Алиса Клима

Страна : Россия

Магистр бизнес-администрации. Филолог и преподаватель английского языка. Более 19 лет опыта работы в сфере развития образования разных стран, в международных проектах Азиатского банка развития, Всемирного банка, международных партнёров в образовании, Британского Совета.

Country : Russia

In the end of the 80s while being a student at school I dreamed of study at Russian State Cinema School. My parents were unhappy about that idea and didn’t let me go to Moscow alone and I agreed to stay in Tashkent for my living there was sustainable and well-off enough not to bother leaving. I enrolled in Tashkent State University in the School of Foreign Languages – the least unfortunate choice as many alleged at that time. But in the early 90s it had become clear that the number of foreigners coming to Uzbekistan seeking new business opportunities would never leave me without breadwinning. When one leads a rather active and free living it brings you unbelievable stories for creative expression. I happened to meet many interesting personalities, got into extraordinary situations, saw different countries and cultures. Each and every situation in itself could have become a story or a film. In 1999 I happened to find myself working on the British Council. Since then until late 2004 I was working on various educational projects. And later up to the birth of my second son George in 2008 I was involved in many educational initiatives in the region as a consultant. It was then in the period of ‘a great stillness’ of projects in Tashkent I had decided to try on something completely new and get out of the comfort zone to take on board new challenges. Until 2010 though it was a fantastic period of beautiful family and friends iterations in cozy and warm home city of Tashkent filled with joy of my gorgeous baby boy. And it was then too when I started to think through incredible transformations happening to all of us and the biggest country of the world that was some time ago the USSR that brought me to writing my first book, by fortune, written in English.

Отрывок из исторической фантастики “Children of the Red Horde: The late sketch”   

Chapter One: Arslan

How much I love my fatherland. If you think I’ve forgotten it while travelling alone and then with my recent husband and my children, you’d be miserably wrong about who I am. Most of the time, people make the wrong assumptions about the motives and feelings of others, thus diverting their paths from the road of fate God has secured for each and every one of us. But if we assume that God knows best what our final destination should be, no matter how much time we waste choosing our paths and making mistakes while striving to get to our destination, we’ll still get there. Speaking of dreams and ideals, I think people are condemned to unhappiness because our minds are so much more beautiful than reality; that no matter how precisely we implement our dreams, we’ll never be able to make them as perfect in reality as in our minds. 

I was born in a faraway land, and my childhood was lightened with the sun splashing quietly through the yellow mask of the summer Asian dust and the green leaves of the maple and plane trees beside my house. I saw the sun set on the old and the dawn of an emerging new era, where it would be so hard to find a place for a girl from the ‘Red Horde.’ I recall the sounds of a remote mosque and the muezzin calling people to prayer, the enchanting sounds of swirling nay playing in the courtyard beneath the willow and the children laughing in the playground, happy to see the dusk with their dirty hands and feet and stomachs stuffed with green apples and uryuk (Uzbek apricots). How splendid and delicious it was to be invited to wake up every morning to the smell of my mother’s small pancakes (oladushkis). The scent of her hands mixed with the scent of freshly made pancakes has forever formed in me the taste of my home.

I was born to a somewhat European family settled in the East, a girl with white skin and grey, tilted, oriental eyes, features which forever placed me between the East and the West, which would at times tear me and pull me apart, antagonising me from within, and at times keep me together as the hardest nut to crack. I gave my heart to Asia and its people with their perverted Islamic habits and Christian roots. Where those people are and what is happening to them and to me now is a question I’ll never stop asking myself, a child of the Red Horde in a world of new rules and habits.

