Vladimir Boldyrev, Autobiography

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Terbish, Baasanjav 

This is what Vladimir says: In the past Kalmyks were cattle breeders. They had cattle and consumed meat and dairy products. This time has passed. Today young people do not speak their language or follow their customs. They do not even distinguish between their paternal and maternal relatives. I arrived in Siberia when I was 9. My mother, grandmother and two younger siblings died there. I was left with my elder sister and we survived on handouts. I ended up in an orphanage along with many Kalmyk children. I forgot the Kalmyk language there. There is a saying, ‘You get smarter when you suffer’. I suffered a lot. I worked as a herder just to earn food when I was 11. At 12 I worked as a tractor driver. I wish our descendants would never go through this! May there be no wars! Today many complain that there is nothing good in Kalmykia. I say to them, ‘Be a master of your land, work for the benefit of others and everything will be alright!’ When our sovkhoz disbanded, I searched for another job, but instead had to take my retirement, because I had worked for 52 years as a tractor driver. In Siberia it was hard for us. We were outcasts and did not see anything good in life. There was an old Kalmyk man in our kolkhoz who, when drunk, shouted, ‘I am a grandson of the great Lenin and Hitler’s son-in-law!’. He was sentenced to ten years for this. I learnt that his wife was German. That was it, such was our government back then. In 1956 when I was working in Frunze I suddenly heard someone sing a Kalmyk song called ‘Sharka-barka’. My colleague and I stopped working and went out to see who was singing. It turned out that the song was coming from a gramophone. Kalmyks were returning home from exile. Upon my return from Siberia, I got married and this November I will celebrate the 60th anniversary of my wedding. I wish that you and your wife live together as long as I have had with mine. Teach your children not only how to read or write, but also Kalmyk folklore and customs. In the past, old people considered those who knew proverbs to be wise. I have relatives from Artezian, who went to a temple when their children fell ill. In the temple they were told to make an offering to their ancestors. They came to me to ask where their ancestral land is. I explained to them that our ancestors demand that their living descendants make offerings to them. I myself make offerings to a fire, which is a very powerful ritual. In the past, Kalmyks were curious about each other’s clan affiliation. I am Torghut. We all need to know which clans we belong to. My relatives have built a stupa in our ancestral land. In the past our lamas studied in Mongolia, whereas today they study in India. Having said this, our lamas know neither their language nor customs. On my altar I keep a photo of lamas. I received this photo from the lama Tsagan Otkhaev, my father’s friend. One of my relatives named Partyn Shar was a lama. He died before WW Two at the age of 95. Lamas did not marry at that time and were looked after by their relatives. Another relative of mine on my father’s side named Dyudrya Monkya had the title of Erketen zaisang.

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