FATİH ÇEKİRGEA tropical island in East Africa, in the middle of the Indian Ocean;
In a restaurant by the sea, she approached us, saying “Merhaba” (Hello in Turkish).
Then she continued in English, “I have a surprise for you.”
She was holding a Turkish passport in her hands.
I panicked for a moment, wondering whether we had dropped our passports.
But no? Her name is Mary Lou... The Turkish passport belongs to her.
And she has a story. Her father left Gökçeada in the 1950’s during the “Greek exodus.” In other words, he was forced to leave. Apasktol Vasilaki... first Europe... then Greece.
Then her parents went to Tanzania for a tobacco business. Mary Lou was born in Zanzibar; in other words, an African from Gökçeada. She now runs the best restaurant on the island. And when she reached a certain age she started looking for her roots. The beauties of Gökçeada... Istanbul, which stands on her memory as a silhouette.
She took a plane and stayed in Gökçeada. She walked in the streets her mother walked. And then she went and applied for a Turkish passport. She travels the world – not with her Greek, but her Turkish passport.
She is so warm, so Mediterranean, such an islander; an islander from the Marmara Island to the Indian Ocean.
She showed the olive oil. “I finished the Italian olive oil here. There is Turkish olive oil.”
Mary Lou is more from Gökçeada than any of us. She is an Istanbul resident.
You could not chase away İrini
Remember... She had to migrate to Athens with her family. She was a little girl. She listened to Büyükada from her father each night, Prinkipo in Greek. When her father died in Athens, she had finished studying law. She was a lawyer. One morning she came to Istanbul.
She wanted to bring the remains of her father to Büyükada, for which her father was shedding tears each night; to the land where he was born. But Greece did not give its consent, nor did Turkey accept it. She put them in her car, came to Istanbul, And with a secret ceremony she buried the bones of her father at Büyükada.
A woman. You can’t scrap it; you can’t chase her away; you can’t tear her soul.
She was beaten every night by her husband.
She knocked at the governor’s door. She resisted the governor who told her to go back to her house.
And Zozan… She became a legend in her village.
She saved so many women’s lives.
And Halime. And Çigdem. And Emel. And Başak. And Güler. And Vuslat…
You are so few. Of the 2,950 mayors, you are on my top 25. Of the 81 governors you are the only one.
And we love you so much.