Posts tagged Leningrad

Poems by Anna Ahmatova (Part I)

I found this Requiem translated from Anna Ahmatova’s writing and thought it appropriate to show the first part today. Tomorrow I will post the remainder.  Tough stuff, probably no different than what a trafficked victim experiences and feels like.

                        Not under foreign skies

                        Nor under foreign wings protected  –

                        I shared all this with my own people

                        There, where misfortune had abandoned us.



During the frightening years of the Yezhov terror, I

spent seventeen months waiting in prison queues in

Leningrad. One day, somehow, someone ‘picked me out’.

On that occasion there was a woman standing behind me,

her lips blue with cold, who, of course, had never in

her life heard my name. Jolted out of the torpor

characteristic of all of us, she said into my ear

(everyone whispered there) – ‘Could one ever describe

this?’ And I answered – ‘I can.’ It was then that

something like a smile slid across what had previously

been just a face.

[The 1st of April in the year 1957. Leningrad]


Mountains fall before this grief,

A mighty river stops its flow,

But prison doors stay firmly bolted

Shutting off the convict burrows

And an anguish close to death.

Fresh winds softly blow for someone,

Gentle sunsets warm them through; we don’t know this,

We are everywhere the same, listening

To the scrape and turn of hateful keys

And the heavy tread of marching soldiers.

Waking early, as if for early mass,

Walking through the capital run wild, gone to seed,

We’d meet – the dead, lifeless; the sun,

Lower every day; the Neva, mistier:

But hope still sings forever in the distance.

The verdict. Immediately a flood of tears,

Followed by a total isolation,

As if a beating heart is painfully ripped out, or,

Thumped, she lies there brutally laid out,

But she still manages to walk, hesitantly, alone.

Where are you, my unwilling friends,

Captives of my two satanic years?

What miracle do you see in a Siberian blizzard?

What shimmering mirage around the circle of the moon?

I send each one of you my salutation, and farewell.

[March 1940]



It happened like this when only the dead

Were smiling, glad of their release,

That Leningrad hung around its prisons

Like a worthless emblem, flapping its piece.

Shrill and sharp, the steam-whistles sang

Short songs of farewell

To the ranks of convicted, demented by suffering,

As they, in regiments, walked along –

Stars of death stood over us

As innocent Russia squirmed

Under the blood-spattered boots and tyres

Of the black marias.


You were taken away at dawn. I followed you

As one does when a corpse is being removed.

Children were crying in the darkened house.

A candle flared, illuminating the Mother of God. . .

The cold of an icon was on your lips, a death-cold sweat

On your brow – I will never forget this; I will gather


To wail with the wives of the murdered streltsy

Inconsolably, beneath the Kremlin towers.

[1935. Autumn. Moscow]


Silent flows the river Don

A yellow moon looks quietly on

Swanking about, with cap askew

It sees through the window a shadow of you

Gravely ill, all alone

The moon sees a woman lying at home

Her son is in jail, her husband is dead

Say a prayer for her instead.


It isn’t me, someone else is suffering. I couldn’t.

Not like this. Everything that has happened,

Cover it with a black cloth,

Then let the torches be removed. . .



Giggling, poking fun, everyone’s darling,

The carefree sinner of Tsarskoye Selo

If only you could have foreseen

What life would do with you –

That you would stand, parcel in hand,

Beneath the Crosses, three hundredth in line,

Burning the new year’s ice

With your hot tears.

Back and forth the prison poplar sways

With not a sound – how many innocent

Blameless lives are being taken away. . .



For seventeen months I have been screaming,

Calling you home.

I’ve thrown myself at the feet of butchers

For you, my son and my horror.

Everything has become muddled forever –

I can no longer distinguish

Who is an animal, who a person, and how long

The wait can be for an execution.

There are now only dusty flowers,

The chinking of the thurible,

Tracks from somewhere into nowhere

And, staring me in the face

And threatening me with swift annihilation,

An enormous star.



Weeks fly lightly by. Even so,

I cannot understand what has arisen,

How, my son, into your prison

White nights stare so brilliantly.

Now once more they burn,

Eyes that focus like a hawk,

And, upon your cross, the talk

Is again of death.

