Posts tagged Uighur

Elbar’s Grandmother had roots in western China

My grandmother was born in 1937 in China (Yrymchi). She was a Jeweler’s daughter and the youngest of nine children. She was a spoilt child, because she lived in luxury. There were a lot of servants in their home. She finished secondary school.

When she was sixteen years old she met her first and one love and her future husband. He was a cowboy’s son. He was born in 1935 in Kazakhstan. There were thirteen children in his family. He is the only who is still alive. When she met my grandmother, he fell in love with her.  Later they sought ways to be in marriage, then they celebrated their wedding. After that, he took her to Kazakhstan from China to his house. After one year their first son was born. Their family was young so he met a lot of difficulties on his life’s way.

During their life my grandfather changed a lot of professions. His last profession was a teacher and later he became a director of the school. He knows five languages. They are: Arabic, German, Russian, Uigur and Kazakh language. Also he can write in Persian because he finished school in Mosque and later became a Mullah in the mosque. He taught children there.

What about my grandmother? She worked in a collective farm. She gathered tobacco in the fields. Work was hard and she was always tired but she also had to look after her children. But my grandparents loved each other and that is why they are still together. They lived together for fifty years.  During their lives nine children were born in their family. So their children have become grown-up and now they look after my grandparents.  So they enjoy their time now. Every year they travel to different countries.

My grandmother often visits her relatives in China. I think they had and still have an interesting live. They are an example for me of strong family. I love and am  proud of my grandparents.

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“Buried Treasure” in Four Students’ Stories

        The following are stories about grandparents I received orally from my Kazakh students and some are real treasures worth the time digging up.  As I wrote notes, I asked questions all along the way.  Their names are typical Kazakh names, Aigerim, Bahtiyar, Galymzhan and Dana.  Some names are difficult to pronounce for westerners.  Of course, each has a meaning unbeknownst to me until I ask and usually they will tell me the Kazakh meaning. 

My first story starts with Aigerim.  She is an attractive 22 year old and very communicative.  She talked about her dad’s grandfather who was born in Kyrzlorda in 1904 and died in 1999.  She recalls hearing that the early years of 1930s were very difficult ones where many people starved.  Fortunately for her family, they went to another country of Turkmenistan, she can’t remember if it was Ashgabat or not but her father was born in Turkmenistan. 

When her great grandfather found out that things had normalized after the starvation period, the whole family returned to Kazakhstan again.  Aigerim’s father graduated from school and went into the army at age 19 and when he returned from where he was stationed in Ukraine after two years of service, his grandfather had moved the whole family to Almaty.  The great grandfather of Aigerim had checked it out because one of his daughters had married a man from Almaty and he found that it was a suitable place to live. 

Aigerim commented that it was very unusual for an older person to make such a decision to leave their home place where he was born.  Perhaps it was because he had worked for the railroad during WWII and was used to moving around.  She knows that her father was very thankful for the move from Kryzlorda to Almaty and he would often say, “Thank you my grandfather” for the move.  Aigerim’s father was the oldest of 8 children, he is 47 years old now as he was born in 1961.

Second, Baktiyar probably has the best English skills in speaking of the four students and he is a faithful member of my English class.  He has some Uighur connection and has heard many different stories about what has happened to that particular ethnic group.  He was cynical when he said there are two different versions of his grandfather’s death.  One is that he was a tragic war hero during WWII but the other story is that he liked to gamble and he was shot during a fight.  Baktiyar thinks the second story is more likely, he didn’t have as much to share about his family history.

However, Baktiyar DID say that his grandmother was married five times.  She had five children, four sons and one daughter.  After WWII the family moved to Almaty and unfortunately the half brothers and sister didn’t get along with each other, while they shared the same mother, they each had a different father.  Such was the life of struggle when there was no man in the family.  All this is on Baktiyar’s father side.  On his mother’s side, her mother died when she was 10 years old and her father had died earlier.  So Baktiyar’s mother’s big brother was like a father to her.

Third, Galymzhan is from Shymkent and had help from his classmates to get his story out, he has the weakest English skills.  He will be getting married on October 24 to another woman from his hometown but whom he met in Almaty. Once married, he is determined to go back to Shymkent to find out more information from her still living grandmother.  He wished he knew more to tell his inquisitive American teacher.

