zulay-suleymanovaZulay Abuezidovna Suleymanova was born in 1934 in the Chechen village of Stariye-Atagi. She had three brothers and a sister. Her grandfather and her uncle were described as kulaks during forced collectivisation, deprived of their property and executed. Her family was forcibly evacuated to Kazakhstan in 1944 like all other Chechen-Ingush families, Zulay was ten year old then. After a long and strenuous journey, they reached their new living place, the small town of Leningorskye (today Ridder) in north-east Kazakhstan. They were supposed to live in a big room of a house shared with other families. The parents of Zulay worked in a nearby lime plant. When Zulay was 15, she married and her new family (she gave birth to two children) could live in a separate room. After sixteen years living in Leninogorsk, the family of Zulay could return home, but it was not an easy process for them. The original houses were occupied by Russians, and so the family had to live for several more years in wooden shacks. Zulay worked for a few years in Sovkhoz, later her family started to grow tomatoes (a common form of occupation in Chechnya) which they were selling in various towns all over Russia. During the winter the family lived from selling sunflower seeds. The two recent Russian military occupation in Chechnya also affected the life of Zulay. During the first between 1994 and 1996, she stayed with her family in a refugee camp in Daghestan; when the second one broke out they decided to stay home. Their house was in both tragic and horrible occupations totally destroyed. Zulay has four children: three daughters who live with their families in Grozny, her son and her grandson live together with Zulay in the village of Chechen-Aul.

Shooting of Neighbour

“Our neighbour was approximately of my age. She saw soldiers with automatic guns entering their house. She panicked and ran out of the house. The soldier who was standing in the backyard shot her dead. When her father, who was locked in one of the rooms, realised this, he tried to get out but was shot dead too. We buried them in the yard under the window and only after 15 years, when we came back, could we bury her in the approproate way.”

Stories from the Journey into Exile

“I don’t remember stopping at stations on the outward journey. If we stopped, it was only far from any civilisation, where there was no way to get way on foot… It was a way of preventing any attempt to escape. The train stopped for 10-15 minutes, and when people did not make it back in time, the train just went away – and those who stayed were condemned to death in cold winter far away from civilisation.”

A story from an Evacuee’s Life

“Not far away from us was a lime plant. Both my father and mother had to go there to work. We obtained food coupons. For a child 100 grams of bread, for an adult 200 grams. There was a shortage of food, we all starved. People used to go to the forest to pick some berries. They went to the forest in the morning, but did not come back in the evening, many died there – it was a cold winter and as they were weak from starving, they did not make it back. In such cruel conditions everybody suffered from typhus, perhaps half of us died from this horrible desease.”