HIMMET THE KID
We hired an old
guide in Elvanlar. The village was partly burned down, it was wretched; everybody
was looking at the superfluous sight of the monster called truck. In everybody's
soul were the despair and indifference molded out by endless suffering, famine,
unexpected disaster probabilities of each day. So, no one wanted to come as
far as Usak. What would they do with money? What would it buy? Only an old man
with a thin face said in a weak voice:
- I know the way
till Iney. But if you take me to Usak and give me an oka of sold there I will
come. In the twilight, murmuring and roaring the truck set to the remote, roadless
desert of Anatolia.
On the truck were
journalists from Istanbul. They were going to make investigation on the ashes
of the unprecedented atrocity by the Greek Army, and while I was going to prepare
the rapport of the Greek atrocity they were going to announce the sufferings
of Turks to the world from the news agency. The nature rules in Anatolia, not
the man. With great many difficulties for hours we drove through quiet and secluded
forests, on swampy plains, up very steep hills, and then through the darkness
and through the bitter wind that blew cutting and freezing the man.
Iney was a village having turned into a silver fire wreck from the bank of a
valley. When the truck roaring and struggling got on the way to the village,
surroundings were free of human sound and of human life as though it was the
beginning of the genesis. Only a herd of jackals were howling poignantly in
harmony with the wind fiercely passing through the valley as though the darkness
was blowing. I thought:
- My God! They
have all fled from the village, how will we make an investigation?
After a while I
saw two khaki shadows warming up by a scarlet flame within a stone cavity on
the right move. The only light falling on the dark valley, on the silver fire
wrecked bank were this fire and the headlights of the truck like two walking
eyes. When the driver tried to stop the idle vehicle some silhouettes moved
in front of it. Then a man wearing a black robe, a white turban and with black
beard and who was on the stony way that was lighted, separated from his friends
that were in silhouettes behind him and out of the lighted area. With a voice
I will never forget he said:
- Corporal Halide,
we were waiting for you in the Iney station.
- How did you know
I would come?
- Those in the
station know it. They said that an investigation committee would come.
Hearing this voice, journalist friends got into action immediately, they took
out pan and paper, jumped out of the truck, and started to question the silhouettes.
How many houses burned down. How many people were killed? The man with black
beard came near me. He looked at my notes with a great interest.
- How many houses?
The entire village burned down. How many people were killed? Only God knows
the number. Bandits come and kill and rob. As you see there's neither house
nor food or clothing. But now set them aside; tell another thing to Ismet Pasha!
- My job is to
write about these.
A little more nervously
and his voice trembling:
- Your job is to
explain our situation… how many houses burned down, now many people were killed.
Will this fill our stomachs or provide shelter for us? Tell Ismet Pasha…
In his voice was
the superiority of those struggling for life; with downcast eyes I asked:
- What do you want
me to tell him?
- We want houses,
the wind cuts like a knife, there isn't even a cavity to shelter the children.
They say in Usak there are lots of lumber and many Greek captives, tell him
to order that from them are given to us so that we immediately build small houses.
We want bread; there is wheat in military warehouses, just one hour-distance
away… tell him to order that they give us, even if they are uncooked, so that
we feed our children. (His voice breaking in with pain and mercy he went on.)
Adults understand the situation, they are silent, but the children don't understand;
they always cry of hunger, they cry till morning, tell this to the Pasha…
Beyond howls of jackals, and the moan of the wind I imagined that hungry children
are crying, mothers with their breasts without milk and empty, and having no
real cloths on are shouting at world, fortune and life waving their fists.
- I have noted
down. Now give us a guide till Usak.
to and consulted each other, then:
- Get this kid
to take you to the paved road, they said.
The huge duffle
coat made of wolf skin, the thick boots, and the wool cap were not warming up
any more, they were now burning. We hadn't eaten anything for the whole day.
We had a sack of hard biscuits having been taken as a reserve and they were
actually belonging to the driver beside me and to the toy guard soldiers on
the truck. But neither they nor friends, though they were complaining of being
hungry a short while ago, said a word about their desire for food as though
it was a sin. Only, the desire burning silently in the soul of the soldier driver
who seemed busy with repairing the vehicle passed into my heart, quietly:
- Should we give
the biscuits to the villagers? I said.
These words had
the impact of a spark touching dry resinous chips ready to burn. I don't know
how it happened: three soldiers had grasped the sack of biscuits and were distributing
them with tears in their eyes. A dignified and a tolerant voice was saying:
- May be you won't
be able to find food in Usak. Keep them with you.
Once again the
truck muttered, growled, crackled and drove into the darkness and wind. Himmet
the guide was standing on the step of the truck, next to me, as there was no
place. My heart was filled with the starving cries of the babies in Iney when
I saw the weakness and pitifulness of her little child hand that was holding
on to the truck. I think of the starving. In the lands I had been traveling
for years what was the number of the villages that had been ruined, of which
people had to starve and die.
