Crimea Occupation Stirs Dark Memories for Tatars
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — There are no words in the lexicon of the Abdulkerimov family more terrible than “occupation” or “deportation,” two foreign terms with no precise translation in the Crimean Tatar language.
For Tatars, an ethnic group with deep roots in Crimea, the terms are strongly associated with Adolf Hitler’s Germany and Josef Stalin’s secret police, and together they evoke dark memories of war, exile, deprivation and death. They had seemed all but obsolete in recent years.
Last week’s de facto Russian takeover of the Crimean peninsula, however, brought history flooding back to many Tatars, recalling the Nazi occupation of Crimea during World War II and the subsequent Soviet deportation of the entire Tatar people, summarily accused by Stalin of being traitors.
“If somebody tells me today that another deportation is possible, I would tell him that he is an idiot and nothing of the kind can happen again,” said Jafer Abdulkerimov, a frail 81-year-old man with bright eyes, a steady voice and a sound memory. “But then again, if somebody had told me before last week that another occupation of our land by a foreign army is possible, I would have told him he was an idiot too.”