May 18 is a terrible date for the Crimean Tatars. The deportation of the Crimean Tatars from the peninsula by the Soviet regime began on this day in 1944. According to official numbers, over 191,000 Crimean Tatars were deported during ethnic cleansing, and according to self-census data, more than 423,000 were deported, and almost half of these people died.
On this day, Crimean Tatars traditionally organize mourning rallies in the main squares of the cities. This year, in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, a motor rally was organized.
The rally participants, among whom there were also Crimeans who were forced to leave the peninsula due to annexation, gathered in a parking lot near the International Exhibition Center, from where they headed to Independence Square. The rally itself lasted almost an hour and a half because the police did not accompany the column, and the cars simply got stuck in traffic jams.
“I’m not a Crimean Tatar, I’m just a Crimean, was born and raised there. And today I cannot return home. Therefore, I consider it necessary to support this strong nation, which now, we could say, is in the second wave of deportation,” one of the participants said.
Akhtem Chiygoz, deputy chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, also took part in the rally.
“The situation in in Crimea very difficult now, but despite this, such events have taken place in many cities today. This historical memory is a manifestation, our compatriots went to memorial places in Crimea, laid flowers, and said the prayers. They know that there will be punished for this, but this is what historical memory is,” he says.
Chiygoz believes that the events of 1944 and in the present are a systemic policy of the Russian Empire, which is aimed at the annihilation of the Crimean Tatar people.
Despite the quarantine, a small mourning rally was organized on the Independence Square. A large poster with a train on which Crimean Tatars were taken away from Crimea was shown there.
“For me, this train is the locomotive that tried to destroy my people on May 18, 1944. And today, our duty to support Crimeans who are now fighting in Crimea, despite the persecution and arrests,” one of the organizers of the rally, former political prisoner Ismail Ramazanov says.
Also during the action people remembered Crimeans who have died or disappeared in Crimea during the years of occupation - the rally activists took it to the square with their portraits.
“We all know for sure what it is like when you are deprived of your homeland,” the organizer said.
“I want to draw a parallel between the history of the Crimean Tatar people and the fate of the Ukrainian people. We have a joint struggle for our and your independence. The fact that the issue of Crimea and historical memory are voiced now in the center of Kyiv is very important,” another former political prisoner from Crimea Volodymyr Balukh says.
Ismail Ramazanov shared the story of his family.
“From the stories my grandfathers and grandmothers told me - these were really terrible times. When I heard these terrible stories as a child, I could not hold back my tears. I am already a grown man, I still cry when I hear stories related to the genocide against my people.”
When most of the men were at the front, defending the Soviet Union, Stalin regime simply invaded into the houses of Crimean Tatars, to women, children, elderly people. Defenseless people were taken and forced into wagons that were suitable only for cattle. Naturally, in such inhuman conditions, almost 50% of my compatriots could not survive the trip to the places of deportation - Central Asia and the Urals.
According to the stories of our relatives, the whole way of deportation of my people, almost the whole way where the wagons passed, is paved with the bodies of my compatriots. Crimean Tatars died on every kilometer of this path.