Returning from War

The Kazakh people are filled with brave heroes, and their bravery fills the pages of different historical epochs. For example, the Second World War revealed thousands of heroes whose exploits were on everyone’s lips. But there are also many who remain anonymous in the fog of oblivion. My story is about a man unknown to the general public but highly respected within his family, village, and region, where he earned respect through his indomitable spirit that overcame the horrors of war.

My grandfather’s name is Kali Ordabaev. He was born in 1909. In 1942, he went to the front from the collective farm of Kenes in Talas district of Zhambyl region. Joining a rifle division, his life was constantly on the brink of death amidst the fire and bullets. He participated in the bloody battle for Stalingrad — one of the most significant battles against fascism. On one of those days, an enemy sniper hiding nearby opened fire on the Soviet soldiers, and as a result, a bullet from the enemy’s rifle passed through my grandfather’s throat. Lying in a pool of blood and under fire, he lost consciousness. He only woke up in a military hospital. He never found out whether it was the soldiers or nurses who pulled him out from there. But he told a story about sled dogs that transported the wounded to the military hospital. At that moment, one could once again be convinced that Kazakhs considered dogs and horses to be intelligent animals. I am grateful and respectful to these four-legged medics who sacrificed their lives to save humans.

And undoubtedly, I am grateful to the doctors who brought my grandfather back from the brink of death. Because of his injury, they inserted iron into his throat. Thanks to this piece of iron, we could hear my grandfather’s voice — he would press on the hole in his throat and then speak. Because of this, everyone in the district called my grandfather «Perforated Kali.» Sometimes, he would clean the iron so that his voice would sound clearer.

The cruel war that shook the whole world inflicted an incurable wound not only on my grandfather’s flesh but also on his heart. He not only witnessed the horrors of war but also suffered from the consequences for the next 40 years. He was a disabled veteran of the first group and sought healing from his illness during peacetime. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it was for my grandfather at times due to a lack of air. I only understood it with the onset of the coronavirus in 2019.

When I talk about my grandfather, I cannot fail to mention my grandmother Kyztai, who created a comfortable life for him and thus became his compass in life. The contribution of my grandmother will undoubtedly remain a kind of saga on the lips of her relatives. In general, almost all Kazakh women were heroes on the home front. I am sure that we will never forget these people and their heroism. We know that behind every hero stands a farsighted and wise woman.

My grandfather was lucky — he was able to return home and live a peaceful life, see his children and grandchildren. No matter how difficult it was for him, no matter what hardships he faced, he always endured everything stoically and did everything possible from his side. He was awarded several orders and medals for his displayed heroism. In 1980, for the 35th anniversary of the Great Victory, an article about my grandfather titled «The Veteran of the Village» was published in the local newspaper. My grandfather passed away in 1986 at the age of 77.

My grandfather was a very serious and gentle person. Perhaps the war had such an influence on him, but he always remained calm about everything. Even when everything was turned upside down, he did not lose his composure. He had 12 children and about 100 grandchildren. My grandfather loved everyone and spoiled us in every way. Every time he received his pension, he would give me 10 rubles, which were a lot of money at that time. In comparison, bread cost 21 coins. I would always spend a couple of rubles on rides in the park and buy ice cream. I miss how my grandfather lovingly sniffed my forehead and patted me on the back…

Author: Aigul Kaliyeva

Editor: Ainur Yermakhanova

Translator: Diana Tsoy-Davis