“Great Hunger” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Bayandina Damira, Nazarbayev Intellectual School, Kazakhstan.
Ayana knows that on the day of her birth. The sun was shining and the weather was warm. Mom said that her birthday is a whole month, when tulips are blossoming in the steppe, the sun is shining. Ayana is very fond of her family, her grandmother tells the girl such interesting tales about national heroes (batyrs), that they protect their people from evil spirits and invaders, dragons, and witches. A batyr is brave and strong, he goes to fight for the freedom of his people and at the end he wins, the king’s beautiful daughter becomes the hero’s wife. Ayanа does not want to be beautiful. Instead, she wants to be a batyr, she wants to be a hero. She can ride on her horse and imagine herself fighting to save her people and lands from accursed enemies. Ayana loves her Grandmother telling her the story that when she was the same age as Ayana, heroes’ armor shone in the sun brighter than any precious stone, festivals were held when heroes came, so many tournaments were held and the strongest batyr used to win in the competition. The girl eagerly caught every word about her grandmother's childhood.
One day Ayana woke up with a strange feeling that something went really wrong. In the yurt (their national round house) everyone was already awake, for some reason they were fussing. Ayana realized that their land was occupied by an enemy. She saw her father talking to a strange man holding a huge paper in his hands. At that moment she didn’t know she was going to face the greatest tragedy of her land - Great Hunger. A great famine that would take millions of lives, and remains in history as the most terrible enemy of her people. Father said that a new government came and they had their own laws. These new rulers wanted all people to be equal, so they took away from families all their belongings and all the sheep. Ayana heard the cry of grandmother who prayed for survival, no one dared to refuse and people just cried because they were robbed.
«If we need to shed blood in order to establish our regime, we will shed it», said the new authorities. Ayana heard this phrase during one of the visits of these people. They often came to keep a count of the population, Ayana tried not to notice the chaos that was going on around her, but she felt constant weakness and terrible hunger. The last time she went out for a walk she saw all the cattle taken away from people of her village. The cattle were kept in one cold building, the cows and the sheep were really starving, they all were dying. The new authorities, these tyrants just didn’t manage to take care of the animals.
At that moment Aayana realized all that was happening would destroy her family, her village, and her motherland. All this was going to lead to suffering of millions of people. Without their livestock, people could not survive. People did not have any food, any wood to keep their houses warm. Before the famine, her nation was called nomads. But with the loss of livestock, most people were made to start a sedentary lifestyle, which meant loss of national identity. Many people left their settlements trying to flee to the other countries hoping to find some jobs and food. They did not run, they could hardly drag themselves along. Children, old people deprived of any hope. Nobody knew they had no chance to escape: at the border of the country they were shot down.
One day Ayana was again knocked down by a new grief. Her grandmother died of hunger and weakness. Deprived of the best friend, mentor, Ayana ran to the street in tears, in order to leave the house, which was also visited by death. Suddenly, somebody grabbed her, she began to fight back, fortunately, her parents arrived in time and saved her. Later back home they punished Ayana and prohibited to leave the house. “Hungry people will eat you!” shouted her mom. Ayana’s dad was killed by soldiers. The last time when Ayana saw her father, he silently hugged her.
Mother and Ayanа were deported to another country a few days after saying goodbye to her father. They had no home at all, during the registration of documents, Ayana stood looking at those who killed her family, her people, her nation. “You are killing a nation! You are killing your soles!” she cried silently.
Our little hero froze to death, while being transported to another place on a sleigh, because people were tied to the sleigh by ropes. She was killed by severe frost, hunger, hopelessness and the rulers of the country.
This story is even more tragic when you realize that everything is based on real events. This disaster really killed millions of people.
Many years later, when the famine stopped and hard recovery began, Ayana's mother returned to her homeland. Getting off the train, she looked around and saw her land which didn’t change at all. The sun was shining brightly, the hills of the steppe were green. There, far away, in the steppe, red and yellow flowers blossomed. Tulips. New life…