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From Yaliboyu to the Deserts of Uzbekistan

By Arire Nezetli Idrisli

I was born in 1928 at beautiful Simeiz in Yaliboyu, Crimea. I was fifteen when we were deported. I remember those days from the beginning to the end. I cannot forget them even if I wanted to.

All was calm the day before the exile. We had Russian soldiers on furlough staying with us, as was the case in many homes. We were doing a major cleaning at home on May 17, 1944, washing and sweeping. Russian soldiers said "Why are you doing this? Wouldn't this be in vain if you were to be evicted suddenly?" My answer was "I have never been anywhere else. My grandmother has never seen a train in her life, never traveled. Why should we leave all of a sudden?" They did not say anything else, not a word about the exile.

It was about four or five o'clock in the morning of May 18, soldiers came:

"Get out. Quick. Get out."
"Why? What happened? Where?"
"Get ready and come out, you are leaving"
"Where are we going? And why?"
"You are traitors! This is the Soviet government's decision. Hurry, get out."

We were stunned and dazed. We were in a chaos. We were five at home. My aunt was crying out in the courtyard and shouting: "They are going to kill us! Take your shrouds with you! They are going to kill us!" I also remember that a strange thing happened that day. There was a big storm. The wind was roaring, trees were swaying and branches falling. Our cries mixed with the noise of the winds and trees, dogs' howling and cattle's bellows. (Arire was now crying. How could she not?) Those were the sounds of that day. They were indescribable. Horrifying. Later, it haled, with large hale stones. We were not the only ones who were crying; as it were, the skies, our animals and our trees cried along with us.

They took us to Akmescit and loaded us on to cattle cars. We traveled 28 days. We were fed only once in Saratov. Some of us were able to take along some food as we left. Some had flour with them. They cooked with it and gave us some. The railcar was so full that I could not stretch my legs. The ones who died on the journey were dumped along the road side without a chance to be buried. When we arrived at Samarkand, they gathered us at the stadium. They collected our belongings and piled them in a corner. They led us, pushing and shoving with their rifles, to baths. The scene was indescribable. They were hitting us with their rifle butts, swearing, and throwing on us boiling water with chemicals. Some died of burns. (At this point Arire started crying again and could not talk for a while).

They brought us back to the stadium after bathing. Our belongings were gone through and valuables were taken away. They then put us on donkey driven carriages and distributed us to several villages. We were housed in barns, without bed and blanket. We slept on the floor for days and weeks. Many of us got ill and died under these hard conditions. Food was scarce. We were forced to hard labor. Old women were longing for Crimea. They were dreaming, in their last days, of being able once again to drink Crimean water before they died. They said "I could die in peace if I could drink only one sip of Crimean water."

A woman and her son were found eaten by jackals. We recognized the boy by his shoes. Three days later, his father came from the battle lines looking for his son. (Arire choked up again and started crying once more). The soldier gave us a salute and asked whether anyone had seen his wife Anife and son Server. He said they were from Fotisala. No one answered. How could we have said they were eaten by jackals?

An older woman broke out: "My son, may God give you patience and be with you. This is our destiny. May they rest in peace." This heroic soldier threw himself on the ground right in front of us, cried, beat and scratched the ground. That was an unbearable scene. He was lifted up, given some water, and quieted down. When the poor man rose, we noted that he had suddenly become an old man, grayed and exhausted.

I wonder how we survived these horrible days, these disasters. How did we get back to our homeland, Crimea? There must be one explanation to this: it is the unity, togetherness passed on to us by Ismail Gasprali. We survived by protecting and helping each other, sharing our food, and fighting together. There is someone I need to mention here: Chief Gafur. He used to play the violin. He played for us in those heavy, unbearable, dirty and hungry days of exile. At least, we had moments of laughter or cries mixed with laughter. He gave us moral support, saying "Don't worry dears, we'll return to our homeland one day and celebrate our return [by playing qaytarma]."

Thank God, we survived despite all the hardship. Our nation did not disappear, although our condition still is not the best. We will put all this behind us by staying together.

Translated into English by Metin Camcigil.
The original text, "Yaliboyu'ndan Özbekistan Çöllerine," was published in the journal Emel, no. 210, Sept/Oct 1995, p. 36. The narrative was recorded and edited by Neşe Sarısoy.

Return to: Surgun Stories Series (Personal Narratives by Survivors or Eye-witness Accounts)

Posted: 27 May 2009

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