Great Victory in faces: the story of one photograph, told in a letter by the daughter of a war veteran

Great Victory in faces: the story of one photograph, told in a letter by the daughter of a war veteran

Before me is a letter sent by resident of Turkmenabat Amanbibi Nedirova. “I want to share my memories about my family, my parents,” she wrote, “maybe this will be interesting for someone, will come in handy…” A photograph of the war years is attached to the letter showing two soldiers with sergeant’s shoulder marks and long out of fashion envelope hats, peering intently into the camera lens, as if trying to make out through the distance and time the faces of those for whom the picture is intended.

Amanbibi properly saw her father when she was five years old. No, she had seen him before, but had no time to remember: the baby was a little over a year of age when he went to war. She did not remember what his face looked like, how his clothes smelled, how his eyes and hands looked. She knew about her father only from the memories of her mother Ejegyz, in whose stories he seemed to the girl big and strong. And then that photo with two soldiers came – the only picture they got during the years of war.

Ejegyz was eight years old, her little sister Oguljemal was only a year old when their mother died in childbirth. Following her, the father crossed over. It was the 1930th. Yerbent district, where they lived, was in widespread epidemic of typhus. Once a car arrived and the orphans were taken to the Ashgabat Orphanage. Soon fate parted the sisters – Ejegyz, as the elder, was left in the capital city, and Oguljemal was sent to Kerki. Then the sisters had lost sight of each other. They will meet many years later, and a person who will become her dearest man will help Ejegyz do this.

The life of Anna Nedirov of Gazanjyk was not easier. His parents also passed away early, leaving the boy, together with Esedkuli, his younger brother, orphans overnight. The neighbors helped the children survive. They told about the misfortune of adolescents to the director of Gazanjyk wagon depot, and that kind and sympathetic man, adding at his own risk five years to the guy’s age in documents, employed him as a handyman in the depot. A food stamp that Anna received then saved the brothers from starvation. The same director, on his own initiative, went to Ashgabat and arranged the guy to be admitted to a communications school, where Anna met with Ejegyz, who studied at the same school after orphanage. First, they were united by a common fate – orphanhood, and then love came. They got married in 1940. In the same year, Amanbibi was born.

After the communications school, Anna Nedirov could graduate from a law school and shortly before the war, he and Ejegyz were directed by the party organs to a job in Boyun-Uzuk district of Lebap region. They arrived with light baggage. They had neither jointly acquired property, nor relatives and friends; only Amanbibi’s daughter and a bundle with her children’s things. A young family was allocated a small room in a small house in one of the district villages.

Even before the wedding, Ejegyz told Anna the story of her family, about her younger sister, whose fate she did not know anything about. Anna set out to seek and could found Oguljemal. The girl had already grown up and still lived in Kerki. At the end of 1941, the sisters reunited.

The war was blazing. Most men of conscription and even younger age went to the front. Anna by that time worked as a judge at a district court, and he was entitled to a reservation. Reservation… This means a peaceful, quiet life away from war, a reliable defense against bullets and shells. Only few people were granted such a “letter of protection” then. It would seem, live and do not worry, take the happy opportunity to stay alive when the “killed in action” notices had already begun to come to the families of your friends.

But that was precisely what harassed Anna Nedirov: his fellow villagers go to war one by one, fall, and he, a young, healthy, strong man, sits in the rear. In August 1942, Anna Nedirov, not saying anything to his wife, came to the district military commissariat and asked to send him as a volunteer to the front. He explained his decision to Ejegyz only when it was time to part.

Before leaving for the front, the father went to a photo studio with his daughter. Amanbibi was photographed there, and Anna carried the photograph in the breast pocket of the service shirt through the war. As he later told, the photo brought him good luck. Once he sent a letter. The photo was put in a hand-made envelope, where he was photographed next to his countryman – fellow soldiers. “Look, this is your dad,” Ejegyz said her daughter, and pointed at the soldier, so thin that shoulder straps did not fit on his shoulders, sliding down at one end and bearing against the neck with the other.

“Mom hung the picture on the wall, and I looked at it for a long time,” Amanbibi tells. “Then I began to walk around the village and told everyone I met that my Dad had arrived. My mother’s friend heard that and ran to her work: “Ejegyz, why are you sitting, run home quicker, your husband has returned! When Mom came running, there were already a lot of women in our room, whom I, proudly showing the photo, said: “Here he is, my Dad!” Mom understood everything, and laughter and tears were mixed up”.