[1939. Spring]

(to be continued)

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Serikzhan’s Grandfather Hides his rewards and honors

My grandfather’s name is Taskaly. He was born in 1928 in the town called Furmanov. His childhood was gloomed by the Second World War. His two brothers died during it. This period was very hard for a young boy. However, he knew that he must work in order to help his family. He started working early, actually when he was 13 years old he worked as an accountant in his town. Later in 1944 he was promoted and worked as the main bookkeeper of Furmanov. Not bad for a 16 year old boy, but he didn’t stop improving himself, due to the fact that he was the bread-winner in his family.

Therefore, in 1946 he worked in the Ministry of Finance; in 1953 he was the deputy of his region. But he managed to work and study simultaneously, so in 1953 he graduated from Semipalatinsk Finance School by distance learning. He continued his study in 1956, when he was sent to Leningrad private finance school by the Ministry of Finance. Later, unfortunately the school was closed by Khrushev. At that time all students studied in KazGu, so did my grandfather. He graduated from that university in 1961.

In 1958, he was elected as a chairman of Uralsk’s RaiPotrepsouz and worked there for 5 years. In 1962 he moved from Uralsk to Aktobe, because he had a new job. He worked as the director of Aktobe’s KRAI for a long time. This was a very difficult time, not because his salary was low, but because of the fact that he had a family consisting of 10 people: 3 daughters, 3 sons, his parents and a wife. Although he had a good position he had never tried to take bribes, to steal anything whatsoever. This helped him to gain respect and he benefited from it later.

In 1983 he became a chairman of OblPotrepsouz. It was one of the highest positions in the town that is why he became famous. He retired in 1988 and nowadays he’s enjoying his rest. He has a lot of friends and they invite him to their houses, where they talk about their reminiscences. Our government doesn’t forget his contributions. He has been given many rewards since 1988 but he always hides them from me just because he doesn’t want to look like a conceited person.

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Lena’s Grandmother and Huge Gap in Family History

In this essay I want to write about one member of my family. Let me introduce her – Medvedchikova Tatiana Nikolaevna; my grandmother, my father’s mom, and also a very good person.  Unfortunately, I don’t know the date of her birth. She kept this a secret from me for all her life. However, I can confirm that she was born the period of the Second World war, and maybe earlier. She told me many stories about the war and her hard childhood. As I remember she was born in Leningrad, but at the time of blockade she and her family were sent straight to the country of steppes – Kazakhstan.

Unfortunately, I don’t know anything else about her childhood or youth, except her studying in a specialized school for girls. However, this fact didn’t prevent her marriage when she met Gennadii. He wasn’t a good husband, but as I can see now he was very useful. He presented very nice gifts to my grandmother – her new second name (At the beginning it was Carenok) and undoubtedly the main gift – are two children, my father and his elder sister. Then my grandfather disappeared from our family, of course with the help of my grandmother because he was an alcoholic. Since she was a very good mother her choice was obvious.

And now, I’m a bit confused, because there is enormous empty place in me family’s history. I will try to find out it later, and now everything that I can do – to continue my story.

Then I was born. It was 1991, and as I can remember now, my grandmother was near me for all my childhood. She showed me advantages of reading books, especially Russian classic writers. She taught me to be positive, strong, and the main thing that she showed to me is to reach all my goals and purposes. But, unfortunately everything has own beginning and ending.  She died of a cancer in 2003. Nobody told her that she had such disease, but she understood everything.  And accepted it with a smile on her face.

Her life wasn’t easy, but it was full of happiness. She was a very strong, self confident woman, who easily overcame all obstacles in her way. Every time when I hear that I’m very similar to her, I’m on the seven clouds, because it is the best compliment to know that I’m the worthy granddaughter of a worthy grandmother!!

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Assel’s Grandfather in Great Patriotic War

In my big family, our authority and source of pride for us was and will always be my grandfather. His name is Amangaliyev Kalesh, and he was a participant of Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. All of us, that is grandchildren, grew up hearing his interesting, sometimes terrible stories about Patriotic War. During his stories I would always observe that he had sad eyes, and at that moment I always understood all the depth of his sorrow. I think, sorrow about his lost friends, who died to get for us desirable freedom!

Amangaliyev Kalesh was born in West Kazakhstan in Atyrau on 1924. According to the family photos I think in his youth he was very smart guy. He was tall and had a beautiful face. I think many girls dreamed to get married to him. At school he was a talented pupil. According to his stories he liked literature and mathematics, the exact sciences. Sometimes I think, if there had been no War, he would have been a professor of mathematics or physics. But in 1941 the Great Patriotic War began and he was seventeen.

