Амет Бекір Amet Bekir

* 1973

  • “After the big invasion, we started to work more with the children. We teamed up with a charity called My Dad Defends Ukraine. These little children have parents, mothers and fathers, who are at war. Crimea is something we talk about. Later, children who, like us in 2014, had to leave their homes. What homes? Some of them are now without a proper place to live. And now we are learning, we are learning alongside the children how to have a conversation... <...> Already, students, when we talk about Crimea, <...> they want to go to the free Ukrainian Crimea and build a cultural Switzerland together with us, Crimean Tatars. Our national hero, Noman Çelebicihan, spoke of this over a hundred years ago at the Kurultai [the supreme representative body of the Crimean Tatar people]. <...> The nations living in this fertile land of Crimea are like blossoms. Every country can be compared to a flower. The goal of the Crimean Tatars' Kurultai is to create a diverse and vibrant bouquet of nations and show the world that it's possible to create a cultural Switzerland.”

  • “Why Lviv? Because once we saw a programme called 'Orel i Reshka' [a Ukrainian travel TV show] and we saw about Lviv and we really liked it. And we said, 'Oh, one day we'll go to Lviv!’ Such an interesting city, so beautiful, so nice. They were talking about it like that! We thought one day we would go there. And so it happened... We were going nowhere! We had nobody there. We called the hotline and they told us, 'Come, everything will be fine!’ We set off, four of us in one compartment. We arrived in Armiansk — the occupation authorities were there. They checked our documents: my Ukrainian passport, Diliara's, Kamila's Ukrainian birth certificate, and then Mustafa's... He had an Uzbek birth certificate, but it was translated into Russian. And that's it... They said, ‘So what? Prove that this is your son! He's a citizen of another state, according to the documents he's Uzbek.’ How? Just like that. And déjà vu: in 1944 they expelled my father from his homeland, and in 2014 they took my son off the train because he had an Uzbek birth certificate. And you can't prove anything... I couldn't do anything. Diliara, my wife, said, 'Let's do it this way — I'll go with our son, you go with Kamila, our daughter, go. Because if we all leave the train, we won't dare to try to leave again’.”

  • "February. 2014. Some kind of action film started. It's a human thing, it's my thing, it's my perception of these events... I couldn't grasp that it was all happening here and now. I just couldn't! Because everything here overlapped with my childhood beliefs, my childhood belief that borders are inviolable. And here it was so easy, foreigners could enter so easily. They were called ‘little green men’ back then. And it was so easy, so easy for them. So much equipment! So much equipment! They keep coming, these planes, these vehicles. Everything keeps moving... And everything starts to change. Everything around. And it was a great resistance when my Crimean Tatar people came out on the 26th of February to show their support for Ukraine. To show that Crimea is Ukraine. That this cannot be. There, in Kyiv, their own events were taking place, the Maidan. When the Maidan won, they didn't know... There is a very powerful book called 'There Is Land Beyond Perekop', and I highly recommend reading it. There is indeed land beyond Perekop! There is Crimea! But until 2014, when all these events began, mainland Ukraine really knew Crimea as a place of the sea, chebureks, honey baklava and relaxation. Well, if there's no Crimea, we'll go on holiday to Turkey, to Bulgaria somewhere. That's what happened. It's very difficult, especially now, after the full-scale invasion, we have to talk very carefully, because there have been lots of deaths, huge numbers."

  • “Subconsciously, deep in my soul, I felt that I would live very little time in Crimea. 13 years. And we intuitively tried to travel [around Crimea]. And now, here on the mainland, in Ukraine, in Drohobych, in Lviv — I constantly asked [people] with such eagerness, ‘When were you in Crimea? Where were you?’ And it’s mainly people from Drohobych, residents of Drohobych or Lviv. And now, after the full-scale invasion, there are people from all corners of Ukraine here, in Lviv. I often ask them if they have been to Crimea, and they say yes, reminiscing about their trip. Through them, I reconnected with my native Crimea. They tell [about] their journeys. Many Ukrainians travelled to Crimea. I listen to their chats and recall the time I spent away from Crimea, waiting to come back while in Uzbekistan. I am very happy when I talk to those people who have been to Crimea. And they tell such interesting things about my native Crimea, about the mountains, about the history. It has become my hobby to gather and remember these conversations.”

  • “For my active involvement, the teacher, the class leader, she... There were two tickets to Artek [a pioneer camp in Crimea for the best students of the Soviet Union] for our school, and she took one and offered it to my parents. I still remember, 210 rubles, 210 rubles! That was such big money! Well, my father earned about 300 rubles, and we had to pay 210 rubles to get the ticket. But my father said, ‘I'll take the money from that...’ Since childhood, I remember constantly collecting money for Crimea, constantly giving up on things, but saving money. <...> I saw my father weep twice. The first time was when he found out that I would be able to go to Artek, it was in 1984. He didn't believe it until the very end. Why? Firstly, he had this understanding: Crimean Tatars are not allowed to go. Because when the decree was issued — they allowed Crimean Tatars to return to Crimea on paper, but in reality — no. Our relatives, when the decree was issued, went to Crimea in the 1960s, but they were arrested and expelled. They couldn't stay. But there were cases where our people stayed. I don’t know how it happened, but they stayed in Crimea. What about those who couldn’t? They were in Melitopol. There were a lot of them in Melitopol, closer to Crimea.”

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For nine years, I have been talking about my childhood dream of returning to Crimea

Amet Bekir at the Berestechko Festival, 2016
Amet Bekir at the Berestechko Festival, 2016
photo: Personal archive of Amet Bekir

Amet Dilâver Oğlu Bekir was born on August 4, 1973, in Namangan, Soviet Uzbekistan. His parents were both Crimean Tatars from families exiled by the Soviet authorities from the Crimean Peninsula in May 1944. He visited his historic homeland for the first time in 1984 during a holiday at the Artek Young Pioneer Camp on the Black Sea, near Ayu-Dag on the Crimean peninsula. He completed his education at Namangan State University and later became an English language teacher. In 2001, he won a teaching competition in Uzbekistan and subsequently travelled to the United States with fellow teachers from several post-Soviet countries. Upon returning, he relocated to Crimea with his family and pursued work both as a tour guide at the Bakhchysarai Palace and as an English teacher in a school. On September 1, 2014, he left the occupied Crimea with his family and resettled in Drohobych, located in the Lviv Region. Together with the charitable organisation Caritas, he implemented educational and cultural projects for Crimean Tatar families in the city. He founded the civic organisation Areket in December 2015 with the goal of protecting the rights of internally displaced persons and promoting multicultural diversity. In 2020, he assumed the role of the leader of the English for Kids club, aimed at elementary school students attending Halytskyi Lyceum and School No. 87. He continues to educate on the history, culture, and traditions of Crimean Tatars through lectures and workshops. Despite the full-scale invasion, the Bekir family made the decision not to leave Ukraine.