Posts tagged Tashkent

Poems by Anna Ahmatova (Part II)

Continued from yesterday’s blog posting, translated into English by Sasha Soldatow. Anna Ahmatova somehow knew how to write of her dark experiences in the former Soviet Union.  Perhaps not unlike contemporary slavery that prevails in human trafficking which continues unabated around the world.



The word landed with a stony thud

Onto my still-beating breast.

Never mind, I was prepared,

I will manage with the rest.

I have a lot of work to do today;

I need to slaughter memory,

Turn my living soul to stone

Then teach myself to live again. . .

But how. The hot summer rustles

Like a carnival outside my window;

I have long had this premonition

Of a bright day and a deserted house.

[22 June 1939. Summer. Fontannyi Dom]



You will come anyway – so why not now?

I wait for you; things have become too hard.

I have turned out the lights and opened the door

For you, so simple and so wonderful.

Assume whatever shape you wish. Burst in

Like a shell of noxious gas. Creep up on me

Like a practised bandit with a heavy weapon.

Poison me, if you want, with a typhoid exhalation,

Or, with a simple tale prepared by you

(And known by all to the point of nausea), take me

Before the commander of the blue caps and let me glimpse

The house administrator’s terrified white face.

I don’t care anymore. The river Yenisey

Swirls on. The Pole star blazes.

The blue sparks of those much-loved eyes

Close over and cover the final horror.

[19 August 1939. Fontannyi Dom]


Madness with its wings

Has covered half my soul

It feeds me fiery wine

And lures me into the abyss.

That’s when I understood

While listening to my alien delirium

That I must hand the victory

To it.

However much I nag

However much I beg

It will not let me take

One single thing away:

Not my son’s frightening eyes –

A suffering set in stone,

Or prison visiting hours

Or days that end in storms

Nor the sweet coolness of a hand

The anxious shade of lime trees

Nor the light distant sound

Of final comforting words.

[14 May 1940. Fontannyi Dom



Weep not for me, mother.

I am alive in my grave.


A choir of angels glorified the greatest hour,

The heavens melted into flames.

To his father he said, ‘Why hast thou forsaken me!’

But to his mother, ‘Weep not for me. . .’

[1940. Fontannyi Dom]


Magdalena smote herself and wept,

The favourite disciple turned to stone,

But there, where the mother stood silent,

Not one person dared to look.

[1943. Tashkent]



I have learned how faces fall,

How terror can escape from lowered eyes,

How suffering can etch cruel pages

Of cuneiform-like marks upon the cheeks.

I know how dark or ash-blond strands of hair

Can suddenly turn white. I’ve learned to recognise

The fading smiles upon submissive lips,

The trembling fear inside a hollow laugh.

That’s why I pray not for myself

But all of you who stood there with me

Through fiercest cold and scorching July heat

Under a towering, completely blind red wall.


The hour has come to remember the dead.

I see you, I hear you, I feel you:

The one who resisted the long drag to the open window;

The one who could no longer feel the kick of familiar

soil beneath her feet;

The one who, with a sudden flick of her head, replied,

‘I arrive here as if I’ve come home!’

I’d like to name you all by name, but the list

Has been removed and there is nowhere else to look.

So, I have woven you this wide shroud out of the humble words

I overheard you use. Everywhere, forever and always,

I will never forget one single thing. Even in new grief.

Even if they clamp shut my tormented mouth

Through which one hundred million people scream;

That’s how I wish them to remember me when I am dead

On the eve of my remembrance day.

If someone someday in this country

Decides to raise a memorial to me,

I give my consent to this festivity

But only on this condition – do not build it

By the sea where I was born,

I have severed my last ties with the sea;

Nor in the Tsar’s Park by the hallowed stump

Where an inconsolable shadow looks for me;

Build it here where I stood for three hundred hours

And no-one slid open the bolt.

Listen, even in blissful death I fear

That I will forget the Black Marias,

Forget how hatefully the door slammed and an old woman

Howled like a wounded beast.

Let the thawing ice flow like tears

From my immovable bronze eyelids

And let the prison dove coo in the distance

While ships sail quietly along the river.

[March 1940. Fontannyi Dom]

First published Sasha Soldatow Mayakovsky in Bondi Black Wattle Press 1993 Sydney.

