Kalishnikovs and an Embroidered Handkerchief

17 May 1944, Akmescit, Crimea
Based on Ayşe Seytmuratova’s recollections

Smashing the door, 
my great-uncle had repaired that evening,
they forced their way into our sleep, 
a secret agent with a gold tooth,
two young soldiers, blonde-heads, 
and their newly issued kalishnikovs.
Only our hope was awake,
that he would return maybe that morning,
our father, Murtaza,
the lead Kolhoz farmer,
not knowing he was - not shot but -  frozen
while standing watch,
an unexpectedly calm night,
in Stalingrad.

The ground too hard to dig,
let the snow be his shroud.
A real Tatar fighter, wasn’t he?
They had covered his face with a red flag.
His sergeant gave him a good-bye salute.

Your pajamas are fine, just get the coats.
Only in the mosque’s yard she noticed
İbrahim, my baby brother, was barefooted –
our mother, Fahriye, the best cook of the collective.
As soon as the train left our Akmescit,
she passed away silently
as if not to awaken us
as if this was not an air she could breath.

For two days, maybe three, my older sister
spoke to her, sought her advice, even fought,
so that İbrahim does not notice.
When the Abkhazian conductor
opened the door of the railcar,
before entering a tunnel, we guessed near Gur’yev
İbrahim knew without a tear in his eyes.
He helped the armed guards to take away the body.

The ground too rocky to dig,
let the wind be her coffin.
A Tatar beauty, isn’t she?
I covered her eyes with my embroidered handkerchief.
An Armenian road-worker crossed herself quickly.