Neriman Simsek Mihladiz has written three memoirs based on her grandfather Omer Harmanda’s life.
A retired teacher has collected her grandfather’s stories that she heard from her mother into a memoir whose revenues she will donate to the families of fallen soldiers who fought in Canakkale.
Neriman Simsek Mihladiz is the granddaughter of health sergeant Omer Harmanda, who served during the Turkish War of Independence in the Canakkale front and other locations for nine years as a health sergeant, healing injured and sick soldiers.
Mihladiz has written his memoirs collected in three books.
Omer Harmanda was born in Cavdir township’s Ambarcik village in 1897. Completing his military duties at the end of nine years, Harmanda returned to his village and told his wife and children of his life during war, the difficulties they faced, the poverty, the struggle and the victory that arrived with the bravery of the Turkish army.
Mihladiz, 62, grew up hearing Harmanda’s stories from her mother and grandmother. She too served her country as a teacher for 24 years, before serving as a columnist at a local paper for 10 years.
Finding that she enjoyed writing, Mihladiz decided to turn her notes and research into a historical book. She focused her energies on writing during the pandemic, and wrote three books based on her grandfather’s life in the army: “Pelit Ekmegi (Acorn Bread),” “Misir Ekmegi (Cornbread),” and “Bugday Ekmegi (Wheat Bread).”
Noting that her grandfather would not accept his pension as a war veteran, Mihladiz says she would like to be a granddaughter worthy of him, and says she will donate the revenues from her books.
Mihladiz told Anadolu Agency that her goal in writing was to leave memories and knowledge to the new generation.
According to Mihladiz, her family tree contains generations who have lived through World War I, the Battle of Gallipoli, and the Turkish War of Independence.
‘The Dardanelles turned red for days, dear girl’
Mihladiz says that her mother used to sing the folk song “Canakkale Turkusu”, a song about men who went to war and did not come back, and cry. When she asked her why, her mother told Mihladiz that “Your grandfather used to sing this song and weep.”
Mihladiz adds that the most striking memory she learned from her mother was her grandfather reminiscing that “the Dardanelles Strait [where the Battle of Gallipoli took place] turned red for days, dear girl.” Mihladiz wanted to pay her debt to her grandfather and write down his memories fifty years later.
‘My grandfather’s story saddens me’
Mihladiz says she went to Canakkale and visited each and every one of the locations where her grandfather fought, reminiscing about the ANZAC soldiers who fought the Turkish army.
“The war in Gallipoli was terrifying. My grandfather told [my mother and his wife] that ‘We were so merciful that we looked after all kinds of people who were injured during the battle. There were many people of different ethnicities.’”
“My grandfather’s story saddens me. Those days were so horrendous that not only was there war, there was also a locust invasion, and they lost their food to the insects.”
“When the men went off to war, the women wouldn’t eat or drink but send everything they grew to the battlefields. The women fought behind the scenes. They pulled the ploughs. They would make bread from acorns from the oak trees, the corn they grew, the wheat, and send it to the battlefields.
Because I was telling the story of poverty and despair, I named my books after types of bread.”