A Major and a Doctor Find Love on the Frontlines

KoshkumbayevsKARAGANDA – War. Death. It would seem that it was impossible to fall in love in such circumstances. However, people of the war generation lived, loved and held out hope that they would meet the love of their lives under extraordinary circumstances. And here is the story of two of them.

The touching story of love on the frontlines was told recently by Rimma Koshkumbayeva from Karaganda, the daughter of the main protagonists of the story. It was not fate that brought her parents together, but  a general.

“My father Shakar Koshkumbayev was born in the Karaganda region, Yegindybulak district, and my mother Rakhima came from Orenburg,” Rimma Koshkumbayeva told in an interview. “In 1942, my mother graduated from the Almaty Medical Institute. She was called up for military service on June 17, 1943. She was first sent to the Moscow Sanitary Service Department, where she passed a three-month basic training. Then she got to the surgical hospital of the First Voronezh Front and then to the evacuation hospital.”

Rakhima did not know at the time what the new post would bring her. She described her experience in a personal diary, which she started after the war. On the pages of the notebook, she described everything that happened to her during the war.

“First impressions: my consciousness did not realise what war was, although I had seen wounded warriors in practice when I studied in the medical institute. When we approached the frontline, I saw broken electrical wires, rails, deep craters on the railway, freight (beautiful cars) were lying upside down on the road,” she wrote in her diary.

Rakhima and Shakar met each other for the first time on a dance floor. He was an officer, she was a doctor. And they met on that dance floor at the insistence of a general. The general had decided to introduce the two fellow Kazakhs to each other, and to make this happen as soon as possible, he ordered them both to come to the club on Dec. 20, 1944.

From the personal diary of Rakhima:

“In the camp Paulissa, General Suleimanov, a Tartar man, introduced me to my future husband, Major Shakar Koshkumbayev. The general got to our hospital before my shift. When I was on duty, he came to us wearing a uniform with a general’s epaulets and stripes. He said he had left his field bag in the waiting room and asked me to bring it to him.

A week passed, Rakhima was asked to go to the officers’ ward. When she came back, she saw this Tartar again. He said he wanted to introduce her to a countryman. She replied that she does not want to get acquainted with her countrymen during the war.

But the general persisted. He decided to use his official position and ordered Rakhima to come to the officers’ club. Orders are not discussed. And that evening the doctor’s friends helped prepare her for her first date.

She could not disobey an order. “He was a general, but she was first lieutenant. Russian girls served together with Rakhima, they ironed her tunic, polished her boots. She worried a lot, and the girls said, ‘Maybe he is your fate. If someone would want to introduce us to our countrymen, we would have run to the meeting.’,” Rimma said.

The dance floor was crowded. Tango. First, a colonel invited her to dance. Then she saw the officer whom the general wanted to introduce. A tall man with curly hair wearing a military officer’s uniform did not impress Rakhima.

From the personal diary of Rakhima:

“We were invited to the officers’ club. I danced tango with the colonel. In this club, I met Major Shakar T. Koshkumbayev. When I saw him, I thought he had been already married and had five children at home.”

“The first impression was misleading. After spending the whole evening together, they started dating. Of course, they did not meet consistently. He was an acting officer. They always met in front of the hospital. He came to see her when he had time. But she could not always see him.

She writes, ‘We slept only two or three hours a day, we were tired. Wounded soldiers were arriving. Doctors ate, had some sleep and again people were arriving …’ He would stand at the window, she wouldn’t go out and he would leave. The soldiers knew that he came to see her and always said, ‘Comrade lieutenant, your major was waiting and left.’ He always brought chocolate or perfume to her. He always had something to bring,” Rimma said.

He did not wait for a long time and a short time after they met, he proposed to the doctor. The doctor accepted the proposal.

The head of the hospital, however, was aware of Kazakh traditions and said to the major,  “We will not give our doctor to you. Bring the bride-price.”

It is still a mystery where the major in 1944 found several kilogrammes of chocolate, fruit and vegetables. But as soon as he brought the promised bride-price, they got married in the hospital. They modestly decorated one of the rooms of the hospital and invited the hospital staff and fellow soldiers to the wedding.

“That’s how they were together until the end of the war. He went ahead with the soldiers and she was behind with the doctors. After the war, they returned to Naro-Fominsk in the Kantemirovskaya division, where they got officially married. The marriage certificate says, ‘Officially married in December 1944.’ The marriage certificate itself was issued on Feb. 8, 1946. They got married right away when they came back. Koshkumbayeva was pregnant at that time and her grandfather took her to Karaganda. Koshkumbayev stayed until June 1946. He could not immediately leave because he was an officer. Then he returned to the family. They lived together for a lifetime and gave birth to five children.