ZaikharPasanovaZaikhar Pasanova was born in 1912 in the town of Argun. In 1944 she was deported from the settlement of Gendergen to the Osh oblast of Kyrgyzstan.

“In January 1944, the army arrived in our village. They were housed in our homes and we were only told that they had came to build roads.

“Five soldiers came to live in our home. We were on friendly terms with them, treated them as our guests and did what we could to make them comfortable. Sometimes they would ask us why we didn’t buy warm clothes and footwear for the children.

“At dawn on February 23, I was preparing breakfast for the children when I heard the high-pitched screaming of women and children outside in the yard. Then, suddenly, our neighbour burst into our house and, hardly able to say the words, shouted hysterically: “They’ve said we’re to be deported to Siberia!” I could scarcely believe what I was hearing and rushed outside to the yard, only to find that he was right. By midday everyone in the village had been herded at gunpoint to the local mosque. In the afternoon, the people of the neighbouring village of Zandak-Ara were transported to our village and the soldiers started driving us, all together, down to the village of Khochi-Ara. I was carrying my three children: my eldest six-year-old son, my daughter, who was twenty-one months old, and my youngest son, who was only twelve months old.

“The first night was spent freezing under the open sky. On the second day, we continued our way down the Yamansu River and stayed for the night in the settlement of Rogun-Qazha. We were allowed to make fires; the frost was unbearable. We fell asleep beside the fires. The next day they brought American trucks. We were pushed, crammed and stuffed into these trucks and then driven to Khasavyurt. In the evening of the same day we were loaded, like cattle, into dirty cold wagons, and our long journey began.

“We were kept in those wagons for over three weeks. Finally we were left at a desolate, snow-covered place. Later we learnt this was the Osh region of Kyrgyzstan. We had no shelter and were given no food to eat. During the first few years of exile about half of the deportees died of starvation, cold, illness and disease. The orphaned ones were taken to the children’s homes (orphanages). My husband died in the first year of the deportation; later I lost my mother too. In order to survive, not die of hunger and, somehow, feed my children, I risked my life by going to collect ears of wheat from the mown fields. Those who were caught doing that were sentenced to penal camps for anything up to fifteen years.

“The happiest day of my life was when I heard, many years later, the announcement that the Chechens were to be allowed to return to their homeland.”