July 1, 2014

They prepared their homes as though expecting visitors from heaven

The fact that the annual Turkish Olympiad turned into the Language and Culture Festival this year, and that it took place in Germany, no doubt made Turkish citizens living in Germany the happiest of all.

On top of being able to watch the finals on television as broadcast from where they are living, these citizens were also given the opportunity to host students from all over the world who came to Germany for the finals. And so it was that volunteers in the Hizmet movement showed their fidelity, as they do all over the world, hosting the festival's students as though they were hosting members of their own families. From Krefeld, Nevin Akkol and Huriye Altıntaş are some of the happy people who were given the opportunity to experience this event. Altıntaş notes that hosting the students was akin to hosting a member of her family; Akkol says that while she was so happy to be involved, it was a tad bittersweet: “I wish that this festival had taken place where it was supposed to, but I guess it means that this blessed duty fell to us in Germany, as Turks.”

They found classic Turkish hospitality in Germany

Those hosted by these Turkish families in Germany included Albanian students Fatma Jikaj and Anisa Rrucaj, both of whom study in Albania's Hasan Riza Pasha preparatory school. Both speak very good Turkish, though both young girls expressed sadness at not having been able to go to Turkey for the contest this year. Fatma says she had been to Turkey before, but since it was for a holiday she didn't actually have a chance to speak or interact with very many Turks. She found what she was looking for in Germany, though: “We experienced Turkish hospitality here in Germany. Everyone was so good to us here.” Vildan Akkol, who showed both Fatma and Anisa around Krefeld, was pleasantly surprised: “They come from different countries than we do, but we were all able to understand one another.”

It was so good for us to make them happy

In the German town of Mülheim, Mevlide Ezo Polatkan hosted South African students Noizzi and Bengu. Polatkan says she heard on television that the Turkish Olympiad would not be happening in Turkey this year but in Germany and that, at the time, she had cried and prayed that she would be able to host some of the incoming students at her home. She recalls: “When my husband called to say we would be hosting some guests, I was already well prepared spiritually. I readied my home as though I would be hosting guests from paradise.”

This voluntary host said that she often hugged these female students, and talked about how difficult it was to see them go. Polatkan said: “It was so good for us to be able to make them happy. We lived out the language of love.” Both Noizzi and Bengu said they had originally really wanted to go to Turkey and not Germany. But in fact, they were so happily surprised by the hospitality that they encountered in the Turkish homes in Germany that, now, when asked, “Would you like to attend school in Germany?” they responded, “Why not? We have family here now.” These students left a letter for Polatkan when they left saying it is their wish to one day be able to host Polatkan in their homes in South Africa.

Published on Today's Zaman, 30 June 2014, Monday