HomeBEYOND TURKEYBalkans & Eastern EuropeGalician Ottoman-Turkish Martyrdom Cemetery, Ukraine

Galician Ottoman-Turkish Martyrdom Cemetery, Ukraine

© Photos and Text by Okay Deprem http://www.northtravel.org/

I must have caught the attention of someone who is obviously a religious officer in the church, where there are not many people because of the repairs, because he wants to approach me and meet me. As a Turkish person, it must have been astonishing to him that I came all the way here and even visited their modest churches, because he wants to have a conversation. I learn that the gentleman whose name is Dimitri is the head priest of this church. A moment later, he honors me and invites me to his room.

During our conversation, he talks about the Turkish-Ottoman martyrdoms in the region while bringing up the subject. Although my mind first went to the sieges of Vienna, or even the Ottoman-Polish or Russian Wars,  I understand that it belongs to the young people of Anatolian and Rumelian origin who died in the wars that are engraved in our memories as the famous “Galician Front” in the history books. While asking ‘How to get there, is it close?..’; “No problem, Let’s get in my car and go!” says…

After being sitting in Dimitri’s small car, almost everyone in town is looking at us along the way until we get to the grave in question. This situation, which reminds me of the absurd-surreal scenes of Fellini films and even makes me think of paranoid thoughts, soon changes when Dimitri announces that he is also the head of the Roman-Catholic Church congregation and is known by everyone in the region.

We enter a muddy and neglected road. First, on the right, we pass the enchanting Catholic cemetery, which resembles a field of flowers. At the end of the long road, we finally come to the cemetery of the Ottoman soldiers on the right. The martyrdom, which looks very modest at first glance and seems to be symbolic, is surrounded by a wall and separated from the surroundings. The only words on the plinth in the middle, surrounded by crescent and star tombstones, are written:

“ In memory of the saintly Turkish soldiers who were martyred on the Galician Front in World War I between 1916 and 1917… May their souls rest in peace!..”

The monument in question was built in 2006 with the initiative and assistance of the Turkish Embassy in Kiev. Finally, Dimitri states that although not as large as this one, there are more Ottoman tombs in the surrounding villages and towns.

While I am spending my last hours in Rohatin, we are taking a little city tour by car. Having been under Polish and Austro-Hungarian rule for many years, the town is very different from a typical Slavic city. It consists of matte but colorful houses with several floors, quite plain and straight facades, without courtyards. With the intention of Hürrem Sultan, I am returning from this short visit, such as “What is your intention, what a destiny”, full of striking impressions and having gained a friend.

“This article was published in the monthly journal ‘Hayat Dergi’.”

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