Spring 2006 (14.1)
The Heartache of Separation
Too Many Springs, Too Many Winters
Ummugulsum Sadigzade and her children
could be dearer than letters, especially between those who are
forced to separated from the ones they love, in this case a mother
from her four children. As the years passed, they all began to
lose hope that they might ever see one another again and the
letters served to be even more of a lifeline.
The correspondence which follows is between Ummugulsum Sadigzade
who in 1937 was arrested and six months later sentenced to a
prison camp and her four children: Ogtay, Jighatay, Toghrul and
Gumral. It was Ummugulsum's niece, Sayyara, 21, who came to the
family's rescue and took care of the children.
These letters give us quite thorough information about the circumstances
that both mother and children were trying to endure - in the
harsh conditions of prison camp in Mordova, Central Russia, and
the children living in the Old City, Baku, who were bereft of
mother and father at such critical ages of childhood.
Unfortunately, not all of the letters that Ummugulsum wrote over
the seven years that she was imprisoned have been kept. However,
she managed to preserve all the letters that she received. Gumral,
the youngest child and only daughter, remembers that when her
mother returned to Azerbaijan, she brought a bag with her. Inside
were some items that she had sewn herself, plus a few food items,
some sugar lumps, butter, a few boiled potatoes and cookies.
Years later, after Ummugulsum's
death, the family discovered, quite unexpectedly, that their
mother had also brought those precious letters back with her.
They found them in the old house in the Old City wrapped in a
thick cloth and tucked them away in a corner of an old trunk.
The family had almost thrown them out accidentally. They were
all organized neatly in chronological order.
children's letters usually started out something like this: "Mom,
we received the letter you sent that we were waiting for so much.
You don't know how happy we were to receive it. Thank God, you're
safe and sound! We read your letter many times..."
But the Mother would write back with such passion and emotion:
"My dear children, I received your letter today. I kissed
it and pressed it to my chest. My hands were trembling when I
opened the envelope. It has been so long since I received any
letters from home. I started thinking bad things. I read your
letter in one breath."
Credit goes to Aydin Huseinzade (the late husband of Gumral Sadigzade)
for organizing these letters and publishing them in Azeri in
2005 in a volume entitled "The Poet of Independence - Ummugulsum."
The book includes 56 letters. Ulviyya Mammadova has translated
all the letters from Azeri. A representative sampling are included
here, selected and edited by Betty Blair. This is the first time
they are being published in English.
The Family Members
Ummugulsum (pronounced: oom-moo-gool-SOOM), mother of four, was
arrested November 11, 1937, four months after her husband writer
Seyid Husein was arrested and denounced as an "Enemy of
After being held in Bayil prison in Baku for six months, Ummugulsum
was sentenced on May 10, 1938, to eight years in prison and exiled
to Prison Camp No. 4 in the Yavas settlement of Temlag, which
was located in Mordova Republic in the Central Volga Region (500
km southeast of Moscow). Ummugulsum was released seven years
later (a year earlier than her sentence mandated) to return home
because she was so ill. As government policy did not allow former
prisoners to live in large metropolitan centers, she could only
stay in Baku for 24 hours before she had to leave. She took her
youngest daughter Gumral and moved to Shamakhi, northwest of
Baku. Ummugulsum died a few months later in 1944.
Seyid Husein (pronounced: seh-EED hoo-SEYN) was a writer and
husband of Ummugulsum. He was arrested on July 15, 1937, and
shot January 5, 1938. There were no letters or any form of communication
from him after his arrest. The family was not officially notified
of his death 18 years later in 1956. By then, his wife Ummugulsum
and son Jighatay had also died.
There is only an occasional reference to him in these letters,
but since he had been accused of being an "Enemy of the
People", the family was probably afraid to mention his name,
as they knew the censors would be reading all letters.
Sayyara (pronounced: sigh-yah-RAH) was only 21 years old when
Ummugulsum was arrested. She was a niece to the Sadigzade family
but had officially been adopted into the family since they did
not have a daughter for many years. Had it not been for Sayyara,
the children (ages 5-16) would have been sent off to orphanages,
or worse yet, sent into exile where likely they would not have
In these letters, Sayyara calls Ummugulsum her "mother"
and signs herself as "daughter". The correspondence
reveals that she actually did view Ummugulsum as mentor and mother.
