#bAKLAVAMAG MEETS: OBEN BUDAK

The wait is over! After weeks of silence, #BaklavaMag is back with a captivating interview with one of the most quick-witted Turkish lifestyle journalists, an author and the editor-in-chief of the Athens-based collaborative initiative #ADAMINTOWN. Although Oben Budak is now running ahead of an intense schedule to complete his upcoming novel, he generously took some time to open up about the new chapter of his life in Greece and much more. Read on to get your daily dose of inspiration, fellas!

Getting used to new normal is quite challenging for the majority. How have you been dealing with that period?

OB: I have survived by giving a new direction to my relationship with nature. I live in one of the Athens’ classic houses with large balconies. I had sown lots of seeds and learnt what to do to make my plants grow better. I could feel scared if I wouldn’t do like that. In short, I have survived with nature.

How would you define your current state of mind towards life in a broader sense? 

OB: It is not clear how much time we will spend in this world. Enjoying the days we have is as important as trying to understand the world. I try to understand the concept of life based on my experiences instead of books. We, humans, are the ones who make the world more beautiful -together with the animals and plants. We need to get that nobody has any advantage over anyone. For instance, I do not like pretending as if we are the masters of animals. That is not true. 

It has been almost two years since you have settled in Greece. How did you come up with such decision? 

OB: I am crazy about sea and summer. I would like to live in flip-flops and shorts in the rest of my life. When a few of my friends moved to Athens, we have started visiting Greece often. Athens is very similar to Istanbul of the years of my youth and I miss those days a lot, that’s why I never felt out of Athens.

How does living in Athens differ from living in Istanbul? What kind of a transformation you have been going through? 

OB: The way of life between Athens and Istanbul is not much different. The similarity of their culture brings those both closer. Istanbul, as a metropolitan, is just a bit more fast-paced comparing to Athens. Since I was extremely tired of living in the fast lane, the pace of Athens seemed very good to me. I have given up rushing through life. Every single day is a blessing here.

You used to perform a wide range of occupations for years. As you have probably heard, being multitasking is scientifically believed to be a way of running away from yourself. Does that work for you as well?

OB: I’m a lion. As you might know, lions love to sleep and rest. If I had my rathers, I could spend my life by doing only those two, but there was a type of life that I dreamed of and I had to work hard to make that happen. I think that was the reason for me take advantage of the opportunities that I had encountered. In fact, those were my fields of interest as well. DJing and writing had never made me feel tired. I feel like I can be myself while I am working, I wouldn’t define that as running away from myself.

You were at the age of nineteen when you first met Sertab Erener, one thing is for sure that collaborating with her must be a remarkable experience for any human being. Which part of you might have influenced her and the rest of those powerful women you had worked with? How did you stand out amongst all others?

OB: I am in the mood for adding excitement around. You know, nothing happens without excitement. I was in the studio 24/7 while Sertab Erener’s album titled “Sertab Gibi” was being recorded. Even if I had no duty, I was going to see the atmosphere that was new to me. Then, the same happened when I started the press sector. My excitement led me here. Every step towards innovation is valuable.

As an individual who has spent a considerable amount of time in media and entertainment industry, how would you evaluate the contribution of media in terms of hatred and violence toward sexual, ethnic and racial identities?

OB: We know that the media organs publishes whatever the government desires. I haven’t seen a media system that puts people first. In that sense, I was daunted in Turkey. I became unable to write what I wanted. You write an article about LGBTI+ rights and the next day, you receive tons of threatening messages in your mailbox. Such things are not easy to deal with. Eventually, even in recent #BlackLivesMatter protests, things haven’t changed. The press, which seemed as they were a side of the protesters at first made them look invasive later on. Unfortunately, the press has no credibility today. We, now, have Twitter and online magazines. When was the last time you bought a newspaper?

You demonstrate a clear stance on fairness issues particularly in terms of human and animal rights, how would you criticize the policies and public approaches of Turkey and Greece?

