Posts tagged Red Army

What I Learn from My Kazakh Students

My adult learner students inform me of many things about life in Kazakhstan.  Here’s what I learned today in class. Keep in mind that I am a student-centered teacher, teaching university employees how to improve their English speaking skills.  I get them to answer questions, my questions.

First of all, we talked about singers and musicians.  This brought up Roza Baglanova who died several days ago, she was a very well known Kazakh singer.  She was born in 1922 and died on Feb. 8th at the age of 89.  After graduating from Kyzylorda Pedagogical Institute, she went to Moscow to study at the music conservatory as a teenager but her studies were cut short because of the interruption of the Great Patriotic War.

She would go to the battle front to sing for the Red Army troops.  She was famous for saying in her own effervescent way that she loves men.  They loved her.  She was an energetic, positive bright light for many of the beleaguered soldiers but for many people after the war years of rebuilding.  She was awarded the Hero’s medal of Honor and many other awards  for her singing as well.

The other day when I first heard about Roza’s death, I kept hearing my teacher/students say that she was the “visa card” of the country.  I didn’t know what that meant so I asked my other students today for clarification.  I was told Roza was the face of the Kazakh nation, so popular was she among all the former Soviet Union.  From what I was told, she only had one son and she was buried just yesterday in Almaty.

Well, I learned also that the soccer players in Kazakhstan are not very good, like I was familiar hearing about the famous Dynamo team in Ukraine.  However, the hockey team is good for some reason.  As are the Kazakh boxers, they are good also, like the Klushko brothers in Ukraine.  What is wrong with their soccer or football team?  They had a German coach but now maybe they will have a new one. Hopefully things will improve in that sport but it has to start from the early ages to encourage good sportsmen.

Another thing I learned was there is only one Kazakh female pilot who flies for Air Astana and she has been doing this for at least 10 years.  She has a name I didn’t write down but it is Ak- something which means “White Bird.”  Seems strange to me that there would only be one female pilot and that she would be famous amongst people in Kazakhstan.  Would a plane full of people think it great to have the female captain talk to the passengers before take-off and marvel at hearing a woman’s voice at the controls?

I told my students that I knew of Shannon Lucid, a NASA astronaut. I had gotten an e-mail from her recently because I had heard that she was going to be in Kazakhstan again and I wanted to meet up with her if she were anywhere near Astana. Not to be this time. She has a love for this area of the world.

Fortunately, I had Shannon Lucid give a talk to my Ukrainian students when I was living in Kyiv, Ukraine about 10 years ago. She was a friend with a very good friend of mine from Houston.  I admire Shannon who lived on the space station for six months as a NASA astronaut with two Yuris who were cosmonauts. I think they had been sent out from Baikonur space station here in Kazakhstan.  Shannon is also a pilot so I guess she is famous in her own right.  I remember when she landed back on earth after those six months in space, she was greeted by President Clinton. I pay attention to things related to space travel.

[Total side note regarding space travel, I started watching Men in Black II last night which features Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. I had forgotten that Michael Jackson had a cameo role in that movie and he wanted to be Agent M and work along side Will Smith solving mysteries about aliens.]

Back to different occupations in Kazakhstan that I learned about. One of the students talked about teachers and the difference between village teachers and those in the city.  Of course, there is a vast contrast that can be made.  NO ONE wants to go back to the village to teach because there is nothing going on there, no museums, no theaters, no sporting events, nothing is set up in the infrastructure to support what could produce better singers or sportsmen in Kazakhstan.  The concentration of wealth goes to the cities and that is where teachers want to be, where the money is, where the interesting things to learn are.  Who can blame them?

Can you FORCE people to go in the farthest reaches of a country where nothing is happening?  How do you make people go work where nobody wants to go?  We have the same problem in the rural areas of the U.S. and particularly where I’m from in northwestern Minnesota.  There has always been a mass migration away from the small towns and to the big cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Something good should be said of the quiet, pastoral life of the countryside.  Isn’t that what was happening here on this land of Kazakhstan over 100 years ago?  People moved from place to place and they had a wide open territory to do that.  Now we have urbanization with Almaty and Astana getting the most attention.  The English teachers who study hard and know English very well do not want to waste their talents in a small town where they are poorly paid.  What a conundrum we have that the Kazakh nomads could hardly have envisioned 100 or 200 years ago.  How to solve it?

We started to talk about journalists and the dangers they incur, especially those who know the truth and want to get the word out.  We lost track of time and didn’t get too far on that topic.

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“One death is a tragedy…”

I believe it was Stalin (or was it Hitler) who is quoted as saying: “One death is a tragedy, a thousand deaths are merely a statistic.”  One can get hardened after being around so much death, I suppose Duranty had reached that point.  As I’ve posted earlier while focusing on Walter Duranty’s book “I Write as I Please” the past week, I’ve been reading John Noble’s book “I was a slave in Russia.”

