Leaving the Country that We Devoted our Lives
I never knew I had such strong ties to this world. Leaving my home was deeply painful. Even more hurtful, my country was now closing the doors to us. My plan was to visit the US for a short time, to be with my daughter, who was expecting her second baby. And then return home quickly. If I’d had any idea of what was waiting for me would I have ever left my beloved country?
I am married to a soldier and our country is everything for us. During my husband’s service in the military, we traveled across Turkey, never staying in the same place for more than 2 years. We made friends that we had to leave, we never had a permanent place or a set lifestyle. In the eastern part of Turkey, my husband’s service was significant for combating terrorism. Because of stress, he was diagnosed with diabetes at an earlier age, and even though he was eligible for early retirement, he preferred to continue to serve his country and people. He never would have imagined that there would be a day that he, himself would be accused of being a terrorist. His tears are for the country that he put his life on the line for–not the accusations he was faced with. For a soldier, country means life.
Everything started when our flight on July 22nd was canceled when there were not enough passengers. Our first option was to fly on July 15th, coinciding with my nephew’s wedding ceremony. So, I selected July 16th, which turned out to be the date after the unfortunate event: the coup attempt on July 15th. Though I was worried about my country, I boarded the plane and flew to the U.S to take care of my daughter as she was getting ready to give birth soon. But gradually I came to understand that it was actually me who needed help, and that was why I had traveled.
After we arrived in the US, we started receiving bad news about our loved ones. My son-in-law’s two uncles were imprisoned, my nephew was dismissed from his job. My other nephew, an assistant professor at a prestigious university, was fired and, later, my own brother was imprisoned. I learned how difficult it is to be accused of actions that you would not even have thought of. My daughter’s mother in law and I were depressed, and our supporter was my daughter…
At the time, my husband and son were in Turkey, and I was not able to convince them to come to the US. My husband was retired, he was not on active duty; but since our country and the people were going through difficulties, he felt that he needed to be there to provide support and care. And, why would he consider leaving his country when he had not done anything wrong? As we were listening to the news, and hearing from our loved ones in Turkey, we were realizing that things were starting to get out of control. One day, I was about to lose my mind when I heard a school teacher who had diabetes died in prison. I kept pressuring my husband, and he and my son finally came to the US. We initially thought this period would last for a short time, misunderstandings would be resolved soon, and we would be able to go back to the country that we were born, raised, served and lived our lives happily. But, this did not come true. We started hearing accusations about me. My husband’s nephew and a close friend were detained. Everyone around us kept saying that this period would last for a long time, and that we should move permanently to US, but it was difficult for us to accept this. I had lots to do for my country, I wanted to serve more. For the first time, we had the chance to live in a city for a long time, and we had made long lasting friendships. How would I leave those behind? When my home was evacuated, and my valuable furniture was dispersed, then I understood that I was left homeless, without a homeland.
Was it just me who was facing difficulties? Many people were left penniless and without jobs, spouses, or kids. They did not have any money to give to an attorney, to start a case, or to feed their families. Parents were kicking their own kids out of the house; and kids were reporting their own parents. With that, it was the time for me to get back to myself, and to start helping those in need. I heard about a group of volunteers who were making and selling homemade pickles and pasta, and sending the earnings to needy people in Turkey. I joined them shortly after, and this effort motivated me greatly. We were working so hard that I had left my worries behind, I did not have any time for listening to myself. But at the same time, we were faced with the harsh realities: we needed to start a life and make a living here. We needed to have our own place, as we could not keep living with my daughter and son-in-law forever. Most of all, my daughter was seeing her parents crying all the time, and this had led to her getting depressed over time. We were ruining our daughter’s life. We needed to act quickly to start our lives, and stand on our own two feet.
Friends said “you are a good cook; everyone here works and doesn’t have time to cook. If you start cooking and delivery, this will meet a significant need, and on top of that, it could help you make some money.” Nowadays, I work as a caterer, and guess who is my helper? Someone who did not even cook a soup for me during my pregnancy: my husband! We work so hard together, we don’t even have time to think. With our earnings, we try to contribute to our family budget, and also help brothers and sisters in Turkey by sending some of our earnings. This has really helped us get beyond our own worries. Throughout this time, I’ve understood that the only thing that would help you endure is to not to focus on your own worries, but to think about others who are in need.