Turkish couple living on remote island for 15 years
BALIKESİR – Demirören News Agency
Hüseyin Afacan and his wife, Ayşe Afacan, both in their 70s, have been living a remote life on the island of Çiçek, dotted with olive and pine trees and famous for its narcissus flowers in the western province of Balıkesir’s Ayvalık district, ever since grappling with financial distress and their son’s brain damage 15 years ago.
Known as the “Turkish Robinsons” in Ayvalık, the Afacan couple lives in a stone building left from a time when the island, which is located 600 meters off the mainland, was once inhabited by local Greeks decades ago.
They say they are happy in spite of all the difficulties of the island life.
After living in Germany for 25 years, the Afacan couple had returned to Ayvalık, where they grew up.
But they had lost everything after their son’s hatchery, which was close to Çiçek, was completely damaged after a storm in 2003. The couple then had to treat their son, who had suffered a brain hemorrhage due to stress, starting looking for new ways to overcome this difficult period.
They then decided to live on Çiçek, which covers a tiny area of 275,000 square meters. They moved after getting permission from one of the owners of the island, Nuh Katarin.
Away from modern life, the couple restored a ruined Greek house and started raising chickens, ducks and sheep and adopted a dog.
The couple meets their electricity needs with wind turbines they built, transport water from a well on the island and bring drinking water from Ayvalık.
Waking up early in the morning every day, the couple feeds their animals and strolls around the island.
Hüseyin Afacan does not want to leave his peaceful life on the island, saying that they never get bored because their relatives often come to visit them.
He said they preferred the life on the island due to their financial problems and the nature.
“We have been living on this island for 15 years. I love this life so much and don’t get bored of it. I don’t have any problems here. We grow vegetables. We guard the island. We produce beans, eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, parsley and mint. We raise our lambs. To meet our needs, we travel to Ayvalık every few days on our fiber boat. On the island, life becomes more difficult in the winter and we get stranded for days. But I am happier on the island. When I go to the city, I can’t stay; I get bored and go back to the island as quickly as I can.”
The couple had lost all their belongings after investing all their money in the hatchery, which their son had set up as part of his business after graduating from university.
“But a disaster destroyed everything. Our son suffered from brain hemorrhage because of stress. He was taken to the Ege University’s hospital and had difficult days. Then we came here. We always struggled. Sometimes it gets difficult on the island. Life on the island is good; it has its good sides as well as bad sides. When the weather is bad, it gets difficult to go to the mainland. I go to Ayvalık once a week and stay there for one night. We get water from the well, but bring drinking water from Ayvalık. It is beautiful here in the summer. And our relatives never make us feel lonely.”
Recalling a memory, she said the couple once had to help tourists who had arrived on the island’s pier lost and confused. “Two years ago, while having breakfast, I saw a lot of people sitting at the dock from the window. I went to them, but they could not speak Turkish. They were brought to the island by people who said it was a Greek island. They were cold, so we built a fire and offered them tea. We then called the coast guard. My husband was questioned twice after that,” she said.