By Ismail Veli……..

There are many great people and leaders in history. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was one such person, his political and military career are well known but what of his personal or more to the point his love life.

Sadly due to the conservative nature of Turkish society many prefer to concentrate on the heroic aspect of his life, and yet we know his good looks, charisma and sophisticated manner attracted many women from all walks of life. I would like to go beneath the surface and uncover more of this great man.

His greatness was his abandonment of a personal life and the ultimate sacrifice to devote his life to his vision of modernising his country. To deny his love of women is to deny reality and the most basic human instinct which is the desire to love and above all be loved.

L to R ..The bedroom where Mustafa Kemal was born and 2 pictures of him as a young man. Right.. the uniform Mustafa Kemal wore when he met Dimitriana at a fancy dress ball in Sofia

Born in Salonika, Greece, which was at the time part of the Ottoman Empire, he joined the military academy at a young age. As a young officer on 27 October 1913 he was posted to Sofia, Bulgaria as a military attaché. His manners and diplomatic etiquette seemed to have endeared him to European guests at Sofia’s ballroom parties. He was fascinated by the way of life in Sofia.

According to the writer Lilyan Serafimavo it was at one such ball that he met what turned out to be a romantic relationship with a beautiful Bulgarian girl named Dimitrina Kocaeva affectionately known as ”Miti”, who had just returned from her studies in Switzerland where she had studied music and literature. She also happened to be the second daughter of the newly appointed (14 July 1913) Bulgarian Defense Minister, General Stiliyan Kocaeva. (Or Kovachev). It seemed that Mustafa and Dimitrina instantly fell in love and became almost inseparable. They spent as much time together as was possible, going to restaurants and waltzing together at Sofia’s top dance halls.

On 1st March 1914 Mustafa Kemal was promoted  to the position of Lieutenant Colonel. His contacts with the Young Turks also made his relationship with a Bulgarian lady awkward to say the least.

Mustafa Kemal decided to approach the Bulgarian Defense Minister and personally ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Sadly being an officer in the Ottoman army meant that the Bulgarian Minister would have none of it. To a Bulgarian of such high standing it would be the ultimate humiliation. Most reasonable people understand however that love and the affection of individuals for each other has no boundaries. Mustafa Kemal and Dimitrina continued to see each other. On the eve of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915, Mustafa decided to try his hand yet again with a second proposal. Dimitrina’s father who initially thought his daughter would never marry outside her faith, in particular to an Ottoman Muslim, became alarmed. He adamantly refused and pressured his daughter to marry a Bulgarian Lawyer Beyan Beyanova, and she had no option but to accept.

L to R ..Stiliyan Kovachev , Dimitriana Kocaeva on the left with her sister and Dimitriana Kocaeva

Dimitrina ”Miti” never forgot Mustafa Kemal however. Her sister Olga in an interview to Lilyan Serafimavo explained how Dimitrina’s last words on her deathbed were ”Do you know, I saw him in my dream. I think I’m finally reuniting with Mustafa Kemal”.

Fact or fiction this story seems very plausible. It simply seems incomprehensible that a dashing good looking young man like Mustafa Kemal refrained from the most natural feelings humans possess, that of love.

Mustafa Kemal was finally posted to Gallipoli to help defend against the allied invasion. His great leadership helped save his country and he became a national hero, and honoured with the title of Pasha. Sadly he never saw his beloved Dimitrina again, but Mustafa Kemal went on to become one of the greatest leaders in world history and won the ultimate honour of being given the name of Ataturk ”Father of the Turks” and the rest is history.

In Part 2, I shall attempt to share another romantic relationship with a Macedonian beauty.