You may recall two posts ago I said I was jet lagged. Well, that’s because I had traveled to Turkey. I’m still here, by the way. Because I’m in Turkey, I wanted to talk about a story that originates in the country. Only, this story isn’t fictional. It’s historical and it’s the battle of Gallipoli.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself why I would write about a battle when this blog is focused on Children’s Lit. and fairytales. You’ll see where I drew the parallels, just be patient.
The battle of Gallipoli occurred within the span of World War I and took place in Çanakkale (pronounced: chan-eh-call-ay), Turkey. This battle was fought between New Zealand, Australia, the UK, and France on one side; and the Ottoman Empire (aka Turkey) on the other. Perhaps, if you’ve seen The Water Diviner starring Russel Crowe, this sounds a little familiar. That’s because that film holds its footing in this tragic battle. All battles are tragic, of course, but to put it in perspective for those who have never heard of Gallipoli, this battle is the equivalent of the US’s place in the Vietnam War. And that was a war. A war fought by adults as young as a fresh eighteen-year-old. Gallipoli’s soldiers, I’ve been told, were as young as thirteen.
What happens when you get children to literally fight your battles for you? Well, as startling as it may sound, you get play. I was on the island of Bozcaada when I met a father and daughter who told me what they knew of what happened at Gallipoli. Now, such serious topics aren’t what I typically bring up in casual, let alone new acquaintance conversation, but the anniversary at the time I met these people was that day.* So they started talking about it. I wasn’t new to the subject of Gallipoli, but I didn’t know children fought in the war. And I didn’t know they had football (aka soccer) games when they weren’t fighting. Or that someone would cross enemy trench lines to get a cigarette, turn their back on their enemy, get back in the trench, and start fighting again. I didn’t know the trench lines were maybe fifteen feet away from each other. I didn’t know that when the battle ended, opposing sides helped find and bury each other’s dead.
I said to a friend once, “Kids are altruistic beings.” I said to someone else, “Age is a mentality.” Throughout all that happens in war, this discard of the enemy and the other was replaced with altruism.
I realize this subject is more grim than my other topics, however, given I am a visitor in this country, I wanted to talk about a piece of world history you may not otherwise get unless you’re passing through Çanakkale.
“Those heroes that 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 between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.” – Mustafa Ataturk, commander of the Ottoman forces and later, founder of modern Turkey.
Thank you for reading
*The anniversary of the battle for Turkey is April 24, for Australia and New Zealand it’s April 25. It is remembered with a dawn ceremony. It’s called Anzac Day.