“Hostages of the Occupation”: Mustafa and Sevilia Urkumetov, Ukrainian military officers (photo)

June 19, 2020

Mustafa and Sevilia Urkumetov are a model family of Ukrainian soldiers. At the time of the occupation of Crimea, both of them were serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In April 2014, they were forced to leave their homeland as part of the tactical group “Krym”. Their main motivation was the military oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people. Although they were offered various opportunities to serve in Crimea, the couple remained true to their principles and ideals. What was the fate of the Urkumetov family? What values do they adhere to? What is the goal of their life? You can read about it in the material of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, which was prepared in the frame of the project “Hostages of the Occupation”.

“It was not a difficult choice for us. The conscience is just one,” says Mustafa.

The couple lived in Odesa for several years, where their second daughter was born. Later, they did their military service in Kyiv. Currently, the Urkumetovs reside in Odesa again.

“The most difficult thing is that we cannot visit our parents in Crimea,” Mustafa says with sadness in his voice, “I do not know when I will see my mother. Just recently she underwent surgery. I only see her on Skype.”

Talking about current situation, Mustafa draws parallels with their life in Uzbekistan after the deportation. He says he was just as happy when someone brought fruit or sweets from Crimea.

“When someone brings something from Crimea, I feel like a child again. And it feels like we are in deportation again,” the man says.

Hundreds of kilometers away from home, the Urkumetov’s family pays considerable attention to the preservation of their national identity: they speak only Crimean Tatar language among themselves, their children learn national dances and songs. In Odesa, they try to show the Crimean Tatar culture, lifestyle, and cuisine at various events.

Nevertheless, the Urkumetov family believes that all this is temporary, and soon they will be able to return home.

“Our main goal is to return to Crimea. Crimea is like a mother, it is sacred, it is home, it is part of ourselves,” says the couple.

At the same time, Mustafa, quoting Noman Çelebicihan, politician and spiritual leader of the Crimean Tatars, who said that “Freedom is not given, freedom is taken”, assures that he, a Ukrainian military and a patriot of his country, is ready to fight for its freedom.

Project manager: Zarema Bariieva
Author of pictures: Elvir Sagirman
Text writer: Elvir Sagirman
Translation into English: Zarema Bariieva

We remind that on February 26 in Kyiv, the presentation of the album and the exhibition “Hostages of the Occupation” took place, which tell us about the fate of 20 Crimean Tatar families after the annexation of the peninsula. On March 10, the exhibition opened in Vinnytsia. The exhibition is expected to be presented in Lviv and Dnipro as well.

The project was prepared by the Crimean Tatar Resource Center with the support of the Democracy Grants Program of the US Embassy to Ukraine.