By Vakkas Dogantekin
ANKARA (AA) – "A Turkish child may become an orphan, but will never be without a homeland," said Turkey's warrior mother Nene Hatun, a century-old symbol of Turkish resistance against outside aggressors.
Few historical figures have come to imbibe patriotism to the same degree and rouse generations to put homeland first as Nene Hatun, a heroic Turkish mother who left her newborn baby behind to fight for her country.
The odds were stacked against her and her hometown of Erzurum in eastern Turkey, then a province of the Ottoman State, in the wake of increasing Russian aggression on the 19th century.
In the heat of the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-1878, also known as the War of 93, Nene Hatun symbolized the power of invincible Turkish patriotism and the sacrifices of Turkish women in particular with their unparalleled service to the homeland.
After the Aziziye Front in Erzurum was occupied by Russian forces with almost all Turkish soldiers martyred, the town's Ottoman Turkish commander reached out to the locals for help.
Thousands of Turks of all ages grabbed whatever they could find in their homes — rifles, clubs, axes, knives — to march on Aziziye to expel 2,000 battle-hardened enemy troops.
They were able to drive out the enemy, though most were martyred or wounded in the ensuing battle, including Nene Hatun who survived a serious injury.
Born in 1857 in the village of Ceperli 25 kilometers east of Erzurum, Nene Hatun was married at the age of 16.
Before turning 20, the young woman did not hesitate to leave everything and everybody behind, including her son and her newborn baby girl, to fight alongside the Turkish forces at the height of the war wreaking havoc in Eastern Turkey.
"God gave me this baby, He will sustain to him as well," she said, putting her country first over her family.
Nene Hatun survived the war to raise four sons and two daughters, enduring destitution in the harsh post-war conditions.
Nazim, her first son, was martyred along with another of his brothers during World War I.
After the founding of modern Turkey in 1923, Nene Hatun was given the last name "Kirkgoz", literally meaning "forty eyes".
She became a national heroin when a journalist, Ismail Habib Sevuk, published her story in 1937 during his research on the War of 93.
In 1952, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, American General Matthew Ridgway kissed the hands of Nene Hatun, a gesture of deep respect in Turkish traditions, during his official visit to Erzurum.
Nene Hatun was gripped by pneumonia later in her life, and died on May 22, 1955 at Numune Hospital in Ankara, the capital of the new country she helped found.
Her sense of honor and legacy, deeply ingrained in the character of all Turks, lives on in several books and films.
Nene Hatun proved once again, that Turkish women are as determined as any man in the defense of their country and that every Turk, regardless of gender, is a soldier.
Throughout the history of Turkey, civilian forces have successfully defended or liberated their territories, preventing the foreign occupation of Turkish land.
She was buried in the martyr's cemetery at the Aziziye Front in her hometown of Erzurum, where she bravely fought for her country for many years.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Turks visit her grave to pay homage to their warrior mother.