Her letters show incredible maturity for a person so young. They
resonate with reality though she tries to keep Ummugulsum from
worrying, especially during the early years of separation. The
children were eternally grateful to her sacrifice to them in
Ummugulsum often urged Sayyara to watch out for her own life
as she was missing the prime years for her chances to get married
and start her own family (especially in an Eastern culture).
But Sayyara stood beside the children, convinced that no one
would take care and love them as she did. As a result, she missed
those years and didn't marry until she was 60 years. Sayyara
passed away in 2002 at the age 86. In those last years, she said:
"I have but one wish. I wish peace everywhere. I don't want
anyone to have to face the hardship of those repression years
that we did!"
Ogtay (pronounced: og-TIE) was the oldest of Ummugulsum's four
children. Today he is a well-known artist. When he was 16 years
old, his father was arrested. Then his mother was arrested shortly
afterwards. And three years later, he also was sent into exile
(not to the war front) as a "political prisoner" because
his father had been branded as an "Enemy of the People".
He was sent to a hard-labor camp in Altai, South Central Russia
for five years (1941-1946). Her returned to find Toghrul and
Gumral left from his family. His father, mother and one brother
had all died as victims of repression.
In these letters, Ogtay often comments about his budding career
as an artist. Fortunately, he could throw himself into art to
deal with the pain and hardship he had to bear. He also often
comments about the everyday difficulties, lack of money and long
queues for everyday necessities such as bread.
Jighatay (pronounced: ji-ga-TIE) was 14 when his parents were
arrested in 1937. Four years later in September 1942, he was
called up for military service, but instead, since he was the
son of an "Enemy of the People", he was sent to Dagestan
[north of Azerbaijan], to a worker battalion instead of to the
He became ill with typhus and tuberculosis that they released
him to return home. He died at age 24. Ummugulsum was particularly
fond of Jighatay who was physically weak but who, of all the
children, seemed to share a sensitive for poetry and literary
expression just as his mother did.
Toghrul (pronounced: tohg-ROOL) was 11 years old when his Mother
was arrested. He grew up to become an artist. We have no samples
of letters from Toghrul here.
Gumral (pronounced: goom-RAHL) was five years old when her Mother
was arrested and sent into exile. She is the family member primarily
responsible for compiling the letters and publishing about the
life of her mother and their family.
Gumral was so young when this tragedy befell her family that
she rarely wrote her mother. She told us that once she did write
that their cat had had kittens. "What else could a kid write
under those circumstances?" she said.
Letters of the
in Mordova, Eastern Russia. It was nine months later in March
1939 before she was able to notify her family of her whereabouts
or her situation. Ummugulsum had always worried about her son
Jighatay, who was physically weak. She addressed her first letter
from prison to him. He was 15 years old at the time.
Samples of the letters that
Ummugulsum and her family exchanged while she was in prison in
Central Russia. Letters date back to the early 1940s.
My dear, lovely son Jighatay! Though I am in exile, I'm so happy
to take pen in hand and write a letter addressed to my Jighatay.
My Jighatay, I received information today about my children.
Don't think that I'm living apart from you. Every waking moment,
all my thoughts are pre-occupied with you. My thoughts are so
involved with each of you that I don't feel so far away from
you. I even dream of you at night.
you writing any poetry? Have you been able to reclaim the house?
You have the right to demand the house. I'm short of paper. That's
why I'm not writing everybody's name. Say hello to everybody.
I'm thinking of you all. I love you all. Kissing you many times.
- Your Mom, forced
to live in a foreign country
(March 23, 1939).
My dear Mother, hello! We received
your letter dated June 6, 1939. It made us so happy. I cried
for hours from happiness. Dear Mom, all of our children are "A"
sample of "triangular
letter" that was so commonly sent from prison because the
prisoners rarely had access to envelopes. This triangular letter
is from the collection of Ahmad Jafarzade who was imprisoned
at the labor camp in Kolyma (1953-56).
Ogtay graduated from the Technical Art School on June 26. He
got "excellent" marks on his diploma. His teachers
praised him so much. I went with him when he defended his diploma
work. We invited his friends over to our home afterwards. We
had tea together. It made me sad that you were not here at that
Dear Mother, you ask about Gumral. Well, she passed to the fourth
grade as an "A" student. Gumral is almost as tall as
I am. She is always reading books. She's a very diligent girl.
I get great satisfaction in watching over her.
