BACK TO THE LAND OF THE UBYKHS

The Russian consul was in Trabzon. His last name was Moshnin. We knew he had been very persistent in arranging our migration to Turkey. His strategy was quite simple: if he could get the armed Ubykhs off their land it would be easy to take over the Caucasus completely. It had been the czar’s long-time dream to conquer that rebellious area. When the vicegerent of the Caucasus and his assistants saw there weren’t enough ships to take the emigres to Turkey, none other than the efficient and determined Moshnin worked it out with the Turkish authorities to provide more sailing vessels. Moshnin tried not to use second hand information if he could get the facts himself. When he got word of the Ubykhs’ dire situation he went with some of his men down the Turkish seacoast on foot. What he saw with his own eyes upset him immensely. He was conscience-stricken. Besides, like it or not, the exiles were from the Russian Empire. Consequently, Moshnin, may his name be forever remembered, demanded to see the governor, Omer Pasha. With polite firmness he told the governor what he thought about the Turkish authorities’ inhuman treatment of the thousands of Caucasians who had come under the sultan’s patronage.

“They are dying of hunger and disease, while your wealthy countrymen are taking advantage of the situation and buying their children for next to nothing, and especially their beautiful girls. You promised the leaders of the Ubykhs you’d be hospitable hosts... The sultan’s word in your country is law, and the prophet bequeathed charity...”

“You’ll excuse me, consul Sir, but to my great regret, I don’t have enough time today to engage in a detailed conversation about the Ubykhs,’.’ replied Omer Pasha, containing his annoyance. And, as he rose, indicating that he, indeed, did not have the time, said: “Your Highness, I have met the exiles and found them to be ungrateful people who are difficult to deal with. They don’t respect the laws of the country that gave them refuge... They do as they please, refuse to let their sons serve in the army and engage in lawless activities... Most of them now have the irresistible desire to return home. Only I don’t know how your government will react to that,” said Omer Pasha with a victorious smile.

On his way out Moshnin realized it was unlikely his conversation with the governor would change anything for the Ubykhs. Anyway, he found the governor an unpleasant man. The consul knew for sure that Omer Pasha, who accused the Ubykhs of lawlessness, had bought himself fifty Ubykh women for a song. Some of them were now his servants and others, his concubines. Omer Pasha was one of those responsible for our tragic fate, not the main one, but nevertheless he deserved to be hanged. The hands of revenge, however, are short. But it was important that the Russian consul sympathized with us. It offered us at least some hope of returning.

On behalf of all those who wanted to go home, Mzauch Abukhba went to Trabzon three times to talk to Moshnin. I remember the final time he returned there was a meeting. Not only the Ubykhs were there, but representatives of other mountain tribes as well. You know, Sharakh, when you’re older it’s easier to see far. My God, how many years have passed and yet to me it’s as though it all happened yesterday and I can visualize Mzauch Abukhba standing in front of me. He was a broad-shouldered man with a black mustache. His home and field had been next to the Gagra fortress. Like most of us, repenting the fateful migration, he had only one desire now: to go back. But unlike Nouryz, son of Barakai, who was ready to take up arms if need be, Mzauch advocated negotiations with the governments of both countries. When he addressed the people at the meeting he insisted on working through the Russian ambassador in Istanbul—Ignatiev, an influential and noble man.

“The czar himself listens to the ambassador. And the Turks know it. Let’s write to his majesty and in our petition as recent citizens of the Russian state, we’ll describe all our misfortunes. Three people of your choice should take the letter to Istanbul to the Russian ambassador... That was Moshnin’s advice. He has given me his own letter, may God bless him with good health. His letter should be attached to ours so it will be accepted by the embassy. Let’s not waste our precious time...”

For an instant there was complete silence. Suddenly someone spoke out in a loud voice:

“May I remind you that just yesterday you were shouting ‘Death to the infidels! ‘ as you tried stopping the czar’s soldiers from riding into the mountains.” That was Uakhsit Rydba, a Sadz prince and member of the former Ubykh council. His narrow, silver beard was like a stream running down a steep hill; it made the lean man look even taller than he actually was. His whole appearance spoke of noble origins. Of late the prince was notorious for opposing the majority who wanted to go home. Some even said he gave leadership to the opposition.

“We were the ones who chose to leave the valleys of the Northern Caucasus for Turkey... First we turn our back on the czar, then on the sultan. How could anyone respect us after that? And if we go back, what will we find in our homeland? I heard that Cossacks are living on my land... Maybe you want me to take care of the Cossacks’ geese?” Patting his well-groomed beard with his thin hand, the prince threw a proud glance at the crowd.

