It was during the critical period of World War II, the Soviet government was in dire need of military and logistical supplies. There was no question that the 65 echelons of trains allocated for the deportation of the entire Crimean Tatar population could be utilized somewhere else. But deporting the Crimean Tatars was apparently on top of the Soviet Government's agenda. It was a premeditated crime perpetrated against one of the small nationalities the authorities wanted to punish. Nothing was going to stop this barbaric act. Alexander M. Nekrich, a historian and the author of The Punished Peoples, who was an in the Crimea in May of 1944, states:
It was May 1944, and I was twenty four years old. I was serving in the political department of the Second Guards Army. Our troops were liberating Crimea…Waiting for someone I needed to see, I was standing outside a theater building where a meeting of the town's active party membership was in session. The theater door opened and the chairman of the town soviet appeared. "How are things?" I asked him. "WE ARE GETTING READY FOR THE BIG DAY," he replied. The next day or perhaps two days later, an unusual air of tension prevailed everywhere. A friend told me: "TONIGHT THEY ARE GOING TO SHIP OFF THE TATARS, EVERY LAST ONE." (The Punished Peoples, pp.3-4)
Yes, the Soviet Government 'shipped off' every single Crimean Tatar as they pre-planned, with the exception of a group of Crimean Tatars on the Arabat Strip whom they had missed by mistake and later massacred on June 7,1944. The Tatar population was brutally awakened and uprooted from their homes in the early morning hours of May 18, 1944. The operation was carried out without any resistance as most of the Crimean Tatar residing in Crimea at the time were children, women and the elderly. The able bodied Crimean Tatars were either serving in the Soviet armed forces, or fighting against the Nazi forces in the Crimean mountains.
Here are a few examples of what the entire Crimean Tatar nation experienced:
Asibe (Ibraimova) was born in Taraktash, Sudak, in 1919. She got married in 1937 to Bekir (last name not given). Asibe was 25 years old when she and her entire family was deported from Sudak on May 18,1944. They ended up in Balaxinsk region, city of Gorki in Uzbekistan. Her husband Bekir was in the armed forces; he returned to Taraktash after his discharge from the armed forces. When he discovered that his wife and his entire family was deported to Uzbekistan, he began his search and found his wife in Gorki. Later on he moved his family to the city of Marhamat in Uzbekistan, where he joined the Crimean Tatar National Movement and actively campaigned for his people's rights until his death in 1971. Asiye (Ibrahimova) was one of the first families who returned to Crimea and settled in the village of Orus-Hoca in Karasubazar. (Seyran Ibraimov, "Neler Kördü Garip Başım" Qirim, May 17, 2002, p.4)
Enver Aliev was born in Trabzon a city on the Black Sea coast of Turkey in 1917. His parents went to Crimea when Enver was an infant, and left for Trabzon again leaving him with his grandmother when he was two and a half years old. Enver aga was raised by his grandmother because his mother could not make it back to Crimea. He was studying in Yalta Agricultural Technical School, but was expelled from school when the authorities discovered that his mother was a Turkish citizen. Enver aga returned to his village Taraktash and worked in the Department of Forrestry. In 1940 he joined the army and participated in the liberation of Krasnador and Taman from the Nazi forces. When his division reached Kerch he decided to take a week’s leave to visit his village Taraktash. He was told of the death of his grandmother who had raised him. While he was deep in sleep in his brother’s house, in the early morning hours of May 18,1944, he woke up to the deafening knock on the door. He put on his uniform to open the door to find Soviet soldiers force themselves in to read the official order of deportation. He then went to local military council to ask for permission to rejoin his military unit stationed nearby Kerch. He was immediately disarmed and his weapon was taken away. Enver Aliev, who was an active member of Soviet armed forces, was also loaded on a cattle wagon along with hundreds of innocent Crimean Tatars, taken to Kefe (Feodosia) and 'shipped off' to Uzbekistan on May 18, 1944. He married Alime hanim, also from Taraktash, in December of 1944. In 1948 he moved his family to Palvanchi, Uzbekistan. It was in Palvanchi that he joined the initiators of the Crimean Tatar National Movement such as Bekir Osmanov, Usein Fahriev, AbdurahimAblakimov and Abduraman Umerov in 1956, and actively began campaigning for his people's rights. He was among the 800 delegates who went to Moscow in 1968. He was not able to resettle in the Crimea, but his children and grandchildren now live in his beloved Taraktash.... ( Riza Asanov, "Halk Menfaatinin Canbazı," Qirim, Mayis 17, 2002, p.5)
Fatma Kencaeva was born in Kuru Ozen, Crimea in 1929. At the end of 1942 when she was only 13 years old she was sent to Germany as an Ostarbeiter where she was forced to work in various labor camps and wood factory. It was the Polish underground that saved her from the labor camps, but the British shipped her to the USSR border. In 1945 along with other young Crimean Tatars she was returned to Crimea and from there they were deported to Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
On the second day of our arrival in Tashkent we were all sent to Samarkand and placed in Krqasni Divitagel factory to work. I tried to find my relatives immediately. Lucky enough, I was able to find my father who was, unfortunately, very ill. He told me that my mother had already passed away.
My father strongly advised me to leave Uzbekistan right away. In early 1948, I secretly returned to Crimea, to a family friend’s house, at 32 Gorki Street, Akmescit . Unfortunately, one of their neighbors, recognized me as a Crimean Tatar, and reported to KGB. One night KGB officials arrived to arrest not only me but also my friend.
I was kept in prison without any charges until May 4,1949. Then I was imprisoned for 20 years according to a new law of Interior Ministry. I was in prison until 1953 in Barbuta Labor Camp. In 1954, after Stalin's death, I was released as they found out that I was unlawfully imprisoned. Then I was taken to Samarkand and placed in a special settlement camp like all Crimean Tatars. In 1955 I was called by the commandant of the camp, and was asked to sign that I will not return to Crimea.
Fatma Kencaeva, went to Kirovabad with her young child and worked in a textile mill until her retirement.
I always lived with the hope of returning to Crimea someday. Finally my dream became a reality in 1991 and I returned to Akmescit (Simferopol) with my daughter. Yes, I was an Ostarbeiter, and my rights were violated. I hope that the German government compensates me for what I have gone through so I can buy a roof over my head. This hope gives me encouragement to live on....
(Diana Nikalaeva, "Balalarımız Cenk Körmesin," Yani Dunya, April 26, 2003, p.12)
There were hundreds and thousands of Asibe bitays (grand mother), Enver Alievs and Fatma Kencaevas among Crimean Tatars who suffered equally if not more. The entire Crimean Tatar nation suffered a irrevocable damage as a nation and as a people. Despite their enormous sufferings, the Crimean Tatars continue to campaign peacefully to have their rights restored. As we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the mass deportation, Surgun, the Crimean Tatars are yet to be politically rehabilitated and resettled in their ancestral homeland. We pledge to fight peacefully until the national and human rights of our people are restored. And it is with this spirit we sent a letter of appeal to President George W. Bush, Senators Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Miklaski of Maryland, Congressman Chris van Hollen of Maryland, Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, asking them to have a proclamation issued on May 18, 2004 and declare that day as a "Day of Mourning."
Once again, I ask the Crimean Tatars throughout the world to honor the Crimean Tatar martyrs with a minute of silence at 10 AM on May 18, 2004.
May the Crimean Tatar martyrs rest in peace!
Mubeyyin Batu Altan
International Committee for Crimea
17 May 2004