International Committee for Crimea
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Surgun Stories Series
By Olga Korniyasenko
My name is Olga Korniyasenko. I am a Crimean-Russian woman. I was born in the village of Tavbadrak in the Bahcesaray district, on June 22, 1916. My family and I lived together with the CrimeanTatars in this village until they were all exiled from their Homeland.
In 1933, I was a teacher at the Crimean-Tatar school in the village of Karalez. I too had gone to school in the same village, where I completed the fourth grade. The first months there, I studied Russian and Latin alphabets. Eventually, I became a teacher and I got married. Lastly, in the year of 1935 I worked at the local kolkhoz there.
My fluency in Crimean Tatar was very good, as I was born in a village where we lived together with Crimean Tatars. After the deportation, I corresponded with Crimean Tatars in exile.They were writing to me from those god-forsaken regions, asking "How are our ilk, the remaining relatives, if any still left there?" And I used to send them letters in Latin alphabet, either Crimean Tatar or Russian. Nowadays, my Crimean-Tatar is not as good as it used to be.
I have Crimean Tatar relatives. My husband's older sister married a Crimean Tatar. They became Muslims. Now they all have children. Some of them migrated back to Crimea. They are now living in tent cities. In exile, they had to live in Samarkand. I am Russian, so are my relatives. Yet they too were exiled because they did not want to be separated from their children and husbands. As they were Russians, the government was not going to exile them. They were going to leave three of her children with her and send the other three to exile with her husband. But she did not heed any of this. She said, "Wherever my children are sent, that is where I'll be."
Thus my kinfolk were also deported. My husband's sister died in 1968. She could not return to her own village in Crimea. Earlier, she had managed to come once for a brief visit.
Some of the exiled Crimean Tatar men were able to return to the village of Tavbadrak. But all of them were promptly sent back.
During the German occupation, the Soviet partisans killed three German soldiers in our village. After that the Germans put 25 innocent villagers to death by a firing squad. They were all young men of 17-18 years of age, all from our village. Now there is a monument erected to honor their memory.
I could never forget the actual day of the deportation because we too were very scared. On May 18, 1944, they raided our village. Nobody explained anything to us. That was at four o'clock in the morning. They let go those who were Russians. They collected the Crimean Tatars outside the village. They also rang our door bell and asked, "Are you Tatar or Russian?"
Then they loaded all the Tatars on trucks and then proceeded toward Bahcesaray to exile all those living there as well.
I reported whatever I saw to the authorities in detail. I wanted them to know. I named those who were recruited by the army, those who were taken away by the Germans, and more importantly, I listed all the names of the children, individuals and families, who were killed in our village, one by one.
Until 1944, we lived in our village as one people with the Crimean Tatars. While all those events were taking place, we were so very much surprised and dismayed. We were so used to living with them. Almost all the village was composed of Crimean Tatar families. There were 120 families in the village. Of those only seven were Russian families.
Once the Tatar families were banished, our village turned into a ghost town. Their livestock, their cats and dogs, were all orphaned. Some time later, they came and took all the animals away and they also took our own cattle. One of our cows was about to give birth. I told them, "Look this cow is already dripping milk, has a baby calf. Why don't you take this other calf instead?" To no avail, they took all of them anyway.
After that, left without anything of our own, we too started working for the local kolkhoz. And thus time flew away.
After the deportation of Tatars, the KGB and the authorities did not bother us. Yet once the Crimean Tatars started trickling back to their homeland, those authorities got tough with us also. The government did not want them coming back at all.
Witnessing all this, I wrote to Gorbachev and then to Gromiko. I told them what was going on. But he answered that he had not herd of any such stuff. I said, "Well, there are so many Crimean Tatars in Ozbekistan. You can ask any one of them and if you find anything I said to be false, you can do whatever you want with me." Then the KGB told me not to write such letters anymore. I told them too that anything I had said and written was entirely based on what I saw, what I witnessed, what I knew to be true. I tried to voice the woes of the Tatars, as best as I could.
After the exile, the government tried to turn the Russians against Crimean Tatars. They called them "fascists." They kept saying, "Do not trust them, do not help them." They tried various provocations. For example, if a Russian youth was killed by some renegade, the government would organize meetings, what not, and say it was the Crimean Tatars who had perpetrated that. More and more such negative rumors were spread.
Yet, for so many years we had shared the same lands. We did not make a distinction such as "I am a Tatar or you are a Russian." Two kilometers away from our village of Tavbadrak, there was a Russian village. But there was never any strife between the two villages. The two communities go along well. In good times, Crimean Tatars and Russians celebrated joyful occasions such as weddings together. In those days we had learned some of the Crimean Tatar folk songs. A few of the lyrics are still in my memory:
Hey miller, oy miller, My dear, apple-of-my-eye miller...."
And it goes on like that.
My husband used to work at the tobacco factory. He died twelve years ago. I now live with my grandchildren. I have two grandchildren. One is in Akmescit and the other is living with me.
Crimean Tatars and we lived together as one for years and years until the calamity of May 18, 1944. Since then we could not come together as before. Yet, even now my Crimean Tatar friends and ex-neighbors seek and find me. And my home is always open to them.
As the Crimean Tatar saying goes, "Our door is open, our place of honor is for you..." (i.e. you will be our guest of honor).
Translated into English by Ayla Onart.
Return to: Surgun Stories Series (Personal Narratives by Survivors or Eye-witness Accounts)
Posted: 27 May 2009