Someone laughed facetiously behind his back:

“Well, what do you know! He’s so grateful for the sultan’s charity. Tell me, highly esteemed Uakhsit, what have you gained in this wonderful country? Paradise on earth? Peace?”

“Yes, peace! If we go back we’ll have to start fighting again. But the only ones who like war are those who look at it from a distance. Here at least bullets aren’t flying,” replied Rydba.

“Wait a second, Prince! Who told you bullets aren’t flying here? You can’t hear them, but they take the lives of hundreds of people a day. And the living don’t have the strength to bury the dead. It’s worse than war; it’s murder, pure and simple.” Nouryz was as pale as a ghost. He began coughing.

Taking advantage of the pause, Mzauch suggested drawing up a petition to the czar, as advised by the consul Moshnin.

“Hey, Nouryz, where’s your nobleman’s honor? A man who was herding sheep just yesterday is conducting negotiations today. What will happen tomorrow?” commented the prince sarcastically.

Mzauch gave a jerk as though struck with a whip, but controlled himself.

The old woman Hamida then emerged from the group of women. She was dressed in black since she was in mourning. There were dark shadows underneath her sad eyes, but she held her head high. As she tore off her black scarf and her gray hair fell down to her shoulders like a snowfall, she shouted:

“What’s wrong with you? Maybe all of you have already left this world and have plenty of time to talk at leisure about noble origins, about lost wealth and other trifling matters? Count the graves on the shore! I hope our nobility will forgive me, but those graves are on their consciences. Our foster children, our leaders did not use their heads. The question is, why? You noblemen are to blame for our predicament! Even now you are haughtily talking about your lost property. You don’t want to tend geese! But we’re used to that job. I would rather have had my four grandchildren tend geese in their native land! But now only one is left. The other three are dead...” Hamida’s voice broke, but she swallowed the lump in her throat and went on: “I’m hanging on to life for the sake of my last grand child, my beloved Tagir. What I wouldn’t do to get him back home.” And once again Hamida’s voice became harsh: “You’re not acting like Ubykh men! For centuries the measure of your dignity was your courage! But now you seem to have forgotten that you’re men! Maybe I, with my head bare, should become your leader and take you back across the sea? We’ve talked long enough! Let’s do something! If it’s a petition we must write, then let’s write it! I’ll be the first to sign! If we must appeal to the czar, then let’s do it! I’m willing to be the first to kneel down before him. This is no time for arrogance. We should have only one concern now and that is to return to the land of the Ubykhs.”

No one wanted to talk after Hamida. Old Sit finally broke the silence:

“My dear Mzauch, who will write the petition for us if our scribe died of typhoid fever? He was the only one who knew how to write Russian. Again fate is working against us.”

“We have somebody else!“ replied Mzauch and waved his hand to someone in the crowd.

A plain old man in city attire came out of the crowd. Nobody had ever seen him before. He was wearing glasses and his gray hair combed straight back came down to his shoulders. A golden watch chain was hanging from the old man’s front shirt pocket.

“This honorable man is a Greek. He has been all over Russia as an interpreter for merchants, but now he’s working for the Russian consulate... If we tell him everything we want to say in Turkish he’ll write it down in Russian,” explained Mzauch by way of introduction.

The old man took some paper, a pen and ink out of an old leather purse and arranged them on a little table that came from heaven knows where. Having wiped his glasses with the edge of his handkerchief, he stood on his knees in front of the little table and looked at Mzauch as if to say, “I’m ready!”

Prince Uahsit Rydba smiled ironically:

“How can a Christian hand scribble out our Muslim suffering? Don’t expect anything good from an alien prophet!”

“Your malicious remarks don’t help anyone, Prince,” cut in Hamida.

The old men and women sat in a semi-circle around the scribe while we young people stood back somewhat. Sit proposed the opening lines of the petition. The people discussed them: they shortened some of the sentences and added on to others. When the elders finished redoing Sit’s version, Mzauch translated it into Turkish, and the Greek, squeezing his pen, wrote it down in Russian. While the Greek was writing everyone was so quiet we could hear his pen squeak. Then another Ubykh offered his thoughts for the elders to consider Once again they were discussed, translated twice and committed to paper. That procedure was repeated many times over. In the same way that streams merge into one river, so too our thoughts and desires flowed down along the lines of the petition, blending into one hope. Whenever the Greek picked up his pen the people held their breath, stretched their necks and fixed their eyes on the document illuminated by the sun. Their fate now hinged on that piece of paper.

