Qartlar ("The Elderly")

a life-long exile

A feature documentary film about elderly Crimean Tatar people who recall the dramatic history of their people

To watch the film, click on the poster above. The film teaser is here.

In the Crimean Tatar language, "qartlar" means "the elderly". That is how elderly people are called with respect. The heroes of our film are six people, and the youngest one is 75 years old.

They are through many hardships. From an early age, they were deprived of their homes and homeland, humiliated, and persecuted. But they remember who they are, they keep the memories of the tragic events in the history of their people, the Second World War, the deportation in 1944, and everything that happened afterward.

The deportation of Crimean Tatars was ethnic cleansing and an act of genocide. It caused unprecedented suffering and numerous casualties. Roughly and cruelly crammed into freight wagons of the "trains of death", the deportees were transported to the Urals and Central Asia, and many of them died on this horrible road.

Even now, when you listen to these memories, you realize how much horror in children's hearts all these tragic events left. But that was just the beginning. Most Crimean Tatars came to Central Asia. Forced to work hard, having no chance to meet their basic needs, they suffered from hunger, thirst, and terribly inhuman conditions. But they still survived, although the death toll continued to rise.

Tens of thousands of their husbands and brothers, fathers and sons returned home from the war and learned that their families had been deported. And no more additional information. Many discharged war veterans searched for their families for years, and we don't know how many families had never reunited.

They survived, settled in their new places, made new friends, built new houses. But they always had one dream, which they never gave up - a dream to return home, back to the Crimea. Crimean Tatars tried to return in any way, although it was forbidden. They tried to find different ways, but few succeeded.

Much later, at the end of the Soviet Union, the deportation of Crimean Tatars was officially declared unlawful. But the system never stopped resisting - the Crimean Tatars, who managed to return home, found themselves in a very difficult situation. They could not get a job because they did not have a residence permit, and they were unable to get this permit because they did not have a job. The police constantly persecuted them, the authorities did not give them a rest, they were sometimes even thrown in jail for "violation of the passport regime", but some Crimean Tatars still managed to gain a foothold and survive in Crimea. Although many had to move to the mainland of Ukraine, closer to the Crimea, still waiting for better times to come.

Under such difficult circumstances, the national movement of the Crimean Tatars never subsided. There were many rallies throughout the USSR - in Uzbekistan, where mostly deportees lived, and even in Moscow. The leaders of the national movement, of course, were repressed, and many people were thrown into prison. But times had finally changed. The end of the USSR marked the beginning of the mass return of Crimean Tatars to their historical homeland. Everyone who could afford to move did so without hesitation, abandoning the houses they had built, and leaving behind their past lives.

It has never been easy to return and move back to Crimea. Even after the collapse of the USSR, the Crimean Tatars were never compensated for the loss of property and land. They never received the necessary legal protection and state support, and still remain a national minority in their homeland. But they survived the troubles, rebuilt their houses and mosques, and took care to preserve their language and culture. These people have seen too much injustice and cruelty in their lives.

But another foreign invasion took place, and the enemy that recaptured their homeland was still the same. However, the Qartlar are full of dignity and hope. They believe that justice will be restored, and they pass on their love for Crimea, their faith, and their positive outlook to the next generations of Crimean Tatars.

The Qartlar are the ones who preserve the living history of their people and make the future possible. Because they are living history themselves. The Qartlar believe that their homeland will one day be liberated, and the Crimean Tatar people will regain their legal rights. If only this had happened in their lifetime...

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Photos taken at shooting