Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Tajiki Avalanche

Tajikistan , a former USSR country, lies in central Asia bordered by Uzbekistan, Kyrkizstan, Afganistan, and China. It's capital, Dushanbe, known for its monday market, derives its name from the tajiki word for Monday. Tajikistan is not yet widely attractive touristically , but its Pamir Mountains, also named "The Roof of the World" and considered a challenging mountain range , have attracted professional climbers for years.

The first time I showed any interest in this country was when I met the new cleaning woman in our office building. She was originally from Dushanbe, the capital city, and kept telling me about the place with its tree-lined streets and many monuments , and also about the tajiki various customs.
Tajiki food was a constant subject in our conversations, and sometimes she used to treat me with delicacies brought from her home kitchen such as samosas, pirmeni (small noodle sacks with meat &veggies similar to ravioli). Their staple dish is 'plov' made up of scraps of mutton and rice fried in a large wok. A small curiosity: the Tajikis eat sweet dishes like halwa, and drink tea, before proceeding to soup and meat.

Tajikistan and the Pamir mountains came forcefully into my awareness on july 1990 with the dramatic news that an avalanche set off by an earthquake in the Pamir range swept 45 climbers from different countries to their death.
Among these climbers was Benny, a 20 year old alpinist, son of an israeli sovietolog of russian descent, Mikhail Agursky.
It happened late in the night: a minor earthquake caused an ice block to fall off the slope and trigger an enormous ice-snow avalanche ;this avalanche burried the tents and the people at the mountaneering camp located at some 6000 meter up in the Pamir mountains.

An expedition of rescuers was organized, and Agursky, the father, over 60 and not in the best of health, but with knowledge of the language and the mentality of the place joined them to look for his son. There were heart-rending descriptions in the newspapers of that time about the father who stayed at the foot of the mountains for more than two weeks in hope of finding his son dead or alive.
Despite of long time -searching by helicopters and specialist rescuers , only one body was found (that of a woman climber). Out of 45 only two climbers survived the disaster.

The father came back again the following year (after raising the neccessary money), to try to recover his son's body, but - no results. After a while, he was found dead in his hotel room; It was believed he suffered a stroke, but it wouldn't be untrue to say that he died of a broken heart. How sad!


  1. Oh Duta, what a sad story. I did not know of this country. Thanks for sharing and enlightening us!

  2. A very interesting buy heart breaking story. Yes, I agree. The father must of assuredly died of a broken heart.

    God bless and have a great weekend!

  3. Such a sad story. I don't know anything about this country other than that it used to be part of the USSR. Very interesting, but sad.

  4. That is very sad. I can't even imagine what he must have felt. My son snowboards in the mountains of Colorado and avalanches are something I always worry about. He is also on the Search and Rescue team, so he understands the risks and does everything he can to be safe.

  5. jeannette stgermain,

    Sad for readers , tragic for the family.
    Maybe my mention of Tagikistan, neighbor of Afganistan, will now open up your curiosity to find out things about this country and its neighbouring countries.


    Hear-breaking indeed! There's nothing more tragic than a father facing the death of his son and he even doesn't have a corpse to give it a proper burial.


    Right. Tragedies of this sort leave one speechless. There are no words to react to an event of such tragic proportions.

    Janie B,

    Well, perhaps you'll now be curious to read about Tagikistan which is a neighbor of Afganistan where american soldiers are fighting.


    Your son can sure understand and evaluate the dangers. May God always be with him!

  6. You seemed to have run into the most interesting people in your life. And from so many different cultures and regions.

    Hearts are tender things. I does sound like the father died of a broken heart. Interesting how he found a way to die as close as possible to his son. What a tragic tale for all.

  7. Sad story but nevertheless I learnt many things. You should be writing a book titled 'Places with Character.'

    Joy always,

  8. Such an interesting, although very sad, post. I, too, had never heard of this country. Amazing isn't it that in this day of lightening fast communications we could not be aware of all the countries that populate our world? Perhaps our global interest isn't what it once was? I cannot fathom what depth of despair the loss of a child would bring. I'm sure the Father died of a broken heart.

  9. Such a sad story, the poor man must have been devastated at not finding his son, even if only dead. :(
    It's scary that, despite our knowledge & technology, mother nature still can kill people with only so much as an earthquake, tornado or flooding?

    And about the meals, I could never eat(and never did before I became a vegeterian) sweets before meat, cheese or veggies.
    I just cannot, it sems 'wrong'! :)

  10. At least the father would have been released from the pain of not being able to find his son. Hopefully, now they have both passed over, they will be reunited. I hope so. Good, thoughtful, blog, Duta

  11. Ronda Laveen,

    Well, I live in a country with people coming from all parts of the world; since the country is small in size, there are no islands, we bump into each other.

    As you've noticed,it's interesting indeed that the death of the father occurred close as possible to the site of his son's death.

    Susan Deborah,

    Glad you feel you've learnt things from this post. As for writing a book, I've learnt never to say never but; maybe, perhaps.

    C Hummel Kornell a/k/a C Hummel Wilson,

    Tagikistan is close to Afganistan, so americans should know something about the region where their soldiers are fighting now.