OB: Justice should be for everyone. I don’t have to walk around my corner and keep my mouth quiet because I’m in my comfort zone. My life does not matter when I see a child begging on the street or when I see a hungry cat. It doesn’t matter if we are not able to get happy all together. Animal rights is not to be considered in Turkey. I listen to the stories of street animals slaughtered in Athens before the Olympics, being upset about such issues makes me even more angry. Wherever you go in the world, there are similar problems -but this won’t go like that. The system has started to change. A hundred years later, people will talk about how ridiculous we are as the people feeding ourselves with meat.

The protagonist of a novel is often the narrator themselves. As a narrator, have you ever identified yourself with one the characters you have created in the books you have written? If so, what do you share in common?

OB: I have a sarcastic perspective. I don’t know… This may be a method of standing up for myself, which I have adapted to the increasingly tough world. In this way, I feel less angry and less upset. I also arranged the perspective of my book heroes in a sarcastic way. They are funny, but they also disturb bad people. All of my characters are animal-lovers, women’s rights activists and they question life. Although I do not directly refer my life, there are traces of many of my stories in my novels.

You have been working on a new book, what will be the theme of that book? What has motivated you to write a new piece while a huge population has been struggling with pandemic-based depressive feelings?

OB: I didn’t feel depressed during the pandemic period. I am aware that I’m not immortal. If we, somehow, came to an end, there is nothing we can do. It matters to redeem the rest of our time, that’s why I’m writing a book on vegan lifestyle. I will try to explain how wrong is the idea of ​​”you are the superior being, the animals are far below you” -which is constantly being imposed on humanity. There are no such terms as being above or below in existence. Aren’t we all parts of the nature? How come a single piece can dominate the whole? We need to realize that the lamb on your lunch plate is no different from your cat. Now, is the time to wake up.

Quick Fire Questions

What is the most tragic and funniest thing that ever happened to you after you moved to Greece?

OB: In the summer of 2018, my throat swelled grossly. I went to a private hospital to print medication. They asked for dozens of tests for a simple sore throat. I understood that I was piling up, but I couldn’t answer since I was in a dreadful state. That was my worst moment here, I will never go to a private hospital anymore.

Tell us one thing you have recently learned about Greek society/culture. 

OB:Greek people are not obsessed with the origin of foods as we do. They don’t care if the food originated in Ottoman or Byzantium, the taste of the pieces matters to them more and I love that aspect of Greeks.

Tell us one thing you have been doing to boost your energy during pandemic. 

OB: Cooking the things I miss. Ramadan pita, dolmadakia or red velvet cake. That motivated me to see that I could do things that seemed difficult to me before.

Name the place that attracts you the most in Greece.

OB: I am new in the city so even going out on the streets is enough to feel good. I don’t have a particular place in mind but the streets in Athens, the Greek islands and ouzo tables are valuable to me.

Name a person who has influenced you and your career. 

OB: Of course, Madonna! I learned not to give up and try new things all the time. She is not just a singer, but also a freedom fighter.

Name a Greek and a Turkish person you had enjoyed the most while interviewing with. 

OB: A Turkish singer, Teoman, is the person I had enjoyed interviewing the most because he had never beaten about the bush. Here in Athens, I really like the interview I conducted with Valeron. Talking to a modern musician was a great experience for me. 

Describe a behavior that you consider as cringe

OB: I do not tolerate anyone who interrupts someone else’s word. I hold the same attitude towards people, who see their own thoughts as the most accurate ones.

*All visual contents in things are provided by Oben Budak.

meet simay karakaş: a turkısh psychologıst ın thessalonıkı

Simay Karakaş is a 28 years-old clinical psychologist originally from Istanbul, who has been living in Thessaloniki (Greece) for around two and a half year. She is currently working with asylum seekers and refugees at an NGO as well as providing face-to-face and online psychological counseling. Today, as Baklava Mag, we directed a bunch of questions to Simay regarding the social differences between two lands through the eye of a psychologist, the ongoing global refugee crisis with a particular focus on Greece and Turkey and the reflections of pandemic.

Read on to get your daily dose of inspiration.

