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Save Chechnya!

Volkov | 14.02.2006 11:28 | Migration | Repression | World

World Chechnya Day is intended to commemorate the dignity and resiliance of a people who, against all odds, refused to be erased from existence.

On 23 February 1944, Stalin ordered the deportation of the entire Chechen and Ingush population to Central Asia. More than half of the 500,000 people who were to be forcibly transported died in transit or in massacres committed by Soviet troops. Those who survived the journey were left facing starvation and disease in the harsh winters of Siberia and Central Asia.

Within days an entire people had been erased from the land of their ancestors. Overnight Chechnya and Ingushetia were emptied of their native inhabitants, and every reference to Chechnya was removed from official maps, records and encyclopaedias.

In 2004, sixty years after the event, the European Parliament passed a motion that recognised this catastrophe as Genocide.

23rd February is World Chechnya Day. It is a day that few are aware of and yet none should forget.
The recollections of the survivors and the memory of those who perished in a genocide inflicted systematically on an entire people 60 years ago deserve to preserved. Each recollection adds to a legacy of boundless courage in the face of adversity that sustained the Chechen people through one of the worst periods in human history.

As the remaining survivors dwindle it is imperative that succeeding generations are able hear first-person accounts of an incredible and little known tragedy that was the deportation of Chechen and North Caucasian people in 1944.

Zaikhar Pasanova
Zaikhar Pasanova was born in 1912 in the town of Argun. In 1944 she was deported from the settlement of Gendergen to the Osh oblast of Kyrgyzstan.

"In January 1944, the army arrived in our village. They were housed in our homes and we were only told that they had came to build roads.

"Five soldiers came to live in our home. We were on friendly terms with them, treated them as our guests and did what we could to make them comfortable. Sometimes they would ask us why we didn't buy warm clothes and footwear for the children.

"At dawn on February 23, I was preparing breakfast for the children when I heard the high-pitched screaming of women and children outside in the yard. Then, suddenly, our neighbour burst into our house and, hardly able to say the words, shouted hysterically: "They've said we're to be deported to Siberia!" I could scarcely believe what I was hearing and rushed outside to the yard, only to find that he was right. By midday everyone in the village had been herded at gunpoint to the local mosque. In the afternoon, the people of the neighbouring village of Zandak-Ara were transported to our village and the soldiers started driving us, all together, down to the village of Khochi-Ara. I was carrying my three children: my eldest six-year-old son, my daughter, who was twenty-one months old, and my youngest son, who was only twelve months old.

"The first night was spent freezing under the open sky. On the second day, we continued our way down the Yamansu River and stayed for the night in the settlement of Rogun-Qazha. We were allowed to make fires; the frost was unbearable. We fell asleep beside the fires. The next day they brought American trucks. We were pushed, crammed and stuffed into these trucks and then driven to Khasavyurt. In the evening of the same day we were loaded, like cattle, into dirty cold wagons, and our long journey began.

"We were kept in those wagons for over three weeks. Finally we were left at a desolate, snow-covered place. Later we learnt this was the Osh region of Kyrgyzstan. We had no shelter and were given no food to eat. During the first few years of exile about half of the deportees died of starvation, cold, illness and disease. The orphaned ones were taken to the children's homes (orphanages). My husband died in the first year of the deportation; later I lost my mother too. In order to survive, not die of hunger and, somehow, feed my children, I risked my life by going to collect ears of wheat from the mown fields. Those who were caught doing that were sentenced to penal camps for anything up to fifteen years.

"The happiest day of my life was when I heard, many years later, the announcement that the Chechens were to be allowed to return to their homeland."
Mady Bakhmadov - How naive we were..
Mady Bakhmadov was born in 1931 in the village of Aki-Yurt, Ingushetia.

"I remember, clearly, the army arriving in our village a a week before the deportations. There were many of them. We were told they were going to catch the abreks [rebels] in the surrounding mountains. A few days before the deportations began, the military forbade the locals from entering or leaving the village; travel was only permitted with special passes.

"I will never forget the cold morning of February 23, 1944. The dogs' whining had never been so sad, the hungry cattle were wailing helplessly for their feed, and the crying of the women and children completed the heartrending scenes. It was a true apocalypse.

"The army gave us half an hour to pack. They told us we would have to walk to get to the raycentre [region's administrative centre], and that it would be no longer and no shorter than twelve kilometers (about eight miles).

"Walking through the freezing snow at gunpoint, I had to carry a very heavy sack of food and, for all twelve kilometers, my mother was carrying two younger children in her arms.

"On the second day we were loaded into cattle-wagons, and in those "prisons on wheels" we started our long journey.

"I remember people being indignant at what was going on, saying that Stalin didn't know the truth and he would never let this disgrace happen. Today, recalling those days, I realise how naive we were..."
Malehat Bukuliyeva - Seeking our sister
Malehat Bukuliyeva was born in 1933 in the village of Veduchi. She was deported to Southern Kazakhstan and later taken from there to Uzbekistan.

"We were five in our family. I was the eldest. On the night of February 22-23, 1944, our village was flooded with the soldiers. Everyone was frightened and shocked at what was happening.

"Our father was visiting his relatives in Zakan-Yurt that night. We later found out that he was deported from there to Karaganda, Kazakhstan. He died there without us ever meeting again. The following morning we were ordered to gather beside the village soviet (council). All that our family could take was what I could carry on my back. My brothers and sisters were all younger than myself and our mother was carrying a baby in her arms.

"That year an epidemic of typhus swept through the settlements and my mother died along with three others from our family.

"My six-year-old sister and I became orphans. Initially we were sent to one of the Tashkent city children's homes. But later they separated us; my sister, as a minor, was sent to a pre-school children's home and they sent me to the Ferganskaya region. Some time later, my mother's sister found me and took me to where she was living in Turkistan. Before going, we went back to Tashkent in the hope of finding my sister. In the Tashkent children's home, where they had separated us, we found a record in the registry that Valya was on the roster of children there. Accompanied by a tutor we checked all the buildings but failed to find her anywhere. Then someone suggested we should check the death-registry book. There we found the last record made about my sister: 25 children, my sister amongst them, had died of measles. An elderly Uzbek man who was pushing a bread cart for the children in the home saw me crying and came over to me. He found out who I was crying for and he told me that he had buried my sister properly according to Muslim tradition.

"We went through many things in those years. Can words ever convey everything?"

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