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Collectors' Stories Read through collectors' stories of failure and success. The successor to The Soviet Military Awards Page Digest.

 
 
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Old 03-16-2016, 06:50 AM   #1
Henry Sakaida
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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This is the follow up to a story that can be found here - Mookhudin Umurdinov, Uzbek Hero Of The Soviet Union and here - Stolen And Returned, The Journey Of A Hero Star.

I WAS A GUEST OF THE HERO’S FAMILY
By Henry Sakaida

It was almost 14 years ago that I returned a great family heirloom to an Uzbek family via the US Embassy. On 1 August 2002, Mr. Rakhmatzon Umurdinov received his father’s Hero of the Soviet Union medal at the Uzbek National Military Museum in Tashkent.

Ever since the Umurdinovs received the medal back, they had been asking me for years to come and visit them. I had been reluctant to go since we had been heavily involved in Afghanistan, which Uzbekistan borders. I was afraid of the anti-American sentiments. But finally in September 2013, I decided to go. I went online to learn as much as I could about the country, and bought a Lonely Planet Guide to Uzbekistan.

When I touched down in Tashkent, I was greeted by Rakhmatzon and his friend Isroil. His friend spoke excellent English and became our translator. It seemed like Rakhmatzon and I were old friends; we had exchanged many letters and family snapshots over the years. They had driven the 7 hours from Fergana Valley to the capital city. I was surprised to see that Tashkent was a bustling, ultra-modern city.

While in Tashkent, I contacted Paul Schmitt, the co-author of The Comprehensive Guide to Soviet Orders and Medals with Paul McDaniel. Paul was working at the American Embassy. It was finally nice to meet him in person. The following day, he took me to the local bazaar (much like our swap meet). All the dealers knew him and what his interests were. We didn’t see any high orders and medals, only the common stuff. “Once in a while, I’ll find something worth buying!” said Paul.

“Tashkent is completely safe!” Paul assured me. He never had to worry about his two teen daughters going out. They have bus passes and they go all over the city on their own. Communication is no problem since they spoke fluent Russian. In fact, Paul told me that he felt his girls were more safer in Tashkent than in the US! After that, I never worried about safety.

A few days later, we arrived in Boyiston Village in Fergana Valley. Fergana is a very fertile farming region. Here, you could see cars and donkey carts sharing the roads. All the women wore brightly colored dresses. Women did not wear bluejeans and T-shirts like they do in the US. If they did, they were foreign tourists or ultra modern Uzbek women. My host explained to me that they were Muslims, but not like those who prayed five times a day. Basically, Uzbeks are very low key about it, just like people here in the US. Uzbekistan had once been a part of the Soviet Union, and the authorities suppressed religion during that era.

Boyiston Village is old, with a population of 2,000. The Umurdinovs invited me into their home. Uzbek hospitality is just as severe as Ukrainian and Russian hospitality! The country is known for their wide variety of fruits. I think I was the first American visitor to their village.

One thing to know about Uzbekistan: I had to register at the hotel where I stayed. I could not stay with my hosts. It’s this old Soviet style mentality toward foreigners. I was required to keep a daily receipt from the hotel, which I would have to show at passport control in order to leave.

The following day, I went with Rakhmatzon and his son, and his older brother, and friends to visit the grave of their father, one of the 69 Uzbeks to become a Hero of the Soviet Union. I placed flowers on his grave and had my photo taken. Now my story was complete.

Rakhmatzon told me an interesting story. His father’s Hero medal had been lost three times! The first time was when he accompanied his father to market. They crossed a stream and when they arrived at the market, his dad’s medal was gone! They backtracked and eventually found the medal where it was dropped.

The second time the medal was lost was when, after his father died, a local man asked my host to loan it to him. His friend started a Martial Arts studio and wanted to display the medal in his dojo to inspire his students.
After a while, when Rakhmatzon visited the studio, it was boarded up! His friend’s business had failed and he moved to Moscow without telling him.
Luckily, Rakhmatzon was able to locate him after a long time; he returned, and brought back his father’s Hero medal.

The third time, the village flooded during a violent rain storm. The family had to evacuate. When they returned a few days later, their home had been ransacked, and the medal was gone. They kissed the medal goodbye. “It was gone forever!” said Rakhmatzon. Then he received my letter and you know the rest of the story.

With the return of the medal, the Umurdinov local lore was established.
Sgt. Mookhudin Umurdinov, a former radioman during the war, returned to his village. To modernize the community, he worked hard to wire the village for electricity, and worked as chairman of the local collective farm. He was great revered. “He was such a great man,” says the legend, “that Allah brought home his Hero medal!” Sounds great to me!

What was my impression of Uzbekistan? The people there are genuinely curious about Americans! Their government is spending a lot to tear down the old Soviet style apartments and replacing them with modern ones. Their major roads are just as good as the ones we have here. They have great restaurants and great food!

Photograph #1 Rakhmatzon Umurdinov and me. At parties and gatherings, males and females eat separately.
Photograph #2 Henry with the Umurdinov family.
Photograph #3 Henry at the grave of Mookhudin Murdinov
Photograph #4 With the Umurdinov Brothers at the school where their father is honored.
Photograph #5 The Umurdinov Family praying at the grave.
Photograph #6 Umurdinov during the Great Patriotic War.
Photograph #7 Umurdinov and his wife during the Great Patriotic War.
Photograph #8 Umurdinov and his wife after many years of marriage.
Photograph #9 Where the story began.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Henry with Umurdinov.jpg (81.0 KB, 29 views)
File Type: jpg Henry with Umurdinov Family.jpg (125.0 KB, 24 views)
File Type: jpg P6140128.jpg (123.1 KB, 25 views)
File Type: jpg P6140155.jpg (64.9 KB, 26 views)
File Type: jpg Umurdinov 5-10-09b.jpg (125.3 KB, 20 views)
File Type: jpg umurdinov.jpg (7.1 KB, 22 views)
File Type: jpg Mookhudin Umurdinov with wife.jpg (55.1 KB, 17 views)
File Type: jpg Combined1.jpg (84.9 KB, 22 views)
File Type: jpg medal&booklet.jpg (18.4 KB, 24 views)
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