Translated by Sasha Soldatow


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Astana Buildings, Kazakh style and IWC talk about Grandparents

My latest theme is to capture the buildings that exist or others I see going up around me everywhere in Astana, Kazakhstan.  Some have functional or comical names attached to them to help identify according to their shapes.  See what you think of these buildings while some are under construction, 24/7!!!

Yesterday’s talk to the International Women’s group in Astana went very well.  I re-used the powerpoints that my former students Aida, Aray and Laura had done at the Almaty Intl. Women’s club on March 11, 2009.  The women listened carefully the whole 30 minutes I talked and asked some very good questions.  The comments I received when I mingled with them were instructive as well.  One woman was from Tashkent, Uzbekistan and she said that there was a monument in the center of Tashkent where people were trained in from different parts of the USSR and once they deboarded were shot.  Thousands of people from all over the Soviet Union died at this place, kind of like Kyiv Ukraine’s Babi Yar.  I’ll have to look up more information about that.

Another Kazakh woman confided that her grandfather and his brothers had been killed because they were considered kulaks.  This was an emotional presentation for her to watch, it was close to home for her. Her older relatives were just normal, garden-variety Kazakhs who had sheep and cattle.  Also, she said that a Russian woman with a cow and other material possessions wandered into their Kazakh community.  So the woman I was talking to yesterday has a bit of Russian in her because the Russian woman became the wife to one of her great grandfathers, someone else got her cow.

One other international woman, I’m not sure which country she is from, who has the same name as me had asked a good question about cheating and plagiarism in schools but commented later that she has a daughter going to a Kazakh international school in Astana.  She was dumbfounded when her daughter’s report card came back with the Kazakh teacher’s comment, “Your daughter is honest.” This could only mean that her daughter as a foreigner didn’t go along with the rest of her Kazakh classmates, maybe a remark “Your daughter doesn’t cheat” would have been more accurate.

I told the group yesterday that THAT is the reason I dig back into the stories about my students’ grandparents, it helps me to understand the present realities in a classroom full of Kazakh and Kazakhstani students where I have taught the last two years.  Somehow the theme from the grandparents’ era is not as sad as it could be because the information I get has been filtered through, the tears are dried as the next generation looks forward to the future.  I can remain bouyant and hopeful because these young people have come from a strong line of survivors through the most awful of stories.

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Thoughts on Leadership (Part II)

These thoughts are not my own but what I compiled from Central Asian students answering a question about what THEY think good leadership is.  I haven’t had time to check to see if the quotes they took out of books or off the Internet are accurate, if my dear readers find one that is out of line, please comment.  I’ll be quick to make a correction. I write that caveat because I checked a quote several years ago that was supposedly a Kyrgyz proverb and it turned out to be classic Karl Marx.

First of all, leaders must be good orators. If you see the history of leadership you can see that each leader had a good oratorical talent that made people do things not with threats, but just with their speech.  We know Bobur, one of the famous Uzbek leaders, because he built up a great empire.  Thanks to his oratorical talent he had encouraged his army before the fight against India and won it, although the number of his soldiers was 20 times fewer than his enemies…I think Amir Temur as one of the great leaders.  He was also known as one of the best orators in his time.  He was the master of his work.  I mean, he knew in advance what would happen next from a situation.  Once when he was going to fight against soldiers he had few soldiers.  Then he made a good tactic by ordering soldiers to tie branch of trees to their horses. While riding horses with branch of trees toward enemies, the soldiers of Temur frightened enemies who saw dust from distance and thought the number of soldiers is larger than theirs.  Temur’s obstinacy gave him a chance to build p Temurids Empire.  There was a big fight between Mongols and him, called “Loy jangi” for Tashkent.  Although he lost the fight, thanks to his obstinacy, he was able to squeeze out Mongols from the city later.

Bill Gates “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

Motto: “Today you are a reader, tomorrow you are a leader.”

Marcus Aurelius – “Waste no more time arguing what a good leader should be.  Be one.”

George Patton “leaders are willing to make decisions.”

Lao Tzu “To lead the people, walk behind them.”

William Penn “No man is fit to command another who cannot command himself.”

Plato “The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself; to be conquered by yourself is of all things most shameful and vile.”

