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Surgun Stories

By Inci Bowman

On the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Deportation of Crimean Tatars (Surgun), we are pleased to publish English translations of a selection of Surgun stories. They are personal narratives by survivors, who returned to Crimea in the late 1980s or early 1990s. The narratives were recorded, edited for publication and printed in the journal Emel in Istanbul between 1993 and 1995.

Early in the Morning

Early in the Morning (1995) by I.Nafiyev

Deportation - to be uprooted at gun point and shipped to distant lands - was indeed a traumatic experience. For many survivors, life in exile was even a worse experience, as they witnessed family members and neighbors die of hunger, disease and exposure or arrested and sent to labor camps. The stories of A.N. Idrisli, U. Resitova and S. Umer, all Crimean Tatar women, and M. Abdulla, a Crimean Tatar soldier in the Soviet Army, reveal how Surgun affected them and their families. Narratives of O. Korniyasenko, a Russian neighbor living in a predominantly Crimean Tatar village, and A.L.Vesnin, a Soviet soldier who was directly involved in the actual deportation, relate how the departure of Crimean Tatars influenced their lives. In this collection of stories, you will also find an essay on meeting the Surgun survivors for the first time by Zafer Karatay, a prominent member of the Crimean Tatar diaspora in Turkey. He was among the first group to travel to Crimea after the deportees began returning to their homeland. In 1993, he produced a documentary on the subject for the Turkish Radio and Television, an occasion which formed the basis of his essay.

The translation project involved the efforts of several individuals. I would like to extend our gratitude to Dr. Metin Camcigil of Oakton, VA, and Ms. Ayla Onart of Boston, MA, for translating (from Turkish into English) two narratives each. I also translated two such stories. Acknowledgement is also due to Dr. Greta Uehling for translating (from Russian into English) an excerpt from A.L. Vesnin's publication and for giving us permission to include it here.

There is a great deal of published literature on the deportation of Crimean Tatars. Working with these survivor stories helped me understand Surgun better and appreciate further the dimensions of horror, pain and loss endured by the deportees. These personal narratives are and should be an important part of our literature.

Illustration credit: "Early in the Morning" (1995), a painting by Irfan Nafiyev. Born in Uzbekistan, Mr. Nafiyev graduated from the Benkov School of Painting in Tashkent. His works are represented in private collections in Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Turkey. He lies in the Simferopol area.

Posted: 29 May 2009

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

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