Diary from Uzbekistan (9): Table of plenty in village is evidence of gratitude

Published on 3 October by Stichting Russisch Ereveld


The entire family wants to bid Remco Reiding and his delegation welcome. This is the long awaited day. The tall man from the Netherlands who has traced their brother and uncle has come to Tallikarun, their small village in central Uzbekistan.

We enter a courtyard with a surprisingly large field behind it. The fertile clay and a brook that flows past it provide for a rich harvest of onions, garlic, pumpkins, pomegranates and grapes. While still engrossed in this rural idyll we are being invited into the guest room.

There the low table has been set and the pillows shaken up. As we enter the room we observe two photos that have been placed on the couch as if they were paintings. They are pictures of Elmurad Omonov, who lies buried in the Soviet Russian War Cemetery, and his younger brother Normurad, 93 by now. His posture is straight, but his eyes reveal that he is not all there anymore.

Emurad had to leave Tallikarun in 1939. The 19-year old had just started his career as a village teacher, when he was called up for military service. He had to fight the Finns in the Winter War (30/11/39 to 13/03/40). And even though this conflict ended in March 1940 his family suspects the army did not let him go. A few years later he was captured near Rostov after which the Germans put him to work on the Western Front. That is how he ended up on Soesterberg airfield in the Netherlands, where he was killed on 24 May 1943 during an air attack.

To the delegation the meeting in Tallikarun is one of the highlights of the trip through Uzbekistan. So much warmth, attention and thankfulness.

Not that the family know where their uncle lies buried, it is their wish to symbolically unite him with his father and mother by means of the earth on his grave in the Netherlands. So that the wound of his death may finally be healed.

In the guest room a table of plenty awaits us. Filled with bread, candy, cheese, fresh tomatoes and bunches of white grapes from their own garden. And as we sit down – on the floor as is the custom – steaming bowls soup and boiled vegetables are added to this abundance. Before we are allowed to take a bite a 68-year old nephew says a short prayer to Allah in gratitude for this get-together.

When Remco has told his hosts everything he knows about their brother and uncle it is time to leave. But not until after photos have been taken outside of the family with the delegation. Even then it is felt that not enough gratitude has yet been shown, and so Remco receives a cho’pon, a beautiful wrap coat.

Over the same dirt road along which we have come, we return to our hotel in Qarshi, still preoccupied by the day’s events. In the gathering dusk we silently gaze out over flat and fertile fields that Elmurad in 1939 saw for the last time, over 5500 kilometres away from his final resting place in Amersfoort.