Russian saying: “He who does not risk, will never drink champagne.”

Tamurlane “It is better to die than to kneel.”  “Power is justice.” Tamurlane awarded soldiers according to their service.

Kurtsy “Army without a commander is a body without a soul”

Thomas Jefferson “All management skills consist in the art to be fair.”

Carrie Ann Tajaran; “A good leader directs the path to success and let his followers use their own skills and knowledge in achieving it.”

Stephen Covey “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”

Friedrich Nietzsche “To do great things is difficult; but to command great things is more difficult.”

Famous Am. Business leader and writer Harold R.McAlindon “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

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Aselia’s Two Great Grandfathers, Both Soviet Prosecutors

I’m going to write about my two great grandfathers, from my mother’s side and my father’s side. They both worked as public prosecutors during the Soviet Union.

From my father’s side my great grand father’s name was Tule, he was born in 1912, Naryn Region, Kyrgyzstan. He graduated from two universities, one in Moscow and the second in Tashkent Uzbekistan. He worked as a public prosecutor for the whole Central Asia during a long period. However, in 1948, two days before transferring to a new job as judge of Central Asia, he was repressed and killed in Tashkent.

I’m proud of him for two reasons: firstly, during that period was very difficult to have 2 higher education degrees but he had. Secondly, to be in such high work position you should have had parents with money, but his family were “baimanaps” and Soviet Union didn’t like such people. My grand father was telling me stories of my heritage, and from such stories I found out about him. I have his two diplomas at my home. 

     My great grand father, from my mother’s side name is Osmon. He was born in 1912,[sic should maybe be 1907] on the 9th of May in Naryn Region, Kyrgyzstan. He also worked as a public prosecutor in Talas Region. He had, so many wives and 12 children. He died at the age of 100, 2 years ago in December. I’m proud of him because, he was very easy-going, a kind, intelligent person. All his great grandchildren loved him so much; he was telling us so many interesting stories. Once he told me, that he and my great grand father Tule, were friends and he didn’t think that they would become relatives. I knew him and saw him when he was alive.  

     It is my heritage and I’m trying to do the best what depends from me for great grand parents to be proud of me the same way I’m proud of them.

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My Kazakh Student Sanat’s Highly Esteemed Grandparents

I remember my parents telling me about their own parents from my earliest ages. I tried to put together all I do remember from what I heard into a united story presented below.

Yesshan, my father’s father, was born on 1 January, 1912 in Akmolinsk (contemporary Astana) in family of mechanist’s assistant Zhussupbek and his wife Matluba. He was the eldest of three brothers. Yesshan’s mother was originally from southern parts of contemporary Russia. Her parents moved to Akmolinsk district when she was small and died soon. Zhussupbek’s family brought her up.  Zhussupbek and Matluba loved each other from the childhood and when became mature, they got married. They put their best efforts to give children education. So my grandfather graduated from the Gymnasium in Akmolinsk and later entered Higher Military School in Tashkent.

It was thirties, the horrible time of repressions, when people used to disappear as if they never existed before. Zhussupbek passed away, and after the death of her husband Matluba went to Russia to find out something about her relatives and seek for better place for her children to live. She never returned back. Through all his life Yesshan tried to find anything about his mother, but till now, no one knows what happened to her.

After graduation from Tashkent, Yesshan worked as a mentor at first Kazakh Internat (orphan house) in Akmolinsk, among the pupils of whom he took care of were his brothers. Before Kazakhs did not have orphans since in accordance with Kazakh customs of Amengerlik, children who lost parents were adopted by close relatives, or members of tribe, otherwise these kids had no chance to survive in the severe environment of the Steppe.

The Great Patriotic War had started right after Yesshan’s marriage. So he was called as an officer to the forefront of the war actions. During the battles in Ukraine a shatter from the bomb explosion injured his head. Luckily he remained alive, but he had to wear a plastic insert the rest of his life. After spending a long time at the hospital in Moscow, he came back home far later after the end of the war. By this time his wife, who thought of him died, got married. Yesshan took his son and moved to Merke, a small countryside in the South of Kazakhstan. He espoused again and this time his elect was my grandmother. They had 10 children, and their first child, a daughter, was given a name Matluba in honor of Yesshan’s lovely mom.

