During my time in Turkey, I have often witnessed social situations when a person earns respect dependent on their status in society or their wealth. It is a part of Turkish life that I loath as more often than not, the same people have no moral ethics or mutual respect for other people.
I instead prefer the term that “respect should be earned and not given”. However, last week, I met an old woman who earned my respect in an instant.
Perhaps I was more delighted to make her acquaintance, as it was an unplanned meeting. We were wandering remote roads in the village of Maral, not a long distance from the border with Georgia. This area of Turkey has not fallen prey to the trappings of mass tourism that has blighted the west and south coast.
Traditions and cultures are still visible in everyday life and the high mountains, dipping valleys and masses of pine tree forests, ensure that any greedy developers with plans for a concentrate jungle would have to focus their ambitions on other destinations.
My meeting with the old woman happened because we unintentionally came across a local beekeeper tending to his hives in the garden. On the doorstep of his old wooden house sat the woman, introduced to us as his great grand mum. We asked her age and the response was
“I am not sure but I know I am more than 100”
Even without knowing her exact age, she had sparked my interest. I could see in her appearance that her life experiences would be enough to write a history book ten times over.
Recalling Her Life
She remembered when the region was under Russian rule and their soldiers were patrolling the mountain roads. As a young girl, she recalled riding a horse as the popularity of the modern car had not spread to the region.
She told us about turbulent times when the Turkish war of independence was declared in 1919. As a child, she first heard the name of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who was leading the war and would later become the founder of Turkey.
In 1923, victory was celebrated and the borders of current day Turkey were under discussion. Locals of the village gathered to attend a meeting and were told to choose whether they wanted to be under the soviet rule of Russia (current day Georgia) or be Turkish citizens.
Her mother was adamant her family would be citizens of the Republic of Turkey.
The old woman showed no hesitation in giving me permission to take her photograph, instead more interested as to how the photo was instantly shown to her on the playback screen of my digital camera.
She has lived a great and colourful life, yet still took time to welcome strangers with overwhelming hospitality. This woman immediately has my respect. She is worth ten of any rich, famous, or powerful person in society who instead desires the false respect of those around them.
Reader’s question: What do you think? Has this woman automatically earned your respect?