Posts tagged mullah

Aigerim’s Grandparents’ Story

The following will be the beginning of a series of many stories I gathered from my Kazakhstani students this fall semester.  Some are quite emotional, others are winsome, all are written from the heart.  Enjoy the unvarnished renditions from my students in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

 My grandparents’ story

As in every country which has its own history, every person has his own biography. The more experienced and older a person is, the wiser he is, the more stories can he tell. Our ancestors can be easily referred to such kind of category of people. My great- grandmother is not an exception. She has lived in so hard period, that I sometimes wonder how people, as my great grand mother, could behave so bravely and like adults, being youngsters.

Somewhere in mountain terrain in a place called Malwai in 1924 in the family of mullah was born a little girl, who then was given a name – Aizhan. This newborn was my great grand mother. She was a sixth child in the family of rich Kazakhs. The capital of them was amount to many thousands of cattle. Six years went by and in 1931 began a process of collectivization. Soviet Union Government had decided to make all citizens equal. And then my great-grandmother’s family was exposed to the confiscation. This not a pleasant event happened in every prosperous family. As I know from grand ma and from other media resources too, sometimes confiscation was in middle class families. The explanation is easy to guess – you are not interested in building socialism, creation of equal society and having fraternity. All property of my great grand mother’s family was taken away, horses, sheep chased away and parents of Aizhan were sent to prison. The only reason was their estate. Her mother left 7 children and brought with herself a 3-month-old girl. Little girls and boys were lucked up in a school. No food, no even water was given to them, as a result of starving, all of them died. Fortunately, my great-grandmother and her elder brother could survive, because their uncle managed to help them.

In 1937 mullah and his wife came back. But still their life wasn’t quiet.  They were forced to move to Kyrgyzstan, where they lived for 2 years. After return to the motherland, they couldn’t live in a previous place and had to move to another place under the name Zhalanash. My great-grandmother studied only 7 classes, when a war began. So, in 1941, being at age of 17 she started working. Her brother gone to the Army and didn’t come back. Thanks to mercy of destiny and people surrounding her, she could avoid the reference to works in mines. Till the end of war Aizhan was a rear worker. In 1944 she graduated trading technical school and got married with her husband. Since 1945 she’s been working in a trade sphere. In 1955 her father died at the age of 87.

Now, my great-grandmother is 84. She has a son, 2 granddaughters, 1 grandson and 4 great-granddaughters. She has gone through so many obstacles and difficulties, so now we care of her and hope she will do more. It is impossible to write down everything from her life, sated on events. I fell sincere sorry for people, who lost close relatives due to collectivization and Great Patriotic War. Our family considers it like a tragedy, because from big family of ancestors only one person could survive. But I feel really thanks that I can live with so wonderful and wise woman. During her life my great grand mother has been helping to orphans. She did not want other children to have the experience she had, especially when a war began. Still we have so many guests in our home that are people coming to us to say thanks to our great grand mother, to wish her longevity. I respect her and certainly all other people, who unfair suffered from the violence of politics of Soviet Union and who made a contribution to the Victory in War to provide peaceful and quite life, we have now.

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“Kazakh Grandmother” Kanat’s narrative

She used to tell her stories in low voice and mentioning names like she was retelling incident took place yesterday. My grandmother. As every old man she liked to repeat her stories several times with new interesting details. Listening to her stories you will understand her jokes every time more and you understand why she laughs and why her face comes sad.


She was born in a family of rich and noble mullah (imam). With the new regime in the country, her father came under pressure was accused of being religious and outstanding rich. He was sent to camp in Siberian Russia, constructing bridges in distant areas and who was sent back to Kazakhstan before his actual death time. He survived after traditional medical treatment and lived till his old age. My grandmother started learning writing and reading after sixteen, during Soviet regime. She could write and read Kazakh in Arabic and Latin alphabet and finally she learned Russian alphabet-based Kazakh writing.


One story that interested me in 1930s is dispossessions of kulaks, my grand-grandfather was one of them. Cattle, possessions and valuable items were taken from my grand-grandfather. In one of the spot checks of those groups only women were in the house. My grandmother at those times had very expensive belt made of gold of about 5 kilos. Being afraid to lose that golden belt she threw it into fire in the furnace. At that time nobody could find or nobody tried to collect remains of golden belt.


Another moment in her life was time of starvation of 30s where population was fleeing to neighboring states and peoples’ bodies were lying in the streets like shot dogs. She remembers: “One day we went to central market for products and we witnessed that one boy grabbed one loaf of bread and was going to run, but tradesmen caught him and started to beat him and kick him. Next moment he was all in blood but chewing bloody bread.” Due to that starvation problem in the family, my grand-grandfather sold his daughter, my grandmother for a sack of grain in the age of 16. At that age she married my grandfather. She experienced problems with having children, but at the end at the age of 50 she had 5 live children.


Along with exciting times and fact my grandmother could tell about people who played important role in local and country’s life. One of them, Zhangeldin, was one of the Kazakh Bolsheviks and Pioneer Revolutionaries. He along with his army passed through aul (village) of my grandfather and needed provisions for his army. So, my grandfather provided them with the best horses and food. 


Like that golden belt, everything that was old by my grandmother looks like never-happened story. Revolutionaries, kulaks and starvation turned into modern history where my grandmother lived up to. I do not like to face the same difficulties as she met in her life, but to be able to respond to challenges of life like her.

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