My mother’s father was born in Kulan which is about 30 kilometers far from Merke in 1921. He was called to The Great Patriotic War at the age of 18. He was a participant of Leningrad siege. During winter time he had to spend hours laying in the snow or on the ice of the Neva River to secure the border of the city from the fascists’ assault. For him the War ended up with the breach of the siege ring.  He had to spend a long time in hospitals to recover. After the war he lived in Moscow with his wife, working as a policeman. But he could not endure the Moscow weather (consequences of getting cold during the Leningrad siege). Doctors advised him to move to the South, so he came back to his native Kulan, where he spent the rest of his life. The after war period was rather difficult. Although it was not publicly announced, the criminal rate was high. When striving against the thieves of communal property, he was shot from the rifle. He was killed when my mom, the youngest of the children, was only two months.

Every year my parents and relatives give Kudaitamaks (Kazakh ‘Dish to God’) in memory of each of my grandparents even though it passed a long time since they passed away. Without considering that they are my ancestors and being unbiased, I could proudly say that my grandparents were truly honest and honorable people. I wish I could resemble them.

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Yuliya’s Great-grandmother was deported from the Far East to KZ

It was in 1915 in the Far East of Russia, when my great grandma was born. Her name is Park Din Ok and now she lives in Tashkent with her son and his family. She was born just before the October Revolution and in the year 1925, when Lenin’s NEP was passed, her father died. The mother married second time and she was taken to the family of her uncle. As a child she worked about the house and collected herbs. At the age of 16 Din Ok left her uncle’s house to study at boarding school in Nahodka. She studied there till 1937. By this year, the year of Stalin’s repressions, she had already finished 8 grades. Soon together with other Korean people she was deported to Kzyl-Orda, Kazakhstan.

It was very difficult to live in complete solitude without any connections, support, home or money. Fortunately, some time later she found her relatives, living near Tashkent in kolkhoz “Pravda”, and moved to them. There she succeeded to finish school and was planning to enter a teacher’s training college in Ashkhabad. Education was very important for her and she dreamed about teaching herself, about giving knowledge to other people. But the dreams were to fail because the Great Patriotic War burst out. So she went back to Tashkent where she met her future husband.

 A new period of her life began. She has 4 children: a couple of boys and a couple of girls (one of them my grandma is). The time went; children grew up and got their own families. Today we live in different countries and don’t see each other often. So, every time I think about my great grandma I miss her very much. She is the only “ancestor” of mine that I have seen. She still works hard about the house: cooks, washes the dishes, etc. And what is most important, she is active, really intellectual and strong. About ten years ago she injured her leg. The fracture was so serious that she could lose any possibility to walk but she overcame this infirmity. That’s why I adore her inner strength and spiritual power.

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Fahriddin’s Grandfather was born in the former Uyghurstan

My grandfather’s name was Tursuntai Mukhammetov. He was born in China the ex Republic of Uyghurstan. He married my grandmother there and she gave birth to their first child, my uncle. In total they had 7 children who were born in Urumqi, Tashkent and Almaty. Unfortunately the eldest child died at birth so now I only have five aunts and uncles from my mother’s family. The reasons why I am writing this essay about my grandfather, is because he was a very inspiring person and also he was a successful man throughout his life.

      My grandfather was an inspiring person because he managed to raise and feed six children and his wife. When my grandfather was only 18 he got married to my grandmother who was only 16 years old. In about a year she gave birth to a girl which died in a couple of days. But that did not let my grandparents down so in a year my grandmother gave birth to my eldest uncle. My grandparents did not stop from there, they continued with five more children including my mother. It was very difficult raising six children during those times back in the 1950’s but he managed to feed his family, raise them and buy them all the things that were necessary.

     My grandfather was a very successful man throughout his life. In China he had a very good job at his father’s factory which produced leather. When he got married his father sold the factory and my grandfather’s family opened a supermarket. Later my grandfather decided to move to a new home so him his son and his wife decided to move to Tashkent where my grandmother gave birth to two more children. Afterwards they all moved to Almaty where my mother and two more of my uncles were born, this is where my grandfather got a job as the director of a big supermarket.