This American survivor, who was trapped in Dresden at the end of WWII, saw MUCH death during his enslavement.  Naturally he tried to make sense of it and I thought I wouldn’t take any notes from this book because it is so dire but I am anyway.

p. 30 “I knew little about theoretical Marxism at that time, but in this attitude toward death I sensed the gulf that separated these MVD officers from the Christian civilization that man is an animal, no more.  To kill a man is no more significant than to kill a highly trained horse or a cow.  If the beast becomes unmanageable, it is killed.  If the man-beast becomes unmanageable, he is killed.”

p. 31 “In that joking [Red Army and Soviet guards about their political prisoners at Dresden] was summed up a startling different between these guards and the Nazi death squads about which those prisoners who had known both sometimes spoke.  The Nazis, they said, killed viciously, because they were convinced that the people being killed were actually their enemies.  The Russians killed because, almost literally, a number had been drawn from a hat, because some meaningless document in some meaningless proceedings had said to snuff out the candle. No ferocity attended the executions.  The reasons for the killings were as remote and irrelevant to the Russian guards as was the concept of death itself.  Their joking, then, was not forced.  When they patted a prisoner’s shoulder, the action came easily.  Life had to end for certain integers in the sate table of statistics. That’s all, comrade.  Nothing personal, comrade.”

Why do I bring up these quotes?  Because I believe as an educator here in Astana, we need to teach the Kazakh children to know logical fallacies from truth.  There also needs to be a rule of law and respecting of those laws in order for a civil society to flourish in our places of academia, especially here in Astana.  Students need to know that human life is important and that they are not part of the cogwheel that might be spinning uncontrollably at times. They need to be valued as individuals and not made to be a part of a conformist mold.

However, this group of people in Kazakhstan and also in Ukraine have gone through much brutality, which is what Duranty wrote about.  There was a manual written by an ardent communist about how to terrorize people and those under him followed it to the letter of the law.  The following what John Noble wrote is exactly what had been going on in Kazakhstan back in the 1920s and 1930s.  There is a reason why the Ukrainians call their dark period of “Holodomor” as Terror Famine in 1932-33.

“The very system of Communist arrests inevitably led to a system of torture that was as much mental as physical. Arrests were made to terrorize the citizens, in sweeping, indiscriminate raids.  Men were arrested as they walked the streets, as they dined or sat in the homes of friends.  They were arrested anywhere, anytime, without explanation.  Everyone in the city was kept poised on the edge of terror.  There was a plan to it all, and it was remarkably effective even beyond its terrorizing results.  When a load of prisoners newly yanked from home and street were thrown into cells, the first topic of speculation naturally was, “Why was I arrested?”

Tomorrow I will show much happier photos of Kazakh babies and students and my new office.  Things are actually looking UP for me!!!

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“I Write as I Please” 1935 Book (Part VI)

I am sure some in my reading audience wonders when this old, yellow paged book will ever end. I know from looking at my statistics that my reader numbers have jumped up instead of gone down. That indicates to me that I have some serious thinkers who know about the truth of Soviet Union’s dark history.  It wasn’t pretty.  I know because I am in the middle of reading John Noble’s book “I was a Slave in Russia.” Not sure I want to take notes on that book, it’s too surreal with all the agony and pain he witnessed and lived to write about it.

I’m up to page 288 in my notes for “I Write as I Please” and this is the best part where Walter Duranty writes of his experience going to Central Asia.  Of course, he is more interested in Uzbekistan but this is some shared history with those people who live in Kazakhstan too.

p. 288 James Elroy Flecker wrote a play called “Hassan” and a poem “The Golden Road to Samarkand” – Tamerlane’s proud capital [I will try to find by googling that play and poem to see if it is still around]

Walter Duranty wrote about F.G. Burnaby – hero of “Ride to Khiva” – reached ancient city far south of Aral Sea at Khiva, dikes built when Sumeria ruled Mesopotamia

Khan rebelled in 1922 against the Bolsheviks [what is in Kazakhstan’s history books about THIS event?]

p. 292 – WD wants to see Tamerlane’s tomb and they want to show dam and tobacco factory

Molly Van Rensselaer Cogswell was the hero because she rescued W.D. and two other veteran reporters Jim Mills with A.P., and Ed Deuss with Hearst so they could see the Registran instead of going to a boring factory that was built by the Soviets and hosted by the Soviet officials on this important junket [at least W.D. had his interest in history to spur him on to see the actual historical sites]