Anatolia was experiencing the poverty and desperation pertaining to the first
days of the creation. The nation that would re-build Turkey would need the power
and working capacity of those coming after Prophet Adem. A despondent nation
who has no shelter, no bread… while World was singing pleasantly their victory
epic they were facing the eyes of the death. Who will build the country? How
will we build? A shrill, yet a calm voice beside us:
- Here is Kuzgunderesi,
I turned to her.
She had a little, thin face. The skin of her narrow cheek that sunk to her chin
had been puckered; the skeleton of her chin was apparent. Despite this poverty
and despair her head had such an intrinsic cuteness, and power which invited
you to life that I asked:
- Why don't you
eat your biscuit, Himmet?
- I will eat it
- Just eat first
and we'll talk later.
I waited for her
to eat the biscuit which she had slowly took out of her breast breaking it into
small pieces; the entire skeleton of her head was appearing even clearly as
she chewed the biscuit. Suddenly I wanted to take her runaway head into my duffle
coat, and I don't know why but I wanted to sing her the lullaby I would sing
while putting my own child to sleep in the past. But this desire did not last
long. On the little, thin face I anticipated a maturity that forbade mercy and
weakness. I started to speak in a voice that I wanted to be calm and friendly.
Very proudly she
said that she was thirteen years old. As she was seven years old her parents
died leaving her with an old grandmother, a sister and two oxen. For years she
had plowed the fields of two widows with the oxen, she had assisted farmers
in return for part of their crop, she cared for her grandmother and sister,
and she had even married off her sister to a soldier. Unfortunately the region
suffered from an animal disease and her two oxen were killed at the same time.
This part of the story gave pain to my heart. I asked:
- What did you
She calmly shrugged
her shoulders. Nothing, what could she do? She worked without ox, she worked
by the day, plowed the fields of widows, worked for three years and she finally
bought two huge and fat buffalo cows.
This part of the
story agitated my heart again. A child in her eight or nine and without any
one buys two buffalos by working in bare Anatolia, this is something like the
highest degree of heroism as I understand and know it. Souls recovering Australia
from her bare soil with their works and making a center of civilization out
of her were souls of this kind.
- Do you still
have those buffalo cows?
This time she shrugged
her shoulders in a manner that brought tears into my eyes. The truck was passing
through the dark valley. Valleys, sheer cliffs, precipices of Anatolia send
cold chill down one's spine and imagination. They are the scene for emigrations,
fights, for murders and robberies.
Three months ago
in this baleful valley Greeks caught Himmet the kid and laid down her to kill;
but there was a disagreement between the two soldiers; one of them wanted to
take her carriage and let her go, the other wanted to kill her. The one who
wanted to let her finally said:
- If there is egg
in her carriage we will let her go, if not will kill her.
Her calm voice
trembling Himmet the kid said:
-Granny had cooked two eggs for me, aunt…
The dark wind was
howling strangely over the precipice on the left side of the valley. The kid
silent and stuck to the truck, we were going. With a natural voice I said:
- Let us take you
till Usak, Himmet. I know you won't be afraid of returning but we may lose our
way, the driver doesn't know it.
-It's all right,
The motionless masculine face of the soldier driver that looked as though carved
of stone in the darkness revived with a smile.
Usak I thought. During my years in Anatolia I was coming across kids like Himmet
in forlorn, man less, vanishing villages, whose family number decreased from
hundred to thirty and regarded them as lights and signs in the life history
of the country. If anything named life and humanity remained in Anatolia, it
was due to her hardworking women and due to the extraordinary efforts of these
young day laborers. One of them stuck into my brain and heart like a nail making
my inside bleed.
On our way from
Antalya to Burdur we were climbing up one of those endless, snow covered, poor,
stony slopes, of which one side was precipice and at the other were bandits
all the time.
Here carriages stop, the drivers come together and fasten some three or four
pairs of animal to each carriage, and they push it at the back. Giving out various
sounds they make the animals go up the slope one by one. And at most times bandit
groups take away their possessions that they have brought up to Cine plane by
sweating, groaning, struggling for days and by means of vehicles pertaining
to prehistorical times and they return empty-handed. In a tumult like that a
crystal clear voice was heard among "giddap" sounds produced to make
- Oh woman oof! Oh come and see my trouble for once!
I was drugged to where the voice came as though a string was tied to my heart;
this saw a child driver about ten or twelve years old from whose duffle coat
dropped water, who had a very small beautiful face, and whose lashes concealing
his blue eyes were wet with tears. Like Himmet the kid he was a kid maturing
in an extraordinary struggle to earn living in order to take care of an old
aunt. The pain could only be directed to a woman's heart of earth.
These kids like
Himmet are running Turkey still. When their pains overflow their hearts, not
hearts of children but sound ones like a leviathan's they still may cry out:
- Oh my mother
oh! Come and see my trouble for once!