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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