Times when the waters ran heavily and the smiles sprang
By Vusala Mammadova
Every day, my grandpa turned over the pages of the Azerbaijani Soviet Encyclopedia, big and in a red cover, and my uncle often ironed a red cloth for banners. Those were amazing times, when 120 rubles could make people happy for a whole month.
We could see war, hunger and poverty only in movies…
I was four and I went into the first grade together with 7-year-old children. It was with difficulty I could ascend my desk bench. My feet did not reach the floor and it was a torture for me to stand up and sit down. It was just my bad luck that our teacher very often told us about "Grandpa Lenin" and each time his name was mentioned, like all "happy Soviet children," the whole class stood up with a loud noise in demonstration of respect for the leader's name.
With incredible efforts, I at first slid off the bench, felt the floor with my feet, then stood up and got down, while all others were already sitting down by then…
My daily morning prayer has stuck in my memory ever since: "Oh Allah, make it so that Grandpa Lenin's name is not mentioned today."
By then, I knew several tales – about Melikmamed, who cut off the ropes and threw his brothers down into the well; about Alibaba, who handsomely stole treasures from bandits and took them to his home; about "Kechal"1, his trickery and dodges.
Although I had only two sisters, every day my teacher said that we are 15 brothers.
My greatest pleasure in life was the bread my grandma baked in tondyr. The heroes were those who picked more cotton or grapes than the others did.
It was only later that we hung the portrait of a certain Soviet soldier Rahib Mammadov in our school. He was killed in flooding, saving 22 people. We swore we would never forget him. We did not know yet that soon we would have hundreds of shahids who would make us absolutely forget about Rahib and all others.
In the meantime, there were times when the waters ran heavily and the smiles sprang…
For me, the word "Armenian" was a synonym for the word "usta."2
Armenian Arthur was an usta (master) and did some work in our house. Despite the weather, my grandma treated him to meals outdoors. "An Armenian has nothing to do in our house," she said.
My grandma was very fastidious and did not let dogs or cats into the house and I thought that Armenians must not be let into the house maybe because their feet are dirty.
Arthur worked honestly. However, he was never left without supervision. Even during the meals, my grandpa kept an eye on him. Every time Arthur came to our place, he would bring me sweets, chocolates, but I never made friends with him because we were never left one on one.
Once my grandma told me that Armenian is a nationality and not usta.
- "To scare their children, Armenian women say, "The Turk is coming"3,my grandma continued.
- "What is a Turk?"
- "The Armenians call us Turks4. They teach their children during their childhood that the Turks are their enemies5.
Everything got mixed up in my head. I did not understand many things and thought that "Turk" is the Armenian translation for "Azerbaijani."
My grandma died in "right times," she will never know that it is not only the Armenians who call us Turks.
When remembering this, I justify myself by the fact that a 4-year-old girl could not understand more than that.
I asked the 4-year-old son of my elder sister later:
- "What is an Armenian?"
- "A terrorist."
- "What is a terrorist?"
- "They kill children."
He brought a huge book titled Armenian Terror. Perhaps he thought that showing photos would make it easier to explain it to me.
- "All these children were killed by the Armenians," he said. "Even YouTube has this information!"
- "Where did you learn this from?"
- "My grandma taught me this…"