Lord Curzon praised Samarkand

Russian archeologist had been there since 1890 – earthquake in 1886

Mosque Bibi Khanoum – Tamerlane built in memory of dearest wife suffered damage dreadfully

p. 295 Bokhara

Ermin fled to Afghanistan in 1920-21 when Red Army advanced, he financed the “Basmachee” religious uprising against Bolshevik in 1922

p. 297 – kill those who are insane – admires the comet German regime with sterilization

p. 300 – “I Re-write as I please” (chapter title) rushed into collectivization – desirable in theory but it meant in practice mismanagement and woe.  Rescued by Political Section from the militant communists

W.D. wrote that “people suffered greatly in the the process of 1928-1933” [that would be an understatement]

p. 301 – Even to a reporter who prides himself on having no bowels of compassion to weep over ruined homes and broken hearts, it is not always easy or plan and to describe such wreckage?  [W.D. hearkens back to the cost of war and what he lived through during WWI, seems that nothing could top what he experienced as a war correspondent, his experience seemed to trump all others’ suffering under communism]

p. 302 – “unprecedented capital investment in socialized industry and has simultaneously converted agriculture for narrow and obsolete individualism to modern Socialist methods…their cost in blood and tears and other terms of human suffering has been prodigious, but I am not prepared to say that it is unjustified.” [so in other words, W.D. is willing to say “the end justifies the means”]

“ex malo scilicet bonum” =  “don’t let yourself be defeated by difficulties you must try to turn them to your advantage.” [Did W.D. turn others’ suffering to his advantage by writing this book “I Write as I please?”

p. 304 – W.D. noted that the Bolsheviks used language by deliberate intent words incomprehensible to all save adepts.  Their aims and ideas were magnificent but their methods distressing.

Does the end justify the means?  [W.D. had to ask himself that question over and over again, I’m sure]

(to be continued)

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Alexandra’s Grandmother Knows What Life is Worth

В бою побывать – цену жизни узнать

To be in a battle is to know what a life is worth

For me this essay is not just an assignment not just a composition, but it is a family history, because it is about my grandmother. I believe I speak for my whole family in saying that we have the greatest grandmother anyone could ever ask for. While thinking about her I cannot help but have a smile on my face. I’m really proud of her.

While describing my granny, I can say a lot about her life in society, about her profession, but let me tell about her childhood during World War II.

Her family lived in Ukraine, which at the time was part of Soviet Union. Their home town was located close to the border with Poland. From what my grandmother told me, life was amazing. Both of her parents were working at a factory in a nearby town and were loving parents to all children. My grandmother was a baby sister to two older brothers. She was doing fine in school. She liked dancing and knitting most of all. They had living a great country life.

She was only 8 years old when World War II knocked to the house. In 1939 the German armies took over Poland and the life in Ukraine was becoming more and more unbearable. My great grandfather and both of his sons were called in to active duty with the Red Army. My grandmother and her mother were left alone close to the Nazi occupied Poland. With the Russian armies stationed in their town the stories and rumors of the Nazis inviting the USSR grew and so did fear. My great grandmother decided to leave their home town and relocate to Kiev, which is where my great grandfather and her brothers were stationed at the time. They packed everything that could take with them and got on a train. It was tough for both of them to leave their home, but knowing that the family will be together again and safe made it all worth it. From what my grandmother has told me, seeing her father and brothers at the train station was one of the most emotional moments in her life.

Sure enough the Nazis did attack the Soviet Union and my great grandfather and his sons were called in to the front lines. The trip to the train station with her brothers and her father was difficult. She understood that there is a good chance she may never see them again. She couldn’t do anything to stop them from leaving but she did knit all of them hats, so they could remember home and know that she was waiting for them to.

As you can imagine it was very tough on both my grandmother and her mom as the war moved closer and Russian casualties were growing with every day. My great grandmother decided to volunteer at a war hospital. As I have mentioned, my grandmother was seven at the time and since the schools had been closed, the only place my grandmother could be is at work with her mom. As time went by the little seven year old girl who should be going to school and enjoying life, was helping to take care of wounded soldiers that were coming in from the front lines of the war.

Finally, the war ended taking my grandmothers father and one her brothers lives with it. It took some time for them to find her brother who survived, but they were finally reunited. I think the war has had a big effect on my grandmother as a person and I adore everything about her. She is one of greatest people in the whole world. In spite of the cruel condition of the war, and the Nazi aggression knocking on every door, that little girl was able to keep her kind hearted ways.

Now she is a grown woman and the foundation of the family. She brings warmth and love to everyone around her. Even though it has been a long time since the war, you can still see the little girl who is in need of affection. We’ll take care of you grandma!

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Zaida’s Red Army Hero Grandfather

My grandfather Baidrahmanov Permahambet Sabitovich was born in 1911 in the village Karatal of area Prishimskogo of the North-Kazakhstan area in a family of poor men. His father Sabit died in 1934 since my grandfather went to an elementary rural school. Though the time was hard and the family were in need, despite that he wanted to study so much that he went to the village Bogolyubovo. There he entered in a Russian seven-years school, which he had successfully finished in 1927.