We are now truly a family. So far, neither Ogtay, nor any of
the other children have disobeyed me. I'm a little Mother now.
Ogtay wanted to go study in Moscow, but I didn't let him go because
I couldn't have lived without him. I would die of worry. It's
good that he also took our situation into consideration and didn't
They say there won't be any letter from father [Seyid Husein].
Everybody in the family is safe and sound. You haven't written
anything about when you're coming. Write a thorough letter.
My dear let it end,
Let these days end,
Imprisonment is an enormous grief,
Brave is the one who can bear it to the end.
- Kissing you many
times. Sayyara (July 3, 1939)
My dear Mother! You can congratulate
me: I'll get my identification card tomorrow. I've grown taller
as well. I'm now 1 meter and 79 centimeters, and weigh 53 kilos,
It's not only me who is growing. Everybody, everything is growing,
increasing, developing. The Baku that you left 476 days ago also
has grown older and developed. Inshallah [If God wills], you'll
see for yourself when you come back, and you'll be very happy.
We are doing very fine here. Don't worry about us. Hello from
everybody. Bye for now. Kissing you.
- Jighatay (September
My dear Mother! It's been one
year, 10 months, and 15 days since we were separated from you.
So many things have happened during this period. I have been
a father, a Mother, a host as well as a maid to this family of
four, which has been destroyed. To carry all these responsibilities
is a very hard task for a 22 - year young girl. I'm fulfilling
these responsible with honor.
"Mom, I'll be turning
18 in five days. I can't believe that I've only seen 17 springs
and 17 winters...Deep inside my heart and soul, I've seen hundreds
of springs and winters."
- Jighatay Sadigzade,
who was 14 when his mother was arrested and sentenced to eight
years in prison
My dear, after you left, I heard some say that "you did
wrong by keeping the children here." These words pierced
like a bullet. I cried when I heard these words. I was like a
bird with broken wings. I couldn't find anybody with whom to
express what I felt. I couldn't find anybody with whom to share
So I share all my difficulties, my grief, only with my tears.
My dear, these two years have made me grow old and I've lost
- Sayyara (September
Dear Mother! We're always waiting
for you. But you haven't written us when you're going to return.
We sent a letter to Moscow asking about your release. You should
also try to write if you can. You were asking when I'm going
to take a vacation.
My dear, I haven't taken any vacation since my school started
on September 1, 1936. Not even one day because the situation
is very difficult. Instead, I get paid for vacation days. One
of these days they may draft Ogtay into the army. If they take
him away, my situation will worsen. Now we console each other.
My dear, it's me again.
Pour it, let me drink it again
Life is slipping away, the day is gone,
I never will be young again.
- Sayyara (September
My dear Mom! You asked me to
send you vitamins. Believe me, there is no any drug store left
that I haven't asked, but I couldn't find them anywhere. For
now, I'm sending you vitamins for children. Let me know if I
should send more.
- Sayyara (December
My dear son, Ogtay! I'm very
calm now after I received the letter from you. The picture Sayyara
and Gumral took together brings some consolation. Every day I
set that picture up in front of me and talk with them.
- Your Mother (1939)
Mom, you want to know what I
think about Azar marrying at age 19. You can be sure about me:
I'm not going to get married for the next 10-15 years because
I have "children" that I still must take care of. I'm
not going to get married before I bring them up and educate them.
Don't worry about us. We're all fine.
- Ogtay (January 10, 1940)
My dear Mother, Hello! We are
the happiest people in the world today. First of all, we received
your letter after such a long time. Second, your letter revived
me and challenged me to try harder. My dear, be responsible and
strong in your work. Don't worry about us. God is merciful. We'll
meet again and forget about our sorrows. Grief is short.
My dear, we wrote another letter to Moscow on behalf of Gumral
and received an answer 10 days later. First, they called us to
the Azerbaijan People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs. They
asked your name, last name and father's name. They will tell
us the results in 5-6 days. I'll write you in detail in my next
letter. God is merciful. Maybe we'll get some good news.
- Your daughter
Sayyara (March 10, 1940)
Dear Mother, There's nothing
to buy in Baku. Sometimes you can get butter for 55 manats per
kilo. When they sell sugar, there are usually 18,000 people in
the queue. They've offered it only three times in the past two
- Your son Ogtay
(March 14, 1940)
My dear Mom! We were so worried.
