Ukraine, Krestovka, September 19, 2014
64-year-old Zakhadin Aslanov has lunch in his home after Friday prayer in the village of Krestovka, his granddaughter Belora comes into the room to show of two toy bears. Aslanov is the Kherson representative of Vatan, an international organization advocating for the repatriation (it translates as “homeland” in Turkish) of Meskhetian Turks. "The most important, the most sacred thing to us, is to go home” The ethnic Turks came to Ukraine after Soviet troops kicked them out of Uzbekistan in 1989, where they had largely settled in and around the cotton-lined Fergana Valley. 70 years ago Josef Stalin deported the Meskhetian Turks to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan en masse in 1944 from Georgia’s mountainous region of Meskhetia on the border with Turkey. Now with the war in Ukraine some of the ethnic Turks are once more thinking about leaving. Zakhadin Aslanov was orphaned soon after the first deportation, when both his parents died from illnesses connected to the journey. Out of the nine children he had with his wife Asamat, only three survived to adulthood.
Photo: Joel van Houdt