From fighting against Hitler to climbing Arafat Mountain

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The three Usbek World War II vets who are here to perform Haj. — Okaz photo

Okaz/Saudi Gazette

MAKKAH — Of the 16 million who were killed in World War II, a limited number of Uzbeks, who had fought for the Allies, did come out alive but not unscathed. At the end of the war they came home with slight to serious injuries, but were thankful that they were the few who had made it.

Three of the surviving veterans are in Makkah to perform Haj and Okaz was there to reveal their stories, which are filled with strange and amazing information that they remember back from the time at the battlefield.

The total number of Uzbeks who participated in the war was 1,300 fighters, and the survivors today age between 90-108 years old. They are the pride of their country, Uzbekistan, which won its independence around 26 years ago. They helped defeat the German army led by Hitler.

Back home, the government and people treat them specially and hold an annual celebration in their honor. The government also offers them free medical care, free home and lands as well as cars.

This year the government decided to send some of them to Makkah to perform Haj and make their dream come true. Three capable pilgrims were selected and three doctors were assigned to accompany and take care of them. Okaz met the three and listened to their stories about the war that took place around 77 years ago.

Torgan Yoldicin, 95 years old, joined his village people in 1941 and went to battle. Three year later, he came back to the village alone as all his fellowmen were killed in action. He himself lost one of his legs because of a grenade that went off near him. “The memory of the incident is still strong,” he said. He was one of the many in the army that helped lift the siege in January 1944 — 872 days after it had been imposed. During this period, he was able to send only five letters to his family.

He is thankful to Allah that he escaped death twice, the first time in 1942 after being hit in the back following a mine that went off nearby. He returned home, got married and today has three sons and four daughters.

This is the first time he is performing Haj, though he had been dreaming of this moment for the last seven decades. He has 76 grandchildren who enjoy listening to his war stories. He always advises them against joining the military and always urges them to focus on education.

Zolen Raheem, 96 years, is another solider who participated in the war in Berlin. He went through so many hardships during the war and escaped death several times. He returned home years later and married. He has been dreaming of performing Haj for a long time. He feels overjoyed that he performed a prayer in the Grand Mosque and circled the Holy Kabaa.

During the war, he was in charge of several tasks. He was responsible for wireless communications and driving a big truck. He remember crawling for long distance under the barbed wire and in bushes trying to escape being killed or caught in the line of fire. His courageous acts won him several medals of which he is proud. Although over two million were killed in that war, he escaped unscathed. He is thankful for that. He has over 60 grandchildren.

Ibrahim Obeidallah, 106 years old, fought alongside his fellowmen in the Gagauz Front for three years 1941-1944, escaping death miraculously three times. He is very anxious and waiting patiently for the Day of Arafat.

The first time he escaped death was when a German aircraft bombarded they area they were stationed. All other soldiers were killed except him. He walked back to the camp and while he was telling the senior officer about the tragedy, a sniper shot the senior officer right in the head.

Obeidallah escaped as he ducked to cheat death again. The third time was when grenade shrapnel hit him. He was transported to the hospital in a critical condition. The doctors saved him and proclaimed him unfit for military service because of permanent injuries. He married twice. The first wife passed away 15 years ago and the second few years after the marriage. He has over 100 grandchildren.


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