If the Black Sea were a huge ink-well, if the trees on both its shores were pens, and if the earth were a paper scroll, there still wouldn’t be enough ink, pens or paper to describe all the torment the exiles had endured, I thought to myself as I looked at the petition.

Still I hoped for a miracle. I could imagine that paper, like a white-winged dove, flying from the hand of the ambassador in Istanbul across the sea and over the plains and forests of Russia, and landing in the czar’s palace in St. Petersburg. There are many windows in the white stone palace, but I prayed the document in the form of a white-winged dove would find the right one and alight on the desk where the emperor himself was seated. Why shouldn’t such a miracle happen? What if the sovereign of half the world would wake up that morning feeling energetic, cheerful and magnanimous. He’d pick up the paper with our words of entreaty and, after calling in an adjutant he’d inquire: “What’s this?”

“A petition from the Ubykhs, Your Majesty!“ the officer would reply pleasantly having picked up on the czar’s good mood like the other people of the court.

“The Ubykhs? Oh yes! A brave tribe, quite brave,” the emperor would recall, and would comment respect fully: “They lived on the Black Sea coast and were called ‘recalcitrant’ in the vicegerent’s reports.”

“Yes, that’s right, Your Majesty,” the adjutant would say as he clicked his heals.

“They fought us valiantly, and after refusing to accept our terms they moved to Turkey. A worthy enemy, quite worthy! What do you think, General? Does such an enemy deserve our respect?”

“Absolutely, Your Majesty,” would be the reply of the officer whose uniform would boast a medal “For Conquering the Caucasus”.

“Oh, what a tragedy!“ the czar would exclaim with compassion. “I had no idea they’d end up in so much trouble... After all, there are many old people, women and children among them... Of course it’s their own fault, but why should I deprive them of my mercy.” And picking up his pen in his white hand the czar would write just two words on the petition: “Request granted! “ And justice would prevail. Ships would come for us and we’d return home to the land of the Ubykhs. We’d open up our neglected homes and once again the peasants would go out into the fields to plough and sow. Once again there would be joy and gaiety, weddings and births.

But what if the opposite would happen: the czar would wake up in a bad mood, angry and sullen because a beautiful woman refused his attentions the night before, and the adjutant, when the subject would come up about the Ubykhs, would offer the czar harsh advice: “It would be extremely unwise to forgive those barbarians, Your Majesty. Besides, we have an agreement with Turkey.” Then the autocrat, picking up the pen in his white hand would write:

“Case closed, not to be reconsidered! “ And we Ubykhs would perish, every single one of us. And so our fate hung on the tip of the czar’s pen. The life and death of an entire people now depended on chance, on the disposition of the czar, on the power of the hand holding the imperial pen.

While I was trying to guess what would be the czar’s reaction to our petition, the scribe and translator, the old Greek, finished his job.

It seems as though an eternity has passed since then, Sharakh, yet to this day I can remember the contents of the Ubykhs’ petition to the czar practically word for word. It’s as though my memory is a tombstone and the words in the petition, the epitaph. You ask what the petition said? It described our suffering that not one people had ever before experienced. It said the Turkish government that had invited us was not fulfilling any of its promises of hospitality. “On the verge of inevitable extinction, sincerely repentant and frankly admitting the full severity of the mistake we have made, we Ubykhs, all the surviving men and women, old and young, bow our heads to Your Imperial Majesty, and tearfully pray you allow us to return home to our orphaned hearths. We solemnly swear to you that if we are fortunate enough to be permitted to return to our homeland then not only we, but our descendants as well, will never forget your imperial charity and will faithfully and honestly serve the Russian state. Kneeling before Your Majesty we beg of you: don’t let the Ubykh people disappear from the face of the earth! “That, Sharakh, was what we wrote in the petition.

When the text was read out loud, Mzauch Abukhba signed it and asked us to do the same. The old woman Hamida never learned to write so she dipped her thumb in the ink-well and pressed it on the paper. There was nothing unusual about the fact that Hamida couldn’t write. Even our honorable priest Soulakh was illiterate and so he did as she. I must say, Sharakh, that there were only a few who could write their names on the petition. In fact maybe there were one or two and that was it. All those who signed the petition or put their thumb prints on it came away in a good mood as though they had heard glad tidings. When my father’s turn came he hesitated.