     In conclusion these are just two of the reasons why I chose to write my essay on my mother’s father. In my eyes he was a very successful man and even though he is not with us right now he still inspires me a lot.

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Unedited Versions of Three Babushkis Stories

Yesterday we had three babushki ladies come to our classroom to tell their whole long life story in a short 15 minutes each.  A tall order for all three because eachof them has led such a rich life.  They are grateful to still be alive and were very happy to visit our university and meet the younger generation representative of Kazakhstan.  These ladies are lonely and living with their memories. It was as refreshing for them to tell their stories as it was for my students who eagerly soaked it in with their notetaking.  The following is Rahkhat’s account from what she wrote in English from her copious notes in Russian. 

#1 – Valentina Romanovna was born in 1930 in village. Her family consisted of 9 people: 3 died, 4 were living, but it couldn’t be called as living. During Great Patriotic War, the living conditions were very beggarly and often there was absolutely nothing to eat. She remembered when they had to eat seeds of flowers or even skin of some animals. They were all poisoned and subsequently it affected their health, because nowadays they are all having problems with stomach. It was really hard times!

Valentina was only 10 years old, when the war broke out. She actually finished the first class and that’s it. When it was very cold, nobody visited school, since there were no conditions to study at all. However the main reason of it is that she had to work together with adults. Her first job was working as a nurse in hospital, and then she worked as a teacher in kindergarten. There were times when she even had to look after calves, those of whom usually children are afraid of! Once one of her calves got sick, Valentina was to be judged or sent to an exile. She was stubborn girl and she decided to be sent to banishment, while her mother tried to convince her to go to chairman and to apologize to him. Eventually she stayed in kolkhoz.

For 13 years she had been working as a miner. At the age of 45 she was on a pension. She had 2 children: Anatoly, who was born in 1953 and Nicolay, two years older. Anatoly went to army in Vladivostok, unfortunately he died there. The second brother Nicolay was striving to revenge for his brother and also went to army, but unlike his sibling he returned home alive. 

Valentina and her son moved to Almaty. At that time, he had a daughter – Ira, who then gave birth to Lisa, his granddaughter. Lisa had huge physical and mental disabilities, she was invalid.  Once Nicolay went for hunting and there his boat was crushed by the river. She took her sister and they started to look for him, but in vain, this trip was fatal for him. Valentina’s husband drank a lot and he finally got cirrhosis of liver, which lead him to death. So, Valentina lost her husband and children, but she still had her mother, who lived for 100 years and 3 months. Valentina’s mother came to Almaty in order to be with her daughter. Today, Valentina has a brother and two sisters still living, one in Almaty and another in Moscow.

That’s just a brief story of Valentina Romanovna’s life. She has to be a really strong woman to endure all the difficulties of that time! She stood in front of us as a living example of a person who had a lot of grieves, who was able to overcome them and who wishes us, young generation peace, happiness and never see a war time!

#2 – Natalya Nikiforovna is about the same age as Valentina, or one year younger. She was born in Semipalatinsk region. She had one brother, who was 5 years younger. She said that her family didn’t suffer much from famine during the war, because they had their own vegetable garden and that was enough to feed the whole family. At the age of 10, Natalya had to mow hay in order to sustain a cow. She completed 7 years of study in school. Her father went to the front and there he was killed. Government didn’t give them any pension payments for him. They just received 20 rubles each – for her and her brother. Corn and cattle was taken from every family in order to sustain soldiers and those who directly was in the front and fought in battles against enemies. There was very popular slogan: “Everything for the front!”    

            At the age of 22, she worked as an accountant. Actually, she continued her education, having already two children. Overall, she spent 38 years of her life on working at two jobs. However, she earned a pension, which wasn’t fairly distributed, because government didn’t consider the length of her working experience, measured in years. She should have had received more in comparison to others, but she earned even less – 110 rubles, instead of 120!                

            Her daughter graduated two universities successfully in Moscow and Almaty. The year of 1946 is characterized as the year of the horrible event – start up of nuclear tests in Semipalatinsk proving ground. Natalya’s son gave birth to a boy with uncountable disabilities. Her daughter couldn’t give birth to a child for the same reason. This mistake of particular group of people led to terrible consequences for thousands of innocent people, which we can observe even today. Natalya said that there was one big family, where they had 4 girls born bandy-legged. It’s awful!  That’s the craziest thing that a human being could do with another human being! The creation of war is the biggest fault of humanity!

