930s – Deportation

I have grandfathers from my mother’s, father’s and step-father’s sides. All of them told me the same story about deportation of Soviet Koreans from the territory near the border between Korea and Russia in the Far East to Central Asia and Kazakhstan. They said, “Before the 1930s our fathers and grandfathers lived near the border. We were free in changing place of living but preferred to stay in the areas where there were a lot of Koreans. All the families were busy with farming or merchandising. Some of Koreans were richer than other but there were no beggars among us. We were deported without any warning. It was announced that we couldn’t take any property with us except the papers and personal things and we had only few hours to collect them. Koreans were moved by trains from Far East in wagons mean for cattle transportation. Along the way a lot of them died. Sick people and dead men were thrown out of the wagons by the guards without any permission to treat or just to bury them.  After the arrival our people were left in villages, collective farms or in steppes without any houses for living. Koreans had to live in stated districts far from the big cities. Until Stalin died in 1953 Koreans didn’t have any right to get university degree or to serve in Military because they were considered officially as possible enemies of Soviet People.”

The1940s – World War II

During the WWII most of Soviet Koreans lived in Central Asia and Kazakhstan. These parts of USSR were not available for the German Army. My grand grandparents lived there in safety but under pressure of blame and shame. My grandfather said, “Every man was recruited by Military Force except us and some other nationalities. USSR was our motherland and we wanted to protect it, but we were considered as potential spies and unreliable persons. It was the most humiliating part of your grand grandfather’s life.”

The 1950s – Role of Sex Gender

My grandmother told me the story which indicates the importance of male gender in the past. She said, “In 1955 we worked on the fields and grew onions in Uzbekistan. Those fields were very far from any village or town and there were no hospitals, train stations and phones. My six month old daughter (my mother) had the flue and the high temperature. She cried but I couldn’t do anything because we don’t have any drugs. My husband was ill too, he had serious problem with his stomach and I thought that he was dying. He couldn’t eat or even move because of his pain. There were no one next to us and I decided to leave my husband and two sons (2 and 3 years old) home alone in order to call a doctor. I couldn’t leave my daughter because she could bother him by her crying.” My grandmother had to walk about 70 kilometers to the nearest village’s hospital. During all the way she carried the child on her back. She said “I cried while walking because my daughter felt bad and it seemed that she stopped breathing.  I couldn’t make myself check her because I was afraid to see that my baby is dead.”  When she reached the hospital in the midnight doctor told her that she had to make the choice between her daughters’s and husband’s lives. Both of then needed urgent medical treatment but if he spent an hour to save the child he couldn’t help her husband in time, because that doctor was the only one in the village. Grandmother said “I chose my husband because he was the man and head of family. I sacrificed my baby although I knew that my husband could already be died. My hard was bleeding. It was the hardest decision and the most terrible day in my life.”

The 2000s – Family’s Philosophy

Despite any obstacles and difficulties every generation of my family finishes its life among wealthy and respectable children. My grandmother said me, “All our life is a test and any obstacle is the possibility you must use to form your character and improve your skills. It doesn’t matter what kind of political regime is in your country but it’s more important what kind of person you are.  In any society at the end of his life a human being has got what he deserved.”

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“Shell That Saved Lives” Dinara’s Grandfather

Having grown in peaceful time younger generation seems to be unaware of war hardship and human casualties. The only time we remember to treat war veterans is 9 of May, the Day of Victory. A story of my dad’s grandfather is a proof of how immensely important one single action may be in human life.

The war has left deep traces in his soul. Dead bodies of friends and mates all over the place. Oppressive feeling of despair. That day grandfather will never forget. Grandfather Abutalip served as antitank rifleman. Since antitank rifle was quite heavy missile, it needed two people, one to shoot and the other to carry shell. Abutalip had an Uzbek mate, who usually carried three shells. This Uzbek mate lived from hand to mouth before the war period. In order to send something to his starving family in Uzbekistan, he used to take off watches from German soldiers dead body. Whether the burden of these watches was heavy enough, or for some other reasons that day he took only two shells.