Three months passed since we heard from you. Thank God, we finally
got a letter (I think I made the mistake here and wrote "God".
As you know, I got offended with God a long time ago, but grandma
doesn't know anything about it. If she did, I would be in trouble)!
We have written a letter to Beria [Head of the Gulag Prison system.
Obviously, an attempt again to plead for the release of their
Mother] about your release. We'll know the answer on March 19.
- Jighatay (March
My dear Sayyara! I received
the letter and the parcel you sent. I'm getting on slowly, though
there are some difficulties. In my last letter I wrote you that
I was getting very worried and nervous. I'm better now and working.
I always fulfill more than my work quota so I am often given
You ask if I'm going to return home, sooner or later so you come
and visit me. That sounded so funny to me. I wouldn't have any
problems, if I could only know when I would be retuning. But
who will tell me this?
Such a meeting would be possible as I am Stakhanovist myself but I don't recommend that you come yet. First
of all, I'm far away from you. It's not just three or four hours,
it would take you three days to come here and it would be very
difficult for a girl like you. Only a brave man could do it.
I'm totally against your coming here in winter. Besides, who
knows if I would be here when you arrived, or if they would send
me somewhere else? We should wait for a while.
G. Stakhanov (1906-1977) was a miner in the Soviet Union and
made a Hero of Socialist Labor. In 1935 he became a celebrity
for exceeding his worker productivity by allegedly mining 102
tons of coal in 5 hours and 45 minutes (14 times his quota).
The clothes you have sent for me are not very useful. Spend the
money on food instead. I'll let you know when I need clothes.
However, those woolen socks were exactly what I needed. I didn't
have any warm socks. The weather is already getting so cold.
I don't know why you aren't sending me dried figs, doshab [grape
syrup], notebooks, paper and pencil. Next time, send me photos
of me with my sister, Ogtay with Jighatay in his sailor suit,
Toghrul with Sabutay, and a childhood photo of Gumral. Also take
a good photo of the five of you together and send it to me.
Sayyara, I'm allowed to write only once a month. So you all should
not wait until you receive a letter from me. Each of you five
should write me, one by one, every day of the week. Have mercy
on me. I'm living on your letters.
- Ummugulsum (April
Dear Mother, Everybody is fine.
I often dream about you. I dream that you're in Baku. I dream
about father as well. I dream that both of you have come back,
but that you are leaving us again. I feel very sad when I have
such dreams. It comforts me so much when I dream about you. It
makes me feel like I have been talking to you. But when I wake
up, I'm so sad.
- Your son Ogtay
(April 20, 1940)
Dear Mother, We wrote a letter
about your case. They told us that we would get an answer on
April 22. So we went there and they told us to come back again
in a month. Again, we are waiting.
Mom, I'll be turning 18 in five days. I can't believe that I've
only seen 17 springs and 17 winters. Deep inside my heart and
soul, I've seen hundreds of springs and winters. If today I feel
spring inside of me, then tomorrow it will be winter for me.
When I see something good, it's spring for me, and when I see
something bad, it's winter.
They say that a person who faces a lot of difficulties ages prematurely.
That means the springs and winters of that person are repeated
not just once a year, but many times and the soul grow old very
fast. A young person with an old soul means he's an old person.
I have seen so many things during my 17 years. The things that
have happened to me have changed my character completely. I've
been thinking a lot lately and discovered many things. I don't
know what philosophy is but to think a lot leads one to philosophy.
Lately, I have become a philosopher myself.
Three years ago, you knew me very well. You knew my soul, too.
But now my soul is not like it was before, it has changed a lot.
If I were the same as I was three years ago, I would probably
write a long and boring poem to you on the occasion of my 17th
birthday. Now I hate poems.
I've been sitting here since morning writing nonsense. I don't
even understand myself what I'm writing here. You may think that
I'm stupid. No, I'm not a stupid boy at all. Or you may think
that your son is bored and will go crazy in the end. No, I will
never go mad! God forbid! Now I congratulate myself on my 18th
birthday and wonder what my destiny will be for the next 365
- Your son Jighatay
(May 1, 1940)
Dear Mom, I'm so bored with
this separation. I spend my days and nights longing for you.
Gumral got excellent marks on all her exams. She is a beautiful
11 - year old girl - honest and healthy. She's very clever. Ogtay
also is clever and smart, though he's a little lazy.