Simay in Thessaloniki

Simay is used to be a frequent visitor of Greece since she was 10 years-old. “I always liked the idea of being here and one day, I took a step to see how it looks like living in a country that makes me feel like home.”, she says. “Since it is a small and peaceful city that is surrounded by sea, I chose settling down in Thessaloniki. It provides everything you need with its own pace, which is called halara.”

ON PSYCHOLOGY

She describes her interest in psychology as a life-long curiosity towards human mind, body and the reasons behind of our differences.

“In the last grade of high school, I decided to move on in psychology. Afterwards, throughout my university years, I was impressed by the wide range of clinical applications. This was my main motivation to pursue a master’s degree in clinical psychology. During the time of my studies I started working in Istanbul but following my my graduation, I have ended up in Greece. Here, I am working at an NGO that is titled “IFRC”, in which we provide services including including primary health care, food distribution, first aid, psychosocial support, restoring family links and cash assistance. Where I have been working for is known as the world’s largest humanitarian organization. Apart from that, I have been offering psychotherapy for Turkish and English speakers, but mostly for immigrants and expats from all around the world.”

ON LIVING IN TURKEY VERSUS GREECE

Simay considers Greece as a second hometown and feels like a part of her belongs there.

“I feel peaceful and happy in where I have settled in. One thing is for sure that the similarities of my two lands, Istanbul and Thessaloniki, are quiet a lot but that helps me as well in hard times that I have. In Istanbul, people are in rush due to too many reasons so that they constantly ignore the purpose of life. Particularly, the importance of being alive. The rhythm of life in big city life effects the psychological states of both individuals and societies and that can be observed through the speech given by politicians and the street interviews. Here in Greece, I feel more free and less stressful since neither Greece nor Greeks expect a lot from me or the others. 

“Greek way of living, specifically in Thessaloniki, is all about enjoying each moment.”, she states. “They are pleasant and calmer in comparison with people in Turkey. For instance, after a work-day, you can reach home easily to spend time with your loved ones without dealing with crowd or traffic or you can go out for a drink since you still have time and energy to fulfill your individual needs. Just as Greeks care about personal life outside of work, they have a collective way of living. Their family members gather so far as possible -especially in the period of special occasions such as the Easter and Christmas. No need to mention that religion plays a significant part in Greek culture. As a person who grew up in the multicultural atmosphere in Tatavla (Istanbul), I am already aware of the spot of similarities and differences within social dynamics. For that reason, I was not in the need of adapting myself to the new conditions since there was non for me.”

Simay in Istanbul

“Both countries have been dealing with economical crisis and its affects are visible on their societies. Mostly, young generations are anxious about their future although their families try supporting them both financially and psychologically. In addition to that, both countries are hosting a great amount of asylum seekers and this creates tension between two contiguous countries on the ground of politics. As a result of all of those, individuals are getting more aggressive and discriminative.”

ON THE CHALLENGES OF A LIFE IN A NEW COUNTRY

When Simay moved to Greece, she did not know Modern Greek at all. To learn the language properly, the first thing she did was to enroll in Greek Language school for 6 months.

“Thankfully, Greeks have a good level of English due to being a major tourist destination in Europe.Thus, in shopping or socializing hours, I got the chance of speaking in English. However, it was still a self-restriction and a major challenge for me until I reached to the adequate level of speaking. Plus, learning bureaucratic and health system of Greece was a bit challenging even today, as well as learning a new language.

ON THE CURRENT ISSUES THAT GREECE DEALS WITH

“Greece in comparison with Turkey, is a small-sized country but it has a European Union membership. As expected, there are some positive and negative outcomes as result of that membership situation. According to my observation, Greece needs more understanding and support from the European Union but at the same time, it might be better to accept and find solutions towards the current situations.”

