Before we went to Turkey, I asked my dad why there is a photo of me at my 1st birthday in Turkey. I was curious as I had originally thought that my folks were just there on vacation. My dad then told me this story:
When the Italians invaded Libya, my great grandfather was worried they would take his two sons and kill them. This was common back then in times of war. Kill the sons so that they do not fight against the occupying army. So he took them to Turkey and left them in an orphanage. He had hopes that some day, after the occupation, he would go back and get them. He left them at an orphanage because he didn't know anyone in Turkey. He decided to keep his daughter at home and not take her because she would be safer with her parents.
Then tragedy struck and my great grandfather died. So my great uncles grew up in Turkey, got adopted by a local family and proceeded to learn Turkish and adjust to their new home. Flash forward to my own grandmother growing up without her brothers, meeting my grandfather, getting married and having seven kids. Only two of the children survived a childhood illness and this makes my grandmother realize that she really wants to find her brothers. After my parents met and got married, my dad decided to take his mother to meet her brothers. So we all went and that is how I celebrated my first birthday in Turkey. But again, ties were lost and no one kept in touch and sadly my grandmother died years ago.
So I went to Turkey with this amazing story but with no hopes that any family members would be found. Their last name is very common (almost like a Smith here) and they weren’t even close to Istanbul (where DH and I were) last time my folks visited. A week ago, a family member from the Turkish side went to Libya in hopes of finding his family. He tracked down my grandmother’s house and found my cousins who still live in the neighborhood. Of course they contacted my father via Facebook and yesterday my dad emailed me a complete family tree of the two great granduncles that is two pages long. On the second page at the very bottom is my grandmother, her two sons, their wives and me. Since my first birthday is the only contact they had with our family, they have no idea that my uncle has seven sons, one daughter and many many grandchildren. Also missing are my brothers, our spouses and combined children.
Now family members are finding each other back and forth on Facebook and it’s pretty wild. The biggest problem is that we don’t speak Turkish and they don’t speak Arabic or English, so it’s been a challenge to communicate but my dad is beyond ecstatic. I also got a second picture of me blowing out the cake with my grandmother next to me which trilled me since I don’t have many photos of her. When we left Libya,we had to leave all our personal items behind, which unfortunately included all our photos. I only get a few every so often when relatives who can get into the country are able to sneak them out.
So that’s it, I’m blown away that I have a whole extended family in Turkey and I think I need to return someday! I’m still trying to come to grips with it all. Thanks for reading my share.
Oh, and today is my dad's birthday, so Happy Birthday Baba!!!