My “ANZAC journey” began when I first visited Çanakkale/Gallipoli three decades ago as a student. The deeper I moved around the area the more a shiver ran through me. That beautiful peninsula was, 105 years ago, a bloody stage for a war like no other the world had ever before seen. Mixed emotions evoked in me a sense of pride in my nation and our grandfathers who bravely defended Turkey, but also a pride for that unique friendship carved out and uniting our nations for over a century.
Anywhere on the peninsula, and on every ANZAC monument in New Zealand and Australia our common sadness and sorrow for the fallen resounds, but as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk rightly said about the fallen ANZACs “they have become our sons as well”. Monuments erected as tear drops for the fallen, but meant as poppies of friendship, unite rivals of the past in strong bonds of friendship today.
Continuing on my journey, this time as an Ambassador, my trail led me to South Sudan. At dawn commemorations there, we Turks, New Zealanders and Australians, were all thousands of kilometers from our homes and were blessed by the tropical African rains.
On reaching my last stop, Tarakena Bay on the south coast of Wellington, I walked the pebbled path to the Atatürk monument and again a familiar shiver ran through me. A genuine feeling of being received into the “bosom” of New Zealand enveloped me. An impression only a Turkish descendant could feel on reaching this final destination.
Annually, New Zealand, Australia, and the Republic of Turkey honour and mark our respect for all at this time of reflection. Now when the conventional commemorations cannot be held in the traditional manner, it is a comfort to all of us that we are still honouring the ANZACs and Turks in unconventional and imaginative ways, in our homes, with Stand at Dawn.