ON REFUGEES

“1951 Refugee Convention defines a refugee as someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. This is not an easy situation to cope with especially when you find yourself in a foreign country, where you do not have any idea about what happens around you and your faith is on the hands of some important people. Before pandemic, refugees were already facing with enough difficulties on mainland and islands. There is not enough capacities in the sites or other accommodation facilities to host asylum seekers. They absolutely need better conditions to stay healthy and more assistance in terms of medical and psychological support. There are so many associations like NGOs and movements running by locals which are trying to help as much as they can do. On the other hand, there is also an opponent side, which thinks that Greece is not in charge of this issue and they cannot do something for that anymore.”

“Thanks to the rising COVID-19 pandemic, the whole situation got worse and locals are afraid of getting infected since some migrant facilities were being put under lockdown after the test positives. The glance towards towards those people might be less friendly and more hesitated until we get over this period.”

ON PANDEMIC AND ITS IMPACTS

“All individuals have been facing with pandemic with their own ways. On social media, there are so many suggestion lists and articles to push people for taking those times as a chance to improve their skills. According to me, the recommendation must be something like: “Don’t listen them. You know what is the best for you. Do not feel bad, if you can not spend your time effectively because there is something outside that we don’t have a control over it.” “

“The future is uncertain for all of us and we feel under threat. This is something real and not being able to manage your fear is a natural outcome of it. However, if you feel like it effects your daily activities and you feel in the need of extra, don’t hesitate to go for it.”

ON FUTURE

“For near future, my aim is to get proficiency in Modern Greek to continue my profession here in Greece as a member of some occupational Greek Associations. I am not planning to move back to Turkey yet.”

#artworkers ın THE MIDST OF PANDEMIC: Manolıs Chrıstodoulou

Manolis Christodoulou is a 30 years-old music teacher and a music performer from Greece and he has been living in Athens for six years. Although he grew up in Athens, he is originally from Kalymnos and Livadeia in Greece. Before he graduated from the department of Music at University of Ioannina, he had participated in Erasmus program at Turkish Music State Conservatory of Istanbul Technical University.

Grab a cup of coffee, put on your headphones, click on the link below and get ready to read our interview.

Music: M. Christodoulou, C. Kyriazis | Arrangement: Dysanatolia


How do you describe your profession? When and how did you start doing it?

Music as a profession, in my point of view, is a blessing for anyone who follows it despite its difficulties and requirements such as commitment and strength to perform it -especially in tough times like the one we have been going through. Economic instability and various other stuff are the main difficulties that the musicians face with. Perhaps the worst of all is that in my country, as in many other countries, the majority considers music as something just can be done as a hobby rather than a profession. Besides, our industry must guarantee that the rights of the musicians are secured. Also, I would like to underline that performing music as a leisure time activity is a way different than doing it professionally. People should avoid underestimating this field and they should be aware of the difference between those two. A professional musician must be responsible for their object. If you have the talent, one way of doing this is moving forward in academy, for instance. Also, you can always read and expand your knowledge about music in a more broader sense.

How would you describe your Erasmus experience in Istanbul?

I had been in Istanbul Technical University in Istanbul for a short period in 2013. There is no doubt that my experience in Istanbul was one of the best times of my life. I admire Istanbul from the moment I started playing kanun so that the opportunity of performing it in the city where it is played was a remarkable thing for me. I adore both the diversity and the interaction between people. After living there, I felt like I favored it more. In particular, Istanbul Technical University impressed me with its facilities. In addition to that, the level of students who enrolled in were very high. I keep hanging out people I met there such as musicians, colleagues, locals and other citizens since they had contributed to that valuable experience. One final thing, participating to the program of “TRT” (Owned by the Turkish government) and all our daily experiences were meant to me as well.

How was your life before pandemic? How much time were you spending at work?

My life was quite good before pandemic, both financially and personally, since my country has slowly begun to recover from the severe economic crisis that has plagued us in recent years. I was taking part in various projects and orchestras. Plus, I was offering kanun lessons as well so that I had been working for long hours every day besides the time I spend for practicing. Strictly speaking, music fulfills a huge part of your daily life if you perform it professionally because we take it as a way of life instead of a regular job. Parallel to that, it turns into a vital need for the musicians to express themselves so it goes beyond the technique and theoretical knowledge in time.

