My Grandmother: An Armenian-Turkish Memoir
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Growing up in the small town of Maden in Turkey, Fethiye Çetin knew her grandmother as a happy and respected Muslim housewife called Seher.
Only decades later did she discover the truth. Her grandmother’s name was not Seher but Heranus. She was born a Christian Armenian. Most of the men in her village had been slaughtered in 1915. A Turkish gendarme had stolen her from her mother and adopted her. Çetin’s family history tied her directly to the terrible origins of modern Turkey and the organized denial of its Ottoman past as the shared home of many faiths and ways of life.
A deeply affecting memoir, My Grandmother is also a step towards another kind of Turkey, one that is finally at peace with its past.
whispers so that we children could not hear. As you know, adults think they can hide their discussions from children, but in fact children hear everything and pick up on whatever is going on. From the bits and pieces that I overheard, it transpired that a number of men were in love with my mother and wished to marry her. Sometimes go-betweens would come to the house and shut themselves up in a room with my grandmother; they would then leave looking very mysterious. Whenever these people came,
grieve for all those who lost their lives, their families, and their homes, and to make common cause with all those who wish to make sure that those ‘dark days’ never return. She wrote it first and foremost for Turkish readers, challenging the distortions of the official history that they all learned as children, and appealing to their common humanity. In this she was far more successful than she could have dreamed. From the day of publication she received, and still receives, numerous calls from
worked day and night, saving as much as he could. Before long, the terrible news reached him. He heard that there were no longer any Armenians in the lands they’d left behind, that only a few of the Armenians who’d been forced out of their villages had reached Aleppo and Der Zor15, that almost everyone had been slaughtered – women and children, old and young – and that there were now campaigns to help the survivors, who were on the verge of death from starvation and neglect. The brothers went
out that you were part of our family but Turkish at the same time. Now I love all parts of this big family and I’m desperate to meet my other cousins and even make music with them. But I still hate all those who deny what happened; these people I shall never forgive.’ * * * Aunt Marge bought presents for my sister, brother, nieces and nephews. As she gave them to me, she said, ‘I want so much to see them. But my health is getting steadily worse, and it’s possible that I’ll never have chance to
taken on the aspect of a European colony. And so it might have remained, if Mustafa Kemal’s armies had not risen up to reclaim the lands that now define the Republic of Turkey. But in 1927, when Kemal sat down to write the official history of its birth, Sèvres still cast a long shadow. It was the future that might have been, had Europe and Anatolia’s Christian minorities had their way. It is through this prism that four generations of Turkish schoolchildren have been taught to view the