Over bumpy roads and past deserted cotton fields we drive from Samarkand to the countryside of Uzbekistan. Destination: the hamlet Navruztepa, which is not shown on any map but appears to exist anyway.
Before the outbreak of World War II a young man with the name Chatam Kadyrow lived here. When the Soviet Union was attacked, he was – born in 1918 – 22 or 23 years old. Like many boys of his generation he had to go straight to the front.
No more was heard of Chatam in Navruztepa, save the message that he was missing in action. Slowly but surely he was forgotten by the villagers, although in the nineties his name was incorporated in a roll of honour, a ghost from the past.
Was he killed at the front? Had he been taken prisoner and had he died in a German POW camp? Or did the Nazis consider him subhuman because of his Asiatic appearance and transport him across Europe to a small camp in Amersfoort to serve as live propaganda material?
As far as the latter is concerned, the inhabitants of Navruztepa will have never considered that possibility, but it cannot be ruled out. As it happens below a portrait made by fellow inmate Gerrit de Wilde is written the name ‘Kaderu Xatam’, which in all probability refers to ‘Chatam Kadyrov’. And precisely that is the name of the soldier from Navruztepa.
It will not be easy to establish whether ‘Kaderu Xatam’ and Chatam Kadyrow are one and the same. To that end data of the army induction centre must be studied and his family needs to be traced.
Partly for that reason we travelled to Navruztepa where all the men in the hamlet showed up for this special visit. A tall man from The Netherlands, the minister of film, Navruztepa had not seen this much excitement in years.
We talked to one of the oldest inhabitants of the settlement. Abdulla Rasulov (74) used to be the mayor and helped compile the roll of honour in which we came across the name of Chatam Kadyrov.
In 1941 the hamlet numbered some forty households, says Rasulov. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union thirty men left for the front, only twelve came back. Chatam’s one year older brother Rustam Kadyrov was also carried off as cannon fodder and never returned.
Rasulov then showed us the hill (tepa) after which Navruztepa was named. But so far we have not found the family of Chatam Kadyrov.