My family in central Turkey, 1948

My family in the Turkish village of Zir in 1948

This small photo is one of thousands, maybe tens of thousands, that my grandfather took during the decades he lived in the Middle East and Asia.  The photo, dated 1948 on the reverse, shows my grandmother and mother and the caption, written in my grandmother’s hand, indicates that it is a Turkish village; the name Zir appears to be in a different script, though still my grandmother’s, so might have been written later.  My family lived in Ankara at that time and Google Maps places Zir in Hacıbektaş, southeast of Ankara, which would be consistent with the snow piled on the ground.  It looks remote — and was, certainly, more so in 1948 than now — but Hacıbektaş is in Cappadocia so it is likely that they were visiting the famous underground cities there, which I visited myself in 1992.  Ankara was their first posting in the Middle East and may explain why the washed out minaret visible in the distance merited such a prominent mention in the caption; they subsequently lived in Cairo, Damascus, Benghazi and Tripoli and it is unlikely, by the end, that minarets would have seemed such a novelty.

In some ways, this photo is just a snapshot of a nothing moment on their travels.  The figures are barely visible and there are many others better composed or in front of more famous monuments.  But if we had ever become refugees this is the kind of photo that we would have clung to: a small slice of normal life now lost.  We never did, but in some ways that Zir is lost all the same as nearly 70 years of political and economic change no doubt have transformed the village beyond recognition.

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