My maternal grandmother came to Uzbekistan with her family from Russia on a train filled with refugees and political convicts. They followed my great-grandfather, who was sent into exile after Stalin dispossessed the kulaks (well-off peasants and landowners) in the 1930s. Their home was in Azeevo – a village in central Russia some 290 kilometres to the east of Moscow. There had been a Tatar community residing around Moscow for centuries. The Tatars were famous for slaughtering people in their early days in Russia, but since then had become fully assimilated into the local population, spreading their seed in almost every family. They had become settled peasants or merchants demonstrating obvious success, trading and engaging in various industries. Thus, the family of my grandmother, Muslims of Russia, had founded a small business in the village of Azeevo and were manufacturing pen’ka (hemp) until the Soviets arrived. They belonged to the kin of the Urmanovs. Azeevo was a large village; at the end of the nineteenth century, there were over 600 households with more than 4,500 people. The village produced quite a few famous names, including Salikh Erzin, a successful pre-Soviet Russian trader and founder of the Cathedral Mosque in Moscow; Professor Trekhunkov, who came to Moscow in peasant clogs and became a famous academician; the medical dynasty of the Fedoseevs; Tabeev Fikryat, a sound Soviet politician who at one point was the Ambassador of the USSR in Afghanistan; let alone the famous female poet, Zagida Burnasheva, who protested against feudal exploitation of women’s rights back in the 1914 – her parents were against her education, and she left home. An island of Islam in the heart of Christianity, Azeevo was always dominated by Tatars. Legend has it that when Peter the Great sent missionaries around Muslim Russia to convert them to Christianity over the course of twenty days – if they refused to convert he would take their land and serfs – the missionaries missed Azeevo as the village was hidden by a hill which concealed it from the busy pilgrims. Thus, the missionaries turned back, and Azeevo remained Muslim. 

Tatars were good landowners, entrepreneurs and traders. Russian policy at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century supported the intervention of Tatars in Central Asia. Many Tatars went to Central Asia to earn money – they traded cotton, kashgar, wool, and astrakhan fur, launched production enterprises and developed agriculture. A substantial part of their earnings returned to Russia, but many Tatars settled in Central Asia and expanded their businesses in their new homeland. 

My grandmother had a Muslim name, Saodat (which was misspelt by the Soviets and remained Saadat forever), that came from Arabic; she had three older sisters and one brother. They had a wonderful family. She would tell fabulous stories about her childhood. Her mother would bathe them in a big barrel (similar to a Japanese sauna) near the Russian pechka (brick furnace), and when they got cold, she would wrap them in woollen blankets and install them in the warm pechka with their heads sticking out of the hole. Then they would climb on top of the pechka and listen to the old stories of their grandmother knitting Tatar carpets. She was her parent’s youngest daughter and her mother gave a nice ring with a precious stone to the eldest daughter. She would wear it proudly and when she didn’t approve of any of my grandmother’s activities, she gave her a whack on the back of her head with the ring stone. Later, this ring and other jewellery was expropriated by the Soviets or exchanged for food during the Great Patriotic War. She had a happy and peaceful childhood, secure in her family where father and mother, as she often recalled, loved each other deeply and always showed great care for each other and to the children. 

This idyll didn’t last too long. When my grandmother turned fifteen, the Soviets appointed a new local politruk (political party boss). Being an exceptionally beautiful girl with white skin, curly black hair and huge dark eyes, my grandmother immediately attracted the attention of the local party leader, who one day summoned her to his little smoky room, closed the door and proposed to her. She was young and inexperienced, but she was a Tatar. Tatar women had always been famous for their stubbornness and strong sense of self-identity, and this was embedded in her despite her tender age. She turned his proposal down, but as a party leader, he was baffled by her refusal. He could never let her go, and he raped her. Then he approached her family and they couldn’t refuse, because ‘their daughter was no longer a virgin and the family could have been discredited’ if she didn’t enter into marriage. She married the scum and had a son by him soon afterwards who died shortly after arriving in the world as to pay back his father with bitter grief for his disgraceful capture of my grandmother’s freedom. She condemned her imposed husband.    

She told me this story two years before she died. She said that she got a divorce. God knows how this courageous little girl managed to get a divorce. Observing endless repressions and terror, she probably figured out that party leaders were not there forever. On the other hand, remembering the story of Zagida Burnasheva’s revolt, I wasn’t surprised – Tatar women had always done everything the way they pleased. 

