Exile stories XVII: Rafael Safin, refugee from the former Soviet Union Republic – Tajikistan

Looking for a person who experienced exile, migration or something like that to interview in order to prepare for the Eustory seminar Aliya from Russia realized that she even does not have to go far away in searching:

Aliya, Russia

I can start from my nearest surrounding. My family experienced something similar to that in earlier 90s. That is why I decide to interview my elder brother Rafael. So here is the summery of the interview and some additional information from members of my family.

Rafael Safin is 31 years old man now. He is a musician. He lives in Kazan, Russia. Rafael was born on the 28 November, in 1979. At the age of 14 his family and he moved from a small town named Kurban-Tube (Tadjikistan) to Alabuga (Russia). As he can judge it now, it was very important event in his life.

The reason due to which his family had to move was a civil war, that had started between two Tajik subgroups after the collapse of USSR back in 1992-1993 years. These groups struggled for leadership, money and power. People from mountains decided to overthrow Tajik elite. At the beginning it was a conflict between

Safins family

leaders of these two subgroups, but very soon it drew wide masses of people too.

The war was nationalistic and did not directly concern other nationalities than Tajiks. Tajiks were saying that this war was not their war. However, being Tatar (Tatars are nationality that lives in Russia and is supposed to be a third large national group in Russia) – Rafael and his family still felt frightened for their lives. Social surrounding despite to statements of fighting sides was unfriendly to foreigners. It was bad surrounding for growing up three children (Rafael is the eldest child in his family. He also has one smaller brother (Marat) and a smaller sister (Aliya). There was no food, no job, no opportunities to study (schools and children gardens were closed), development. Simply saying, staying there was dangerous for life. Everyday cross-shootings, bombings, destroyed economy completely. People did not have electricity, water and were in fear outside, at home –a llthe time.  That is why family decided to go away from Tajikistan. The other people, Germans, Russian, Ucrainies, who could move from that place moved away too,  and who could not, stayed there…

Rafael says that he does not remember did the local Tajik people exile them or not, he was not enough big to analyze it but he does not reject such possibility. However, Rafael’s parents told many times that local aggressive people who were involved in this war said personally to them: Go away! You are Russians, so go to your country, Russia. Do not stay in our homeland”.

To the question “How did you live at Kurgan-Tube in Tajikistan before the civil war had starred?” Rafael said that they lived very well. USSR was a big country. Tajikistan was one of its parts . People from other republics and from the center parts of USSR were coming to Tajikistan to have rest and even to live there because living in southern republics and also in Tajikstan was easier comparing to more northern places of USSR. Tajikistan was also a very beautiful prospering place. Rafael’s grandparents were moved to Tajikistan in early 30s and they for happy to that. Actually saying this forced movement of Tatars and people of other nationalities was a governmental directive to fill up new territories denser. As a result, Rafael’s  parents, he and his brother and sister were born there. People in Tajikistan never had to bother about what to eat, they were sure in their future. People of different nationalities lived in peace in Tajikistan for many years before the USSR had collapsed. In Rafael’s opinion, if USSR did not break apart, then people in Tajikistan would live there very well until now.

To the question :”How did you adapt to the new place?”, Rafael said that adaptation process to Russia was very difficult.

The first reason for that was social. Local people, Russians, did not welcome well new comers, did not like them because they thought that new-comers could captivate space, jobs, resources that were  already limited. Local people saw new-comers as foreigners. However, it is not true. Rafel’s family came back to historical motherland Tatarstan, to the place there his grand grand grandparents  were born and lived for a long time.

The second reason for difficult adaptation was climate and weather changes. There were 9 months of summer per year in Tajikistan and here, in Russia, it was 9months of winter. The lowest negative temperature between these too places was also different. It was – 5 0C in Tajikistan and -300C in Russia. Rafael’s said that after coming to a new place, all members of his family got ill at the first year because they did not treat Russian winter very seriously.They did not expect weather to be so harsh.

The third reason was physiological. It is always difficult to adapt to a new place, new friends, new life style and new social rules and stereotypes. He also missed his old friends that were far away from him.

But time passed and Rafael managed to adapt to Alabuga and his new life. Of course, he is still missing Tajikistan and would like to visit it one day and regrets that USSR had fallen apart.

To the question “How do Rafael evaluate his family’s migration?” he said that he sees it as a “forcibly displaced people’s movement or refugee movement”.

Personally saying, I am also the member of this family who experienced migration from Tajikistan to Russia. Due to small age, I was5 years all, I could adapt to new place easier than my brother. My parents were also sad about leaving Tajikistan and the life they had before in USSR time. 90s were very difficult time and they had to survive in this situation and grow up three children. Of course, it was difficult test but they passed it well. Now they have one grandson and all children are educated and work. My parents are happy to be and live in motherland and feel themselves quit good.

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