International Committee for Crimea

HOME Surgun: Deportation of Crimean Tatars SEARCH

The Arabat Tragedy II: Confessions of an Eyewitness*

By Ibrayim Qurtosmanov
Village of Argin, Qarasubazar, Crimea

One day my next door neighbor Mikhail Blohin, taking a deep breath and resting on the fence, decided to tell me this heartbreaking story:

I have kept this secret that I am about to tell you with me my entire life, but I can not do it any longer. At that time they ordered us Komsomols (Young Communists) not to reveal what we have seen to anyone and made us swear to keep it as a secret forever. This was a very strict order. We then promised to forget this tragic event and swore not to mention it to anyone. I kept my promise for more than half a century, but I no longer have a choice.

It was the summer of 1944. My family was residing in the village of Seyit-Cugut on the shores of Azov. The harbor divided our village, the Crimean Tatar Seyit- Cugut and the Russian Seyit-Cugut. The Crimean Tatar Seyit-Cugut was buried in total silence after Surgun, the mass deportation.

One evening our village officials announced a scheduled meeting with some high officials from the city and asked all the komsomols to congregate in front of the administration building. The next morning we congregated at the aforementioned location. The officials in military uniforms lectured us on loyalty and duty (to our state) and tried to stir hatred towards the enemies of our state and socialist system. Soon after they loaded us on trucks and took us to the shores of Azov Sea. We could see the bulldozers digging ditches. As we approached the shore we were all horrified of the sight in front us. There was no place to step on the shore as it was full of corpses, dead bodies, and the waves were vibrating the ones still in the water. Those who were supervising us ordered us to form teams of two and start carrying the corpses to the ditches. We worked long and hard, and the horror we experienced made us so tired we had no energy left to say a word. I have never been able to erase the sight of the corps of a young mother clinging on to her child; my friend and I tried to separate them but just couldn't. We had to throw them into the ditch together. I will not be able to forget this sight until I die, until my last breath. There were so many corpses, and most of them were women, children and elderly men. There was rarely any young man among them.

Once we finished collecting and burying all the corpses, the military officials from the city met with us again. They tried to explain the cause of this tragedy. Supposedly there was a gigantic wave that had passed through Arabat Spit causing severe flooding of these villages which in turn caused drowning of all these villagers. Even though we all knew this to be a lie, no one said a word. They forced us to swear three more times to the secrecy of this tragedy and to forget it completely.

All these years this fear and horror remained in my heart, disturbed my nights immensely, my heart always ached. Up to now, I had not mentioned this horrible event to anyone. You are the first one...

These were the words of my neighbor Mikhail Blohin, who passed away recently. I hope there are participants or eyewitnesses of this horrible tragedy who are still alive and are willing to identify the location of the mass graves (of innocent women, children and elderly). Then to erect a monument of Arabat Tragedy on that spot will become the duty of all of us (Crimean Tatars)!

Translated into English by Mubeyyin Batu Altan

*Written in Crimean Tatar and published on July15, 2001, in Qirim Sedasi: Qirimtatar Internet Gazetasi, an online newspaper issued in Simferopol, Crimea. The original article also appeared in the June 30, 2001, issue of Yani Dunya newspaper.

Posted: 26 December 2012

ICC Home Page