    I agree with your words.Nothing equals the pain and despair caused by the loss of a child.


    It seems technology can do very little against Mother Nature. Our Fate is completely in her hands.
    As for sweets before main meal - I could also never eat this way.


    I see your point. The father's pain was agonizing, unbearable, and when he died he found peace in the other world where he got reunited with his son.

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  13. Phivos Nicolaides,

    Thanks a lot for letting me know about your post on Olympia Dukakis's visit in Cyprus.
    I'm an admirer of her as a personality and as an actress.
    Great pictures of you and her! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Hello Duta
    This is a sad story but I appreciate your sharing it!
    You are a good writer.

    Take care and thank you for your vists to my blog.
    I am happy for your kind words!


  15. Margie,

    I'll have to think now of something lighter and funny.
    Thanks for your compliment ("you are a good writer"). It makes me blush.
    Have a wonderful week!

  16. 從人生中拿走友誼,猶如從生活中移走陽光........................................

  17. How tragic...and what a loss for a family to lose 2 so closely together.


  18. How sad for that poor father. I'm reading the book Slumdog Millionaire right now and several of the food items you mentioned are mentioned in the book. I'm going to google everything tonight so I can see what these food items consist of.

    I for one don't mind eating the sweet items first while I still have room for them. My sister and I have been known to order pie before our main course :-)

  19. Hi Duta,
    Thanks for stopping by and for the compliment about my opening a restaurant.

    As for the vinegar, you can use any kind. I normally like red wine vinegar, but I didn't have any.

  20. Sue (Someone's Mom),

    Tragic and also unnatural for a father to have his son predecease him.


    I suppose these foods are not specific to Tajikistan only but to most asian countries like Afganistan, India etc..
    It sounds interesting, you & your sister eating pie before the main course.


    Thanks for the vinegar information.


    Indeed. I use three words to characterize the son's disappearance in the avalanche: sad, tragic, unnatural.

  21. It is terribly tragic, isn't it? Sometimes the weight of all that people have upon them in the world seems so smothering, how do people bear that much sadness? And clearly that father had reached the limits he could bear.

    I suppose there is something to be said for the fact that the young man, and his comrades, died doing something they love. Not as a punishment, but because they actively sought out adventure, took risks, and experience both the joy and the dangers that came with those risks.

    I don't know if that would have provided any comfort for the man. That perhaps it is better to die in pursuit of a passion, and a love, than to live to a ripe old age, having never felt deeply for anything. I doubt it would have, but I suppose it is something to consider.

    What a sad tale, and in more ways than from the angle of the father. I think sometimes we focus a great deal on how someone died, and forget how they lived...and his son was where he was, at the time that he was, because he loved something a little bit thrilling, and a bit dangerous. That his body remained there, is perhaps fitting, in the final analysis, although I can fully understand why it broke his father's heart, it is a further tragedy that he could not come to view it that way...and find peace.

    I always love your stories, Duta. I love that you talk to those around you, and find out about them. Remember them, and share them.

    It's said that no man truly dies until he is forgotten...that as long as we live in the memories of others, we continue on.

    Which means that young man was not simply lost to a mountain avalanche or his father to a broken heart, thanks to you.

  22. Enjoyed learning about a new part of the world. Thanks for sharing through your eyes, Duta.

    That poor little father, though. All he wanted was closure. What a sad ending.

  23. duta,
    the tajikistan interested me years back, when i read the fantastic magazine "soviet union", which was an informative, artistic and beautiful magazine printed in quality paper...
    the story of Agursky is very sad...
    also it tells the story of a father who loved his son so much...
    such loves are rare nowadays...
    above all i would like to complement your ability to write...

  24. Land of Shimp,

    The son (20) was too young to die, and the father was not old enough to die.
    The ending of your comment pleasantly surprised me. I never thought of it that way.


    I'm glad you enjoyed learning about another country despite the sad, tragic context. I always enjoy reading and learning about new places.


    Welcome to my little blog! Thanks for your very nice comment.
    I must admit I'm not familiar with the magazine you've mentioned; it sounds a quality publication.

  25. uh, heart breaking. what a wonderfully written, sad post.

  26. A true tragedy however Mother Nature is full of them. I was a Mother of a three year old so I am sure I did not get to read or hear much news but I do not recall this. BTW When I was learning geography back in sixties was this just a part of Russia or am I way off and sitting behind the mayonaise. Peace

  27. Heather,

    Welcome! Thanks for reading my post and for your nice comment.


    Sad indeed.
    It was one of the greatest mountaneering disasters ever, completely unexpected. the climbers were in their tents sleeping.

    Lady Di Tn,

    Tajikistan was part of the former Soviet Union.
    It's possible that you didn't hear about or recall this disaster. I remember it well because of the two compatriots involved: father and son, and their personal tragedy.

  28. I learned something new today from your blog, of these countries. I'd never heard of them before. Now I will try to learn more about them. What a tragic story, I can only imagine that the father must have died of a broken heart.

  29. Cheryl,

    I'm glad you did. After all, Tajikistan borders with Afganistan where as you well know, american soldiers are fighting at present; it helps knowing something about the region.

    As for the father-son story, it's a very tragic one indeed.