Manolis plays Kanun.

In which way has pandemic impacted your professional life ? Do you work from home nowadays?

All arrangements including daily activities, concerts, orchestra rehearsals were suspended much earlier than the governmental restrictions. Nowadays, I have been continuing giving private lessons through Skype. For now, all I can do is practicing and making music at home, but that is not an efficient way for us to work. At this point, I would like to remind everyone that all art workers in the industry has been dealing with tough circumstances.

How do you cope with this whole situation? What has changed in your personal life due to pandemic?

I think everyone’s life has changed radically in this period of COVID-19, especially the ones who work are affected much more. By going under lockdown, we are forced to stay home while we had no idea about what will come next day. That uncertainty made us feel psychologically devastated. For me, a lot of things have changed due to restrictions and my personality. I was used to be outgoing and social; however, interacting with others is impossible now. That lack of interaction is the a major issue for me as a musician, who has to be in touch with people. We have to engage each other by participating rehearsals, attending live programs or in an academic environment so working from home is not the way for us.

Manolis plays Kanun.

What has challenged you the most during COVID-19?

Unfortunately, pandemic had a huge impact on musicians in all possible manners. The government hasn’t taken any action for the art workers so far so that most of the people have been struggling. As long as they will be ignored, the situation will get worse since the financial incapability will make people depressed. Above all, one of the most challenging thing for art workers is the creative process and inspiration. On the other hand, those music videos, which are created in the middle of pandemic has become a phenomenon. Thanks to such initiatives, we will be able to motivate a wide range of people with our art work.

In terms of art workers, what were the minor and major consequences of the decisions that are taken by government?

What else could have been done to protect the rights of art workers? Unfortunately, no substantive decision has been taken for the sake of art workers who are affected by pandemic restrictions. There was a granted governmental allowance, but just a few people could get benefits of it. Nowadays, there is a great deal of supportive movement by the art workers who are willing to react to that unfair situation and hopefully, we will receive those positive news that we wish to hear. The immediate financial support that will be provided by the government will help us survive until the concerts and other organizations run again.

How about #SupportArtWorkers movement? How did it all start?

“Support Art Workers” is a campaign organized by a group of talented art workers with various fields of culture. It is published on Avaaz, which is considered as the world’s largest and most powerful online petition platform. Basically, it aims to centralize the voice of citizens in political decision-making process. Avaaz refers to the term “voice” in Greek as well as many other languages that are spoken in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. In the same line with the meaning of that word, the platform mobilizes citizens from all over the world in order for them to have a voice in key national and global issues. In the light of aforementioned information, ’Support Art Workers’ movement is an initiative for collecting signatures in favor of implementing the demands of Greek workers in the wider area of culture. By collaborating, we aim to fulfill our personal and professional needs in order to be able to survive for the next few months. The pandemic and the lockdown have confronted these people with the uncertain future.

Do you consider yourself productive during pandemic times? Are you able to find that inspiration?

Inspiration is the hardest thing to get for the artists regardless of the circumstances. Fortunately, I have been passing through a creative process on my own. During the time I have been spending at home, I have performed and composed quite a lot. As the days go by, our perception towards the things have been changing and I have started thinking that we will be able to see pandemic times as an inspiring feature in our future works. I believe that we, as musicians, have been giving faith to a considerable amount of people all over the world because music is always here to keep us alive and inspired in tough times.

How do other art workers in Greece react to that challenging conditions? Have you come up with a common idea to prevent your rights?

Unfortunately, there has always been a lack of unity in art industry. To be more specified, there is some kind of an existing medium-sized unification between musicians to defend our rights and actually pandemic period is the best time to give a start for a better future for us. Art, itself, has become an extremely important matter for each of us in the course of financial, moral and cultural crisis. For instance, a major protest planned from all over the art world for this week and this is obviously a great start. One thing is for sure that those are the days that we must be taken care by the state. • Have you planned anything for the post-pandemic period in terms of your job or education? It is very difficult for me to think on my professional plans in this specific period because the future is uncertain. Nevertheless, I have been studying something about intercultural education for a while. One final word, thinking on what art means to us and the possible consequences of its absence is highly important.

