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Elementor test2 – Громадське Місце Ялта

#громадськемісце Elementor test2 #ялта #yalta

The first assignment 

          We never had a chance to settle down and set up at this resistance base in the woods — only four days had passed when we came under Nazi mortar fire. In this very first fight, the squad commander, Syzov, was killed. The squad’s commissar, Vasyl Chornyi, replaced him. 

          After the fight, he gave me my first orders. “They killed our commander. The boys will give you his leather coat. Let the women look at it, wipe the blood stains. Tomorrow you will take this coat to Bakhchysarai, to house number 44 near the railway station. They will know where to send it next”. 

          Later that night, the women examined the coat, folded it carefully and placed it in a bag, covered it with two pairs of worn women’s shoes and two women’s sweaters (also not new); I threw onions into the corners of the bag, tied the ends with ropes, turning it into a makeshift backpack. At 8 in the morning, I was near the housed number 44 and handed over the coat. They fed me, gave me a glass of milk and a quarter of a flatbread. I thanked them and left. I walked carefully to avoid running into a hazard. The enemy, with German precision, made planned raids at 10:00 in the morning in crowded places: markets, railway station, busy streets, etc. 

          Two days later Vasyl Ilych thanked me in front of the squad and said that the leather coat was delivered to the address, handed over to the widow of commander Syzov, and that it had already been traded for food, food was running out, people were facing starvation. 

          I took the shoes and sweaters to the oboz7, to the custodian, as these items were considered inventory that would be traded for food, so they had to be returned to the storage. I finished the assignment without an official pass, or “ausweis8. The assignment was extremely risky, because both Soviet citizens and the occupiers knew that leather jackets and, even more unmistakable leather coats were worn by the Soviet leadership ranks, and they were all communists. 

          Later we’ve always had an ausweis, as they were supplied to us by the undercover agents who worked in the city and village administrations. During the occupation, there were a lot of assignments — both on the base and outside the base, undercover. Some of them are seared in my memory forever. 


Journey to Taman9 

            In the first half of January 1942, I was told to report to the staff dugout. That evening, at the appointed time I arrived at the staff location. There were two people present in addition to the commander, Vasyl Ilych: one dressed as a civilian, the other in an officer’s uniform. The officer put two maps in front of me on the table — a real one and a contour map (where objects are unnamed — only dashes on a white sheet of paper).  

          The officer proceeded to mark dots on both maps in several spots. Then the real map was removed, and I was asked to mark these dots on the contour map. 

          They repeated this several times in the course of an hour, including two or three smoking breaks. I was puzzled as to the meaning of this game. In the morning, they tested me again. The officer who tested me concluded that I had an excellent visual memory. 

          On that same day, in a company of guides, we went to a place near Balaklava where the Germans and Romanians were gathering troops and equipment. My task was specific — to count the approximate number of horses with large hooves, weapons with small and large caliber barrels, barracks for soldiers in mouse-grey overcoats (Germans) and yellow-marsh ones (Romanians). Later I had to explain it in layman’s terms. 

          After my report to the staff, they spent time working out some calculations, then argued about something, interviewed me again and finally, on the third day they once again tested my visual memory on the contour map. I picked up my backpack, put trading items in it (that was my “cover”), and at night I was taken from Kerch to Taman. A “beacon” would be ignited periodically from Taman for me to keep me from losing direction. 

          On the mainland, I was greeted, praised, fed, and given a hot herbal tea. While I was having tea, the staff officers unfolded the same type of maps in front of me and I pointed with my finger the dots that I remembered. I was told to sleep until the evening and, when it got dark, they walked me back. I got lost for a bit on my way back. Since the searchlights were constantly lighting up, I was forced to stop and freeze a few times. Because of these forced stops, I was off course by a few hundred meters, so it took me another 15-20 minutes to find my handlers. I was told beforehand that in case things went wrong, I should be searching for my handlers as they would not be searching for me. The exact opposite was in Taman. 

