Vahob Ibragimov was born on March 15, 1922, in Tashkent. His parents, Abdurakhmon Ibragimov and Toji Yuldasheva, resided on Vodoprovodnaya Street in House 3 and had five children - one daughter and four sons.
'I have a personal connection to this story as my grandfather was the second child in the Ibragimov family. After completing his education, he worked at a canteen. However, when his elder brother Abduvakhid Ibragimov was reported missing, my grandfather took it upon himself to find him. He bravely went to the Commissariat and volunteered to be sent to the front, promising his mother that he would locate his brother. And so, at 19, he left his hometown of Tashkent and attended sergeant courses', Vahob Ibragimov's grandson, Farhod Ibragimov, told Daryo correspondent.
19-year-old Vahob Ibragimov joined the front as he completed the training.
In just a few months, Toji Yuldasheva received a second notice about her second son, Vahob, who reportedly got missing too.
Fierce battles were happening near Kharkiv in 1942. Young sergeant Vahob Ibragimov and his brother-soldiers, waiting in the trench, were subjected to heavy artillery fire. As a result, the sergeant was seriously wounded in the leg and head, lost consciousness, and got captivated.
A group of war prisoners was taken to Germany. Vahob was settled in a barrack near Berlin, where he was repeatedly offered to ink a piece of paper.
"What is this?" Vahob asked the translator, puzzled. The response came quickly, "It is an oath."
After injured Vahob Ibragimov refused to betray the Motherland, he was sent to another camp.
Sooner, Vahob decided to flee together with another soldier Ivan Yakunin. But their escape failed as they got captured by the police and handed over to the Gestapo ('Secret Police').
Then, in the spring of 1943, after 27 days of interrogation, Ibragimov and forty other war prisoners from different countries, including Norway and the former Soviet Union, were transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. That was precisely the place where Vahob met his forever friend.
'Once my grandfather, identified under number 69677, was cleaning the Lagerstrasse. A fair-haired man, identified as number 65633, approached my grandfather, asking where he was from. This is how Fredrik Bergström made friends with my grandfather, Vahob Ibragimov'.
Fredrik transferred Vahob a package of treats that contained a box of biscuits, canned herring, and other necessities to survive.
The Hitlerites tested new samples of soldiers' shoes by marching them 40 kilometers through mud and stones.
'The competition tested the shoe's hardiness; however, the person wearing it was often less hardy,' Vahob Ibragimov's grandson, Farhod Ibragimov, told Daryo correspondent.
Vahob Ibragimov winced as he felt the sting of his wound reopening. In the sanitary barracks, he met a Norwegian roommate Fredrik Bergström, who was captivated due to his linkage to the pro-communist group.
It was challenging for Fredrik Bergström as he got sick with scurvy. He was struggling to breathe and couldn't even swallow. But Vahob was always there for him. He would chew on tough camp bread and carefully feed Bergström the nourishing gruel through his sealed lips. Thanks to Vahob's unwavering dedication, Fredrik recovered within a week.
The camp's inmates were allotted only a three-month recovery period; those who failed to recover within the given time fully were transferred to the gas chamber.
And Ibragimov's wound festered; it was unbearable.
Fredrik, the camp scribe, changed the dates in the papers, and the imprisoned doctors, Fredrik's Norwegian cousin, Anton, the Czech surgeon, treated Vahob. He was immediately sent to a particular team. In those jobs, people died even faster from some compounds that corroded lungs in a month. Bergström arranged with the Norwegians to complain about Ibragimov as if he had stolen a bowl of soup. Vahob was given 25 strokes and returned to unit 39. Vahob believed that he owed Fredrik his life.
Frederick was a clerk and a member of the underground resistance organization. Through him, communication with the barracks with Russian-speaking people was maintained. So he knew on paper why people were brought to this death camp. Frederick looked at Vahob and gave him an assignment.
'During my work, I saw what barracks the Gestapo were in, who they were taking away, and who they were talking to. I memorized the numbers and reported them to Fredrik', Vahob Abdurakhmanovich, once told the media.
'Vahob Ibragimov, in this way, helped to get rid of traitors. He identified the courageous, preferring death to captivity. They were enrolled in groups for the disposal of unexploded bombs. The guards stayed away from the scary object, giving them a chance to escape', Farhod Ibragimov told Daryo.
'Fredrick replaced my father's last name with the last name of the diseased person. In this way, he saved my father. And they remained in the concentration camp until they were released', Dilorom Mahkamova told the media, recalling the story of her father, Vahob Ibragimov.
'He used to tell everyone that nobody should ever experience the war again. His prisoner number was 69677. So our house bore the number 69, and his phone number ended with 677', she added.
In 1945, after the liberation of the prisoners of the concentration camp by the Soviet Army, Vahob returned to his native Tashkent, Fredrik, to Oslo. But in the following years, they kept in contact and passed the baton on to their children and grandchildren.
According to Dilorom Mahkamova, Vahob Ibragimov returned to Tashkent in December 1948.
'He married my mother a month later, in January 1949', Dilorom Mahkamova noted.
In the autumn of 1954, Frederik Bergström, a construction company employee, went on a trip to the Soviet Union with a delegation from the Norway-USSR Society. When they arrived at Tashkent airport, they were greeted by the hotel director, Ibragimov. Frederik wondered if he was related to Vahob Ibragimov, but it turned out that many people had that name in Tashkent. The director seemed interested in knowing more about Vahob, but Frederik didn't have much information beyond his birth year and camp number.
In the late 1960s, one of his colleagues on the executive committee of the city council of workers' deputies told Vahob Ibrahimov that a delegate from Norway asked about a gentleman named Vahob Ibrahimov.
'When my father was asked about his connections in Norway, he simply inquired about the delegation's whereabouts. He was informed that they were staying at the Tashkent hotel but were currently at the Alisher Navoi Theatre', Dilorom Mahkamova said.
Indeed, on their way back from Tajikistan to Moscow, the Norwegian delegation stopped in Tashkent for a few hours. Per the itinerary, the delegation planned to watch the classic ballet performance of "Swan Lake" at the Alisher Navoi Theatre that evening. As they stepped off the bus near the theater, a man wearing a skullcap approached Fredrik Bergström. He pushed through the crowd and yelled in perfect Norwegian, "Jeg er sulten!" which translates to "I'm hungry!".
In the theater, they sat embracing and looking at each other. However, only a few hours left before our departure, so they decided to walk through the stupefying fragrant streets at night. They couldn't help but talk about the camp and how it had impacted them.
Later, they could talk about their personal lives and families. It was a relief to discuss something other than the camp and connect deeper.
'It was during their first post-war meeting that my father and Fredrik exchanged home addresses. This led to a trip to Artek camp for my older sister and Mr. Bergström's daughter, which further cemented their friendship. As a result of spending a month together in the children's camp, the two girls became good friends themselves', Dilorom Mahkamova added.
'I remember clearly when Fredrik and his family visited us in Tashkent in 1978. They stayed with us for a while, and it was lovely having them around. Later, they kindly invited my father to Norway, which he happily accepted. So we were all delighted when Fredrik and his family returned to Tashkent again', Mahkamova said.
Vahob Ibragimov died in 1996.
'We were later informed that Frederik and his wife died too. Their grandson visits us when he is available. We all keep in touch via the Internet.