This Saturday is a special day here in Australia. It’s a day of remembrance for the men who sacrificed their lives to fight battles in faraway lands. One of those distant lands where Australians and New Zealanders fought was Turkey, my homeland.
I’ll be the first one to admit that history never held any appeal for me. The way I was taught it was as rote memorisation of numbers. The numbers I held in my mind to pass exams represented things like dates, the number of people killed in battles and plagues, populations and wealth of nations. These numbers never compelled me the way they would someone who looks at the world from the lens of facts and figures.
I wanted to know how these battles I read about impacted my teachers. Did they fight in the wars or had ancestors who were veterans? My curiosity would never be satisfied as the teachers and students were only concerned with facts and figures so they could make sufficient grades to demonstrate mastery of their understanding of a subject.
So here I am today trying to understand what moved my fellow Australians, and I consider myself an Australian because I receive the goodness of this land that nourishes me in every way, to attack the country of my birth.
My vague understanding is that the Ottoman Empire in its final years, like let’s say Elvis in the 70s, had long-lived past her glory years and was given to excess to numb herself to her aimlessness. She was there for the taking for the foreign forces, namely the British who were on a rampage to attack and take over whatever was in sight. Why were the British so hell-bent on conquering new land? My theory is small island syndrome.
So when Mother England called out to her profligate sons in Australia and New Zealand, what were they to say? How would you as a person feel about saying “no” if you had a mother who needed your help? Fighting is in our blood, it’s what we’re built to do as human beings. The call of Britain to colonists to play a role in the world stage is a call to adventure that very few young men would refuse.
If I were a young lad living back then, I’d get my mates and would depart on the next ship over to claim my destiny on the battlegrounds.
Two Worlds Collided
The battlefield, Gallipoli, is a scenic piece of land looking over the water. I hope I visit it one day with my family. Many soldiers, Turkish, British, Aussie, Kiwi, left their lives there. It is said that the Turkish flag, which is red, is painted with blood.
What I’d be most interested in reading would be the accounts of the ANZAC soldiers when they arrived in Turkey. What were their first impressions of this country they were there to win for Britain? If I’m to guess, I would think awe. At least, this is what I saw and heard from Australians and Kiwis I met in Turkey who were there on holidays. It was overwhelming to them all the artifacts in Turkey from the first civilization of Mesopotamia to Greeks, Romans and the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.
In exchange, I enjoyed the Aussies and Kiwis who were curious and wanting to learn about Turkey. I wanted to learn about their lives in their own countries. What did they do, eat, watch? I found myself longing to live in their faraway lands where they had the freedom to be photographers if they so chose and could take pride in working as a stagehand in a studio. You try telling that you’re a professional photographer or an artist in Turkey and if you’re a man, no one will let you marry their daughters. If you’re a woman, you’ll be told to go find a husband and have some kids.
At least it was like that when I last operated within the Turkish culture.
Ramadan and ANZAC Biscuits
Thankfully, our household with my Australian mate isn’t a metaphor for Gallipoli. There’s no clash of cultures because so far I’m in charge of coming up with how we celebrate and observe special days. This year, I baked ANZAC Biscuits. These biscuits are symbolic of a mother’s love and the innovative spirit of the ANZACs. The mothers of the ANZAC soldiers developed a recipe made from non-perishable ingredients to last the long journey to Turkey and this biscuit made of flour, rolled oats, coconut flakes, golden syrup and butter was born.
So this ANZAC spirit that we talk about, mateship, humour, ingenuity, courage and endurance, it is not only in the men who served overseas, but in the women who were left behind to raise their children to provide moral support, bake and ship off ANZAC biscuits as a symbol of their love. These days I see ANZAC spirit in people who leave behind their homes to come to Australia to study or start new lives here with their families.
I see it in people like Christabelle, who first offered me ANZAC biscuits despite being Indonesian. I see it in anyone who’s left all they know to start a new life after battling an illness, breakdown of a relationship, becoming a mother for the first time, decided to write a book, left a job that was comfortable for a new challenge. In short, we all embody the ANZAC spirit. It is the human spirit.
I see the ANZAC spirit in me as I’ve decided after many years to take part in Ramadan by fasting. This morning I had ANZAC balls (not biscuits, balls, because I had to substitute coconut oil for butter and could not shape them into cookies without the dough flaking off and breaking) before sunrise at 6:25AM and will break fast with another ANZAC ball at 5:22PM when the sun sets.
Wish me luck!
Over to you…
What is the one thing that you’re battling now? Truth be told, I battled with procrastination but thankfully I overcame it and wrote this article. I hope this has given you a taste of the ANZAC Spirit to help you overcome whatever your challenge is.