           When I returned to the squad, Vasyl Ilych ordered me to rest. The following day at 15:00 he came and said: “Things will start happening now and tomorrow you will go to the same spot where you were before the journey to Taman and see what they have accomplished”. 

           It started at exactly at 16:00 according to Vasyl Ilych’s watch (he had a compass watch with a huge dial). The sound rumbled near Sevastopol – Balaklava and spread to us in the woods. It was terrifying — from that shore and from the air. It seemed that shells and bombs were exploding nearby, that stones, earth, and trees would be falling. We would huddle, instinctively look for shelter, even though nothing threatened us directly. 

           The following day, my friend Vovka and I — his mother also worked in the district committee, and he also refused to be sent away to a village — went to the familiar spot. We saw a terrible spectacle: ruins and craters where the barracks stood before. Both the Germans and the Romanians were still carrying out the dead (the wounded must have been taken away earlier). Dead horses, broken cannons and other chaos remained. 

          We pretended to collect shell casings and other useless things, while the Nazis did not pay much attention to us, or they did not care about us. We tried to stay out of trouble and keep our distance, while observing and remembering the general picture. Overall, this entire sector marked 16 (1942) resembled a huge dead space, some unimaginable dump. We returned to the base and reported everything. 

           Three days later at the line-up the commander recognized me on his own behalf and on behalf of the command of the Red Army’s Taman wing. He said that as a result of this operation, a large concentration of enemy troops was destroyed and the carefully planned Nazi offensive was thwarted. 

          And the radio comms operator Amidov secretly told my mother that my surname was the first on the list for the commendation in the message he transmitted to the mainland. 


Unexpected encounters 

          On another occasion, in early 1942 I was ordered to report to the staff dugout. Once again at the appointed time in the evening I showed up at the staff location.  Squad commander Vasyl Chornyi was there with two others. One of them dressed as a civilian, the other in a Red Army officer’s uniform.  

          The officer put two maps in front of me on the table — a real one and a contour map (no toponyms — only dashes on a white sheet of paper). He marked several points on both maps with lentils and told me to memorize them. Next, he removed the real map and asked me to mark the points that I remembered on the contour map. They repeated this exercise several times in the course of an hour. As the staff members would go out to smoke, I remember thinking what is the meaning of this game? 

          In the morning I was tested again. The officer who tested me concluded that I had an excellent visual memory. I received all the instructions on how to act in different unforeseen circumstances. 

          On the same day the guides showed me the way, and I found myself not far from Balaklava, where the Germans and Romanians were gathering troops and equipment. My task was “simply” to remember everything down to the smallest detail: approximately how many horses with large hooves (draft horses), how many weapons with small and large caliber barrels (everything was disguised, but the ends of the barrels were visible). I had to find out how many barracks there were for soldiers in mouse-grey overcoats (Germans) and how many for soldiers in yellow-marsh ones (Romanians).  

          My late mother recalled that additional scouts were dispatched, and they confirmed my observations. Only after that a chart was drawn up capturing the concentration of enemy troops. 

          After receiving my report, the staff members kept calculating something for a while. They argued, then interviewed me again, and checked my visual memory on the contour map on the third day. 

          In the morning, I picked up my backpack, loaded it with the trading items (this was my “cover”) and that’s it. I had no papers except for “ausweis” (pass), everything had to be committed to memory. 

          This time according to my orders, I had to reach Karasuvbazar. I will not go into great detail on what this journey was like, suffice to say that it was very difficult. Regular transport did not run of course. It was necessary to bypass patrols, crowded places, possible traps. At the same time, it was important to arrive on time. 

          I found the meeting place quickly. I walked through the alleys twice back and forth. I studied the area thoroughly (as instructed by the officer in the staff dugout). There were few people here and there, I saw one guy twice; the first time he was walking with a girl, and the second time, returning alone. 

          When I ran into him the second time, he first walked past me, then turned around and questioned what I was doing there. I replied calmly that I had a sick sister, and I was looking to trade some of her things for corn or wheat flour to make some bread to feed her. 

          He looked me over from head to toe, then pointed to a home with a wooden gate and a side door and said that a değirmenci (miller) lived there — maybe he could help with something. 