My grandfather was sent to the War with his father. But his father didn’t come back from the War, since his father was considered as “lost without trace.” From the beginning of the War my grandpa was determined to be a marine, because he was tall, height 1,85-1,90 and had strong health. Initially the base of Baltic fleet was in Cromshtad near Leningrad. He was a chief commander of a ship named as “Sea Hunter.” As I mentioned that base of Baltic fleet was near Leningrad, and almost all of his stories are connected with this town. It seems to me that one of the exciting (for me), but at that time sad story told by my grandpa was that he witnessed the famous “Siege of Leningrad.” At that time Moscow gave an important meaning to the marine, as a powerful force, so they provided Baltic fleet with food, clothes and etc.

My grandpa and his best friend from Ukraine, Sasha Kovalchuk, were imperceptible from the enemies. They shared their foods and provided goods, clothes and other necessary things with hungry families and the population of Leningrad, the victims of the siege. But sadness of this story was that one day when they went to Leningrad with provision and clothes one of the German officers shot down the Soviet people. In that exchange of fire the best friend of my grandpa, Sasha Kovalchuk, died. Grandpa always tells us that Sasha was a great singer, that during the nights without sleep Sasha sang songs about home, about their girlfriends, about their mums that waited for them at home. I think it was very hard to lose his best friend with whom he shared food, clothes, with whom he reconnoitered.

My grandpa finished the War with the Baltic fleet in The Far East on 1948. After that he came home to Kazakhstan, especially to Atyrau. I consider that special pride of grandpa in his awards, medals. Here some of them: “For defense of Leningrad,” “For emancipation of Keninzberg (Kaliningrad),” “For fighting merits,” “Order of Patriotic War” and many, many other medals.

Every year when we celebrate May 9 Victory Day, my grandpa wears his suit with many medals on his breast and I feel a deep gratitude and great pride that he is my grandpa.

In conclusion, I want to say that without our grandfathers and grandmothers we would not be living in such a civilized country as Kazakhstan. And I hope that my grandfather and other veterans of Wars will live many, many years, because they won the life under the peaceful blue sky!!!

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K.U.’s Grandfather Survived “Golodomor” Hunger

I would like to write a life – story about my grandfather. He was 44 when he died, I think his life was intensive and it would be enough for two or even more people, but let’s start from the beginning.

My grandfather’s name is Kazhigali, he was born in 1919, in the village Sholay near Kokchetav. He lived in a very difficult time, it was a time of hunger “golodomor”. His parents died when he was only 7 years old and he began to live with his sister. But after a couple of years his sister hadn’t enough money and food for feeding him and boy went to the orphan house.

Kazhigali began to work very early, when he was 13 he worked in printing office, later he worked in Kokchetav district – committee of Komsomol. In 1939 he graduated a Pedagogical college of Kokchetav. In the same year he applied to the military – artillery college in Leningrad and Zenith Military College in Sevostopol, and chose the last one, after two years of study, he graduated in 1941. After graduation, he worked in Moscow like a military – guard during four months and then he started to work in c. Kushka, the Republic of Turkmenistan.

As you know in that period of time began a war and my grandfather was enlisted in Zenith – Military army of the South front as a lieutenant. He was at war from the first days till to the end. I really don’t know about his experience of the war, of course I read his diary, but he never wrote about the horror of that war. I can only summarize results of the war for himself. Kazhigali was wounded four times, he received a lot orders and medals, among them: two orders of patriotic war 1, 2 degree; two orders of red star; medals for liberation Vena, Praga, Budapest and others and of course he had a new rank – Captain.

Kazhigali came back home in 1946. Starting from 1947 he worked in Committee of the State Security in Kokchetav. In this period of his life he met my grandmother – Damela. She was very young girl, she only just graduated from university and worked in the school as a teacher of the history. They married in 1949 and had three children, but that was later.

After their wedding, Kazhigali had an opportunity to study in the Moscow School of Committee of the State Security, of course he used this chance and during the next 5 years he was in the school. In 1955 he graduated school and had a lieutenant colonel rank. After his graduation from 1955 till 1960 he worked in the Ministry of the State Security like a chief of two departments. But starting from 1960 he was ill because of his war’s wounds and after 4 years he died.

My grandfather died many years before I was born, and it’s very pity that I haven’t even seen him. I know about him only from my grandmother’s words she says he was very kind, clever and brave man and I believe her.

