Stronger than Death

What is ‘stronger than death’? … hope, love, birth, belief …

Today, I say Kazakhs!

The word Kazakh means ‘free-warrior’ and ‘steppe roamer’. Imagine these descendants of Genghis Khan; proud hordes of nomadic animal herders on horseback. The world’s last nomadic empire!

Until … the communist take-over in 1920 … They are pushed one step up the Marxist evolutionary ladder to become ‘settled farmers in new collectives’. But they slaughter their herds rather than hand them over to state control. And unused to agriculture, they die in hundreds of thousands from famine & disease.

Then … during the Cold War the Soviet Union conducts a total of 456 nuclear tests in this ‘remote’ region; 340 under-ground and 116 above-ground. Kazakhstan looks empty on the map but it is not.

Older residents remember being evacuated, feeling the earth shake, seeing the cloud and returning home in a hot wind. The tests end in 1989, but the flesh and blood legacy continues … in first, second, third (and more?) generations. The UN estimates that 1.3 million Kazakhs suffer from related cancers, genetic mutations, mental illness, weakened immune systems and developmental delays.

Today, there stands on a hill, in the town of Semey, a monument called ‘Stronger than Death’. It is a remembrance to these Kazakh victims of nuclear fall-out and contamination.

We visit the ‘Stronger than Death’ memorial on a Saturday afternoon. It’s a huge, oblong slab, with its centre cut out to portray a nuclear mushroom cloud. In its base, a woman shields her child.

Here, a colossal surprise catches us! A human chain sweeps us up. It’s marriage mania! We are back-to-back with couple-after-couple of newly weds! They have come to lay a wreath, and celebrate all-things ‘Stronger than Death’. Along the way, they snap photos, hug friends, release doves, tie prayer flags to trees, entertain and tease and cheer. It’s a roller-coaster ride and we are on it! We shout congratulations, applaud grand gestures, approve of beautiful dresses, and salute proud parents.  At least 15 wedding parties, large and small, loud and tranquil, pass us by.

We are in the midst of unbelievable merriment … I cry on the inside.

We are on a trip that screams with resilience … We see life knock down people who bounce back better than before!

And here, it is most beautifully on display!

Thank You KAZAKHS for being ‘Stronger than Death’.

 

A Monument in Semey, south-east Kazakhstan. It is in rememberance of victims of nuclear fall-out and contamination.

 

It is of a nuclear cloud and a woman shields a child at its base. The Monument is called 'Stronger than Death'.

 

But what is 'Stronger than Death' ... hope ...

 

... love ...

 

!!! KAZAKHS !!!

 

Newly weds, come in droves, to celebrate all things 'Stronger than Death'.

 

In the 3 hours we are there, at least 15 couples ... arrive ...

 

...

 

... walk towards the monument ...

 

... lay a wreath ...

 

... take photos ...

 

 

...

 

... release doves ...

 

... tie prayer flags to a tree ...

 

...

 

... tease and cheer ...

 

.... and on route out, hang a lock onto the bridge, toss the key into the river ...

 

... and for good measure, fling a bottle of champagne after it ...

 

KAZAKHS are Stronger than Death!

 

 

 

7 Responses to Stronger than Death

  1. Scottish Stephens

    What a marvellous emotional experience for you and for us your readers

  2. Anonymous

    Beatifull

  3. Mike

    456 nuclear tests!! Sad that one of the world powers should have so little regard for “others”

  4. Mr,T

    Strong people.

  5. janice

    Freda and I were so moved! The strength of the human spirit is amazing! Freda says to stay safe!

  6. jan and gail

    Amazing resilience and it gives me a beautiful spiritual message. Life goes on, people find joy in their lives and reasons to celebrate. Gail
    In Boris Pasternak’s novel – Dr Zhivago -, for which he was forced to refuse the Nobel Price for Literature, he describes a young artillery officer speaking with a strong Khazak Russian accent, that supports the Czar’s cause to the end. This was In contrast to many Russian intelectuals, who supported the Leninist brand of communism. This last group was in turn exterminated during the Great Purges under Stalin. In the old days, I think, the Khazaks were called the Kozaks. They were also famous for there singing and the beauty of there girls. Traditionally they also liked to enlist in the czar’s armies, often in the cavalery. Jan

  7. wolfman

    Very touching…

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