          His exact words were: he may be able to help you. He also entered the yard and invited me in, warning that the dog was tied up, and then left without saying goodbye. 

          At the entrance to the house, I was met by a girl who I saw walking with the guy before. She said her name was Amide, and that she is the miller’s daughter. Overall, our trade was favorable, I was given about three kilograms of corn and about two kilograms of wheat flour. And they didn’t even look at the sweater. They said: you might need to trade it again in the future. 

          I was treated to k’atlama (flatbread), and then the miller told Amide to walk me to the corner. Before reaching the corner, Amide advised me to go into the yard of the house with a tall fence. From the start, when I explored the area entries and exist, I noticed the tall fence and the wrought-iron gates. Amide said: “Come in, don’t be afraid, the dog is tied-up here”. She said goodbye and left, wishing me a successful trade. 

          I was greeted by a short man with a black beard, who seemed elderly at a first glance. He seemed familiar. He approached me, gave me a hug, and asked: “Tanimadin’mi meni” (“don’t you recognize me”)? “Very well, very well”, – he repeated several times. As it turned out, it was my Feramuz emdzhe (my father’s brother). I haven’t seen him since 1938, when he visited us on a work trip from Sochi, where he had lived since 1927. 

          He said laughingly that he was on a work trip again, and this time it was very short. Uncle Feramuz motioned to the man who lived in the house, who brought out a contour map — the kind I had seen in the staff dugout. I took lentils out of my pocket used them to mark two points. My uncle studied the map for a while, as if photographing it with his eyes before it was taken away. 

          I was given a savory pastry for the road. We said our goodbyes and I left. When I reached the corner, I looked around and saw the guy that I’ve met earlier. We waved to each other. I felt that he was watching me from afar all the way until I reached the edge of town. That’s exactly what he had been doing. He didn’t seem to hide it and, for some reason I felt relatively safe. 


Afterword to the “Encounters” 

          Many years have passed. Our family had to urgently leave Uzbekistan to escape the persecution by the Soviet authorities for their active participation in the national movement. Having sold their house for next to nothing in 1967, after long period of displacement, we settled with Feramuz emdzhe, near Sochi in the town of Dagomys. Several other Crimean Tatar families who were also unable to officially settle in our homeland lived there. They arrived here, found work at the Dagomys tea state farm and settled down. At least we were closer to Crimea. 

          At some point a relative, Nuri Khalilov came to visit one of the families from Central Asia. Having learned that Uncle Feramuz (or people could also call him Fedr, Fedr Zakharovich, Osman) lived there, Nuri ag’a10 was surprised and overjoyed. He wanted to see Feramuz emdzhe. He said that they had a lot to reminisce about. When we all gathered for coffee (and not just coffee), they would reminisce about our time in the Zuy woods11. 

          On the orders from the Krasnodar area resistance and army intelligence, uncle Feramuz was sent to the Zuy underground squad. During this period, the Nazis were scouring the Zuy woods, so the squad took up a fight. 

          During a break in fighting, Feramuz emdzhe left his hiding spot and ventured out to help a wounded fighter who was about 100 meters away from him. When he returned, he saw one of the fellow fighters, a young boy in his hiding spot. Feramuz asked him to vacate his spot at first, but then feeling sorry for him, said: “We are not so large, there is enough space for both of us”. 

          When uncle Feramuz had to leave the woods, on his way out he gifted Nuri Khalilov with a trophy machine gun. Only much later, when he left the Zuy woods, our “accidental encounter” took place, which I described earlier. 

          … In May, on the eve of the Victory Day, tasked by the Sochi City Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at that time, Feramuz was interviewed for a television broadcast. The “Chornomorska Ozdorovnytsia” newspaper referred to him as a scout and underground resistance fighter. Archival materials described how in broad daylight, under the guise of an ethnic Adygean12 who was scorned by the Soviet authorities, he infiltrated the reception of the Burgmaster of Krasnodar and, under the threat of blowing himself up in the office, took lists of people who were to be abducted to Nazi Germany, as well as other valuable documents. He revealed a belt with grenades under his sheepskin coat and warned that he was to leave the Burgmaster’s office alive.  

