The fourth Tozhsamist person is Ediie Karimova, a 30-year-old fashion designer from Crimea who has a strong spirit because of her father, who led the Crimean Tatar national movement in the 1990s, her grandfather, who fought successfully in WWII, and her other grandparents who survived the exile and raised a big family as a result.
4 January, 2023
TOZHSAMIST’: Tell us about yourself. What did you do until February 2022?
Ediie: I was born on the Crimean peninsula, in a small ancient town called Yevpatoria, on the coast of the Black Sea. But moved to Kyiv when I was 17. I graduated with honours from the Kyiv National University of Technologies and Design as a fashion designer. I worked with multiple Ukrainian brands such as Elenareva, Poustovit, Bevza, and others. When the war started I was on maternity leave and decided to go to Poland at the beginning of March, to give birth safely to my second daughter.
T: What are your roots?
Е: I am a Kirimli (Crimean Tatar), and my entire family hails from Yevpatoria (Kezlev is the original name).
T: And where were you raised? What influenced you as a child?
Е: My mother solfeggio and music history teacher at an art school, so art has always been a part of my life. I took a variety of classes as a child, including rhythmic gymnastics, ballet, folk dances, drawing, pottery, and piano. I spent holidays at my grandmother's house in Furmanovo village (Mamut Bey is the original name) with other relatives. It was literally in the middle of nowhere, just several houses among the fields and domestic animals: chickens, geese, turkeys and cows grazing around. So I feel that closeness to nature shaped me. My first language was Crimean Tatar, we spoke at home, which also shaped my personality and helped in my comprehension of other Turkic languages.
T: So, what is the identity for you?
Е: For me, identity is just being yourself. Respect your culture instead of imitating those around you. One incident from my school days stands out: when the teacher questioned kids in the class about nationalities, one boy replied that he was Komi. [Permic-speaking people living mainly between the Pechora and Vychegda rivers, southeast of the White Sea, in the northern European area of Russia. They speak the Permic language of the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic family]
The majority of the class burst out laughing, and he felt embarrassed. That moment I resolved that I would never be ashamed of my origins, no matter what.
Pictures by Ksenia Zviagintseva
T: The State Defense Committee of the USSR passed a resolution titled "About the Crimean Tatars" on May 11, 1944, listing numerous accusations against them - all without evidence. The main accusation is that the Crimean Tatars worked with the Third Reich. But I know your grandfather was fighting on the Soviet Union's side at the time. Could you please elaborate on this?
Е: About 17,000 Crimean Tatars served in the Red Army during WWII, with many staying until the war's end.
Khairulla Ibadullaev, my paternal grandfather, was one of them. He was born in 1917. In the fall of 1939, he was drafted into the Red Army. His younger brother Rustem was mobilized also. In August 1941, Rustem was seen lagging behind a column of wounded Soviet prisoners of the 51st Army. His further fate is unknown.
Khairulla was the deputy commander of the 110th Howitzer Artillery, at that time the heaviest artillery. He discovered in the autumn of 1944 that in May, the entire Crimean Tatar population had been forcefully deported. They were crammed into sealed cattle cars and sent off to Central Asia (mostly Uzbekistan), Siberia, and the Ural Mountains. Following that, distant relatives wrote him a letter in which they stated that his entire family had died from malaria in the first two months. After finishing the war in Austria, grandpa Khairullah was demobilized in 1946, and he immediately left to find his family, but no one was found. While he was fighting in Red Army, his family was exiled as "Nazi collaborators" and died in a foreign land.
1. Grandfather Khairulla, 1941.
2. Grandfather Khairulla is at the top. 1948.
3. Grandfather Khairulla and grandmother Khatije with their son
T: What did your family do before and after being deported from Crimea?
Е: My paternal great-grandfather, Abdureshid, was a prosperous man who ran a large bakery and provided the city with bread. He owned a beautiful home near the sea, where several strangers' families live now. He split his reaches in two and hid them before the NKVD came looking for him. The first part was given after the great-grandfather was tortured and abused, and the second was discovered under the floorboards by the house's new "owners". Khatije, his daughter, once had to exchange her full embroidered with pearls fez hat for two flatbreads because she was very hungry.
My maternal great-grandfather was a mullah. Following a denunciation, the NKVD arrested him as well.
His wife, Emine, was deported with the children and died of sunstroke while cooking outside a dugout in Uzbekistan's fields. My other maternal great-grandmother, Mapuze, was deported with her young son - my grandfather Anis. Anis was a talented craftsman who built the stove on his own when he was 14 years old.
Grandfather Anis and grandmother Abde-Sherfe, 1955
Myrzachul (Gulistan), Uzbekistan
Т: When and how did your family return to Crimea?
Е: During the late 1980s and ’90s, Crimean Tatars were allowed to return to Crimea. When the Soviet Union's Verkhovna Rada condemned and declared illegal the deportation in 1989, the Crimean Tatars gained the de facto right to leave territories without being prosecuted.