As it turns out, Galymzhan’s great grandfather was a very rich man many years ago on his mother’s side.  In fact, in his village or aul, he was considered a powerful leader.  When things got dangerous for him after the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, his great grandfather knew he had to bury his gold and silver in the ground.  He ran off to Mongolia or China, Galymzhan doesn’t remember which country and there he hid out.  Meanwhile his family was left behind near Turkestan, about 30 kilometers away in a village there, a place called Kemtau.  The group joked about how they would like to go back to Shymkent and find that “buried treasure.”

Galymzhan said that his grandmother was from Taras and she worked all her life in a factory on a sewing machine.  She was awarded many medals by the USSR for her outstanding work.  Yes, she was a good communist, we all smiled at that thought.

Finally, bubbly and funny Dana spoke about her father’s parents, her grandmother and grandfather.  They were in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan but later moved to Shymkent and then Aktau.  Her father is a lawyer who practices law representing a factory in Almaty.  Her mother is 44 years old and a teacher at an elementary school.  She got married when she was 17 years old, they have five children, two boys and three daughters.  Dana recalls that her mother’s father was very handsome, tall and intelligent.  He never was sick a day in his life, when he went to WWII he got many medals.  He died around 1991 and Dana was so surprised because he always appeared so healthy.

Dana had a funny story to tell about her father because she thought the day’s assignment was to come up with a “funny” story.  NO, I had wanted a “family” story and I was glad that all four had complied.  I am hoping to find out more from my other students tomorrow.  I believe every single Kazakh, and other nationalities who are called Kazakhstani, have interesting stories to tell about their grandparents. Ethnographers and qualitative researchers would have a treasure trove to dig up if only they would travel and live in the “ends of the earth” for a spell to discover what a great country Kazakhstan really is!!!

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Uighur Grandmother – “Be Ready to Serve Your People”

Right now I am just 19 and I already don’t have either a grandfather or a grandmother.   However the situation was different just a few years ago, at that time my mom’s mother lived with us.  Her name was Aimkhan.  She was a very beautiful and kind woman.  She had 11 children, the youngest of which is my mother.  As long as I remember myself, grandmother had always lived with us. She lived a long life, so she always had something to tell.  My grandmother and her family were born in Eastern Turkistan (Xingjiang Uygur Autonomous Region) Kashgar city, but due to political reasons she had to migrate to Kyrgyzstan.  However she always told us stories and reminisced time in Kashgar.  One of my favorite stories is the one about heroes of Uighur nation.


         My grandmother got married when she was very young and my grandfather’s family was in politics. At that time after already failing one attempt to declare an independence Uighurs were preparing for a next try.  My grandfather’s cousin, whose name was Abdukerim Abbas was the head of the government of the unrecognized country.  According to the international rights in order for a country to be sovereign its independence has to be recognised by at least 3 countries.  Joseph Stalin, general secretary of the communist party of the USSR made the Clayton’s promise to be the first to extend recognition to a state.  Feeling very excited and glad about the possible future declaration of independence Abdukerim Abbas and all his delegates got aboard of a helicopter heading to Moscow.


The flight went all right but when they landed at the Moscow the situation went out of control.  As soon as they step on the ground they were taken to the KGB’s head office on the Lubyanka and tortured by the Russian agents until the death.  As for the Uighur people in China who were looking forward to coming their liberators back home both Moscow and Beijing prepared another version of what has happened that days.  For a long time people in XingZang couldn’t get in touch with anybody who went to Moscow on that  fatal plane.  Just as time passed it was announced that the plane was wrecked and no one survived.  It was clear for everybody that what happened to Abdukerim Abbas and his people wasn’t just an incident but people were too afraid to do anything.  Since this news flew across, my grandmother and her family had 24 hours to pack all their belongings and leave their homeland forever.  And this is the starting point when a great number of Uighur people emigrated to all Central Asian countries.


         At the end of this story grandmother liked to repeat “Always be ready to serve your people”. Unfortunately she had never come back to the Kashgar and never knew what happened to her house, neighbors and people she knew.  One of the things brought from Kashgar in 1960 was an album with pictures of Abdukerim Abbas and other members of the family.  I always feel proud to be a part of our family.  

by Makhfirat

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