Fikriye left Turkey, her home country, for the first time in 1996. She grew up on a farm, while being raised by her mother and grandparents. Her father left at the time that Fikriye was five years old, which made her feel sad and disappointed because it seemed to her that her father did not love her. Fikriye father had another wife and kids, and they lived in Zonguldak which was another city almost two-hundred miles away from where she lived – which was Akyazi.
Her father wanted to take her mom and kids to the city of his first wife, but Fikriye’s mother refused to leave Akyazi. She was very upset and yelled at him. Fikriye had a lot of cousins living with her because her cousins’ parents died, so there were fifteen other kids in the same house without technology like a television. They had to be creative in order to have fun. The kids would make a ball out of socks, and play games with the ball, including volleyball at school. They climbed trees, picked fruit,cared for farm animals, and supported their family with other tasks. All of their meals were homemade and they used their own ingredients to cook. Milk came from their cows, eggs from their chickens, and crops from their fields. She did not need money because even her clothing was made by her mother. Her grandfather was kind of old fashioned and he did not think girls should be educated, so she was forbidden to go to middle school once she completed elementary school.
Fikriye did not want to leave Turkey to embark on her first trip to the United States in 1996. She loved Turkey and had trouble departing from her native land. She had her own home and she felt relaxed. Fikriye came to the United States to take care of her grandchildren and help raise them, so she made the sacrifice of leaving a place where she was comfortable to help her family. Her daughter was a U.S. citizen, so Fikriye was approved for a green card without any delays or difficulties. All of her friends, relatives, and cousins were in Turkey.
Learning English would not be easy for her and she had trouble talking to people who did not speak Turkish. Although it was difficult to leave, she did not change her mind. The first week was difficult since there is a ten hour time difference, but she adapted in a week. Everything felt different and foreign when she came to the U.S. but she was happy to see her grandchildren in Cupertino, where she would explore the nice city by
taking walks to the park with grandchildren.
In the United States, people smile at each other even if they are strangers, so she felt a sense of comfort. People in Turkey do not say “hi” to anyone they do not know. Fikriye also liked that she could return items if she does not like them because stores do not accept returns in Turkey. She appreciated that there were paths for pedestrians, which is not always the case in Turkey, and most roads are not good.
It was difficult for her to get her citizenship because she could not learn English fast enough to pass the exam required to become a U.S. citizen. She had to wait fifteen years instead of the usual five years, because the government finally allowed her to take the test in Turkish after the lengthy wait towards her path to citizenship. After living in the United States, she began to grow more attached to the country and feels closer to her new environment. Now, she is a part of two different communities in two places that are far away from each other. In the past, America was only a vision that she saw in movies, but today she is a part of the country.
The interview and write-up of Fikriye’s story was done by Ercan Gokcek, her grandson and a student at Palo Alto High School.