SAILOR FINDS HERSELF IN TRADITIONAL FAMILY WATERS
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.