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Ainur B’s Grandparents and the War Effort

When I started to think about my grandparents the first thing I remembered from their life are stories about World War II. This war changed their lives absolutely.  My mother’s grandfather from her mother’s side Akatay was the first bank worker in Kazakhstan. Because of his father’s position in society (he was called “rich man”) he was departured far away Kolkhoz (collective farm) to a chairman’s post.

But he wasn’t a guy who liked to take the easy way out. He started to write requests for military service to fight and eventually departed to the front.  After a while his family received a letter that Akatay died in Kursk Duga fight near Voronezh city heroically. His children hadn’t still found a place of his burial.

My mother’s grandfather from father’s side Otynshy was sent to fight when he was 50 because at that time all young men were gone to the front and it was the old men’s turn to go. He went till Berlin in a cavalry army and returned home with a victory. He lived long and prosperous life and was also well known hunter and akyn (poet).

My grandfather from my father’s side, named Darybay, served in an “urgent army.” Darybay with hundreds of young men defended Leningrad city from fascist army.  All days and nights he was standing against enemies with Leningrad citizens and eventually won that hard war.

Darybay was witness of military parade at Red Square which was held on the ninth of May in 1945 when thousands of German soldiers went back on a shameful march of people who lost that war.

Beside all that, my grandfather Darybay saved the life of one of his soldier friend. Both of them were executing one important task .They were crawling back after the task was done but his friend couldn’t crawl anymore. As you know during that hard time, soldiers and simple inhabitants were given only 200 grams of bread a day. His friend asked my grandfather to leave him alone and go back because he had no force to go on. My grandfather crawled back to his part and the only thing he could do was to show him to the place where his friend was lying. He was awarded by Order of Red Star and order for courage and died at the age of 78 surrounded by his loving children.

My grandfather from my mother’s side Kablolda was a member of a tank crew in WWII. He was injured badly but ran away from the hospital in order to join his army and walk down in a victory march along the streets of the German capital. After the war ended, he returned home and started to work on mountain mining. He was awarded a car “Pobeda” in Almaty for hard work. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get that car because he returned on a halfway to Almaty to liquidate fire started near his village. The task was not to let the fire get to mountain mining where dozen’s of explosions were hidden. And he helped to avoid an outburst. He died at the age of 43 because of his war wounds.

All of my grandfathers brought in a huge contribution to win WWII and I’m proud of them.





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Nurlan believes everyone should know their family history

My grandfather’s name is Aubakirov Gabdulla. He was born in Semipalatinsk in 1908. His father’s name is Aubakir and he worked as a teacher. Gabdulla grew up in big family; he had four brothers and one sister.  My grandfather was the third child in the family. When he was eight their family moved to Ust’-Kamenogorsk. Gabdulla studied and graduated the high school  in Ust’-Kamenogorsk. After that he worked as the teacher of high school.


In 1941 began the World War2. At that time all men had to go to war and my grandfather went to war too.  Gabdulla was  commander of  mortar battery. His task was to specify a location of the enemy. Sometimes for exactness he had to cause a fire on itself. I think that not everybody can do it, so I think my grandfather was a very brave man. I am very proud of him. He took part in the Battle of Leningrad and was injured. After the war he was rewarded with a lot of medals and awards, some of it was given for valour and bravery.


At the end of the 1940s my grandfather worked in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central Committee, also at that time he studied at a university in Almaty, his specialization was as teacher of history. Later he studied at the Moscow university.  In the beginning of the 1950s my grandparents moved in Kokchetav.  In that period the Communist Party organized the campaign of breaking fresh ground in this area.  At the end of a 1970s my grandfather worked in Council of Ministers and he retired in 1980. When I was born in 1986 my grandfather was seventy eight years old. He was very happy and he bought a baby-carriage for me. In spite of his age, he was very active and sometimes he walked with me in the park.  He died in 1993.


Next, my grandmother’s name is Zhibek.  She was born in Orenburg in 1918. My grandmother grew up in a children’s home.  She knew nothing about her family.  She studied in medical university. But she didn’t finish university because of war. My grandparents got married in 1941. In the war time she worked as a nurse and waited for her husband. She was very happy when he returned from war alive, in spite of that, his one hand did not move.  They had two of their own children: my aunt and my father. My aunt was born in 1945 and my father was born in 1965.  Also they cared about children of their grandfather’s older brother, who perished during the war-time. My grandmother was very kind and hospitable.  The last years of her life she had problems with health, she suffered from high blood pressure.  She died in 1979 of a stroke. My father was thirteen years old. The difference in age between my aunt and my father is twenty years, so my aunt cared for my father after my grandmother’s death.  I never saw my grandmother.