           I handed over all photographs, documents, and newspaper materials to our national museum. Feramuz emdzhe died at the age of 70. He was buried with full military honors at the Sochi Central Cemetery. He did not like to talk about his exploits. “That was my work, what can I tell about it?” he used to say. These conversations weren’t encouraged in our family. The talk of war, deportation, forced expulsion in 1944 were not mentioned and avoided when possible. No one wanted to open the wounds… 


Under Alushta police surveillance 

           In the spring of 1942, after a series of significant losses, and the guerrilla’s attacks, the Nazis realized that the underground resistance presented a significant threat. The enemy began scouring the woods where the resistance fighters were hiding. This is how we came under mortar fire. We were literally buried under mortar shells. My mother was wounded in the leg, I received a concussion. Food and material storage units (hideouts) were destroyed. We were starving, many had frostbite on their limbs. 

          There were practically no communications, the radio transmitter was shattered​. The command decided that women, children, wounded — should disperse to the villages, settle down with relatives, friends, reliable folks and continue with the underground work. All those who were assigned to groups received the turnout and pass codes. Our group, headed by my mother, had to travel along the Otarchyk – Bakhchysarai – Simferopol – Alushta route. 

          Khatidzhe apte13 had her own large family. Her own relatives with children were hiding at her place, and here we were as well. This family would share their last piece of bread with us. Khatidzhe apte used to break the flatbread into four equal parts and feed us along with her children. 

          We had a few more days to stay. The underground resistance “snail mail” informed us that the Nazis would scour the homes looking for those who were hiding for various reasons, and they would start with the villages that were closest to the woods. 

          We left Khatidzhe apte’s warm home at 4 o’clock and, as we later learned, the Nazis surrounded the village at 10 o’clock and started entering households. 

          Had we not left when we did, everyone would have been shot, executed. This is how Nazis punished residents they deemed unreliable. Or they would round everyone up into a barn and burn them alive, as they did in the village of Ulu-Sala. It turned out that we have saved ourselves and Khatidzhe apte’s big family from execution. 

          After Otarchyk, Bakhchysarai, Simferopol, we finally reached Alushta in the spring of 1942. We went around the villages and distributed leaflets with my sister Muniver and sometimes, with my mother. We had bags on our shoulders, mainly with old clothes and shoes, allegedly to trade for food — bread, potatoes. Sometimes we actually did manage to trade them. 

          In Alushta, we lived with my father’s relatives on Salhirna Street, building 46. My father, who was wounded near Sevastopol and imprisoned, eventually made his way there. He escaped from captivity with his friend Mykhailo Popov — we called him Uncle Misha. 

          When he learned where we were, by some miracle my father managed to come to Alushta. He had grown a beard and was hard to recognize. But on the third day he was arrested and sent to the Gestapo prison. 

          They searched our home but did not find anything. I had 150 leaflets before the search. I managed to twist the whole bundle into a tube, put it in a large jar, wrap it in a piece of parachute silk, and bury it in the yard near the outhouse. After the war, during the exile in Central Asia, we remembered this episode on every Victory Day for our family. 

          I managed to save the search report, leaflets and the ausweis. I handed over all these documents as artifacts to our Crimean Tatar Art Museum. 

          My father was imprisoned and tortured for a long time by Gestapo. They found neither “evidence that condemned him” nor the “necessary” witnesses. With the help of the underground resistance agents who worked in the city administration, he was eventually released. 

          He was given a ‘wolf’s ticket’14. That meant that we were to leave the Alushta area within 24 hours. It was a blessing in disguise. With the help of the underground agents, we were moved to Yevpatoria to report to the local resistance organization. 


“Volunteers”: how it happened 

          The head of the Yevpatoria underground organization at that time was a man named Yeromin or Yeromenko, I don’t remember exactly. I saw him only once and from afar. He was wearing Crimean (Crimean Tatar) traditional attire – kyalpak (a cap) on his head, and charykhi (boots) on his feet. 

