The cost of language
By Vahit Tursun
Freedom… A sense which is inexplicable.
Nevertheless, every person tries to describe it
without comprehending it deeply. It is
like fire, which may warm you or burn you depending on its use. It
is like a fan, whose
middle part only performs its air
blowing function, but its two ends are useless. Similarly with
freedom, on its one end lies deprivation which causes frustration
and on the other end lies its overuse, which is disastrous.
Plato says that “Too much freedom in a human being and the state
turns into slavery.” By contrast, Epictetus rebels against his own
God saying: “You can tether my legs, but not my faith. Not even Zeus
can defeat me.” Thus, for thousands of years we come across the
demand for freedom in oral and written speech, in history, poetry,
philosophy, folk sayings and in the clatter of weapons.
For me, freedom is a Natural gift, the more of
which you share with others, the more of which you enjoy yourself.
When you deprive others of it, the more
you are also deprived of
it. Humanitarianism, friendship and solidarity could prevail only
under the condition of freedom. Even if freedom is caught and
chained, each child that is born will come to the world in liberty,
regardless. Similarly, like all children, we were born in our
village being free. In a wonderful
community on a mountain.
A community that belongs to the small
town of Katohori
in Trabzond and which is called Otsena.
Our mother tongue was not Turkish. We had Pontiac Greek as our
native language. We used to call it Romeika.
Romeika was for us a means of expression of our flirting, our
solidarity and help, of our smile and our happiness. It was a path
leading us to love and being in love. For the first time, while we
were in primary school, we experienced the problem regarding our
native tongue. Each teacher appointed to our school would ban our
speaking in it. Sometimes they would scare us and beat us so that we
would not employ it. He asked us to turn in the person who spoke
Romeika, but we didn’t listen to him. We kept joking and playing,
and making it up in our mother tongue. Little by little, we started
wondering about our native language. We asked the grown-ups what
language we were learning and speaking. We heard that the one that
we were learning was called “Turktse” and the one we were speaking
was called “Rumtze.” However, when we asked why we were learning a
language other than the one we spoke, there was never a satisfactory
answer. What was frequently recurring as an answer was, “You cannot
become a human being with Romeika.” It is unknown if we were
educated and became human beings or not, but finishing school, we
got acquainted with Turkish.
Pretending Like Chameleons
As we were growing up, we started wondering
about our mother tongue, and, generally
more intensely. Why were we speaking
Romeika in a country where everybody else spoke Turkish? More and
more questions bothered us about what we were, who we were and who
Each of us was trying to say something.
Some said what they had heard from parents and grandparents and some
reached their own conclusions. But every time this chapter was
opened and closed, we reached the conclusion that we must
be related to Romioi (Greeks) and of
course, Greece. The most unanswered question which concerned us was:
were we the grandchildren of Greeks,
later turned into Muslims or the grandchildren of Turks who learned
Romeika by Greeks? Our childhood was immersed in these queries and
their unsatisfactory answers.
We also experienced problems with our mother
tongue when we went to foreign places. Every time we gathered and
talked Romeika with our fellow villagers, the first question from
those who realized we were speaking a foreign language was “What
language are you speaking?”
When we replied, “We are speaking
Romeika,” we were stormed by other queries and various reactions.
So, for the first time, we started feeling inferior due to the
contact with foreigners. Every time Greeks were mentioned, the claim
that “Greeks are cowards and our enemy” psychologically traumatized
us. We got emotionally hurt at the thought that that claim might
have been equally true for ourselves as well; for we spoke, if not
the same, a dialect of the language that the Greeks spoke. By and
by, we started hiding the truth and every time we were asked about
our language, we said it was Lazika. For, when we claimed we came
from the Black Sea, they got elated thinking we were Lazoi.
The problems we encountered due to our mother tongue were
complemented by the films we watched on TV. When we saw a film
containing wars between Byzantine people and the Turks, or between
Greeks and Turks, we got hurt. For when we viewed the tragicomic
situation in which Greeks were presented, our thoughts brought us
into the dilemma, in which we were asked to take sides: were we with
the righteous, honest, hero-Turks, or with the incompetent warriors,
perfidious, liars or “giaourithes” Greeks, as they were being
portrayed in the film? Our mother tongue didn’t let us opt. It
blocked us from choosing between Turks and Greeks. In this dilemma,
we experienced psychological states which humanity has probably not
yet encountered in its entire history. Watching the film, we
supported the hero Turks on the one hand, but on the other, we were
tormented by an inexplicable sense of guilt. To cover our emotional
state, we tried to exhibit more happiness at the heroism of the
Turks, flexing our facial muscles differently from the signals that
our brain was sending. For that brilliant performance of ours, we
could have been envied even by chameleons.
As we have reached today, the Hellenic sounding population of Pontos,
trapped between the love towards one’s mother tongue and a cursed
identity, is unable to pull through. Several of our fellow citizens
have started to teach Turkish to their children from the time the
latter are born. Not to mention the racist words, slogans and
nationalistic propagandas which have lately increased; those have
nearly wiped out of history a whole people with a remarkably ancient
civilization. Who will pay to history for this crime is unknown.
and archaeology in Turkey
Penetration of the Black Sea
ANATOLIAN (PONTIC REGION) TRADITIONAL DANCES
TRADITIONAL PONTIC DANCES ACCOMPANIED BY THE PONTIC LYRA