Next year in Bakhchisaray

The phrase “Next year in Jerusalem”, which traditionally finishes the Haggadah during Passover, the Jewish have been repeating for two thousand years in a row after the destruction of the Temple. Repeated for so long that it lost its primary sense and became purely metaphysical: next year in Jerusalem, in the rebuilt Temple, after the coming of Messiah. With the strengthening of the Zionism movement in 19 century, its activists had to resist Rabbi Judaism, convinced that Israel is only the Kingdom of Heaven. But the fighters for returning to the Land of Israel, among them is a Ukrainian Jew Volodymyr Zhabotynskyi, finally managed to add to this formula pragmatic national character. Today everyone’s free to perceive this phrase as a pleasant wish which doesn’t have critical obstacles. However, it had a high price.

The last time I was in Crimea – I shudder to think – seven years ago. It was storming in Tarkhankut, the steppe grass was waving under the bizarre electric light of the unbroken clouds, the waves were thundering under Dzhanhulskyi cliffed coast, the wind was blowing tiny crabs out of cracks in the rocks, the cars, wandering around the thickets, whammed giant spotty toads nearly at every turn. That morning when I went to Bakhchisaray, it cold up, and I was shivering on the bus, having two T-shirts on, one over another – I had no other clothes with me. When I got off at the destination point – the sky broke down and it burst out with a downpour, the first layer of my armour quickly soaked. And Tatar-granny was rushing to me across the whole improvised bazar, soaking and opening on her way to me a cheap Chinese raincoat. She pulled it on me over my head and I warmed up surprisingly quickly, covered with a thin greenish polyethene. The rain stopped being destructive, became drizzling, annoying and I had the aim beforehand – to climb up the Chufut-Calais. The weather implied that I must think out my plans, but I’m obstinate. That’s why I was walking along the gorge, between the mountains, which dizzily smoked and I wormed my way upwards, slipping on the rocks, wandered through the streets of the ancient city, jumping over the puddles and waiting for another storm to cease under the Karaite kenasa. And all these years I can’t stop praising myself for that I finally did.  It happens, I close my eyes and see that rainy road, on which the clouds sit down with long strands like giant octopus and table mountains with the flat tops as if God himself rested his palm on the land. Within several hours I descended – the same Tatar-granny handed me a plastic cup with tea. The swallows had nested under the terrace roof at the “Heray”. They were arguing loudly while I was warming my hands with the hot bowl of soup; a waiter put a pillow under my back in a family-like manner; there was an immense puddle in front of the monument to Ismail Gasprinski and from time to time the passing cars threatened to hide the creator of modern Crimean Tatar nation under a wave of muddy tsunami; the street babbled with azaan – one of the most wonderful things which human voice is able to do. Wet steeps next to the street gave back humidity and soaked up sounds. A couple of falcons were screaming neatly over the Khan Palace. I looked at it and wondered how continuous, calm, eternal and homey all of this seems. And all this ended in several years.

I started writing this text on the Intercession of the Theotokos, temporarily being away from home and painfully needing it, having recently returned from Frankfurt book fair, where on the Ukrainian stand the Ukranian-Crimeans Mustafa Dzhemilev and Alim Aliev addressed the international auditory. Started to write and put away – it was gut wrenching. In Frankfurt, Mustafa aga said that he had forbidden himself to die earlier than Crimea would be Ukrainian again because the one who dies earlier is a deserter. The one, who can remain still after such a phrase from a person who resisted the same evil all his conscious life, has a heart of stone. Mr Dzhemilev told about the occupational administration that has been constantly provoking the Crimean-Tatars for at least a minute misdeed to drown them “legally” in the sea of blood and how high is the price for the Crimean-Tatars to peacefully oppose the totalitarian system in a daily persecution for language, faith and the choice of homeland. So, instead of writing, I read the works, sent for literary contest “Crimean fig”, the first in this year and I hope not the last. After all, put them away too.

We’re all guilty for the things we’ve done to the Crimean Tatars. Those ones, whose houses with yet warm bread on the table the “saviours” occupied in 1944 – children and grandchildren of the first and second ones now walk with us on the streets. Those ones, whose houses from spongy coquina that made Crimean steppe landscapes look like the scenery of the planet Tatooine, they came to destroy with bulldozers because it’s “squatting”; those ones, who already then weren’t afraid to clash with the Soviet forces; those ones whose fight for the land was turned into a cheesy reality show. Those ones who stood next to you on the Maydan. Those ones who came out to the call of the Mejlis on February 26, 2014, with Ukrainian flags under the walls of Supreme Council of Crimea, and on February 27, they woke up in the completely different Crimea. Those ones who camped in Chonhar and saw homeland only through the binoculars. Those ones who are persecuted, incarcerated for fabricated accuses and killed today. Those ones who migrated to the continent Ukraine and now have to remind about the right to be heard every day. We’re guilty because we have been watching, listening for so many years but failed to hear; because now few people bother themselves to light up a candle in May, commemorating the victims of the Crimean-Tatars genocide as well as we don’t light up the candles in the memory of the victims of Holodomor; and because now talking or writing fiction about Crimea we resort to flat slogans and surface exotic images; because we adjust a light plastic prosthesis instead of alive and complex Crimea which is, first and foremost, the homeland of the Crimean-Tatars. Basically, they wanted from the “center” only one – Ukraine in their land and full civil rights, ready to offer powerful force for support in return. Now, when it’s late for a lot of things, each individual citizen isn’t able to clean up long-standing Augean stables of the Ukrainian politics, to fit everywhere where it’s crapped, to restore the control over the essential state borders and restore the legitimacy in the temporarily occupied territories. But each individual citizen is able, for example, to learn the basics of the Crimean Tatar language, to sing along with them – to give them at least a small piece of home in this way. In the normal country, which Ukraine will become eventually, president and other decent people from TV screens will congratulate not only on Christmas, Easter and the rest of Christian holidays but also on the New Year according to Hijra, Ramazan Bayram, Rosh Hashanah and Purim. And none will curve the lips in the ironical grin. Especially advanced optimists can practice on the spot: there will be an important holiday for Ukrainian Muslims in November, for Ukrainian Jews in December. Sapienti sat. Ukraine is consolidated, as we like repeating.

And as every person, I don’t want to be influenced by despair. But I don’t know whether I’ll be back to Ukrainian Bakhchisaray or walk on that road along the gorge past the Dervish cemetery and up to Chufut-Kale. I’d agree for a downpour and cold and desperately want to see that granny with bunches of lavender and raincoats once more. The destruction of Temple became the kernel of self-perception, tragedy and metaphysics, around which countyless nation has been gathering. The loss of the Ukrainian Crimea is the tragedy of the same extent and yet it’s not realized. And face it, the recent world has shortened and shrank. But congratulating my friends in November, the Ukrainian Muslim-Crimean-Tatars on the birth of Prophet Muhammad as well as on every next holiday, I’ll be repeating it so long to make it reflexive, intrinsic as breathing, knowledge which sooner or later comes true:

Next year in Bakhchisaray.

Kateryna Kalytko

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