Annually, on May 18, Ukraine marks the Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Crimean Tatar genocide. In 1944, this day became a tragedy for 238,500 people. On this day, the Soviet regime deported Tatars from the Crimean peninsula deep to the mainland – Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tadzhikistan. Small groups of people were sent to Mari Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, Ural and Kostroma Oblast in Russia.
The deportation of Crimean Tatars in 1944 became one of the fastest in history: it lasted two days.
It all started early on the morning of May 18, 1944, and ended at 16:00 on May 20, 1944, under the control of over 32,000 people of NKVD troops. The Tatars were given half an hour to pack up, after which they were taken by trucks to the railway stations, and from there they were transported to the east by trains. The wagons were for freight, but they were readjusted for transporting people: there were potbelly stoves and plank beds. In total, 70 of such trains were sent away.
Not everyone could survive such deportation - about 8,000 people died on the way, most of them elderly people and children. Most often they died of thirst and typhoid.
Some people lost their minds, unable to bear the suffering. In the first years after the expulsion, according to various estimates, from 20 to 46% of the deportees died.
Without the right to return to Crimea, Crimean Tatars lived in special settlements until the second half of the 50s, until the era of Khrushchev's de-Stalinization. Though then the government only softened the living conditions, the charge of treason still remained.
In the 50s and 60s, Tatars actively fought for their return, including with the help of demonstrations. Some of them were dispersed by force. Nevertheless, the efforts were not in vain, and gradually the Tatars managed to expand their rights. At the same time, the ban on returning to Crimea was still in effect – up until 1989.
The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the regulation on marking the Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Crimean Tatar genocide in 2015. Since then, Ukraine commemorates victims of the Crimean Tatar genocide.