I think everybody should know history of their family.

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Daur’s Grandparents “Lived in Stalin Times”

          My grandfather was born in 1932 when the whole country was suffering from hunger.  I don’t remember much about my grandparents only because they didn’t like talking about it. It was always about the present life. When I asked my mum whether she could tell me anything interesting about them, her response was “they lived in a time of Stalin” meaning the dullness of lifetime at that period.

           My grandfather was a teacher, all his life. From where I’m from, he was the first one who graduated from the institute. He taught in a lot of schools, he was the head teacher and the teacher. His subject was chemistry. I remember almost everyone talking about how my grandpa was so into his subject and how he loved and how he was the best at it. I grew up with my grandparents, so they were like my parents; I love them and miss them so much.

       As I said my grandpa was born in a period when there was hunger all over the land. When I was doing history, I once read that, at that period of hunger 3.5 million people died from it, this gave me the chance to see what my grandpa went through.

       Another thing I have to mention about my grandpa is that he used to take his students with him, every summer he took his students to different places, different countries and cities. My mum told me that he also took her to Moscow at year 8, to Leningrad, the Red Square in Moscow, the mausoleum of Lenin. There are many pictures of my grandpa and his students, they are so old. Their trip took 3 days. He enjoyed giving his students a happy lifetime to remember.

       About my grandma, she was also a teacher, she was a mathematician. She’s a great person. She is the only person I could look up to. When she left us for good, I couldn’t imagine going further. I grieved…

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One Day at a Time – Day 23 of 36

As I continue to read through my diary entries of traveling in Moscow and Leningrad the summer of 1976, I came upon something of interest on Day 23 of our 36 day trip.  You see, I keep looking for clues of what Solzhenitsyn was referring to when he lambasted the Harvard academics at what is now considered his infamous speech to the 1978 Harvard graduates. Solzhenitsyn’s heart remained firmly fixed in Russia while his physical presence was supposedly transplanted in a much safer U.S.  He had some important wisdom to impart to these fledgling, American academicians. 


Now after all these years, Solzhenitsyn is considered a “prophet” while others would deride him as a doomsdayer for the future of our democratic country.  However, I think from what I observed 32 years ago while traveling such a short time in Russia, Solzhenitsyn was right about many things but perhaps not on target about what he could not possibly understand as a Russian who was NOT immersed in American life.  He tenaciously held on to life in his Motherland and looked forward to the day he could return to Russia in 1994.  Did Solzhenitsyn as a prophet predict that he would be able to return to Russia and live there for another 14 years in the very place that put him through gulag hell?  I wonder.


Columnist Cal Thomas had his remarks about Solzhenitsyn’s passing with his recent article titled “Solzhenitsyn did the work of a prophet.”


“The Russian novelist observed that a ‘decline in courage’ has affected the West and especially, ‘the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society…Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?’…What about America’s emphasis on individual rights? Solzhenitsyn said the result has been to ignore the welfare of the many: ‘The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals.  It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.


There was more to disturb the self-satisfied intellectual elite.  Surely faculty members at Harvard must have gnashed their teeth in the face of this remonstrance: ‘Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space.  Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror.’  According to Solzhenitsyn, life organized around laws and the individual has shown an inability to ‘defend itself against the corrosion of evil.’”


I really need to find the script of Solzhenitsyn’s speech to Harvard and read it in its entirety.  The following is my observation of Russian communist thought as spoken by our tour guide named Olga on May 26, 1976:


“Olga was asked if she liked the monastery (part of our spirituality tour) and she stated that she hated the church because during the Revolution, the church was revolting against the people who accepted the communist regime.  She said that they didn’t care about the people and persecuted them, they even burned stars into them and beat them.  She thought that the church was far too rich and selfish while the people starved and needed help. 


Once when Kathy (my friend in tour) was taking a picture of a cute little boy on a trainer bicycle as about 4 others had done, Olga reproached her.  Kathy didn’t know what to say to, “Don’t take that picture, you want to make him think he is a hero?” The whole mindset is for the good of the group, no one is to stand out unless he’s done something bad, then he is punished by peer group displeasure.  They also don’t know how to accept praise, Olga was embarrassed when she was complimented on her grammar.”

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