“Hamirza, why are you dallying?” asked Sit in surprise.

“What the people agreed to together is law to me, but my foster brother and master Shardyn, son of Alou, isn’t here; I can’t put my finger print to this paper without him knowing.”

Mata and I looked at each other and went up to the table together:

“We’ll sign even if our father won’t!”

First I as the eldest and then Mata signed with our thumb prints.

“What about you, Nouryz? What are you waiting for? Or do you go along with Rydba?” asked Mzauch.

Nouryz raised his bent head and, hitting his short staff against the ground as was his habit, he said:

“If I had the slightest confidence that something could come of this, believe me, I would have signed it ten times over. All this will do no harm, nor will it do any good. Okay, give me that pen, I’ll sign. We’ve been building castles in the air long enough! Tomorrow Soulakh will bless us in front of sacred Bytkha and then, believe me, I’ll know what I have to do. But today, if this is what you want...” And Nouryz, son of Barakai, entered his name next to our thumb prints.

I must admit that there were plenty who supported Prince Uakhsit Rydba. They stood on the sidelines and didn’t leave because it would have been taken as a challenge to the majority. The people appointed three men, headed by Mzauch Abukhba, to take the petition to the Russian Ambassador Ignatiev. They were to set off immediately for Istanbul.

We couldn’t find a holy place in Turkey for our shrine Bytkha. The people were distressed that we had to keep it in the priest’s squalid housing as though it were an ordinary pitcher or spinning wheel. When the cholera broke out some of them speculated in superstitious fear that the offended Bytkha refused her protection because of our sacrilege. To raise the people’s spirits Soulakh carried Bytkha to all who contracted the disease and prayed for their recovery. The people believed Bytkha could work miracles; many of these cholera victims escaped death. People have to believe in something, Sharakh...

All the Ubykhs, except the sick, gathered on the seashore in front of the lone tree where not so long ago Sakut the apkhiartsa player had soothed our pain with his songs. Everyone realized that today’s prayer meeting was special. Bytkha herself was to bless those who, led by Nouryz, son of Barakai, were going back to the land of the Ubykhs. After praying, Soulakh, dressed in white, took the statue of Bytkha out of its leather case and placed it by the tree trunk. We all got down on our knees.

“Oh, Almighty patroness Bytkha! Give us your blessings!

The priest’s incantation penetrated our hearts. We could smell the sweet smoke of the hearths we had left. Pleasant scenes passed before our eyes. We remembered our homeland, remembered the dead, and even the men had tears rolling down their cheeks. Raising his hands to the sky, Soulakh continued:

“Oh, All-merciful Bytkha! Today many of our people are setting off for home. Destroy the obstacles in their way! Build bridges for them to get over any precipice! And when they sail the sea, give them fair wind! Protect them, guard them, and bolster their spirits!

“Amen! Amen!“ said those on their knees.

When we finished praying we all felt impatient for action. The men put on their daggers, and picked up their pistols and rifles they had laid aside before the ritual.

“We have Bytkha’s blessings. It’s time to go. Good luck!” exclaimed Nouryz, son of Barakai.

The crowd of men and women followed after Nouryz carrying bundles, saddle bags and pitchers. The old woman Hamida, holding her small grandson Tagir by the hand, didn’t even look back. They set off in the direction of Trabzon hoping to find a ship that would take them to Sukhum-kale*. 19th century name for present-day Sukhumi.—Tr. If they couldn’t get a ship they agreed they would walk to the border. Relying on the gods, their weapons and on favorable circumstances, the people hoped one way or another to get to the land of the Ubykhs.

Our whole family assembled on the seashore. We embraced Mata. I carried his load walking by his side. Then we hugged once more. I stood for a long time on a cliff, watching them walk away into the distance. It’s not right to envy one’s own brother, but I did. How lucky he was to be going home! Why didn’t I go with him? God is my witness that I would have run off after them if it hadn’t been for my mother, father and my sisters. And not only them. I could see before me the mysterious island of Rhodes. That island was where my beloved was, my Feldysh. My heart was ready to break.

