The stories of children born during the Great Patriotic War are of special sadness. Their childhood, stolen by the war, had a smell not of ice cream and sweets, but of gunpowder and smoke coming from the frontlines where the fighting was going on. Many children of the war years lost their parents early, not having time to feel either maternal or paternal care. They had to grow up early and learn not to be afraid to live under the sound of bombardments thundering over their heads, during the cold, hunger and other trials that fell to their bitter lot.
A little Katya came to Turkmenistan from far off, crossing the big river. Having matured, she learns that it was the waters of the Amu Darya River that brought her with her parents to the city of Turkmenabat (Chardzhou). One night, soldiers with rifles burst into the small house in which the family lived, and all the adults were taken away. Katya’s mother did not live up to that terrible night, having left for other world much earlier. The girl was left completely alone, just having the only toy in her hand: it was a boy doll in Turkmen national dress with a fur cap on his head.
The next morning, a local resident took her to the Baby House, according to her words, Katya’s name and surname were written. Since then, “travels” of the girl from one orphanage to another began, and the accompanying personal certificate read: “Katya Emelyanova, 6-years old. City of Chardzhou, TSSR. Healthy. Date of birth: 23 August 1939”. Under this date, Ekaterina counts the days she lived.
From Turkmenabat, along with other orphans, Katya ended up in the Orphanage in the city of Bayramali, which was located on the outskirts of the city. Out the fence, there were wild trees – cherries and dates, bushes of plums and other berries. Unfortunately, the girl had a chance to visit the “paradise” garden only once – in the spring of 1940. Soon the building of the Orphanage, located next to the military town, was given over to military maneuvers. And in 1941 the war began and all the children who reached the age of eight were delivered to Ashgabat.
Orphanage No. 1 served as a temporary shelter for the children, and as it was summer, everyone slept outdoor under shady trees. Two huge shepherd dogs guarded the kids’ beds. But the stay in Ashgabat was short, several more peers from other orphanages were added to the group of children, and all together, accompanied by educators and teachers, continued their way to reach the city of Mary.
Orphans from Kiev, Moldavia, St. Petersburg and Novocherkassk were also arrived here – in Mary. The Orphanage, designed for 300 kids, became home for twice as many children. On September 1, 1941, the kids did not go to school. It was not right time to study.
– I can’t remember that any of us could tell something about our parents, about the places where they lived before they got here. When I and my girlfriends turned 9, we were taught to wash, and we gladly helped our laundress. Susanna Ivanovna taught us to crochet, sew and embroider. We used dry branches of a camel thorn as knitting needles. We knitted many pairs of socks and pouches under the guidance of Aunt Susanna, and sent everything to the soldiers to the front.
The desert next to the Orphanage has become a hunting ground for orphans. Wandering barefoot along the Karakum sands, boys and girls got themselves “delicacies”, looking for turtles, whose meat and eggs they ate with appetite. Children called their desert tours as “Camping kitchen”. The turtles were cooked in iron plates without fear of the inhabitants of the sandy fauna – scorpions, snakes and spiders. And in the fall of 1942, the guys finally went to school, to the first grade.
– During the war, charitable canteens were launched in the city to distribute pea and turtle soups to those in need. Despite the horrors that reigned during the war, in all orphanages in Turkmenistan, educators and teachers helped our children’s souls survive. We really ended up in an oasis – I only remember the caring attitude towards us, the kids, of everyone who worked with us. Our educators from Turkmenabat and Bayramali did not make us as toys, but prepared us for life in a large group of children. I learned this science in the longest and most significant shelter of my life – the shelter of good spirit and truth.
In May 1944, multicolored asters bloomed in Turkmenistan, with huge bouquets of flowers, the graduates of orphanages marched along streets on the May Day. The wind orchestra and singing children inspired all the inhabitants of Mary – the Great Victory was coming near.
If you remember Ekaterina Emelyanova or know anyone who have been knowing the children or descendant of refuges of the Great Patriotic War evacuated to Turkmenistan and who consider these places as their second Motherland, we are urging you to share memories, photos or any other materials regarding the chronicle of those tragic years. Letters can be sent to the website’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org