Going through the Dardanelles was an emotional experience. This strait between Asian Turkey and Gallipoli Peninsula of European Turkey has had legendary and historical significance.
A few years ago I was fascinated by the story of the ingenuity of Xerxes I, King of Persian in 480 BC. As a way to reach and attack the Greeks, he built a bridge of boats across what was then known as Hellespont. Several years ago I as watched 300 Spartans, I never dreamed of seeing this narrow strait which varies from 2 to 6 kilometers wide.
Neither had I associated this area with Gallipoli when I watched the shattering movie by that name about the soldiers sent to their certain death in World War I. I have always considered this battle to have represented one of the worst uses of young men in war.
Travelling through the strait and listening to the story over the loudspeaker of the sailing ship, I was, once again, profoundly moved. To me, this is another of those places in the world that carries the weight of its history as a cloud that envelops us. I have experienced this in areas of France and have heard reports of it in Cambodia.
Ataturk wrote this in 1934. It is inscribed on the memorial at Anzac Cove:
“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now living in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
I feel great reverence for the people and places who have been and still are involved in struggles for life and freedom.