          At his orders, we were transferred to the Tatar village of Tashke. 11 kilometers from Kezlev (Yevpatoria) there was the village of Tashke, populated mostly by ethnic Russians, and on the 12th kilometer from the city — Tatar’s Tashke. There was only one ethnic Russian family, the Ilychenkos — Uncle Yasha’s family.  

          The underground cell consisted of five families: ours, the Ilychenkos, the blacksmith Abduveli ahai (master), the Ibrahimovs (who’s elder was also the village headman) and the Islamovs. 

          Someone would visit us twice a month. They would leave a small sack with leaflets and newspapers (mostly “Red Crimea”) in the old cupboard. 

          We were distributing these leaflets and newspapers as best we could. In turn, we would be collecting various local official publications and storing them back in the sack (newspapers, information leaflets published in Russian and Crimean Tatar languages under the strict control of Nazi censorship). This was our way of ensuring that the underground resistance staff knew what the Nazis were doing on the occupied territories. According to commissar Vasyl Ilych Chornyi, this so-called mailing system in general, and this information we were gathering was of great value when important decisions were made to help in our fight against the occupiers. 

          I never saw the face of a person who was handling mail. Just once, when he was leaving, I saw his back. Sometimes my mother would put flatbreads in the sack for him. 

          Resistance and underground fighters caused a lot of trouble for the enemy, so German-Romanian units were recalled from the frontlines to fight them. Eventually, the Nazis announced “voluntary mobilization”; newspapers and leaflets boasted announcements about the formation of a volunteer battalion. 

          In reality, there were no battalion yet, but the Nazis constantly appealed for collaboration with the locals. Only few people responded to these appeals, — mostly those who were scorned by the Soviet authorities at the end of the 1920s and 1930s. People of different ethnicities were among them, since Crimean Tatars weren’t the only ones who fell under the millstone of Stalin’s repressions. At the same time, many of our people worked in city and village administrations. They helped a great deal by obtaining the passes and delivering important information at the right time. 

          The Nazis realized that nothing would be achieved with the formation of a volunteer battalion and chose a different path. I will give an example of how it worked in the village of Tashke, which, according to our observations and available information, reflected the general picture for Crimea. Looking ahead, I will say that in that difficult time we managed to alert and save many people from such a “mobilization”. 

          The Tatar village of Tashke was not much different from other settlements in Yevpatoria region and the entire interior Crimea. It consisted of 46 homes. There was a well at the entrance to the village from the Yevpatoria direction, where a horse walked in circles all day pumping water. Water was poured into wooden drums to be then distributed to meet the needs of people and animals. 

          Once, two tarp covered trucks drove up to the well — one with an empty bed, and the other with Nazi soldiers armed with machine guns. They jumped out of the truck and surrounded the village. At that time, 10-15 motorcycles equipped with machine guns drove up. The motorcyclists were stationed between the soldiers with machine guns. 

          Thus, Tashke was completely surrounded. People were allowed into the village, but no one was allowed to leave. An officer, one of the junior ranks and a paramedic came out of the cabs of the trucks. 

          Strictly, with German precision, in a staggered order, these three began entering each yard and forcing everyone to exit the house. The order was repeated several times through the loudspeaker in Russian. The goal was to identify men aged approximately 18 to 50. 

          All those identified were lined up for an examination. The officer would point to a person with a stick, who would then state their name, surname, age. The junior officer was taking notes; the paramedic looked into the mouth, ears, checked the eyes, examined the hands, feet, etc. 

          After that the men from the village would be loaded into the truck under guard of armed soldiers. From that moment on, any contact with their loved ones was prohibited. 

          In Yevpatoria, men were housed in long barracks behind barbed wire. After a humiliating anti head lice treatment, their clothes were burned, and they were issued uniforms taken from the dead Nazi soldiers. The uniforms were clean but covered in washed-out bloodstains. People looked ridiculous in these ill-fitting uniforms; the sleeves were either too short or too long, and pants were either too baggy or too tight. 