My dear, they've confiscated our summerhouse and sold it. My
dear, I get 450 manats for a month. It's not enough for us. I'm
also working at a second job whenever I get the chance. I go
to offices from morning to night. I don't like it. When I go
there, they think that I'm just a "go-for", which I
don't like. A teaching course will begin from June 25. I want
to take it. I'll study and work at the same time. What can we
do? Human beings are obliged to tolerate every situation. I have
worked without a vacation for three years. We should try as much
as we can.
- Kissing you, Sayyara
(May 31, 1940)
Dear Mom! There are usually
four or five happiest moments in a person's life. Yesterday,
I had one of them: we received a wonderful letter from you. You
can't imagine how happy I was when I read it. If you continue
to write such letters, I'll gain five kilos from excitement alone.
- Your eldest son,
Ogtay (June 11, 1940)
My dear Mother, hello! You say
that you can write only once a month. You're right, we should
write you more often. I'll ask the children to write you as well.
In your last letter you wrote about my getting married and starting
my own family. My dear, I would never leave your family of young
children without supervision and get married. I couldn't do that!
If I were so inclined, I would have done that two years ago.
I see that you care about me and are worried. I'll think about
these things after you return. Children need supervision until
they are 20-22 years old, even if they are well behaved and clever.
No other person would be able to love your children and care
for them as much as I do, especially Gumral. When I go to bed,
I sometimes think to myself: what would she do if something ever
happened to me? I'll breathe freely only after you return.
They say that they are releasing women earlier than men. I hope
that's true! We wait impatiently for your return.
- Your daughter
Sayyara (July 10, 1940)
My dear Mom! The market is better.
Sometimes there is sugar, butter and other things if you wait
in a very long queue.
If you don't go to Mardakan [a major town on Absheron Peninsula
not far from Baku] to buy bread at night under the escort of
the stars, then you'll go hungry. If we arrive by 5 a.m., we
can buy bread by 9 a.m. It's impossible to get tomatoes, eggplants,
watermelons, potatoes, eggs, milk, and yogurt because they are
sold like gold. Anyway, we live well. Don't worry about us.
If some of us take up the pen and write to you, while others
don't, then it's simply because of laziness. Don't spare paper,
pen or time. Scold us. Make us ashamed so we'll be more active.
Now the sun will go down and you won't be able to read the letters
in darkness because you don't have electricity and you'll have
to wait until tomorrow. And tomorrow, maybe you'll go to the
bathhouse. We're sending you a comb; don't use anybody else's
- Jighatay (August
My dear Mother. We're fine,
don't worry about us. We're soon going to send you a parcel.
We couldn't send it yet because both Sayyara, and I haven't had
work. I wanted to go to Moscow to study this year, but I didn't
because of the hard situation of our family. We need to earn
some money but I'll try to go next year.
- Ogtay (September
Dear Mom! Many things have changed
in Baku in these three years. The city doesn't look like the
old Baku anymore. There are many new, big, beautiful buildings
here. Presently, they are constructing a trolleybus line in Baku.
- Jighatay (November
My dear children! It's been
so long since I received any letter or parcel from you. I have
written many times. That's why I'm very worried about you. Your
letters give me strength and life If you love me and want me
to feel myself good and want me to be healthy, write me very
Ogtay and Jighatay! Each of you write separate letters to Moscow,
Beria! Explain your situation and indicate the amount of your
stipends and salaries in those letters. Write that your younger
sister and brothers need Mother care. Let Toghrul and Gumral
write, too, and explain how bad the situation is and ask them
to release me. Write the letters in Russian. Doctors advise me
to eat food with vitamins. Send me some dried fruit and fish
oil. Say hello to everybody.
Kissing you many times, your Mother who is always worried. (This
letter was written in Russian, not the usual Azeri. It is not
Ogtay! I received your letter.
You can't imagine how happy I was. You ask why I'm not writing
you. You've upset me. I think anyone would respond like me if
they had a son who didn't write his mother in prison. What does
it mean? I know very well that you're not the kind of son who
would forget his mother and father. But the truth is you have
acted as if you have forgotten me.
You're writing that there has been a misunderstanding. You think
that Sayyara and I are writing secret messages to each other
in the old script [Arabic].
My son, you can be sure that this is not the case. We don't have
any secrets between each other. I write in the old script simply
because I'm short of paper here and the Arabic script uses less
space than Cyrillic. I have so many things to tell you but I
have neither time nor paper to do that. We are trying to fulfill
our work quota ahead of schedule here.
