I was told about deportation from childhood. I remember well the story of my grandmother Niyar: she was 18 when she was forcibly transferred to Uzbekistan from the village of Biyuk-Karaliz, Bakhchysarai district.
Before the eviction all Crimean Tatars from the village were gathered at a cemetery. My grandmother told me that she did not know what would happen to them at that moment. Everyone thought that they would either be shot or taken away somewhere, no one understood what was going on. When she was brought to the cemetery, my grandmother remembered that she had left a very expensive thing in the house - a gramophone, because everyone was given only the notorious 15 minutes for gathering. Grandmother and cousin broke out of the crowd, ran home and saw that the windows of the house were already boarded up, and the doors were locked. Then they with the cousin ripped the boards off, entered into the house and "stole" their own gramophone. She took it with her, but, unfortunately, it was not preserved.
Some of my relatives died both during the deportation and in the first years in the places of special settlements. A lot of my compatriots died because of the terrible conditions in Central Asia, Siberia and the Urals. My grandmother told me that there was no clean water and people were drinking water from irrigation ditches - rain canals. They strained it off and waited for slime to set, and then used it. Because of this, many people were sick with typhus and died.
My parents met during the deportation. After the abolition of the curfew, when it was already possible to leave the so-called reservations in which the Crimean Tatars lived, my grandmother and grandfather moved to the town of Chirchik, the Tashkent region of the Uzbek SSR. My mom was born there and my father was born there. They met in this city. A year after my birth, in 1989, we returned to Crimea, home.
My parents wanted to buy a house in Bakhchнsaraш, where my whole family comes from. But it was difficult, because it was expensive, besides, local authorities often did not allow Crimean Tatars to purchase land. Then we settled in the Saki region in the west of the Crimea, in its steppe part.
I remember that we had a huge garden, cows, chickens, ducks, we were engaged in agriculture. In the early 90's for the Crimean Tatars, this was the main livelihood, because often we were not recruited and it was difficult enough to feed large families. It seems to me that small and medium-sized business appeared on the peninsula in many ways due to to the Crimean Tatars. Entrepreneurship has helped us to survive.
Parents understood that it is important to give their children education and for the Crimean Tatars it became one of the national ideas. Therefore, among young people there were a lot of educated people with an active position.
It was crucial for the generation that survived the deportation to return to their homeland and preserve their identity. After 40 years of life in exile, the Crimean Tatars did it.
Now for my generation this is also very important, as we again live in partial exile in continental Ukraine and in other parts of the world. We are trying to preserve identity, links with the Crimea, to be successful, so that later this potential can be returned to the Crimea.
Now life of the Crimean Tatars is very difficult in the Crimea. Every day we hear reports of human rights violations. I will quote Miroslav Marinovich, who said that this time "Crimean Tatars must return to the peninsula from the front door." And for this we must make efforts, both in the Crimea and here on the mainland, to create new democratic institutions.
If I could return to the Crimea right now, the first thing I would do would be to go round visiting my relatives who I have not seen for about 5 years. And I understand that there will be a lot of work in the Crimea. I would be involved in educational projects with my own people, perhaps we would create a Center for Contemporary Art and develop independent media on the peninsula.
I wish endurance to all of us, I wish to remain free in the heart, as we have remained free for all these years and centuries and know that soon all artificially created barriers will collapse.