As Plato once said: “Music is a moral rule. It gives the universe a soul, feathers in thought, takes off the imagination, gives joy to sadness and life in everything.” 

Editor’s Note: Since the majority of art workers have become unable to get the unemployment support they need during COVID-19 pandemic, they have been struggling for survival. By conducting a series of interviews, Baklava Mag aims to inform youth around the world in order for them to come up with concrete solutions.

meet the sweet face of tatavla: ÜSTÜN PALMİE

Tatavla (Greek: Ταταύλα) is one of the refined neighborhoods of Istanbul, where the ethnic and religious communities such as Greeks, Armenians, Kurds and Jews are located. Despite the turbulance that occured due to several wars, this region has continued to retain the majority of its Greek residents with modest income until 1955. As part of Tatavla’s unique culture, Üstün Palmie Patisserie keeps standing both as a representative of old traditions and a gathering point for special occasions such as Easter period.

We took a trip down memory lane of Tatavla with two brilliant women, Banu Yıldıran Genç and Hülya Yıldıran. Currently, both of them are in charge of the family business in collaboration with the founder and head chef of Üstün Palmie Patisserie (Fehmi Yıldıran).

👨 FEHMİ YILDIRAN (FEHMİ USTA)

When he moved to Istanbul in 1952, he began living with her friends. As a young guy who came from a village, he was willing to educate himself on his own. He and his friends were used to see plays together in their off days. Since 1960s, when being sophisticated was considered above all other things, he has been improving himself by reading books and newspapers.

Fehmi Usta
Visual Credits: Banu Yıldıran Genç

🍰 ABOUT THE PATISSERIE

When Fehmi Usta arrived in Istanbul, his brothers were already settled there. While one of his brothers were a chief, the other one was mastering in pastry. During his first years as an apprentice for several places such as Lozan Patisserie, Dezire Patisserie and Rönesans Patisserie, he was trained by Rum, Jewish and Armenian chefs. Afterwards, he had joined the army to perform the military service for two years and worked there as a chef as well. When he was back in town, he took over the business from his friend Yorgo. Although they were manufacturing in Beyoğlu, he was always dreaming on having his own patisserie one day.

“Both Turkish and Rum people were used to live together in Tarlabaşı so that both Ramadan and Easter holidays were being celebrated by locals. Unlike today, there was absolutely no discrimination between ethnic and religious communities. For instance, my father and his close friend Yorgo went to the pastry fair in Germany together and had fun during their staying.”

-Banu Yıldıran Genç and Hülya Yıldıran

“What happened in 1964 was truly a disaster”, Fehmi Usta adds. When he got married with his wife in 1969, they had still a considerable number of Rum neighbors in Tarlabaşı. Following the Cyprus crisis that happened in 1974, those residence left their homes as well. His wife still reminisces the days she spent with her Rum neighbours.

Eventually, he and his brothers set up Palmie Patisserie in Kalyoncukulluk Street of Beyoğlu in 1970. Even if they were in this together, Fehmi Usta was the one who had a deep passion for pastry.

FAMOUS FREQUENTERS OF THE PATISSERIE

Our patisserie had located in Beyoğlu from 1970 to 1995. The majority of Yeşilçam (Turkish cinema) artists were our customers. Some of our close friends were the famous Turkish theatre artists Cevat-Meral Kurtuluş, the well-known accordion player and the symbol of Çiçek Pasajı (Cité de Péra) -Anahit Kuyrig and the first singer of the taverns in Istanbul -Yorgo Vapuridis. 

Madam Anahit (Anahit Kuyrig) at Çiçek Pasajı, İstanbul.
Visual Credits: Agos

Today in Kurtuluş, we are mostly familiar with the journalists and gourmets such as Tuba Şatana, Levon Bağış, Estukyan family, Sinan Hamamsarılar (Tat Dedektifi), İpek Kuşçu and Tanem Sivar. 

