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The Anatolian "Melting Pot"

Cemil Ozyurt
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There’s an old lady in our neighborhood. She’s probably around eighty. Every time I pass in front of their door, I ask her how she is. I can see her happiness when she hears me speak Turkish. She seems to have a craving for a passerby or an acquaintance saying hello.
That’s why I hear her pray after me until I reach the far end of the street. I guess she left Anatolia in order to be next to her children, but she still yearns for a neighbor who can talk to her in Turkish.

My landlord’s father, who was born in 1923, says a strong “merhaba” to me every time he sees me out the door. If he gets the chance, he starts talking to me with great enthusiasm about his days in the Army, when he was doing hard physical work in Çanakkale, is a town and seaport in Turkey, his years as a jeweler in Beşiktaş, a district of İstanbul, and how Atatürk, founder of Turkey came to Mardin.

Ioannis, one of my best friends since I came to the US, is never tired of asking me when we can meet to eat some kokoreç which is sheep's intestines grilled on a spit. Whenever he hears an Anatolian melody, he is more than happy to get up and dance some misket with us.

The old lady who prays after me in our neighborhood is an Armenian woman. She is one of our neighbors with whom we shared the Anatolian land for centuries. The landlord’s father, who served in the army in Çanakkale during 1940s is an Assyrian from Mardin. My good friend, who invites me to eat in a Greek restaurant in Astoria, Queens, is a Greek Cypriot.

In 1947, Bulent Ecevit, a former Prime Minister of Turkey, wrote the following poems in London:

Pining for home you realize
The Greek is your brother
Just watch a homesick Istanbul boy
As he hears a Greek song…

I have no way of knowing Mr. Ecevit’s feelings when he wrote this. However, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that today many young Turks in New York and New Jersey owe a lot to Armenians and Assyrians who employ them. Sometimes members of minority groups in Turkey show greater affinity to Turkish people then their own people. Despite pains, resentments and disagreements of the past, in spite of bold divisions along political lines, a beautiful plate of stuffed grape leaves is more than a good reason to forget about these differences. We have different names, different identities, and different ethic backgrounds; but we the children of the same soil, having shared same pains and same joy.

Today, the idea of different nations bonding together in a common geography is very strong in America. The same principle was applied centuries ago in Anatolia. The blend in America is more diverse than the one that existed in the dry soil of Anatolia for centuries.

Although we were raised according to the “single nation – single language” doctrine, we have to remember one thing: The cultural heritage of Turkey is too wide to fit in a single form. Of course, if we can only forget our desire to perceive a beautiful mosaic as a block of marble!

Melting Pot: Large metal container, used to mix different metals in liquid form. The term is used to describe how different ethnicities live together in America.

(April 2004, 12th Issue)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07

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