ANZAC Day is a day of remembrance for the men who sacrificed their lives to fight battles in faraway lands. One of those distant lands where Australians and New Zealanders fought was Turkey, my homeland.

I’ll be the first one to admit that history never held any appeal for me. The way I was taught it was as rote memorisation of numbers. The numbers I held in my mind to pass exams were impersonal things like dates, the number of people killed in battles, wars, and plagues, populations, and the wealth of nations. These numbers never compelled me the way they would someone who looks at the world from the lens of facts and figures.

I wanted to know how these major world events I read about impacted my teachers. Did they fight in the wars or had ancestors who were veterans? My curiosity would never be satisfied as the teachers seemed only concerned with facts and figures so their students would pass standardised tests.

So here I am today trying to understand what moved my fellow Australians, and I consider myself an Australian because I receive the generosity of this country and its people, to attack the country of my birth.

My vague understanding is that the Ottoman Empire in its final years, had long lived past her glory years and was numb and dysfunctional. She was there for taking by the foreign forces, namely the British who were on a rampage to attack and take over everything in sight. Why were the British so hell-bent on conquering new land? My theory is small island syndrome.

So when Mother England called out to her profligate sons in Australia and New Zealand, what were they to say? How would you as a person feel about saying “no” if you had a mother who needed your help? The call of Britain to colonists to play a role on the world stage is a call to adventure that very few young men could refuse.

If I were a young lad living back then, I’d get my mates and would depart on the next ship over to claim my destiny on the battlegrounds.

Two Worlds Collided

The battlefield, Gallipoli, is a scenic piece of land looking over the water. I hope I visit it one day with my family. Many soldiers, Turkish, British, Aussie, and Kiwi, left their lives there. It is said that the Turkish flag, which is red, is painted with blood.

What I’d be most interested in reading would be the accounts of the ANZAC soldiers when they arrived in Turkey. What were their first impressions of my country of birth? If I’m to guess, I ‘d say “awe”. At least, this is what I saw and heard from Australians and Kiwis I met in Turkey who were there on holidays. They could not fathom the wealth of culture in Turkey left over from the Mesopotamians to the Greeks, Romans, and the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.

I enjoyed conversations with Aussies and Kiwis who were curious and wanted to learn about Turkey. I wanted to learn about their lives in their own countries. What did they do, eat, and watch? I longed to live in their faraway lands where they were free to work in any profession they chose and took pride in doing what the privileged Turks would look down on as “menial labour”.

The Story of ANZAC Biscuits

Thankfully, our household with my Australian mate isn’t a metaphor for Gallipoli. There’s no clash of cultures because I’m in charge of coming up with how we celebrate and observe special days. This year, I baked ANZAC Biscuits for ANZAC Day. To me, these biscuits symbolise Mother’s love and the innovative spirit of the ANZACs. The mothers of the ANZAC soldiers developed a recipe made from non-perishable ingredients to last the long journey to Turkey and this biscuit made of flour, rolled oats, coconut flakes, golden syrup, and butter was born.

So this ANZAC spirit that we talk about, mateship, humour, ingenuity, courage and endurance, it is not only in the men who served overseas, but in the women who were left behind to raise their children, who provided moral support, baked, held the fort and shipped off ANZAC biscuits as a symbol of their love. These days I see ANZAC spirit in people who leave behind turmoil to create better opportunities for themselves and their families in Australia.

I see it in people like Christabelle, who first offered me ANZAC biscuits despite being Indonesian. I see it in anyone who’s had to leave all they know to start a new life. In short, we all embody the ANZAC spirit. It is the human spirit. Our own lives and truths are worth fighting for. When we abandon ourselves, our families, and our homes to fight other people’s battles, we have everything to lose.

Lest we forget.

Over to you…

What is the one thing you’re battling now? Can you think of an innovative approach to overcome your inner struggle?

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