Forced idleness is like an illness to someone used to working. What could our family do? We didn’t have any land to farm, even the smallest garden; we not only didn’t have any cows, but no goats to graze, either. So what could we do? Fortunately Father had brought our net from home. So now he spent days at a time out in the sea. The only food we ate was fish. At first I nearly died of idleness. But then I got used to looking around villages and cities for any odd jobs. To bring home a loaf of bread I loaded and unloaded ships in the harbor, chopped firewood for a wealthy Turk, and was hired to clean cattle-sheds. No job was too dirty for me. But I could hardly earn anything because labor was so cheap.

You, my dear Sharakh, probably don’t even know what it’s like to live half-starving. When your own stomach is empty that’s only half the problem; it’s not as bad as when your family is starving—that’s a real calamity. When that happens you’re willing to do anything. You may curse me or pardon me, but you ought to know that my family’s hunger forced me to sin. When fifty well-armed young men went “hunting”, I went with them. As you already know, we Ubykhs had a bad reputation all over Turkey. People slammed their doors in the face of a man wearing a Circassian coat. Shoot-outs were common between the armed Caucasians and the police. Even the army was on alert if the police weren’t able to cope with the thieves. We tried to operate in remote areas where there were no roads and where no one knew about us yet. We didn’t touch the peasants. What could we get from them anyway? They were as poverty-stricken as we were. But we did a good job on travelling merchants and shop owners. We cleaned out all their money, dry goods, and food supplies. We also stole horses. You can imagine we couldn’t get along without horses. In our clashes with the police people were killed on both sides. Those who were taken alive by the police were punished mercilessly.

I got in with a group of young dare-devils around the time Mata left. We weren’t lucky in every raid. Once the police encircled us. There were lots of them. However, we got out of their snare in twos and threes and through forests and mountains we gradually made our way back to the coast. We travelled in the dead of night like shadows.

While we were gone an important development took place among the Ubykhs outside Samsun: Shardyn, son of Alou, returned. Many people, including my father had been looking forward to his arrival. Our master’s eyes were jolly and there wasn’t a trace of sadness in his face. He wore Turkish attire and a red fez with a black tassel instead of a Circassian coat, and was fingering amber devotional beads. There was something haughty about him, self- satisfied. His movements had become measured. He inquired how his people were getting along without him, what had happened in his absence. As they were accustomed to, the people told him frankly all about the terrible things that had happened to nearly every one of them.

“War didn’t take the lives of as many people as this foreign land has in half a year.”

That news didn’t upset our foster brother too much. He was more distressed to learn that we had written a petition to the czar and that many had left with Nouryz, son of Barakai.

“Where is your self-control?” he scolded. “What’s the matter, has there been a flood or an earthquake? Aren’t you an odd lot! You’re like little children; you can’t be left alone for a day! What scurvy knave thought of writing a petition to the czar? Have you forgot how the Russians shot holes in us? Do you want to be slaves of the infidels? This is terrible, just terrible! Just remember: we are Muslims first and foremost and we’re in the land of the true believers!

The most noble sultan himself, the representative of Allah, is the first citizen of this country. Just thinking of such an honor should fill your hearts with pride! I must tell you I was received by the mother of the great sultan, Abdul-Aziza. As you know, she is an Adighe. Her ancestors and mine were related. The same blood flows in our veins! The sultan’s mother has entrusted my fate, and that means your fate, to a person who is the sultan’s right-hand man. We’ve been given fertile land with forests, fields and water. There you’ll forget all your troubles. Get ready to move; we should be there before the cold weather sets in.”

What I’m telling you about Shardyn, son of Alou, is what I heard from others, Sharakh. At that time I was working my way back to the coast with a band of men on horseback after an unsuccessful raid. We had already covered more than half the distance home when suddenly we saw coming from the east a gray gang of emaciated people barely shuffling their feet and followed by soldiers with rifles. Soon we got closer. You can imagine, Sharakh, what we felt when we saw with our own eyes that these tortured and weak, barefoot people were Ubykhs, a small number of those who had set off for home.

“Mata!“ I shouted like a madman and shot off into the crowd.

He was walking stooped over, supporting himself on a stick and holding a boy against his chest. I immediately recognized the boy: he was Tagir, Hamida’s grandson. Not paying any attention to the soldiers who were trying to stop us we pulled out of our saddle bags everything we had to eat and began handing it out to the hungry, spiritless people under guard. The soldiers were scared to death by the unexpected appearance of armed horsemen and they allowed the fatigued people to have a short rest. Not giving the soldiers a chance to recover from shock we sat up on our saddles the wounded and the exhausted Ubykhs and merged with the crowd.

