Stories of Crimean Tatars deported to Uzbekistan

May 18, 1944 is one of the most tragic dates in the history of the Crimean Tatar people. On this day, the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars began from their homeland in the Crimean region in the territory of modern Ukraine to remote regions of the Soviet Union, mainly to Uzbekistan. This event left an indelible mark on the history and fate of thousands of people who lost their homes, property and, most importantly, their homeland. The stories of Crimean Tatars deported to Uzbekistan are stories of survival, struggle to preserve national identity and many years of desire to return home, journalists from Radio Azatlyk told.

The decision to deport the Crimean Tatars was made by the USSR State Defense Committee under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. The official pretext for the deportation was the accusation that the entire nation had collaborated with the German occupiers during World War II. However, many historians believe that the real reasons for the deportation were the strategic position of Crimea and the desire of the Soviet leadership to completely control the region.

On the night of May 17-18, 1944, NKVD units began an operation to expel the Crimean Tatars. People were kicked out of their homes, often without time to get ready. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were loaded into freight cars and sent to distant regions of the USSR. The journey into the unknown was long and painful – many could not withstand the conditions and died on the road.

After arriving in Uzbekistan, the Crimean Tatars faced new challenges. They were settled in desert and sparsely populated areas, where there was no prepared infrastructure to receive such a number of people. Living conditions were extremely difficult: lack of housing, food and medical care led to widespread illness and also death. However, despite the difficulties, the Crimean Tatars began to build a new life. They actively participated in agriculture, construction and industry, making a significant contribution to the development of Uzbekistan. At the same time, they tried to preserve their traditions, language and culture, passing them on to new generations. Over time, large Crimean Tatar communities formed in Uzbekistan, which became centers of cultural and social life.

Personal stories: memory and pain

Each story of a deported Crimean Tatar is a story of pain, loss and hope. For example, the story of Sabira Eminova, who was deported at the age of 12, illustrates the horror of those days. She recalls how their family was forced to leave their home in the middle of the night, how they were herded into freight cars and how her younger brother died of starvation on the way. Despite all the trials, Sabira retained her love for her homeland and passed this love on to her children and grandchildren.

Another example is the story of Mustafa Dzhemilev, a famous Crimean Tatar activist and human rights defender. Mustafa was born into deportation and devoted his entire life to the fight for the rights of his people. His work has become a symbol of resistance and hope for many Crimean Tatars seeking to return to their homeland. And there are a lot of such painful stories. Even now, the pain of the Crimean Tatars continues, since Russia, having started a war in Ukraine, deprived these people of their homes and a quiet life.

The struggle of the Crimean Tatars for the right to return to their homeland began almost immediately after the deportation. Despite repression and bans, they continued to fight for their rights, turning to international organizations and human rights activists. In 1989, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR recognized the deportation as illegal and criminal, which was the first step towards restoring historical justice.

After the collapse of the USSR and Ukraine gaining independence, Crimean Tatars began returning to Crimea en masse. However, the return was not easy: many faced problems related to the return of property and obtaining citizenship. Despite this, the Crimean Tatars continued to build a new life in their historical homeland.

Today, the Crimean Tatars are again faced with challenges and threats. After the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, the situation with the rights of Crimean Tatars deteriorated significantly. Numerous activists and human rights defenders have been harassed, arrested and threatened. However, despite all the difficulties, the Crimean Tatars continue to fight for their rights and to preserve their cultural identity.

The stories of Crimean Tatars deported to Uzbekistan are stories of resilience, survival and hope. Despite all the trials, they managed to preserve their culture, language and traditions, passing them on to new generations. Today, like decades ago, Crimean Tatars continue to fight for their rights and for the future of their people, hoping for the best and believing in justice. And there is a lot to learn from them…