Ogtay, the dawn and sunset here are so beautiful that I cannot
describe it. The sun creates such beautiful colors at dawn and
sunset. It is characteristic of this place. Artists come here
just to paint these beautiful scenes.
When you send me letters, always send me paper with it too. Write
me about Toghrul, Gumush in detail. How is Jighatay's health?
My heart is aching because of his illness. Bye for now. Kissing
- Ummugulsum (November
Dear Mother! You always ask
us for paper and envelopes but envelopes are difficult to get
here as well. Learn how to make a triangle envelope from paper.
- Jighatay (January
My dear Mom, hello! It's March
8 - Women's Freedom Day [Now called International Women's Day
- March 8]. It would be so wonderful if you also were free! I'm
still in postgraduate school. I have to take the exam for candidacy.
It's difficult to study. On the one hand, there's the financial
situation of our family, on the other hand, my concerns and worries
don't allow me to concentrate. I don't understand anything that
I read. God help me!
- Kissing you, Sayyara
(March 7, 1941)
My dear son Jighatay! I've been
receiving letters from you very often lately. I'm so happy that
I don't know how to express my feelings. I'm like a blind person
whose sight has been restored by a doctor who didn't charge a
fee! I need your letters very much. Of course, there can be no
other wish for a Mother than to hear the voice and listen to
the words of her children through these letters.
- Your Mother (March
My dear son! Jighatay, We go
to work at a factory outside of the "zone" (fence).
This is a great freedom for us. Everyday at 7 a.m., we walk along
a narrow path that we have dug out of this desert snow. We walk
very carefully on the ice. I have slipped and fallen so many
times. Then at 12 noon, we return to the zone again and work
until 8 o'clock at night.
Today, the temperature was -30C [- 22F], yet we went to work.
Our breath, our eyebrows and eyelashes were frozen in this clear,
dry weather. There is no fog on the horizon, no cloud in the
sky. The March sun, rising above the forest, spreads its rays
on snowy mountains. Smoke is coming out of the chimneys against
the dark forests, and white deserts. One cannot describe the
beauty and magnificence of this stark nature. I told myself that,
at least, I should write these things to Jighatay.
Soon the forests will shed their white gown and put on a green
shirt. Then we will be very happy! Jighatay, nature here is very
rich. Imagine! There are days with temperatures of 40C to
-45C [-40F to -49F]. There are also strong winds, blizzards,
and storms. There are nights without moon and stars. Your Mother
leaves work and walks out to the zone. The angry thunderstorms,
remind me of death. The snow freezes on eyebrows and eyelashes
and clogs up one's nose. It makes you think it is the final hour
of life, or even of the world. Words simply cannot describe this
place. Enough now. Good-bye. I kiss you, my dear and lovely son,
- Your Mother (March
"Dear Mom! You're asking
me to send my full size standing photo to you. Don't ask me to
send such a photo because you'll get frightened. I'm almost 2
meters tall. But I'm sending you my photo anyway, because you
asked me to do so..."
We got your letter but there was one thing that didn't make me
happy. You're worried about me. This is funny. Have we changed
- Jighatay (March
My dear Mother, hello! We received
your letter but one thing you wrote didn't make me happy. You
say that you haven't seen anything good in life and that you
have not been successful. I think you're wrong to say this. You
should not call yourself "unsuccessful" for temporary
difficulties. But having children who are well behaved, educated
and honorable, including a quite well-known young artist as a
son, a young specialist who is a post-graduate student and all
"A" students while there no parents are beside them,
doesn't that mean that you're successful in life?
To tell you the truth, your answer worried me very much. It's
true that you're facing many difficulties there, we can't deny
that. You're thinking only of your freedom. It's true that this
is an enormous grief. But we're grieving as much as you are -
And then you're writing as if I'm a free person and can do whatever
I want. My dear, this is not true either. Only stupid, unconscious
and arrogant youth can do that because they think only of their
own happiness. But that's not me. First of all, I don't want
to ruin the dignity of my family just for my own selfish interests.
And, secondly, I'm not going to leave four children alone.
Art by Toghrul Narimanbeyov
(1930- ). His parents were also repressed. See more of Narimanbeyov's
works at AZgallery.org.