Anna passed all the way from Stalingrad to Potsdam without a single scratch. Perhaps the photo of his daughter really brought him luck. But the front fate is often changeable and unpredictable. Only three days left until the Victory on May 9, when a bullet shot by a German sniper, passing through his right shoulder, crushed the soldier’s arm.

At the medical unit, having heard that it was the matter of an amputation, Anna refused point-blank to go under the knife, and began to beg the doctors to do everything possible, but not to cut his hand. He talked about his wife, about his little daughter and, almost under anesthesia, threatened the doctors with all heavenly and earthly punishments.

Military surgeons managed to save the arm, but it remained crippled forever. “The Dad sent a letter to Mom from the hospital”, Amanbibi continues. “He didn’t write himself, but asked his roommate to do that. In a letter, he informed that… he lost his leg. Having read the letter, the Mom cried. Then, when I became an adult and asked the Dad about the reasons for that fraud, he admitted that he had, of course, acted unreasonably, but he had seen enough of everything during the time spent in the hospital. There were cases when, having received such news, the wives refused the mutilated soldiers, so he decided to check how his mother would accept the fact that he was disabled, and should he return home after that. My mother – beautiful, young – she was only twenty-two years of age then – wrote in response that even if he does not have two legs, we still will not stop waiting for him. So she waited for her husband all the war years. Waited and worked, worked and waited. She worked eighteen hours a day, and waited – all twenty-four hours”.

It was several months that the war had already ended, but trains with war veterans continued to arrive at the station. Having learned when the train in which Anna returns would arrive, Ejegyz asked a car from the party district committee secretary to bring her husband home. She was provided with a car and a driver.

A crowd at the station, the noise of human polyphony frightened Amanbibi, and the girl began to run away. Her Mom rushed about, catching up with her daughter, and at the same time, looking at the legs of soldiers leaving the train, looking for a one-legged soldier. And then Anna himself called out to her. They squeezed up against each other…

Her father grabbed her daughter with a healthy hand, and the girl, having buried her nose in his shoulder, understood what the dads smell like – they smelled of the dust, the sun, the train, the roads, and something else unfamiliar, but very native. So smelled all the fathers returning from the front. At home, Anna explained to Ejegyz the reason for his fraud, and apologized for this cruel loyalty test.

Anna and Ejegyz lived together for 62 years. Even in the war years they did not part with each other. They were united in soul and heart. After the war, they had three sons. “The Dad remained disabled all his life through”, Amanbibi writes. “Fingers were twisted, the hand did not move. When I, still little, asked what happened to his hand, the Dad jokingly answered: it was Hitler who bit me. He learned to write with his left hand, and his handwriting was beautiful, slightly inclined”.

Anna Nedirov worked in the justice system for many years. He was the deputy chairman of the Lebap regional court, worked at the prosecutor’s office, in the bar. Ejegyz Bozaganova worked for more than 35 years as the director of clothing factory. She was elected a deputy to the Supreme Council of the TSSR twelve years, was a delegate to the All-Union Conference of Peace Supporters, a delegate to the Vienna Congress of Peace Supporters. Five labor medals and four certificates of honor of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the TSSR remind of the labor merits of Ejegyz Bozaganova. The frontline services of Anna Nedirov were awarded nine orders and medals, including the 1st Degree Order of the Patriotic War.

“Relations between people in those harsh, incredibly difficult military and post-war years were forever engraved in my memory”, Amanbibi Nedirova concludes the letter. – The war did not embitter, on the contrary, the common misfortune and the general desire to defeat the enemy, not allow it to enter the native land, rallied everyone. The people who went through the war took care of each other more, shared last piece of bread. Help was unselfish, and friendship was heartfelt. They fought selflessly, worked without sleep and rest not for the personal good, but for the well-being of their relatives and their country. I always told my children, and now tell my grandchildren about these examples of courage, nobility, fearlessness. My parents have long passed away, but the bright memory of them, of my kind, hardworking, dear, beloved, loving and endlessly devoted to each other, Dad and Mom is always with me. And I live with this memory”.

Such a story of a family was described by Amanbibi Nedirova in her letter. This is the story of love and fidelity, duty and courage. There are many such examples. How infinitely great and undying are simple human feelings such as devotion, self-denial, tenderness, compassion and kindness. And they are priceless, because they fill not purses, but the pockets of the human soul. These are the spiritual foundations of human life, and the more we value and cherish them, the more perfect we will be.

P.S. The capital letters in the words Dad and Mom, cited in the article, are not a misprinting. Exactly in this way the author of the letter reverently and lovingly defines her parents – with a capital letter.

Vladimir ZAREMBO
Photo from the family archive of A. Nedirova