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East is East: Crimea*

by Latife MARDIN

This is an attempt to explain my thinking in writing these books, "East is East", "West is West", "Storm in the West" and "Love in the East". Perhaps I am mistaken, but in most books and articles written about the Ottoman Period, I find that the usual focus in on is what happens in the country, which is perhaps as it should be, but we must not forget the fact that many things were happening in other parts of the world, especially Europe.  These events had great influence in the politics and events of the empire.

We must not forget that the Middle East came into being as a result of World War I. There was no such thing. It was the Ottoman Empire. The Balkans were also different. Parts of Bulgaria, Greece, Yugoslavia were Ottoman, Hungary was a part of the Austrian Empire.  Bismarck Created Germany after defeating Austria and France and forcefully bringing all the German princedoms and dukedoms under Prussia.

All these events played a part in the life of the Ottoman Empire. Of course, there were other influences, the ulema, the absolute power vested in the monarch, the domination of women who could not play an open part in the daily life of the country. Today they are doctors, teachers, bankers, nurses etc. They can train for any job and each job is open to them.

I could go on and on, but this is a hastily written letter. Read the books. Hidden behind love stories and descriptions of beautiful places is the story of politics. There is much to be learned from it.

Latife Mardin, March 29, 2005, New York

The British army had arrived in Calamita Bay which was surrounded by a long and sandy beach bounded by shallow cliffs.  Behind the beach was a salt water lake.  On the day of the landing, it had been very quiet.  The officers watching through their telescopes could see a peaceful countryside.  Then suddenly, a troop of Cossacks had appeared.  They were riding shaggy looking horses and wore heavy coats.  They carried long lances and heavy sabers.  As abruptly, as they had come, they had disappeared from view.

The French landed first.  They had an easier time of it than the British because they were landing on the beach.  The British soldiers were carrying heavy equipment and found the going rough.  They had to carry almost all their equipment and a few days’ rations on their backs as the transports and even the ambulance wagons had been left behind at Varna.

Jonathan watched them as they struggled ashore and across the beach. Many men collapsed and died on the spot. Soon they were buried on the beach they had come to conquer.  The sick were brought back to the ships where they lay dieing on the deck.

Rain fell all afternoon into the night. In the evening, it was cold and damp. There were no fires.  The men were almost exhausted, but plunder of the countryside had already begun although nobody acknowledged the fact.

Jonathan went with Lord Raglan on an expedition to find carts and horses. He could not help admiring the Commander-in-Chief’s courtesy to the long-robed peasants.  He appeared determined that there would be no plunder by his troops, that everything they took must be paid for.

There was too much equipment and supplies for them to transport and the French and the Turks were still waiting for the British army to start moving.  Finally, the decision to march was taken. Jonathan had been attached to the Light Brigade as Liaison officer, but Lord Raglan decided at the last minute that he needed someone to go to Istanbul with an urgent dispatch for Lord Stafford.

They needed so many things.  Jonathan could see that, but for once he spoke up and said that he wanted to stay with the troops and see action.

Lord Raglan rarely lost his temper, but this time he said angrily, “You are to obey orders, sir. You are to do what you are told.”

Jonathan stood at attention and saluted stiffly.

Lord Raglan gazed at the angry dark eyes, the obstinate looking chin, the full lips trembling with emotion and relented.  “Very well, Caldwell. At the completion of this mission you will take up your duties as Liaison officer to Lord Lucan.”

Jonathan felt elated at the promise, but Lord Raglan looked rather glum. He dismissed Jonathan and turned to this commanders and the latest French dispatch from St. Arnaud.

The army was moving towards the Alma river when Jonathan took his leave and sailed for Istanbul on the frigate ‘PRINCESS’. The grateful Miller went with him.

Brian was waiting on the shore when the ‘PRINCESS’ anchored in the harbor of Buyukdere, a village situated to the north of Tarabya.  It seemed a relief to Jonathan to leave the military and naval atmosphere and enter a world where everything seemed more orderly and without menace.  The small caique took him and Miller to the beach and the two friends embraced warmly.

"You look good, Jonathan, very healthy. I see that Olga took good care off you.” Jonathan smiled and tried to get the sand off his boots in order to change the subject. “I didn’t want to come back, but I feel better about it now.”

“His Excellency has already moved back to Pera.  You have to go there.”

“Pity. I was rather looking forward to going to Therapia.”

There was a moment of silence.

“How is Rachel?”

“She is very well. Sent you her love.  She is making all the preparations for the wedding and hoping to move to London.”

“Well, why not?”

“Why not indeed?”

The larger Embassy boat was waiting to take them into town. Jonathan enjoyed the trip admiring once more the yalis dotting the shore and the changing vistas of the Bosphorus. Brian had had a picnic basket prepared for them and they had a leisurely meal as they were wafted along the currents.  They were finishing their second bottle of wine as the caique neared Besiktas.  Brian felt that this was the right time to tell Jonathan that Lord and Lady Lyle had arrived in Istanbul on their honeymoon.

Jonathan felt that he had not heard the words right. "It can't be true, it can't be true," he kept saying.

"Yes, Jonathan. It is true.  Quite frankly, I don't understand what possessed them to decide to come here on their honeymoon. I specifically asked the Ambassador to request you for this mission so that I would be able to tell you the news myself.”  He added persuasively, “God knows there is no reason for you to risk your life now.  You are no soldier.  Let the professionals do the job."

Jonathan bowed his head and covered his face with his hands. “All is lost then. They are really married.”

"Yes, they are."

"But why did they come here? I don’t understand.”

“Anybody who is anybody remotely connected with the government is coming here nowadays.  They probably gave him some kind of title – observer and advisor, I think.  He might even go to the Crimea.”

“Oh, no.”

“Now, Jonathan, don’t be childish.  You are very young.  I know you love Cynthia, but you will get over it.  There will be others.  After all, you said yourself that she never promised she would wait for you.”

“And I betrayed her. I was unfaithful to our love.”

He felt convinced that he was being punished for Olga.  How could he have been unfaithful?  How could he blame Cynthia who must have been under a great deal of pressure from her mother when he had been behaving as he had?

“After all,” Brian was saying, “What can a young girl do when she has a dragon for a mother?”

Lady Agatha, of course. “How do you know that?”

“She is with them.”

“Lady Agatha is with them on their honeymoon?”

In spite of his misery, Jonathan began to laugh.  He could not stop himself and later, when the tears came, he let them come too.

_ . _

* "Crimea"
is a chapter from the original manuscript of "East is East”, and this is its first publication in English, and is published with Latife Mardin’s permission at the Light Millennium’s web site. We thank Mrs. Mardin for her permission.

"East is East" was written in English, translated into Turkish, and published by Oglak Publishing House in Istanbul in 2001.

Mrs. Mardin wrote her four novels based on the same characters living through a twenty-year period of history in the Middle East and Europe. These stories reflect world affairs and politics from the Ottoman period's dimension.

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