Berke Soyuer introduces her grandmother Muzaffer, who has stories to tell about the modernisation of Turkey, independence of women, own experiences and traditional Turkish stories… She is a living history book, and we, her granddaughters want her voice to be heard:
Muzaffer was born on 23 October 1923, possibly but not to be exact. The date she was born was the date of foundation of the modern Turkish Republic. She was named after the winds of triumph and glory of the independence war ambience, ‘Muzaffer’, meaning literally ‘victorious’. ‘Muzaffer’ is traditionally a male name, but could be used untraditionally as a unisex name. In the family tradition, not as a conscious decision, but maybe an unconscious one, most of the daughters have names that are popularly male, but perceived as unisex. My name, Berke, is one of them too.
Our family, thus being somewhat a conventional one in Turkish standards, is a very exceptionally matriarchal one. My grandmother, being the most powerful figure in our family, has a very interesting lifestory to tell. She, still has an intellectual curiosity in her late age of 94, reading everything she is interested about and actively being up to date through media. Living in a retirement house bores her, and she needs people to indulge her intellectually.
My grand-grandmother was also a powerful women, in a very male-dominated society, who was a landlord to a village in Ankara, witnessed the wars and historic events like Armenian Relocation/Genocide. Through her mother’s experience, my grandmother has an unbiased interpretation on this delicate issue.
My grandmother was a working state officer when the women employment in Turkey was very low. She was enrolled to Law Faculty in Ankara University but economic pressure compelled her to take care of her family and obtrude her to seek a financially stable job and drop out the college. So she experienced being an economically independent female in a conservative -but in the process of modernisation- society.
After retirement she wrote a book consisting of traditional Turkish children’s stories, which her mother used to tell her, and she used to tell us before sleep when we were children. Book’s name is: ‘Berke’ye Masallar’ which can be translated as ‘Stories to Berke’.