By Ismail Veli………

I have been given many gifts in my life. Generally all my family and friends know that books are often what I love.

On my recent visit to Istanbul I was invited by a well known documentary producer and book writer Cengiz Ozkarabekir to meet up with him. No doubt I was chuffed and excited at the thought that a researcher of his quality would even want to meet up with what I consider myself to be just an ordinary chap with a passion for research, history, culture and travel. The thought of having a meeting with a man who produced countless documentaries for CNN Turkey from the year 2000, headed the documentary department for 3 years at Haberturk TV from 2007 and directed Al Jazeera Turkish television for a year wanting to meet me was no doubt an honour.

Cengiz had written a book on the forgotten Turkish Cypriot contribution to the British in WW2 on the Cyprus Regiment in 2004. His aim is to update and expand his research in a new book. Searching Google he came across my articles on Cyprusscene about the ”Forgotten Heroes of WW2”. He was impressed with my findings, hence his interest in meeting me. We communicated a couple of times on facebook and having informed him I would be in Istanbul within a week or so he arranged for his assistant to pick me up from my hotel in Pendik on the Asian side of Istanbul and bring me to the European side. A young man, Emre (25 years old), picked me up and on the two and a half hour drive I was immensely impressed with the young man’s amazing knowledge of world history and culture.

Ismail and Cengiz and that fabulous book gift

Arriving at Cengiz’s office he showed me around the research department and library, he offered to take me to dinner but before we set out he suddenly gifted me a book that left me speechless. It was no ordinary book, it was an archive book of every news article on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk published in Turkey. Much is in Ottoman script but translated into modern Turkish script. It begins with his participation in the Libyan campaign (better known as the Tripolitanian war, or Trablusgarp in Turkish) against the Italian invasion of what was at that time part of the Ottoman empire.  It ends with the death of the great man on 10th November 1938. This archive is so immense that to research all these documents alone at the National Archives would have taken me a lifetime. A gift that to someone like me is a treasure of incalculable worth. In fact only 1000 copies of this archive book have been published and were being sold for 3000 Turkish Lira, that’s a whopping £600.

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Before my departure there was a surprise Christmas gift from my niece’s Greek Cypriot friend Christina of many 1960-70’s Turkish songs on 45rpm vinyls which made the festive period a particularly special one. In addition a couple of dear friends Osman ‘Bihigo’ from Lurucina and his Romanian wife Niculina surprised me when they gifted me a series of Time Life books published in the late 1960’s to early 1970’s on many aspects of world history.  The importance of these gifts are that a Greek person gifted me with what I consider a very special gift, while a Turkish person from Turkey gifted me with a special gift of a different sort. while a Romanian and Turkish Cypriot friend gifted me so many wonderful books. The significance is that regardless of where or who we are, many of us feel we are part of a global family of humans, our difference is simply our geography but we have one thing in common, that is our love and respect for our different backgrounds which we can and should embrace. Together with some wonderful old postcards and books from Istanbul it turned out to be a fun Christmas and New Year indeed.

With all that wonderful music while I study history to help me paint my miniature figures I have so much to be getting on with in my semi-retirement that perhaps I should put in a request from our creator to simply extend each day to 48 hours, Well perhaps that is expecting too much.