“A legend”: this is how Kyrgyz and Russian media are referring to Toktogon Altybasarova, 91, who sheltered 150 children evacuated from Leningrad over the course of a two-and-a-half-year blockade during World War Two that cost up to a million lives.
In 1942, as Nazi Germany bombarded Russia's second city, now called St. Petersburg, 16-year-old Altybasarova, who died last week on June 11, spared the evacuees from hunger and hosted them in a dormitory for local factory staff in her remote home village of Kurmenty, northeastern Kyrgyzstan.
She had just been elected head of her village council at the time.
Altybasarova determined the children's age and gave them first names. Supervising a team of carers, she saw the children through to adulthood as they left to work and study in different parts of the Soviet Union.
According to Kyrgyzstan's state broadcaster, Altybasarova kept and treasured letters from her adopted children until her death.
President of Kyrgyzstan, Almazbek Atambayev, said in a video message:
Токтогон Алтыбасарова во время Великой Отечественной войны стала матерью 150 детям из блокадного города Ленинграда. В свои 16 лет, окружив детей заботой и вниманием, сумев им передать ощущение близости и теплоты, Токтогон-апа заменила им родную мать.
During the Great Patriotic War [1941-1945], Toktogon Altybasarova became a mother to 150 children from the the besieged city of Leningrad. At 16-years-old, Toktogon-apa took on the role of their mothers by surrounding the children with care and attention and conveying a sense of closeness and warmth.
Altybasarova had eight of her own children, 23 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren. The President's office allocated 100,000 Kyrgyz soms ($1,700) to cover her funeral costs.
Under an article on the Kyrgyz news website Vecherni Bishkek, readers celebrated Altybasarova's long life:
Вот настоящий пример человеческого отношения к людям!
Надеюсь, что она воспитала своих детей именно такими, какой она была сама. Настоящими!
Here is an example of a truly human relationship to other people! I hope that she raised her children the way she was herself. As real people!
While a person claiming to be Altybasarova's daughter thanked well-wishers:
Всем , выразившим соболезнования моей маме – Алтыбасаровой Токтогон , большое спасибо ! Спасибо за поддержку и за ваши добрые слова !!!! Спасибо детям из блокадного Ленинграда за добрую память !!!
To all those offering condolences to my mother, Toktogon Altybasarova, many thanks! Thank-you for your support and kind words!!! Thank you to the children of Leningrad for the kind memories!!!