Page 26 - MIGRATION

Basic HTML Version

24
MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
little granddaughter. S asked the girl were she was from. The little girl said that she was from Eski
Cumaya (Turgovishte), Bulgaria. “But you were born here, in Istanbul,” the host countered. The little
girl firmly kept her ground and no attempts, as jokingly as they were phrased, on behalf of S. to
shatter that view of hers managed to dissuade her from her statement. When her grandmother
realized I was from Bulgaria, she started talking to me evidently excited and asked me how things
were there now, then she told me the story of how she ended up in Istanbul. Her children and
their families settled here and she moved to live with them so that they could be together and she
could help them in raising their kids. The woman sounded clearly nostalgic about her birth place
– the region of Turgovishte. This was also the nostalgia for the country in which she had spent the
greater part of her life, insofar as the occasion for her sharing was my presence – the presence of a
Bulgarian who had never even been to Turgovishte. Her granddaughter was born and grew up in
Istanbul and had actually visited the birth place of her grandmother and her parents many times.
She was raised with the idea that she was from Eski Cumaya in Bulgaria and even if without fully
realizing it, she vested this fact with positive connotations.
This is an isolated example which of course does not summarize re-settlers’ behavior and
attitudes to Bulgaria and Bulgarian-ness as a whole. The example however is not an exception - it
is part of a continuum of statements and actions which reveal that re-settlers find their Bulgarian
roots to be a source of pride, confidence and positive qualities.
One ofmy key female informants in Istanbul – S., aged 50 – often talked about her daughter.
In the course of my field work there, E. aged 26, graduated from a Turkish university, applied for
an MA degree in Ireland and successfully completed it too. S. was very proud of her daughter
and her abilities to face challenges of different nature. E.’s plans were to work in Ireland for some
time. While studying there, she got romantically involved with an Irishman whose parents were
classical musicians. They had already met E. and were quite taken by her. They were surprised that
there were such talented and successful people in Turkey. S.’s immediate reaction when hearing
that story was, “You had to tell them that you are not only from Turkey, there’s something else
too.” Her daughter explained to her that she had already emphasized the fact that they were an
“international” family and combined qualities of two peoples. In other instances my interlocutor
shared with me how her daughter was pleased that her parents had decided to move to Turkey.
Behind these contradictory comments about the fact of out-migrating and the connections
with social realities on both sides of the border there glimmer different motives and situations of
negotiating the place of the re-settlers from 1989 in the social landscape in Bulgaria and Turkey.
Their “border” position is simultaneously a source of problems and a resource to capitalize on.
It is a problem because it gives grounds to certain social actors in certain contexts to contest
their qualities (morals, loyalty, etc.); it is a resource because the re-settlers themselves relate it
to the possession of qualities which helped them face life challenges and prove themselves as
personalities, professionals and citizens.
Most of the cases presented so far serve to illustrate the reaction on behalf of the re-settlers
to some of the categories which describe their social ambivalence in and in relation to the social
context in Turkey. I will add one more category which derives from the Bulgarian context – the