Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Crimean Tatar writer’s life is celebrated at the Library

Summer is a slow time here at the library. Many staff workers take their annual four-week vacation. Most stay at home and work on “home projects,’ much as we do in America. Others travel—my office mate Refika just returned from a trip to Uzbekistan with her daughter to visit her sister and other relatives there. Four-days, coming and going, on a hot, unairconditioned train. “Next time, I’m flying,” she said.
I spent a week in Belarus, accompanying a friend from America. Her parents were Holocaust survivors and were from Belarus (then Poland). She wanted to see the villages they lived in and talk to people who knew them, to find out what she could about the lives of her family before the Holocaust that killed almost all of them. It was an unforgettable experience, and I returned to Simferopol with a greater insight into some of the tortured history of this part of the world.
A Crimean Tatar writer’s life is celebrated at the Library
The Library holds many events throughout the year in its reading hall. Last spring there was a gathering to celebrate the life of Crimean Tatar novelist Cengiz Dagic on the occasion of his 90th birthday. Though Dagic was not in good enough health to attend (he lives in London), his sister was present, as were many scholars and friends. There were several speeches talking about his life and work, and performances of his poetry.
Cengiz Dagci is best known for the descriptions in his novels, poems, and writings about the Crimean Tartar life in Crimea from 1932 to 1945. Published in Turkey with some translation into Russian (unfortunately, I have not found any of his longer works translated into English), Dagci writes of the difficult life of the Crimean Tatar people during those years as they tried to find a way to survive the war between Nazi Germany and Russia, culminating in their eventual mass deportation in 1944. His work has been widely read in Turkey and is considered to be very important in keeping alive the plight of the Crimean Tatar people among Turkish people.
Cengiz Dagci was born in 1920 in Kiziltash, a village near Yalta. He attended school there and in Ak Mechet (then the name of Simferopol), and after finishing his secondary education in 1938, he went to the Crimean Pedagogy Institute where he studied for two years. In 1940 he was drafted into the military where he eventually served at the Ukrainian front and was captured by the Nazis. He escaped the prisoner camp and sought asylum in Great Britain. He settled in London in 1946 and has lived there ever since.
Here is a poem by Cengiz Dagci:
Aren't Crimean Tatars
a tree which is
supposed to die,
not to get greener
and not to give
new branches?
Since the day that they
lost their independence,
there wasn't any day
passed without
chopping the branches
of this tree, but
again new branches
came out of its body.
These branches were
not allowed to grow
and were chopped
again. But branches
came out again.
At the end,
this tree is chopped
at its root,
and thrown away
on a lonely, desert land.
But again new branches
come out of this body
and get longer and
longer, and they reach
to the land where
this tree was planted
one thousand years ago.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Barb,
    My name is Ali Cengiz, I am a recent grad from the University of North Carolina and will be arriving in Simferopol next week. I got a grant to produce a short documentary about the Crimean Tatar people and have been trying to make as many contacts as possible. I am Tatar myself but I only speak english and minimal turkish. I met with a family friend named Abdurahim Demirayak who gave me the contact info of Aydar Emirov who is supposed to be the director of the Gasprinski Library. If you can, would you please inform Aydar that I would like to meet. Any help that you think the people at the library could provide or in the community where you are living would be great. My first challenge is to find a reliable translator for interviews. So if you know any english speaking Tatars I would greatly appreciate their contact info. My email is, feel free to contact me if you can help me out.