This is what President Nazerbayev said about Abay in 1995 which was voted as “The Year of Abay” by UNESCO:
“Honestly, there is no need to find the basis of our strong Kazakh beginnings somewhere abroad. All we need to do is find Abay… the world of Abay is our guiding star. Each person who cares for the wealth of his nation, ought to read Abay, ought to grasp his wise advice.”
On the last slide Aray showed a photo of Abay with the following quote:
“The world is the ocean. Time, like a wind races the waves of generations, changing each other. They disappear but the ocean remains the same.”
The next speaker was Laura whose grandfather was sent to Siberia for 15 years because it was thought he was a Kazakh nationalist when he presented a paper titled: “About Preparing Scientific Specialists in Kazakhstan.” He was sent to one of the most terrible gulags as part of the intelligentsia. However, not only did he live among other political prisoners but also there were killers and thieves at his gulag. Many died not only from hunger and cold but some prisoners were murdered. This is what Laura wrote:
“But as my father told me, everyone respected my granddad because of his justice, erudition, wide reading and strength of will. Fifteen tormented years he struggled with death, repeating to himself again and again: “I will survive.” He was not one of those men who ever gave up.
He DID survive and several years after his release, my grandfather defended his dissertation in math and was a highly respected professor at a university.”
Finally, Aida spoke about her grandmother who had survived ALZHIR, a prison camp for women who were married to “Enemies of the People.” She was still a young newlywed when her husband was taken away and she was sent to do hard labor for ten years. She found out later that her husband had been killed, she remarried and the photo below is her family that she hoped to live and see.
Aida had interviewed her on May 25, 2005 and these are her words from that interview, she has since passed on.
“One day when we came after very difficult working day to our barracks, I started to recite the poem of the Alexander Pushkin about bravery and hope…The jailer of our barracks stayed silently and then added: even if we separate you from your family and your high elite community and force you to work, you are still morally unbreakable. I wonder at your power!”
Is it no wonder that I love teaching these kinds of students who have such amazing stories passed on to them from their grandparents? Indeed, I am very, very privileged to know these three Kazakh girls among the 100s others who have been my students this past year in Almaty, Kazakhstan.