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  • Writer's pictureEbru Sak

My journey into history

Walking along the Bosphorous Istanbul

Embarking on this poignant journey was my way of fulfilling a promise—a promise I made to my mother as she faced the relentless grip of illness. In a mere three months, she closed her eyes forever, leaving behind a suitcase filled with gifts and cherished memories intended for the siblings she yearned to reunite with. Laughter, shared meals, and heartfelt reminiscences of their shared childhood were the dreams she held close, dreams that lingered unfulfilled.

During mums bedridden days, our conversations were filled with the dreams she had held so dear. I stood by her side every minute of those final months, and in those precious moments, I vowed to complete the journey she never had the chance to begin. We planned to visit the places she longed to see, to share breakfast, lunch, and dinner with her beloved siblings, and to explore markets and the House of Rumi in Konya.

The grief that engulfed my heart after her passing was overwhelming. In the following twelve months, I sought refuge in my work, burying myself in long days and even longer hours. The ritual of reaching for the phone to share the details of my day with Mum persisted, but a palpable emptiness reminded me of the irreversible change in my life—I had become a motherless child.

Exploring the depths of my family history is like unearthing a treasure trove of emotions, stories, and connections that have shaped my existence. My mother, a woman who cherished her family above all else, would always talk about the importance of these bonds, and the story of the Göçmen people, our family's ancestral heritage, is a testament to the enduring power of love, laughter and shared meals.

Upon reaching Turkey to connect with my mother's siblings—two uncles and an aunt—I sensed a profound embrace, as if they were holding their sister once more through me. In those moments, I too felt a deep connection, as though I were embracing my mother anew. It was a bittersweet reunion, and collectively, we navigated through the waves of grief once more, a year after Mum's passing.

They had experienced different life paths, and fate had scattered them far and wide, but when they came together, it was as though no time had separated them. They effortlessly picked up where they had left off, relishing the comfort of being surrounded by family.

Our conversations became a tapestry woven with memories of Mum—the laughter she effortlessly conjured, her talent for mimicking others, a natural-born performer who, in another world, might have graced stages and become a household name. Instead, the cruel grip of illiteracy and societal norms denied her that path.

In the quiet hours of the night, my aunt and I would stay up all night, sharing stories and shedding tears. It was during these moments that my aunt would unveil the darker chapters of my mother's childhood, offering glimpses into her life that I had never known. Her stories were a haunting reminder of a time when my mother had been forced into circumstances that would be unthinkable today. The sadness was almost overwhelming, and I couldn't help but weep for my dear mother and the trials she endured.

These stories, rich with history, resilience, and enduring love, are a testament to the strength and tenacity that runs through the veins of our family.

We are the Göçmen people, once homeless nomads who journeyed through life's ups and downs. Our roots trace back to Gurjistan and Uzbekistan, a landlocked country in Central Asia, where Uzbeks are the predominant Turkic-speaking ethnic group. They are believed to have emerged in Central Asia centuries ago, and some even claim to be descendants of the great Genghis Khan. Our journey was a reflection of our origins - once purely tribal, we transitioned into a semi-nomadic lifestyle. It was an existence that mirrored the rugged, untamed beauty of our surroundings.

As I delve deeper into my family's past, I am reminded that our history is not just a chronicle of events but a tapestry of emotions, traditions, and bonds that continue to shape who we are today. It's a story of survival, love, and the indomitable spirit of the human heart, passed down from one generation to the next.

In addition to cherishing moments with my mother's side of the family, I was fortunate to reconnect with my uncle and cousins from my dad's side, residing in the Netherlands. Coincidentally, they were also in Turkey, and their joy upon seeing me was palpable. The warmth and affection were unmistakable, creating a bond that went beyond mere family ties. It was with my cousin, whom I hadn't seen in forty years, that a seamless connection emerged—not just because our fathers were brothers, but due to shared values and energies that uplifted both of us.

Embarking on a road trip with him and his wife, we journeyed to the House of Rumi, and later, I joined them at their beach house in Alanya. The experience was nothing short of magnificent, and Turkey, with its heavenly landscapes, white sand beaches, and miles of coastline, left an indelible mark on me. The plan to return and explore more of Turkey is firmly etched in my mind.

Reflecting on the socio-economic landscape, the opulence of the wealthy, flaunting mansions and yachts, stood in stark contrast to the struggles of the majority. Many faced hardships, commuting in overcrowded buses with the day's fruits and vegetables, enduring long waits at bus stops.

Opting to live like a local, I relied on public transport and walked extensively, gaining a profound appreciation for the convenience of owning a car upon my return home.

In conclusion, fulfilling my commitment to my mother brought immense happiness, and I am grateful for the opportunity. A sense of elation lingers, a lightness in my being that I hope is a manifestation of her presence throughout this journey.

The lesson learned is a poignant one—never take any moment for granted. Though I would have cherished traveling with my mother while she was alive, we often live as if time is limitless. The universe, however, had different plans, emphasising the importance of seizing opportunities and appreciating life's fleeting moments.

Until next time, embracing life and love in the present moment.


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