After there with a certificate about seven-years education, he went on to the city of Petropavlovsk and entered in the pedagogical school. In 1930 by direction of a department of formation he went to the area of Presnovsk in a village Ortalyk. Up to 12 years before leaving for the Front, he worked as the teacher in villages of Ortalyk, Berlyk and Zhargain areas. According to him, he was a very strict, fair and creative teacher.

In May of 1941, my grandfather was called to the army and directed to the city of Gorki on intensive courses for political workers. Having finished study in October of the same year, he was directed to the Baltic front as the assistant to the commander company on watered-parts 50-th shelf. Considering bravery, courage and other positive qualities, the command he was directed an infantry school where he was training from 1943 until 1944. At the end of the study he was appointed commander of the shooting platoon 177 –th Kishinev Guards a shelf of 60-th Red Army divisions of 5-th shock army of the first Belarus front. To serve in the elite troop of the Red Army was honorable and very responsible.

In 1957, he was selected as the secretary of the party organization and he worked there some years. One advantage his work had always been established in the Front. His fighting awards were Gold Star of the Hero, Lenin’s award for Fighting Difference on Front also a medal for Victory over Germany. His personal feat in January 14-th in 1945 at break of long term defense of the opponent in area of Bada. My grandfather, during artillery preparation, had advanced the platoon to a German mine field. As soon as his artillery had transferred fire of defense of the enemy, he wired obstacles carrying away for fighters. In suburb of Bady, my grandfather with a platoon blocked the enemy, he had destroyed pomegranates one machine-gun and he had provided promation of his infantry.

In my opinion we shouldn’t ever have the right to forget about the severe years for all our people. Certainly the traces of the war on the ground didn’t remain, but they were kept in our hearts, in memory of our brave grandparents and ancestors.

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Aikerim’s Grandfather, Kazakh Teacher-Poet

Nowadays I am a little jealous how our grandparents were happy to live those days, in the beginning of the twentieth century; spacious valleys, green meadows, fresh air, in a word in the middle of untouched nature which was not long ago. As I still remember what my father used to say; when he was a child that all territory near Syrdaria River was fully covered with a thick grass. Now there is no evidence that those places sometimes used to be green. That’s a pity….

First, I will write about my grandparents from my mother’s side, they were teachers. My grandfather’s name was Askar Kozhakhmetov. He was born in Kryzylorda, in a village called “Zhanatalap”. He was a poet; he wrote many poems related to War, to socialism, to school and to teaching. When he was seven, his family moved to Uzbekistan in order to stay alive in the period of acute shortage of food which took place in Kazakhstan in 1930’s. In spite of that, he lost his parents and grew up in an orphanage. From 1933-to 1936 he studied in a labor faculty of Bukhara city, from 1937 to 1939 two years he took teaching courses. So up until World War II he worked in his native village as a teacher. On September of 1942 he was provoked to go to the War. There on a train he wrote his poem “Good Bye, territory of Kazakhstan” where we can feel his nostalgia to his home country.

According to his letters which he used to write during war, Askar’s grandpa took part in the battle near Stalingrad and Tambov cities. In 1946 after he was seriously wounded on his leg, he returned home and continued teaching first in “Zhanatalap” school, then in “Makpalkol” school (1957-69). He was a teacher of mathematics.  Below you can see a fragment from Tynyshbek Airabai about my grandfather:

Aseke his first poems wrote from 1938-39. Abovementioned poem he wrote on 26 th of September while he was passing Karmakshy village on the way to the war. In 1946 he wrote poems “Two cradles”, “On Zhambyl’s party”, “On the day of Red Army” (1957), and finally “A letter”.  He used to write a lot of letters during the war, for instance, his longest poem to my grandmother – “A letter replacement with Khatsha (the name of grandma).

Those days his poems were mostly published in the newspaper called ‘Red Flag’, “Rice men”, “The way of Lenin”. Later his book was published in the “Collections of Poems in Kyzylorda”

Unfortunately, I didn’t see him; he died when he was sixty. I heard from my aunt that he was a very magnanimous and generous person.  My grandmother died when I was three years old. But still I remember how she loved me, how she pampered me…

Finally, from my father’s side my grandfather also died very early, when my father was 16 years old. His name was Zhaksylyk, which means “goodness” in English. He was a well-known shepherd. I know my grandmother very well, as she died only three years ago. She was a unique person; strict, at the same time kind and fair. She was a person of order. Her name was “Ulzhalgas”. Both of my grandmothers were housewives. As each of them had a big family with six children which needed big care and attention.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I am proud that I have such grandparents, and I will always remember where my roots start.

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