            During the speech, she had her tears coming again and again…


#3 – Raisa was born in 1932 in Kirov city, in the family of four members. In 1942 her father joined the Soviet Army, but was killed. He worked on a plant, which produced writing pens with feather. When fascists were coming to Kursk, they were evacuated and sent to Zabaikalie region. There they were given “kolkhoz house” and they immediately started to work. She was the eldest among her siblings. She was 10 years old when she began to look after calves. At the age of 13 she worked as a milkmaid. She finished only seven classes of school. In the mornings she helped her mother, in the afternoon – she did her job. Together with her little brother and sister they used to wear boots by turn. Other people, including their neighbors were always trying to support them, giving some clothes or something that they needed to have. She told us that sometimes parachutes landed from time to time in the place where they lived. So, her mother took pieces of material and sewed clothes for children. In summer, Raisa worked as a combine operator.

 Later, she got married and left her family, moving to Tashkent. There she finished medical college to be a nurse. Being educated, she was enabled to send money to her family. Afterwards, she got a second education in Ulan-Ude in agricultural college to become a zoo-technician. Then she was sent to the north of Magadan region, which is in Chukotka. Later on, she was chosen as deputy or national assessor.

Until now she had been bringing up her grandchild.

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More “Buried Treasure” in Kazakhstan

I am getting family stories from my students in dribs and drabs and I got another from Gulbakhyt who is an attractive young woman.  She has a 13 year old son and a five year old daughter.  Her father takes care of their daughter while she and her husband are at work.  Her father has an interesting story that seemingly is buried while living in our modern, globalized city of Almaty that is changing so quickly.  He used to be a driver or chauffer for a corn factory but now he is not working full time because he has problems with his liver.  Gulbakhyt’s mother is an elementary school teacher.  Gulbakhyt’s grandfather on her father’s side was from Semey.  On Gulbakhyt’s mother’s side, she was from southern Kazakhstan, close to Almaty. 


Gulbakhyt’s family story on her father’s side is one of fleeing the communist authorities which goes along the same line as several of the others I have heard from other students.  Because his family was rich back in 1936, her grandfather escaped to China. Back in Soviet Kazakhstan they had been labeled “kulaks” simply for having too many sheep or herds of cattle.  Consequently, Gulbakhyt’s father was born in China and went to school there but he only knew Kazakh.  His family returned in 1956 to Karaganda, Kazakhstan when her father was about 9 or 10 years old. 


As is true of other stories I have heard about “buried treasure” Gulbakhyt’s grandfather had buried all the gold and silver he owned before he left for China because he knew at the Chinese border he would have been stopped by the guards and would have lost all.  We oohed and ahhed about what might have been if they knew where the treasure was hidden.

This triggered a memory from her classmate Baktiyar who has an aunt on his father’s side who escaped to Tashkent.  They lived in a very bad situation before they moved to back to Bishkek.  Recently the aunt’s family received a letter from a Swiss bank telling of money deposited by their grandfather when he went to Switzerland during the purges.  We joked with Baktiyar that he could help his distant aunt in retrieving the money by accompanying her to Switzerland.  No, he would rather stay in Kazakhstan and let them sort it out on their own.


Another one of their classmates named Medet told us about his grandfather on his father’s side who was from Taldykorgan.  He had owned many horses.  He died in 1997 and had worked as a farmer on a kolhoz (collective farm).  His grandmother had died earlier than her husband with health problems in the lungs.


Medet’s father studied at the medical institute and after he graduated as a dentist, he went to Semipalatinsk with his family.  Actually it was a military city of Iagos where his father was stationed.  Medet is the second in the family and his name means “Hope for Parents,” his brother was born in 1982, Medet born in 1984 and his sister in 1986.


As any good Kazakh should know, Medet was able to name all his ancestors back seven generations.  I should have asked for the correct spelling of the names but this is how it sounded to me.  His grandfather – Abuzatik, GG – Sulimin, GGG – Zahiby, GGGG – Mohamajan, GGGGG – Kozhakart.  Next time someone gives me these important ancestor names going back that far, I will be sure to get the accurate spelling.  I asked for the meanings of each of these names but Medet didn’t know.


