China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA -

There is no dis­guis­ing her fa­ther’s pride, but Rukiya Mati­sat knows that when it comes to fam­ily his­tory she has a tough act to fol­low. There is a con­crete re­minder of it ev­ery day in her home­town.

“My fa­ther shows vis­i­tors pic­tures on the wall of me in my navy uni­form and tells them of my life on the air­craft car­rier,” the 19-yearold Uygur sailor said.

“My par­ents have of­ten said that if my great-grand­fa­ther knew I had joined the navy, he would be very happy.”

Great-grand­fa­ther Kur­ban Tu­lum is un­doubt­edly the best-known person in Hotan, an agri­cul­tural re­gion in the Xin­jiang Uygur au­tonomous re­gion.

Born into an im­pov­er­ished ru­ral fam­ily, he was grate­ful to Chair­man Mao Ze­dong and the Com­mu­nist Party of China as they lib­er­ated him from the ex­ploita­tion of land­lords in 1949.

The Uygur farmer vowed to ride a don­key to go to Bei­jing so that he could meet and thank Mao in person. He was flown to Bei­jing by the Party chief of Xin­jiang, who was im­pressed by his ob­vi­ous grat­i­tude, and re­al­ized his dream of meet­ing Mao.

A mon­u­ment mark­ing the mo­ment when he shook hands with Mao stands at Hotan city’s cen­ter.

“My great-grandpa was the first person in my fam­ily to see Bei­jing, and I am the first to see the ocean,” Rukiya Mati­sat said. “My fa­ther wanted to be a sol­dier in the PLA, but his fa­ther wouldn’t al­low this, so, in a way, I kind of helped re­al­ize my fa­ther’s dream.”

Lan­guage was a dif­fi­culty when she joined the navy in 2012, as she couldn’t speak Man­darin. Peo­ple in Hotan usu­ally speak Uygur.

“My com­rades helped me and taught me Man­darin. They also en­cour­aged me to be a good sailor,” she said. “Now I am strength­en­ing my skills to be­come a com­pe­tent ra­dio op­er­a­tor as soon as pos­si­ble.”

Ay­tu­lun Xukrat, head of Rukiya Mati­sat’s squad, said the “youngest sis­ter” in the squad has ad­justed rapidly to her new life: “She is in­de­pen­dent and con­sid­er­ate of oth­ers. We know she will not dis­ap­point her fam­ily or the peo­ple who care about her.”

Rukiya Mati­sat said she wants to en­ter univer­sity and then re­turn to the navy.

“If I can re­al­ize my dream of be­com­ing an of­fi­cer in the navy, maybe some­day my statue will also stand in my home­town like that of my great-grand­fa­ther,” she said.

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