          After a month of drills and quarantine, the Nazis used the so-called volunteers to fight against the underground resistance. Before scouring the woods, the Nazis were covering us with mortar fire, followed by the soldiers walking through the woods.  In the first ranks, they put the volunteers, local villagers, with old weapons. Sometime later, Romanian soldiers followed, and only after them — the Germans. 

          Thus, the first to come under the fire of the resistance troops were the “volunteers” walking in first, followed by the Romanians. The Germans protected the “Aryan” soldiers until the last moment of a raid or a battle. 

          Fellow villagers, friends, relatives “on different sides of the barricade” managed to reach a covert agreement sometime later so when the resistance troops would fire the first salvo into the air, and the supposed volunteers would fall to the ground, leaving the Romanians and Germans unprotected for the next rounds of direct fire. 

          After such maneuvers, the weapons were taken away from the “volunteers” who remained alive. Instead, they were used in various jobs — from patrolling to building defense structures, digging trenches, etc. 

          Why am I describing this in such detail? The fact is that this was one of the very important responsibilities of our cell — to painstakingly study the events on the ground, observe everything, talk to people, and provide detailed reports. Vasyl Ilych said that after a minor editing, these reports would be sent to the mainland. 

           In the meantime, enemy propaganda used newspapers and radio to distribute false reports that a battalion of volunteers had been formed. They even published fake, fabricated photos of people of different ethnicities. 

          Eventually, when tallying up the interim results of the work of the underground resistance, the staff leadership stated that the plans and actions of the Nazis regarding the organization and use of volunteer battalions had failed. Especially after the so-called volunteers began to replenish the ranks of the resistance fighters in groups and individually. 


          In the first months of deportation, as a 14-15-year-old boy, I wanted to write about those 19 days and nights spent in a smelly cattle car, as we called it — the death car — which was headed along the Kezlev route. But mother Khatidzhe, Allah rahmet eylesin (may Allah rest her soul), categorically forbade me to do this. It must have been right then, because I wouldn’t have been able to publish my writings anyway. Moreover, I could have endangered the whole family. One could end up being sent to the labor camps for a long time for something like this.  

          Today, when I am in my 80s, I believe that I simply must do it!  

There is one other reason. When I thought about these 19 days and nights, it seemed to me that I would be able to capture everything right away. Since, according to my teachers at school and our commissar Vasyl Ilych Chornyi, ateshi engil olsun (an honorable dearly departed), from the resistance squad, I had a great visual memory. 

          How wrong I was! It turns out that having a good memory is not enough. One needs to be able to put everything they have experienced on paper. For that I am very grateful to my friend, the editor of our newspaper “Qırım”, Bekir Mamut, who kept asking me to write about those terrible days as I remembered them and, of course, as they really were.  

          Which I attempted to do. It is a great pity that I could not save that diary, in which I reflected on everything that happened to the smallest details, literally described what was happening in every hour. But some of the records helped me today. Every day of the hellish suffering of those hundreds and thousands of people, entire nations, must be documented, as historians say. In this instance, it is about our indigenous Crimean people…  

          Before writing about May 18, 1944, I want to remember what happened on the eve of that day. On May 13-14, a military unit was stationed near the well at the entrance to the village. On May 17, around four o’clock in the afternoon, a senior lieutenant and a soldier came to our rundown home in Tashke, both armed with assault rifles. The officer, seeing laundry drying on a rope in the yard, pointed out that it was dry and ready to be folded. He also hinted that mom had done a good job by doing the laundry that day.  

          We treated them to some coffee that we made from roasted (more like burnt) barley. They had some coffee, thanked us, and left. At five or six in the afternoon, before sundown, the Ilychenkos, husband and wife, our friends from the anti-fascist underground, stopped by​. This was the only ethnic Russian family in Tatar Tashke (the village has not survived). Uncle Yasha, as we called him by his conspiratorial name, and his wife brought us half a sack of dry bread and a ready-to-cook chicken. It was an awkward visit. They could not explain the reason for their call or why they brought the food. They said their goodbyes, as if apologizing.