Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The ANZACS And Ataturk

Although it's not ANZAC Day, I was loading more photographs onto this new site and rediscovered my Gallipoli series. It made me think about all I didn't know of Turkey before living there.

My step-Grandad fought at Gallipoli during the First World War. Oddly enough, I'm accidently dogging his war-footsteps. I visited Gallipoli twice while living in Istanbul, and then moved to Belgium, where he was actually wounded on another battlefield, having survived the almost unsurvivable horrors of Gallipoli.

Looking through my photographs, I remembered staying at TJ's Backpackers in Eceabat, the town closest to the Gallipoli battlefields. It was magic ... sitting up on the flat rooftop, drinking Efes, a Turkish beer I came to love, and listening to the final call to prayer go out over the township.

TJ has a hotel too, but it's the man whose important. He's one of the best guides you can hope to find over there. He's married to an Australian, and the first time I met him, I thought he was from Downunder. You can check out his site here:

If you're ever thinking of heading over to ANZAC DAY, don't look past him. Actually, while I'm talking of 'going to Turkey' - feel free to contact me too, and make sure you contact Hayden in Istanbul ... he's the Kiwi travel agent at Ayala Travel. See He's an easygoing, knowlegeable Kiwi bloke, whose been living there for over 5 years; nothing's a problem.

Anyway ... the thing that I wanted to write about here, was the message that the then leader of Turkey left for the mothers of the dead enemy soldiers. It's stunning, and the first time I was there, it almost moved me to tears.

On a Turkish memorial in Gallipoli, overlooking the Aegean sea, Kemal Ataturk's words are engraved in stone:

"To those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace. There is no difference to us between the Johnnies and the Mehmets [referring to both Allied and Turkish soldiers], where they lie side by side, here in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far-away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well."

Note: ANZAC Day is when New Zealand and Australia honour the bravery of the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), and of all those who served their country. It is an annual public holiday in both countries, and falls on the 25th of April. It's a day of reflection, when the general public partake in quiet parades, with the same dawn and daytime ceremonies also being held in Gallipoli, Turkey.

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