aset-khadzhiyevaAset Khadzhiyeva was born in 1930 on Old Sunzha. She was deported from the village of Atin-Phovda in the district of Itum-Kale to the Taldy-Kurganskaya oblast in Northern Kazakhstan. She passed away on March 22, 2008.

“We lived in an alpine aul [an aul is a village in North-Caucasus] of Atin-Phovda, settlement Hacharoy, Itum-Kalinsky district. I was the only daughter in the family. I had six brothers; one of them died in very early age, right before the deportation. I remember that February of 1944 very well. I was running the entire household in those days; our mother had gone to visit her sister in Zakan-Yurt. I had to get up very early in the mornings to start the cooking, tidying up and looking after my younger brothers. The youngest one was only a year old.

“We went into exile not knowing what had become of our mother. Even the memory of the small children in my arms without any food or warm clothes and the hardships I bore is painful. I cried endlessly! After a hellishly long train-journey, lasting several weeks, we arrived in Northern Kazakhstan. The frost was terrible. We were brought to a village, where we were given some food and clothing. Slowly we started to settle down and make lives for ourselves. We kept up hope of finding our nana [our mother] alive but, because of a false accusation, our family was taken to a special settlement near a lime-extracting plant. We were accomodated in a dug-out in the ground; there was no electricity or heating. Everyone tried to do the best they could but, because of those terrible conditions, an epidemic of typhus began. We buried my three younger brothers one after another. Later, our father fell ill and passed away too; he died early in the evening. My younger brother Magomed and I remained sitting beside him until the morning. All this time our neighbour, Zariat, and I were sewing rags and shreds together to make a shroud for our father. This was at a time when each piece of any fabric was worth a piece of gold. The next day we buried our father properly, having wrapped him in the shroud we had sewn for him.

“So now my brother and I were all alone. During exile, our father’s brothers and all their children died too. Of the thirty-one families who lived in the barracks of the “lime plant”, only a few people survived. I didn’t have a childhood. For as long as I can recall, I have always been a grown-up. Rather, I had to be one.”