Don't think that we're living an easy life over here. It's true
that Ogtay and I are not little, but still he is a young boy.
He hasn't experienced life yet. He needs care himself. Besides,
I have to take care of the other children and educate them. So
if you won't be Mother to me, then who will be?
- Sayyara (April
My dear and very respected Mother!
You cannot imagine how happy I was to receive a letter from you.
I was going crazy that day. My friends sensed something was going
on with me. They also got excited when they learned that I had
received a letter from you. Mom, the censors have scratched out
parts of your letter so much that I can't read them.
- Ogtay writing
to his Mother from prison camp (October 10, 1942)
Dear Mom! This is the eighth
letter that I've written to you but I haven't received anything
in return yet. This worries me so much. God forbid, I'm afraid
that something has happened to you. They've written me from home
and said that they haven't received anything from you either.
I'm so worried about you.
- Ogtay (February
Mom, they drafted me in the
army in September 1942. We reached Khosta on December 16th. By
the 26th, they had sent my fellows to war and sent me to Sochi8
hospital. There I was treated for typhus until February 10. After
that, they transferred me to a therapeutic hospital. I came to
Baku in April because they have given me a month's leave to recuperate.
My dear Mom, you're writing that you cry at work every day. Why
are you doing this? You must tolerate. You have tolerated for
6.5 years, so tolerate for 1.5 years more.
- Jighatay (May
My dear kind Mother! I understand
from your letters that you worry and think more about me than
the others. But I'm not a kid anymore. I'm a young man. I can
live independently no matter what the situation is. Mother, do
you know what date and what time it is now? Today is May 6th
at 11 o'clock. I'm turning 20 today. You're probably preparing
a gift for me. I'll always treasure that gift as a memory.
- Jighatay (May
My dear Mother! We've written
several letters requesting your release. You also should write.
God is merciful. Maybe they'll release you a year or two earlier.
I can't live without you any more. You won't recognize me if
you see me. I've grown very old. My hair is already turning gray.
My dear Mom, if you come, I'll live hundred years after that.
- Kissing you, Sayyara
(October 1, 1943)
Dear Sayyara, My dear, you're
writing that you are very worried and anxious. What can we do?
This is our fate. I know that they're not going to keep me here
until my sentence ends. They're releasing those who are invalid
and handicapped earlier. But the problem of transportation will
create an obstacle. I'm not working on night shift, as I'm a
handicap now. Send me some paper so I can write you. I've run
out of paper.
- Kissing you all,
your Mother (1943)
Dear Mom, I'm waiting for you
every minute, every second. All my life depends on you. I'm not
actually living now; my real life will start after you come back.
It's been already six years since we got separated from you.
It's not a joke. All five of us have lived without father and
Mother during these six years. It's very responsible task. They
have called me to so many offices because of you and interrogated
me. We have written to every place asking about your release
and we'll continue to write. You also write Everybody says hi
- Sayyara (November
Dear Mom, This is the third
winter that I've spent in Siberia. I'm used to the severe weather
here. One can bear it if there is no wind. Snowy wind blows here
very often. I have warm clothes. Don't worry. Everything is fine.
I'm just concerned that you worry a lot about us. Mom, sometimes
I miss you so much here. I want to find somebody to talk with,
but I can't find anybody. I write a letter to you when I get
into trouble and I want to talk with you.
- Your son Ogtay
(December 25, 1943)
My dear Sayyara! i know that you'll be happy. I always imagine
your future family, your husband and children. I'm telling you
again, I'm warning you: get ready to get married! You should
get married as soon as I come back home. Start thinking about
- Your Mother (January
Unfortunately that happy future
that Sayyara and the kids had been waiting so long and the days
the Mother lived in freedom and the days when children lived
with their Mother didn't last long, it lasted just four months...
Ummugulsum returned in June 1944. They didn't allow her to live
in Baku. She had to leave Baku for one of the regions of Azerbaijan
within 24 hours. She had to take her youngest child Gumral and
move to Shamakhi and rent a house there and live a difficult
The consequences of the difficult
life she had spent in exile in minus 35-40 degree cold began
then. She either had problem with her heart, or feet or had pains
in her stomach from the low quality food - peas, wheat and corn.
She passed away from a heart attack on one of those nights when
she was feeling bad. There was nobody dear next to her when she
closed her eyes eternally: 15-year old Gumral had left to go
find a doctor.
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