Memories from Skopje to İzmir

Oct 12, 2021  •  9 min read

Migration is an ancient phenomenon that humanity has faced. With the rise of globalization, it has been mainly considered that the world has become shorter. One of the reasons for the substantial increase in transportation by both plane, train and other shipping vehicles is new short or long term migrations. When we examine migration flows in the past, we recognize that it is impossible to put all migrations in the same category. Reasons for such movements are not only related to making business but also sometimes economic, social, and cultural issues. Besides, migration means the encounter of two societies and cultures. For instance, in the case of Anatolia and the Balkans, new cultures emerged with the change in borders. People who had lived in these regions not only had to live in their houses but also their habits and cultural environment that they lived in. They had to leave behind their stories as well as their culture because of forced migration. There are a lot of different groups in the world who had to face forced migration. It is important to understand the witnesses of people who were exposed to this phenomenon. One of the people who had experienced it was my father, Yaşar Çeltik. The interview is below is a part of my conversation with him about his memoirs about his immigration:

Serkan Çeltik: Where did you use to live before you immigrated to İzmir?
Yaşar Çeltik: We used to live in Çeltikçi village close to Köprülü Town in Skopje and Macedonia where I was born in 1940. I had lived there from 1940 to 1955.

Serkan Çeltik: Why did your ancestors come to Skopje?

Yaşar Çeltik: We have learned that seven people (two of them from Konya, two of them from Sivas, one of them from Erzurum) emigrated from Turkey and founded our village. We did not know from where my family immigrated to Skopje. We just know our two generations away, but there is no certain information about our older ancestors. We know nothing about from where and when we immigrated here.

Serkan Çeltik: Can you give me information about your life and your village in Macedonia.

Yaşar Çeltik: Our village, called Çeltikçi, consisted of 186 people. 160 of them were Turk while 28 of them were foreigners. I had a nuclear family consisting of my mom, my dad, and my four brothers. As a language, Turkish used to be spoken in our village. No one knew foreign language except people who did military service. Our village used to live off rice feeding from Tuna River. Our family used to have big agricultural lands and also did lives tock farming. We were a rich family and had two servants work for us. When we need to buy something, we usually were exchanging stuff, not using the money. Macedonia was a federal state and we had no problem while we were living there. After the Second World War, Tito, the leader of Yugoslavia, forced us to immigrate.

Serkan Çeltik: How did you decide to immigrate? How did it happen?

Yaşar Çeltik: Tito regime made so much pressure on foreigners in that time. First, our relatives immigrated to Turkey. There was an obligation for immigration: donating all of your goods to the state. Foreigners in our village saw this obligation as an opportunity and bought all of our goods by paying so little money to us.

After we had stayed in İstanbul for two or three months, we went to İzmir to settle there. Children of migrated families started to work at the age of 15. When the income increased, we bought a small house. We also learned how to read and write in this country. We felt as if we were living in our country; we didn’t feel like strangers.

Even if 62 years have passed, we sit in the coffee houses and talk about our village every day. Sometimes we have dreams about our village, and we feel as if we still living there.