I put Mata and Tagir on my horse. Mata began telling me how they got to Trabzon. The ship owner who had promised for a handsome sum to take the people led by Nouryz, son of Barakai, to the Caucasian shore, backed down in fright at the last minute and went to sea without taking one single passenger. Then, as had been decided earlier, they set off on foot to the border. At the Churuk-Su River the Turkish frontier guards wouldn’t let them pass. For two weeks the Ubykhs sought a place where they could get through to the other side of the river, but all in vain; the border was carefully guarded. In desperation they decided to fight their way through. The first to be killed in the shooting was Nouryz, son of Barakai. A bullet struck him in the heart.

“I envy him,” whispered Mata. “Oh, why wasn’t I one of those fellows who died less than half a mile from our home land! “ Mata heaved a heavy sigh and added: “And poor Hamida, not stopping to think about her small grandson, threw herself into the river. On the way to the border she adopted me and entrusted me with the fate of her grandson. Tagir is now my brother and yours, Zaurkan. If something happens to me, you’ll take care of him...”

Little Tagir slumbered pitifully in Mata’s arms.

Good news stays in place, but the bad travels on eagle’s wings. The Ubykhs who had remained in the outskirts of Samsun had learned somehow that their countrymen who had left with Nouryz, son of Barakai, couldn’t cross the border and many of them were dead. When the survivors returned, looking more like ghosts, there was heart-rending shouting and moaning along the shore. One couldn’t find a brother in the crowd, another his son, and a third a close relative. In the midst of these dramatic events the bitterly disappointing news brought by Mzauch Abukhba from Trabzon was met with only mournful silence. The news was extremely cruel: the czar had personally written his answer on our petition, “The Ubykh case is closed, not to be reconsidered!”

“I told you so!“ responded Shardyn, son of Alou, gleefully, when he heard about the czar’s decision.

He was playing backgammon with Omer Pasha in a coffee shop under a white canopy by the seashore. The terrible news Mzauch brought with him made Shardyn, son of Alou, glow with self-content. He knew that whether the people wanted to or not they would now have to submit to his will. He kept winning, too, that day: the dice came up six practically every time. The pasha’s stuffed wallet was getting flatter by the minute. The only thing that up set our leader’s mood was that the pasha casually mentioned Haji Kerantukh.

“To hell with him!“ said Shardyn, son of Alou, losing his temper. That meant: “I’m the only sovereign of the Ubykhs!”

Soon ships came to take us to that wonderful land Shardyn had talked about. We began boarding; and two days later there wasn’t a single Ubykh left in Samsun, except for those who lay in their graves.

Two sentiments were struggling in my soul, like two bulls locking horns. One was sadness that we were going even farther away from the land of the Ubykhs and the other was joy that our ship would take us closer to Rhodes Island and, the gods be willing, I might perhaps see Feldysh. I stood on the deck and looked at the outline of the shore with the lone tree. Underneath the tree was the white tomb stone over Sakut’s grave. Above it, tied to a branch up high, swayed his apkhiartsa that not long ago had so touched our hearts. And suddenly it seemed as though I could hear its strings and the words from the blind singer’s last song:

Once a warrior demanded:
“Saddle me my battle horse.”
Though he was in the saddle
Supported on his stirrups.
So we ask sometimes in tears:
“Where is that land of joy?”
Though we’ve left forever
What was our homeland.

Our ships set off toward Istanbul. On the third day we dropped anchor in the Istanbul roadstead, but no one was allowed to get off because the port authorities were afraid we would bring typhoid fever or cholera into the city. The water overboard was boiling as in a kettle, and the waves, as though in delirium, were lashing against the wharf. A Turkish sailor looking at the water bubbling overboard spit through his teeth:

“The current, devil take it!”

The superstitious among us were terrified: “It’s a bad omen.”

From Istanbul we sailed to Yemzid, but we weren’t let off there either. The only person who could disembark was Shardyn, son of Alou. After spending a long time in the city, he returned smiling and boasting:

“This is where my friend lives, the savior of all of you, Selim Pasha. As long as we’re under his protection we have nothing to fear.”

The ships took off for Bandirma. There we disembarked and walked behind the carts carrying the family of Shardyn, son of Alou, to a place called Osmankoy.

Later the local people told us that long before we moved to that place an Ubykh had come there. His name was Osman. He walked around as if he were making plans. When he got the full picture he disappeared as suddenly as he had come. Maybe it was all idle gossip, but maybe the man had been Shardyn, son of Alou?