On Medet’s mother’s side of the family his grandfather was also employed at a kolhoz and he was known as a manager who cares for the biological part of running a big farm.  In other words, he was the Harvest Engineer.  His mother was from the Aktobe or northeast part of Kazakhstan. Medet’s father and mother met in Almaty.  His mother went to the Medical institute and became a pharmacist, his older brother is a dentist and his sister works for Air Astana with child care.


I learned a Russian expression from Baktiyar the other day, in the rough translation it is “don’t sit on my neck.”  This means, “don’t be a burden on others or to be a freeloader.”  In actual truth, the young people of today, especially in Kazakhstan, highly respect the older generation.  Older people are not shunted aside or ignored and yet I’ve heard stories where many widows or babushkas cannot survive on the pensions they are currently living on.  Those without family are nearly destitute.  I want to put in a plug for the “Hands of Mercy” ministry that helps feed at least 90 older people in Almaty because noone else is helping them.  I have met and know the people who bring cheer to these cast aside living “treasures.”


My students have inherited from their grandparents some amazing stories about their family histories if only we would take time to sit and listen to them.  It makes me respect this culture more and more and desire that many more westerners would appreciate the hardships these older people from different nationalities living in Kazakhstan have endured. 

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“My Granny’s Story” by Serik

Early twentieth century was a harsh time for everyone. I never thought about those years. How it was for our grandparents? What were they doing to survive? Other many questions which I ask myself never came to me before the story I heard from my grandmother. She told us stories from her childhood right before her peaceful soul left this world. Even that time I did not pay big attention. But now after discovering some further information on my grandmother’s family, I realized how interesting her life was, even if she had a hard time.

          My mother’s mother almost whole her life spent in Bayin Olgey. The city where mostly live only Kazakh people, but the city itself is in Mongolia. Do not miss this point: how amazing it is that several pure Kazakh people are still alive and live in the heart of Mongolia. The country, which always threatened Kazakhstan, and used to be their most dangerous enemy. Of course my granny died there. She left this significant historical account of her father and uncle.

 The story begins from rich graph of a big tribe Sukirbay, who had two children. Dorvodhan (my grand – grand father) and Dallelhan became graphs in their early ages, when on one occasion their father Sukirbay died. But time was against them. Just after a while getting those important posts, USSR expansions got to their territory. The USSR blamed them that they helped the “Reds” so called group which was against the “Whites”. Not thinking long my grandmother’s father and his brother left everything, including their family and all the gold they had. They ran towards China hoping to find help there. Nevertheless in short distance from the borders government army caught them. The only dungan agent tried to help them. But knowing that he could not let both of them leave alive, he offered a deal. So the deal was that he would shoot one of them while everyone would be looking at this action, so that the other could run away. Not letting the dungan officer wait long my grand – grand father told these words to his younger brother: “My brother you are too young to die. Let me die, because I lived half of my life and I am older. Just promise me to survive this war, take care of my family, especially my daughter, grow to be a man, whom everyone will respect and do not let down our family name. I believe in you, now run as fast you can.”


So after these words young Dallelhan left to China. As he promised after studying at Moscow University and finishing his KGB courses in Tashkent he finally became a general of specific area in China. He helped his family, relatives and his brother’s family to emigrate from Mongolia. Settling them in Eastern Turkistan (Xinjiang) he lived his life trying to separate this are from China. His dream was to break out from China with territory of Eastern Turkistan and for his goal he even became a spy for USSR. The region was strategically important and rich in minerals (oil, gold etc.), then if the territory was successful in independence admission and admitted by the world coalition, USSR was planning to make it as one of the Soviet Republics (as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan etc.). That was the reason why the Russian government was helping him. But Chinese were cool hearted and more smart, so when the Soviets plan gone down China occupied and crashed the so called Autonomy of Eastern Turkistan. USSR had no choice, but did a secret deal with Chinese and those leaders (who were used by Soviets, as my grandmother’s uncle).


Though after some time, those leaders died on airplane crash including Sir Dallelhan. The reason of the crash is still not discovered, but there is some gossip that actually the Soviets planned this operation. So that they would not let leak the information, which the leaders obtained while working for Soviets.   

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