Both of my parents were raised and lived in Uzbekistan before returning to Crimea in the 1990s. Then mom and dad met at a Tatar rights demonstration in Yevpatoria! My dad became one of the leaders of the national movement and a co-founder of the largest settlement of Crimean Tatars in Crimea - "Ismail Bey" (named after Ismail Gasprinsky, a Crimean Tatar and Turkic educator, writer, teacher, one of Pan-Turkism ideologist). Mom assisted my dad.
For "organizing mass protests," dad was imprisoned for ten days. He was released on the wedding day, but couldn't eat something because he was on a hunger strike while in prison.
At the time, Crimean Tatars battled riot police with Molotov cocktails while camped out in tents on a field's bare ground. I think my parents gave me a spirit of revolution. I remember being unable to stay away from the Maidan
in 2014! I went to protests, prepared food and delivered it to the barricades.
Ediie's dad with microphone and mom on the top-left, 1990
Т: Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014. How did the Crimean Tatars behave?
Е: When the annexation happened, I was living in Kyiv with my sister, but all my family stayed in Crimea. Because they paid a high price and fought hard for the right to live on their land, they stayed on picket lines, slept in open-air tents, and struggled with riot police.
Most Crimean Tatar families are structured in such a way that several generations coexist and the young take a glance after the elderly. However, when Russia announced its mobilization, many people were forced to flee Crimea.
Many Crimean Tatars, however, are fighting in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. For instance, one of my neighbours is currently fighting for Ukraine. Unfortunately, their parents and relatives in Crimea must hide this information because the persecution of Crimeans begins there. Even for pro-Ukrainian Instagram stories their personal contacts and work addresses are posted on pro-Russian Telegram channels.
Crimean Tatars have been oppressed by Russia for centuries, dating back to Catherine II's annexation of the peninsula. Therefore, we are very clear on who is who.
Picture by Ksenia Zviagintseva
T: Given the complex historical contexts, how do you think the Crimean Tatars managed to preserve their culture? Is there anything you weren't able to save?
Е: Tatars place a high value on family ties. Distant relatives gather for the holidays and cook a lot of traditional food together: manti, chebureks, yantyh (traditional pie), dort kesken (round with a filling of cottage cheese and greens, cut into four parts), cheese with cherries, baklava, kurabye (petal-shaped cookies). Traditions are passed down from generation to generation in this manner.
However, it was not possible to save our culture entirely. Unfortunately, because it was never implemented at the state level and is not widely taught in Crimean schools, our language is dying. Following the deportation, people's books and documents were burned, and the native language was prohibited. Many cultural monuments were destroyed, including mosques and ancient buildings. The majority of them are currently in situations where their reconstruction is prohibited by law, and some—like the Khan's palace in Bakhchisarai—are being purposefully destroyed. Grave slabs from cemeteries were used in road construction during the Soviet era.
Material cultural monuments had left crumbs.
T: To better understand a nation and its values, we have to look at significant members of that nation. To understand Crimean Tatar culture, who should we pay attention to?
Ismail Gasprynsky— educator, writer, teacher, cultural and public-political figure, and Pan-Turkism ideologist.
Shefika Gasprynska— initiator of the Crimean Tatar women's movement, which became a one-of-a-kind phenomenon in the Islamic world, editor of the first Muslim women's magazine "Alem-i Nisvan".
Amethan Sultan— Soviet ace pilot, a participant in World War II, twice awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
Saide Arifova— kindergarten director, saved at least 74 Jewish children from the Nazis and the NKVD during World War II.
Maqsud Suleyman— poet, writer, a participant in World War II.
Amdi Giraybai —a poet, playwright and historian.
Hagia Sophia Mosque, Gurzuf, Crimea (destroyed)
Crimean Tatar women. XIX — early XX century
Crimean Tatar girls. XIX — early XX century
Mosque in Derekoy, 1910-1915 (destroyed)
Picture by ------------
Mosque in the Crimean villlage (destroyed)
T: In Crimea or Yevpatoria, what places inspire you?
Е: I love the Southern part of Crimea because it has mountains, rocks, and forests even though my family is from the West where there are beautiful fields only. After visiting many countries, I was convinced that the nature of Crimea is incredible. And the old part of Yevpatoria is my favourite: narrow streets, Tatar cafes, and a mosque. I also adore a field of poppies near my home.
Ediie in Crimea, Ukraine
T: Tell us about the last ten months of your life. What are you doing right now, and what do you have planned for the future?
Е: I've just arrived in the United States. Having relatives here makes it simpler to stick together than in Europe, where I previously lived. I have no long-term intentions of staying here, but I will expand my perspective and learn something new.
T: What is Ukraine for you?
Е: Ukraine represents the determination and power of an unconquered people. This is unity. This is being receptive to new ideas (we are the first to introduce new products in a variety of industries, from IT to the field of beauty services). Ukrainian heritage is deep, rich and is an endless source of inspiration for me.
T: When the war is over, how do you envision Ukraine and Crimea?
Е: Liberated and thriving.I hope that the original names of Crimean settlements are restored, that the Crimean Tatar language is taught in schools, and that Crimean architectural monuments are preserved.
Picture by Eva Tokarchuk
Ediie with daughter Sofiie
By Alice Zhuravel