Kyrgyzstan: was it all for nothing?

16-09-2010 Feature

The events of June 2010 in southern Kyrgyzstan led to the destruction of property, including many houses, whose owners are now living in precarious conditions. The ICRC is helping rebuild some of the houses. ICRC delegate Maya Kardava spoke to Ranno, one of the 3,000 people who will benefit from this assistance.


  ©ICRC/M. Kardava    
This shell is all that is left of Ranno's house.    

I met Ranno in the Cheriomushki settlement of the city of Osh in Southern Kyrgyzstan. Cheriomushki is one of the areas hardest-hit by the events of June 2010 in Osh.

House after house, or rather what is left out of them, whizzes past as we drive through the settleme nt. It is hard to believe that less than two months ago this was a peaceful area, where people went about their daily lives normally.

Our car stops in one of the neighbourhoods. Women start to gather nearby to watch what is going on. Ranno is one of them. We are all silent. There is not much to talk about as, all around us, the evidence of the recent events speaks for itself. Ranno kindly invites us to visit her ‘house.'

We go through the high metallic gate, which is so typical of this area, into a square yard surrounded by the ruins of Ranno's house. White walls covered in soot are all that remains. There are no roofs, windows or doors. Everything was burnt down. The small piece of land that used to be Ranno's garden is no longer what it used to be. It is still green, though, and with ripe tomatoes here and there, it looks like an oriental carpet. It is a sign of life in this, otherwise, desolate scene. The place is eerily silent.

Ranno looks around her yard then at me and says, " You know I had to give away my 18-year-old daughter, Camilla, because of all this.” Perhaps my face betrays my confusion about what she means by ‘giving away her daughter.’ So Ranno explains, " I forced her into marriage, as I no longer had enough space for three of us. This tent (she points at the white tent, right at the entrance, which she received as humanitarian aid), is my only ‘room,’ and I share it with my 22-year-old son. "

 For 16 years she built her house, bit by bit  

Ranno was 19 when she got married. Eight years later her husband died, leaving her with two children aged six and two. Ranno knew she had to cope, and she managed to. She worked and raised the children on her own. “And when they wer e old enough to go to school, I had to pay for their education,” she says. " I built this house over a period of 16 years, slowly, bit by bit, buying construction material when I could,” she adds.

  ©ICRC/M. Kardava    
Ranno contemplates her future as she looks at the remains of the house she spent 16 years building.    

Ranno points at an annex to the house. The annex had obviously just been constructed at the time it was burnt. " I started building it when my son turned 20. In our tradition, when a boy reaches the marriage age he should have his own house. I wanted him to have everything that any other guy of his age had,” she explains. Ranno shows me a burnt pile of construction material, including ceramic tiles, as if to provide physical evidence of what is saying.

There is another moment of silence. " You know, I simply feel sad about all the efforts I made these past 16 years,” she tells me t hrough tears. " Was it all for nothing,” she wonders?

I try to console her, but it is difficult, if not impossible.

Ranno agrees to take pictures. She smiles and asks if she looks all right for a photo. " If I could, I would at least change my scarf. But I do not have any other left. And this will be my only photo, as all my family albums were burnt, along with all our official documents. I did not manage to save them,” she explains.

She prefers to be photographed on the ‘green carpet,’ saying " this is the only normal place in my yard now.”

As I am about to leave, Ranno kindly offers me tea, apologizing that she cannot offer me the traditional plov, a spicy dish consisting of rice, meat and vegetables. I thank her for her hospitality. " Will you come back when my house is finished?” Ranno asks as I go through the high metallic gate. " In our tradition when the roofing is done we prepare a big pot of plov and invite everyone,” she concludes.

I promise her that I will come back.