Posts tagged Turkistan

“Vis Medicatrix Naturae” and Dr. “Eye-Bottoms” Daughter

Thankfully I’m feeling much better from last week’s episode with high blood pressure scare. I have since found out that many people on this side of the Tian Shan mountains are plagued with this ailment. Perhaps that is why Type A personalities need to be duly warned about not taking on more than they can handle, we need to be more relaxed like the native Kazakhs have learned to be in order to survive. The following is a short quote from C.S. Lewis about healing and medicine. Then I will write about Leila, the daughter of the “Eye-Bottoms” doctor or opthalmologist I met last week.

“There is a sense in which no doctor ever heals. The doctors themselves would be the first to admit this. The magic is not in the medicine but in the patient’s body – in the vis medicatrix naturae, the recuperative or self-corrective energy of Nature. What the treatment does is to stimulate Natural functions or to remove what hinders them. We speak for convenience of the doctor, or the dressing, healing a cut. But in another sense every cut heals itself; no cut can be healed in a corpse. That same mysterious force which we call gravitational when it steers the planets and biochemical when it heals a live body, is the efficient cause of all recoveries.” By C.S. Lewis, from Miracles, ch. 15

I met the 40 year old daughter of the kind doctor who I met last week when I went to the three clinics to check my high blood pressure. (See earlier blog) The good doctor had given me his daughter’s phone number at their home. Leila had just recently returned from the U.S. as of four months ago, last December after studying three years at community colleges and universities in Nevada and California. Her father is 72 years old and her mother is 71, Leila is an only child and she is single. She admitted that many of her friends are now divorced raising children on their own, so she feels fortunate. But she also feels a responsibility to take care of her aging parents once they are retired. There is no one else but her to do this duty.

I asked her about her father’s background and how he got involved with ophthalmology; she gave me an answer later after telling about his family and his growing up years. He was the youngest child in his family being born in 1936. His father, Leila’s grandfather, left the collective where he worked to fight in the Great Patriotic War in 1941; he was badly injured there and returned home to Aktobe only to die shortly thereafter. He had fought in western Russia or Ukraine somewhere but Leila was not sure where. She explained that her father didn’t talk much about his family or early childhood. He had older brothers and sister but some of them had died in their younger years, not from starvation but other childhood diseases. One of his older brothers had become an oncologist and perhaps there was a personal motivation on both brothers’ part to help those who are ailing, that’s why they became doctors.

Leila’s father attended medical school in Almaty and later went to Moscow for more training in ophthalmology. She remembers going up to Moscow with her folks as a young child in the mid 1970s and people seemed kind then. Many nationalities from different parts of the former USSR have left Moscow; it is mostly comprised of Russians. Her father was a good eye surgeon and went twice to China to do eye surgeries because the Chinese have many eye problems. About 12 years ago her father went to Xian (place of terra cotta soldiers) for one year and the second time, his wife, Leila’s mother went with him to another city in China. She loved it in China. [this is unusual because most Kazakhs try to keep a healthy distance from anything Chinese]

Leila admitted that while she was growing up she never heard that collectivization was a bad thing; all Kazakhs would agree the Great Patriotic War or WWII was very bad. However, it was only when she started reading from history books while studying at Kazakh State University in Almaty and later by reading Russian media that she found out there was another side to what Stalin brought to Kazakhstan with collectivization.

From Leila’s mother’s side of the family she was from the city and perhaps from a fairly wealthy part of society. She would have been unaware of what life was like in the countryside and what collectivization did to some Kazakh families back in the 1930s and 1940s. Collectivization was considered a “social experiment” and in some cases it benefited some people while it didn’t help others. Leila’s mother had a more tragic life where her mother had died before her father went off to fight in the Great Patriotic War. She was orphaned at a young age with only an older sister because her father, Leila’s grandfather died in the Great Patriotic War. The two girls were taken in by their grandparents who were already pensioners. Her mother is a chemist and Leila’s father and she were married when she was 24 in 1961. They have been married 48 years.

Leila has traveled widely and recommended that I should travel to Uzbekistan to see old artifacts of a life from antiquities. Almaty doesn’t show much of historical life from the Kazakh past, perhaps the city of Taras would be the best place or Turkistan. She also told me that Mongolia has had a lot of influence on the Kazakhs. She acknowledged that she doesn’t know her own Kazakh language very well.

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“Strong Belief” Nurganym’s narrative

Family ties are very important for many, especially for Kazakhs because according to our tradition we should know seven ancestors by names. I often heard my father in law telling stories to my children (sometimes, I think, he makes up some of his stories…) about old days. That great man gave me many interesting life lessons and taught very important things. In order to understand how this person became who he is today – a very well known and greatly respected person among 1.5 million Chinese Kazakhs – I would carefully listen to all his stories about his childhood, youth and early life.


He grew up in western Turkistan – today’s Xinjiang – on the border of North Eastern China and Western Kazakhstan. He doesn’t remember his parents, he became an orphan when he was a baby, and his aunt rose him up. They were cattle breeders and as all nomads used to move from pasture to pasture,  they stayed winters in China and summers in Kazakhstan – back then no borders remain between countries (Last time he saw his motherland in 1947 since then this is his dream to visit those places again). He rode on horses and grew up naughty and prankish but never was punished which was uncommon in Kazakh families and was against child rearing principles at that old days.


At the age 17 he fell in love with a young pretty girl who soon became his wife, it was usual to start family life at that early age back then. His adolescence coincides with Chinese revolution and soon he went to Beijing to learn Mao’s communism doctrines. He left his pregnant wife and young daughter. Soon after when the second child was born, his wife and my mother in law traveled from Urumqi to Beijing to reunite with his husband after two years living apart. The trip took almost two weeks by train, and a young woman, who did not speak a word of Chinese was have to travel with two little children with all these strangers who would help her all way along sharing food with her and taking care of her children. My father in law says that he still can see a picture in front of him of his skinny wife holding nine months old baby and a little girl dragging large heavy bag on the ground.


Soon after my mother in law was have to attend ideological courses in Beijing, and she left her little child with Chinese nanny who leaved away from them and reared her son until he reached five. They could see their children on weekends, and she very upset when heard son calling nanny “mommy”.


After five years of life in capital they returned to their homeland where they went thru hard years of starvation, poverty and building communism. My mother in law says that is her merit that her husband could build his career; she did everything to help him, gave him suggestions and raised four children alone. 


I think the main reason is that they could fight with all the difficulties together without fear and believed in a great future.









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