Deep family roots: Crimean Tatars living on native soil

The village Sheikh-Asan (now Voznikovo) is one of several Tatar settlements in eastern Crimea. It is currently home to several families of Russian, Gagauz and Tatar origin.

The village Sheikh-Asan (now Voznikovo) is one of several Tatar settlements in eastern Crimea. It is currently home to several families of Russian, Gagauz and Tatar origin.

Anna Dovgal
Photo story about the Tatar family living in Crimea.
At the outset of World War II, Sevastopol was one of the world’s best fortified sites. From 1941 to 1944, the Crimean peninsula saw some of the most dogged fighting on the Eastern Front. The German occupation of Crimea ended on 12th May 1944. It was then that the deportation of the Crimean Tatars began.
The deportation of the Crimean Tatars took place in May 1944 under the orders of Joseph Stalin, who alleged that the Tatars had collaborated with the Nazis during the occupation of the peninsula in 1942-1943. The entire Crimean Tatar population of around 230,000 was forcibly evacuated to Central Asia, with some estimates of the numbers of those who died as a result reaching 100,000.
Many families began to return to their ancestral homeland from exile in the 1980s as the reforms of perestroika took root, but the peninsula’s Crimean Tatar population remains a fraction of its original size, forming 13 percent of the total population of the republic. The deportation is widely recognized as an example of ethnic cleansing and Tatar activists have sought for it to be classified as an act of genocide.
Hundreds of Tatar villages in Crimea disappeared from the map. Those that remained were given new names.
With eight members, the Kalendarov family is the most numerous in Voznikovo. The head of the family is Semia, 93. She was exiled to Uzbekistan on 18th May 1944.
Semia was 21 years old when she was deported with her brother and five sisters. Her mother died on the road. At the time her father was serving at the front. He was able to find his children only 10 years later.
Semia worked hard labor at a mine. She and her Tatar husband had three children, all of whom were born in exile in Uzbekistan.
Semia retired on a pension in 1971. She got a car, a carpet and 120 rubles – a considerable amount of money at that time.
In 1988 Semia and her family returned to Crimea. The old house in their native village was no longer standing, so the family bought another one.
Back then the village was well supplied with water, and the garden was green and full of fruit trees, watermelons, potatoes and tomatoes. Today’s inhabitants have to buy water for every need, and there is barely enough of it for all the people, cows and sheep. The vegetable garden is forgotten and the fruit trees have dried up.
During their 50-year exile the Tatars’ pace of life changed. The level of education increased, but the development of native culture and language declined.The deportation of the Crimean Tatars was officially condemned by the Soviet government in 1989, by Russia in 2014 and by Ukraine in 2015. Now 18th May is the day when Crimea honors the memory of the victims of the Crimean Tatar genocide.