Liberation of Crimea

Below you can find a fragment of memoirs of Alim Keshokov about his experience after the fights between the Red Army and the Wehrmacht in Simferopol, Crimea (part of the USSR in World War II). Alim Keshokov (1914–2001) was a Soviet poet and writer of Kabardian descent.

Historical Background

The Germans occupied Crimea after their 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. From November 1st, 1941 through Aril 13th, 1944, the peninsula was controlled by the Nazis and their allies. During that time

  • 22.600 people were killed in Simferopol and its suburbs and
  • several thousands were transferred to Germany and forced to work for free (were turned to slaves).

Material damages during the the German occupation amounted to

  • destruction of about 30 % of residential houses,
  • demolition of the railway station, and
  • destruction or removal of the equipment of all enterprises of the city.

Syvash is a set of lagoons on the Crimean peninsula.

Taste of Syvash (fragment)

Our troops burst into cities occupied by the enemy, chased it. Me and Sergei Zykov hurried to the liberated Simferopol where his mother and aunt lived during the occupation. Are they alive? At the beginning of the war they moved from Moscow to Crimea in the hope that it would be more peaceful there. For entire two years Sergei did not know anything about them and was prepared for the worst.

For half a day we walked through the smoking city, from one ruin to the next, from the center to the outskirts. Without results. We lost hope, but then hit the trail. Some woman gave us the address and told that they used to live there. We came to that address, but found only ruins. Someone gave us a new address, in another suburb of the city. We came there and found a small, one-storeyed house with tall windows. An older woman cleaned a window standing on the windowsill. This was the only window with unbroken glass.

Sergei Zykov stood still for a moment. The woman looked at me, then at him, and continued to clean the glass.

— Mother!, Zykov said and rushed to the house. Zykov’s mother screamed, dropped the washcloth and started to cry. Sergei took her off from the windowsill as if she was a feather. Another woman appeared in the door. She waved her hands, started to wail. Zykov’s mother still could not believe her luck, touched her son, looked into his face. Women came out from adjacent houses and basements. They were happy for their neighbor whose son came back alive. They cried, too.

I looked at the women and thought: How many mothers’ fates did the war turn around. How many mothers did it separate from their sons, daughters, relatives and loved ones.

If I will ever see my mother again, her reaction will be the same.

Original Russian Text

Наши войска на плечах противника врывались в города, преследовали его по пятам. Мы с Сергеем Зыковым спешили в освобожденный Симферополь, где во время оккупации оставались его мать и тетка. Живы ли? В самом начале воины они уехали из Москвы в Крым в надежде, что там будет спокойнее, Целых два года Сергей ничего не знал о них и был готов к самому страшному.

Полдня мы носились по дымящемуся городу от развалин к развалинам, от центра к окраинам. Безрезультатно. Потеряв надежду, неожиданно напали на след. Какая-то женщина дала нам адрес, сказав, что раньше они жили там. Помчались по этому адресу, но вместо дома нашли руины. Кто-то дал нам новый адрес, на другой окраине города. Добрались, остановились у небольшого, одноэтажного, с высокими окнами дома. Пожилая женщина, стоя на подоконнике, мыла единственное уцелевшее в оконной раме стекло.

Сергей Зыков на миг замер. Женщина посмотрела на меня, потом на него и продолжала мыть окно.

— Мама! — вырвалось у Зыкова, и он бросился к дому. Мать Зыкова вскрикнула, уронила тряпку и залилась слезами. Сергей, как пушинку, снял мать с подоконника. В дверях показалась еще одна женщина. Она взмахнула руками, запричитала. Мать все не могла поверить своему счастью, щупала сына, вглядывалась в его лицо. Из соседних домов и подвалов выходили женщины. От радости за соседку, дождавшуюся сына, они плакали.

Я смотрел на женщин и думал, сколько материнских судеб перевернула война, разлучила с сыновьями, дочерями, близкими и родными. Если и моя мать дождется меня, то встреча будет такой же.