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On the 61th Anniversary of SURGUN
Mass Deportation of the Crimean Tatars

May 18, 2005 marks the 61st anniversary of Surgun, the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars from their ancestral homeland. Hundreds and thousands of Crimean Tatars were brutally uprooted from their homes in the early morning hours and subjected to one of the cruelest treatment of innocent human beings. Hundreds and thousands of Crimean Tatar families suffered deeply in the hands of the Soviet authorities whose action against Crimean Tatars can be summarized in one word, "genocide." The following is just one poignant story we want to share, as we commemorate the 61st anniversary of Surgun. It is the story of little Ayse, Aysecik.

The Story of Aysecik (Little Ayse)*

The year was 1937; the oppressive hands of Stalin's regime had also reached Otarkoy, a small town near Bahcesaray, where Ayse Merdumsaova and her family lived. Ayse's family consisted of Ilyas Merdumsa, the father, Hatice the mother, Ayse's brothers, 15 year old Nuri and 9 year old Vebi.

The NKVD had just arrested the 13 most prominent citizens of Otarkoy and taken them to Albat prison. Two months later the news reached Otarkoy that the prisoners were going to be deported to Urals, and they were ready to take them to Suren station the next day. Hearing this bad news, the prisoners' families and the entire village of Otarkoy lined up on two sides of the Otarkoy-Zalankoy-Kirelez road to have a chance to see their loved ones for the last time and bid farewell. Ayscecik was just a year and a half years old, unaware of all this commotion. Finally the NKVD convoy carrying the prisoners appeared, and anxiously waiting relatives approached the cars carrying their loved ones. Aysecik's mother Hatice found her husband and handed Aysecik to her father Ilyas who could not help but sob loudly. Noticing the commotion the NKVD soldier rushed to grab Aysecik from her father and threw her towards her mother. This was the last time Aysecik saw her father. No one knows what happened to those prisoners, where they were sent or where they died.

Soon after, the families of the prisoners were also deported from Otarkoy. It was not until the start of World War II (1941)that Aysecik's family returned to Otarkoy, where they wanted to settle down. Unfortunately, worse was to come: Surgun, the mass deportation of May 18, 1944. Aysecik's family was deported to Uzbekistan where they were taken to Yaniyol region's Bozsu canal. The climate of this region was extremely hot, a desert climate much different than Crimea's climate. There were about 8,000 Crimean Tatars who were brought there, and only 36 families (300 people) survived. When they reached Bozsu canal, most of them rushed to drink the dirty, muddy yellowish water, as they had no choice. Many of them became ill and died immediately; their corpses lined up on both sides of the canal. Aysecik's family was lucky to survive. After some time, Hatice's brother Bilal arrived to rescue them and take them to Fergana Valley for a better life.

Aysecik's mother made sure that her children survived and she sacrificed a lot to achieve this. She neglected herself in her struggle to take care of her family. She became ill and passed away, leaving Aysecik and her brother Vebi behind. Luckily, Aysecik's older brother Nuri who had escaped from a Soviet camp arrived in Fergana valley and found his siblings. Nuri, however, was arrested for theft and imprisoned for 15 years, leaving Aysecik and Vebi alone once again. As if Nuri's imprisonment was not bad enough, Ayse's younger brother Vebi was arrested and imprisoned for 10 years for taking a piece of rotted wood.

Left all alone Aysecik went to work in a textile factory. She was old enough to get married, and she did marry a Crimean Tatar painter named Seitumer. They had a happy marriage at the beginning; Ayse gave birth to two sons. Then Seitumer began drinking which cost him his life. He became an alcoholic and died at a young age of heart disease. Ayse became a young widow but was happy to take care of her sons.

Tragedy struck Aysecik one more time, her oldest son Aider was seriously injured in a traffic accident and died two years after the accident.

Aysecik's only hope in life was her youngest son. Two years ago (2003) he decided to move to Crimea and settle in Eski Kirim. He was hoping to send for his mother if everything went well. Unfortunately, Aysecik's only son is unable to take care of his own family because of the economic and political situation in Crimea.

Aysecik was 9 years old when her family arrived in Uzbekistan in 1944. Today, she is a fragile 69 year-old lady, trying to survive on a small monthly pension ($7). Under these circumstances how long will she last there? No one knows...

There are hundreds and thousands of Ayseciks among nearly 300,000 Crimean Tatars who are still unable to return to their ancestral homeland. Who is going to help them return to Crimea where they can spend their remaining lives in peace? She did not ask to live in Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan; she was forcibly deported there. Hopefully someone, somewhere, somehow will hear the voice of Aysecik and hundreds and thousands of other Ayseciks!

Mubeyyin B. Altan
International Committee for Crimea
Washington, DC

*Sevdin Ablayev, "Ayse de Kizim Ne Yuklaysin, Kozun Ac, Babacigin Turmelerde Er Kun Ac!" Yani Dunya (Crimean Tatar weekly newspaper), February 5, 2005, p. Translated into English by Mubeyyin Batu Altan.

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