The International Writers
Vanished Leninabad - Archives
I was lucky to witness
the process of honey making at my dads honey farm situated in the
Fergana Valley region of Tajikistan many years ago. The place generously
produced the most delicious wildflower blossom honey, - free range and
organic (in the modern idiom we didnt call it that then!).
Bee-keeping was my dads hobby outside his full time job as Physics
lecturer at Leninabad University, a hobby he also combined with photography.
is very entertaining to watch bees crowding at the entrance to
their hives. There is a lot of activity there: some are bringing
flower nectar ready to be poured into the honeycomb, others have
just delivered and are leaving the nest for the next portion of
nectar (or whatever makes nice tasty honey once settled). It is
not very dangerous to watch them if you wear the appropriate clothing
and do not provoke them trying to interfere with their lives (as
with any normal life really).
His passion to his bees and to his Zenit camera secured beautiful shots
of the area with the honeybees playing the main part in them. There are
great pictures of the honeybees in work despite them being quick (bees
can out pace a healthy adult runner) and hard-working (they visit between
100 and 1500 flowers in order to fill their honey stomachs of 70 mg nectar
Looking through his pictures is something I can do over again and again.
Every time I discover new depths, new horizontal lines which lead back
into my childhood
Back into places I have not been for ages, and
not sure if I'll see them ever again.
One ancient Tajik proverb says one can not get into the same
river twice. When a child I could not grasp its meaning, having thought
if I move very-very fast (as a bee) to overtake the stream of our beautiful
Syr Daria River, graciously carrying its waters, I could be able to
jump into the same river.
However, even if I go to Leninabad now I will not be able to catch up
things I missed in 20 year-absence.
No one could.
I will not find that clear and sparkling river
. And that flat
I lived in with my parents, those good friends I played with on playground
shared between a few house-blocks - many of mates have moved out of
Lots of changes
Even the city is now returned its former name
Khudjand after 56 years of having been named after Lenin Leninabad.
Khudjand or Khudzhand (kh d´jänd) is an oasis surrounded
by mountains of the Pamir and positioned on both banks of the River
Sir Darya, which are simply called left and right. Situated on the famous
Silk Road from the Mediterranean to China it has very interesting history
and culture. It is believed to be over 26,000 years old according to
not proved facts.
was once one of the Alexandrias marking the farthest expansion of
Alexander the Great, called Alexandria Eskhat (the Outermost Alexandria).
It was plundered (711) by Arabs forces and later (1220) was razed
by Genghis Khan. As part of the Kokand khanate (early 19th cent.),
it was annexed (1866) by Russia. The city and surrounding area belonged
to Uzbekistan from 1924 to 1929. From 1936 to 1992 it was known
The country is different now to what it was when we left it in 1990s,
the country I was born in consisting of second generation settlers
went to work to Tajikistan in late 1920s, as many other educated people.
He was proud of the positive changes brought into the country in terms
of education, medical care, infrastructure and general quality of life.
When my grandfather retired he chose to stay in Tajikistan despite being
offered a reallocation to anywhere within former Soviet Union. He loved
warm Tajik land on which my grandmother and he brought up their children
and grandchildren. They both are buried in Dushanbe.
Understandably, my Dad was very reluctant to move to Russia following
the collapse of the Soviet Union, but he did so having left his heart
He suffered a major heart attack seven years ago following
a string of changes to come in terms with. His Russian citizenship was
queried not once, even though born in the former USSR (now a mystic
country like Atlantis fogged off in history) he had to prove his right
to live in Russia. A highly qualified and experienced University lecture
he had to learn how to grow cucumbers in the harsh weather conditions
of Russia. Since the age of 60 he had moved tons of weigh to sell cucumbers
in order to survive in suddenly blossomed wild market economy.
He is still busy as a bee, my Dad.
In me, nostalgia grows gradually..
Recently an eclipse shaped melon bought in an Asian shop of an English
resort town where I live now, has brighten up my day. It brought up
warm memories of Leninabad bazaar:
The bazaar was (surely is now and will be in the future) the heart of
the city - full of smells, noises and unwritten rules which I feel come
from depth of history. "Salaam" greeting and shop haggle
are compulsory there. The seller will not respect you, the buyer, unless
you haggle well. You come and ask the price, and hum: "Ooohh (compulsory),
Bucha (sister), its toooo expensive. That girl around the corner
has much better tomatoes and one kopeek (less than 1 pence!) cheaper".
Takes a while (this is not a supermarket) but the best price strikes
the deal to everyones satisfaction.
Literally, a kilo of juicy pink "beef heart" tomatoes cost
Bargain, but haggle is a ritual. Having finished with the shopping and
relived of cash, it is compulsory to stop at a tea house for a piala
(small china cup) of revitalizing green tea.
People do not move fast in hot countries. Time moves slower there. One
can not run too fast over melted pavement under 40 degrees heat in summer
These memories will always stay with me, in my heart, in my soul, as
part of my habits.
When is say "thank you", I lift my right arm to my heart,
as this is done in Asia.
When I pour green tea into a cup I never fill it up full, just a dash
to stretch the experience and to contemplate on it, as this is done
With black tea I fill a mug up to the top as a representation
of a life "to the full" - as this is done in Russia.
I love drinking tea with lemon and honey. I love looking through my
Dads old pictures which remind me of my mixed background retrieving
memories of my past.
© Natalya Popova April 2007
Pictures: by Vasiliy Ivanovich Popov
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