Shortly afterwards, her father was sent into the exile in Uzbekistan. Perhaps her divorce was one of the reasons, though at that time repressing and exiling people was common practice, and this could well have just been a coincidence. They headed to the East with no real means to live, yet carrying food for my great-grandfather, Akhmed. When I looked back, I felt those people were so naïve and full of love to think a few loaves of bread could save the husband and father from starvation. This was one of the roots of my unexpectedly discovered naivety, which could not be destroyed by all the bitter years, the hard fight for survival and success in the new world of ‘Soviet-faced capitalism.’ 

When they arrived, they discovered there was plenty of simple but readily available food in Uzbekistan. It was warm all year round and people were remarkably hospitable and kind. Most of them were Muslim, and most of them spoke Russian and Uzbek (which belonged to the same group of languages as that of the Tatars). To the family’s great surprise and joy, they didn’t have to spend their lives queuing up with peredachki (food and cigarette allowances for prisoners from the outside). Shortly after they arrived, my great-grandfather Akhmed was freed, but was ordered to stay in Uzbekistan na poseleniye (restricted residence for freed convicts) for an indefinite period. At the time, many people were prosecuted for no reason, but equally, many people were freed for no apparent reason. Akhmed was lucky. He and his family decided to stay in Uzbekistan and found their second home there. Even after Akhmed was fully rehabilitated on the threshold of the World War II, he decided not to go back to Russia, primarily because it was safer in Uzbekistan (further from the centre of Stalin’s operations) and because he had nothing left in Russia except for grief and scorn. 

Ironic as it might be, during the First World War, Akhmed was granted the Cross of St. George Victorious – a remarkable order of the Russian Empire. Being a traditional Muslim, his mother tried to bury it, for it was discombobulating to keep the Cross in a Muslim household. But my grandfather wasn’t a radically religious man and believed the symbol of victory over the fatherland’s enemy was much more significant than silly religious prejudice. He – the chevalier of the Georgian Cross – was sent to the outskirts of the former Russian Empire, to the steppes of Central Asia spread behind the Ural Mountains and the Caspian Sea, the land of feudal landlords and ruthless warriors from where his ancestors may have emerged many centuries earlier.

My grandmother joined the Komsomol (youth communist party) and was sent to Jizzakh (one of the twelve provinces of present day Uzbekistan) to work with the population in disseminating communist doctrine in the field. Zagida Burnasheva also ended up doing political work in Kyrgyzstan. It was a time of great migrations.

My grandmother was an intelligent young girl and was working devotedly and honestly. The prominent feature of the time was that many simple people genuinely believed in the cause of Lenin and Stalin and were dedicated followers. In all likelihood, they couldn’t have marginalised themselves from the common current, because it would have been unusual, dangerous and an unclear path. Just as with the regimes in many post-Soviet states today, people follow the current for the same reason. But the distinctive feature of the time of my grandparent’s youth was their naivety and genuine belief in the better future promised by the Party. I remember my grandmother teaching me revolutionary songs and the International:

 

This is it – it’s our final and ultimate fight.

With the International, the human race will resurrect!

 

and:

 

Our steam engine is heading forward – 

The stop is in the Commune.

We have no other way to go,

In our hands we’re holding rifles!

 

At times Capsule for the sake of joke would sing it extra loud underneath Looney’s quarters and his mother would pop out of her window to shut her up screaming: ‘Who on Earth is giving birth to a goat?! You’re nuts! Shut up!’ 

Also my Grandma liked the old Russian love songs she taught me. I liked the song about the birch and oak tree in particular:

 

Why are you standing swaying, thin birch tree,

Your head has bowed to the very lath fence.

 

Across the road, beyond the wide river,

There is a tall oak tree standing lonely.

 

How do I, the birch tree, get to the oak tree?

I would then stop swaying and bending.

 

With my thin branches, I would lean to him

And my leaves would converse in whispers with his leaves day and night.

 

But it’s not possible for a birch tree to get to the oak tree.

Thus, her fate is forever to be swaying lonely. 

 

I used to cry when she sang it, because I couldn’t accept the fatality of the situation. I wanted the birch tree to find a way of getting to the oak tree. I couldn’t accept this fate. Musing on my own life lately, however, I thought the old folk arts had wisdom and reason I simply ignored when was young and submerged in silly illusions. 

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