They were attacked by German soldiers. Hysterically, people running to and fro in  a debilitated moment. Having heard the captain’s command, soldiers came into position. After shooting from anti-tank rifle, grandfather had to quickly reposition himself in order not to let the enemy identify the source of shells. One shot: Tarts! It overshot a target. Quickly, grandfather took his rifle and was running to relocate. Having looked backwards he saw that his Uzbek mate was not running after him. He ran back and in a split second a grenade exploded just in front of him.

When he was able to see something through that smoke he spotted the Uzbek, who was heavily injured. With one hand he was trying to get his fallen entrails back into his stomach. Grandfather approached him seeing horror on his face. Knowing that these were last minutes of his life, his Uzbek mate stretched his hand with watches to the grandfather asking him to take it. With heavy thoughts of inevitable death the grandfather closed the Uzbek’s eyes. Tears desperately ran down his cheeks. Yet, he had to pull himself together.

The battle was not over yet. He shot a glance over the place in search of missile. The value of this shell was far much invaluable than the watches. At last, he spotted one shell. Taking it, he recharged the rifle as fast as possible. Only by that time he saw how close the German tank “Tiger” approached them. There was a last shell to shoot. Maybe a last thing he would ever manage to do before death would grab human lives. Shot banged. A “Tiger”, a tank that was deemed to be undestroyable, collapsed! The enemy was taken aback. They thought that there might have been much more anti-tank rifle (actually, grandfather’s anti-tank rifle was one of few left). Taken aback by destruction of “Tiger”, the enemy retreated. If there was not that last shot from antitank rifle, fascist might have been more persistent in their attack, killing more numerous soldiers left.

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“Great Patriotic War” According to Whom?

Great Patriots

On a wall of our hallowed halls of academia in Almaty, Kazakhstan are photos which depict “patriots” who served on the Front of the “Great Patriotic War.”  We, as westeners, know it simply as World War II and did not buy into the coinage of these words promoted by Stalin’s propaganda machine.  The root word in Russian for “Fatherland” seems interchangeable with “father” and “patriot.”

What seems a paradox to me is that Kazakhs have a deep and abiding love for their forefathers.  To be a good Kazakh means you know your ancestral line seven generations back and can recite their names.  (I’ve met some Kazakhs who are proud to know the names going back 11 generations.)   Anyway, I’ve been recently reading journal articles concerning the deportation of nationalities into Kazakhstan, thanks to Stalin’s edict.  Better felt as a “deportation dumpground” because of the mixture of Korean, Ukrainian, German, Russian into the different tribes of Kazakhs. 

Currently over 100 nationalities are represented in Kazakhstan but decades ago some of these were people who were yanked out of their homeland and forcefully “deposited” in Kazakhstan.  Unfortunately, many did not survive travelling to the steppes of Kazakhstan but thanks to the bigheartedness of the Kazakhs, others did. 

I am waiting for a sequel to the book by Mukhamet Shayakhmetov which would help explain how his Kazakh family had everything taken from them but yet he fought for the Soviet Union’s “Fatherland.”  Miraculously, he survived the Great Patriotic War.  His book in English(translated from the Russian book “Sudba” = Destiny) only covers how he and his family survived the starvation period of the 1930s and up to his fighting and returning home after the war when he was about age 21. 

That’s about the age of tomorrow’s graduates who have led a very sheltered life compared to Shayakhmetov.  At our auspicious occasion of watching nearly 500 graduates cross the stage, I’ll see many different nationalities represented.  I’ll be imagining the stories these young people have in their families which sadly are being silenced with the passage of time. What is the destiny of these young people?  I hope there are more young patriots like Shayakhmetov who will rise up and write for the rest of world to read what happened under a tyrannical government such as the former Soviet Union.  Not a TRUE Fatherland for patriots, that’s for sure. 

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