Nowadays, Tatavla somehow enjoys the preserved traditional neighborhood culture although there had been major changes in time. We didn’t grow up here but from what we heard, everyone was used to know and trust each other in this region. Even today, people keep entrusting their stuff to us. We still have those traditional butchers, groceries, appetizer places and phyllo dough stores except for the modern supermarkets.

🐰 A REGULAR EASTER DAY IN ISTANBUL

People go shopping, they choose chocolates for their neighbors and households a few days before the Easter. While they get their home Easter-ready, hairdressers run for 24/7. On the day that Jesus was crucified, household dye eggs. Christians prefer to eating fish on the Good Friday before Easter Sunday so that fish stores get crowded on that day. People spend the Holy Saturday night at church and attend ceremonies by igniting candles. In the next morning, they dress up nicely and go to the church again. Afterwards, everyone greet each other and exchange Easter cakes. Well-dressed people fulfill the streets all the way down.

Fehmi Usta, his daughter and his grandchildren.
Visual Credits: Banu Yıldıran Genç

😷 AN EASTER AMID PANDEMIC

We have been through financially tough times. Our customer, Grand Bazaar is temporarily closed and distributors cannot work. Locals are not able to visit each other. Plus, since their offices are closed as well they had no reason to buy Easter cakes for their co-workers and households. We could not feel like we had holiday, it was depressing both for us and our customers. It could be pleasant and fun as it was used to be but instead, all of us had pandemic anxiety. 

Also, it was challenging and exhausting for us to use gloves, masks and disinfectants in the patisserie. However, even under these extreme circumstances, we have never used low-quality products. We keep using our traditional pastry recipes, which do not include any additives or sweeteners.

Anyways, despite everything, we hope to see it ends.

an ıntervıew on PANDEMIC’s ımpact on art workers

Gizem is a Thessaloniki based musician who originally comes from Istanbul. Currently, she has been trying to learn Greek and expanding her knowledge in Byzantium Music.

If you have ever wondered what it feels like struggling with pandemic as a musician, read our interview below.

From her last concert with Daemonia Nymphe Official in Athens.

Visual Credits: Jo Gogou and Afternoiz

🎤Could you tell us where and when did the virus occur in the region/country you live in?

Basically, everything has started here in Thessaloniki. First, I read the news on the Internet around the mid January. It was being told that after a business meeting in China, the virus had started to spread, but such conspiracy theories like “Chinese government wanted to kill their people in order to control the population growth” were existed as well. When I shared such news with my friends, we made fun of how media fakes everything. We all thought that it could never appear around us.

I am not sure about when did it all start since we were pretty shocked. I felt like we were diving into a trouble. Globally speaking, we were all so late in terms of preventions such as curfew and lockdown. However, the UK and in the states are worse to be honest. 

🎤Do you think those preventions are enough? What could have been done in a different way to protect people?

All things are being done here, the government did what they could do but the actual chaos hits the households. Putting people under lockdown was an easy decision, but now we are out of budget and have literally no idea about how to pay our rents and so on. At this point, I must add that I feel deeply sorry and thankful for Italian people who demonstrated efforts on making people aware about what will come next.

🎤How do you and the society feel about being under lock down? Could you talk about the physiological side effects of the isolation? How were you spending a regular day of yours on the very first days of the pandemic and what has been changed so far?

It was okay in the very first days. We had no clear idea about the number of the days we were about to stay inside so we spent our time by making up sci-fi scenarios. Personally, I like staying home because I am mostly out at nights due to my job. That’s why it felt like an unexpected holiday in the beginning. I was reading more than before, learning new things, practicing music. Even sitting and drinking my coffee in my balcony became a routine in that period. Now, as the days passed by, we started to get minor depressions. We have no clue about what will come next and we kind of lost our trust to the governments and politicians in a broader sense. As musicians and art workers, we are all out of work for at least six more months and knowing that makes us restless. Plus, there is nothing to inspire us to produce new songs since we can’t step out of home.

Actually both for Greece and Turkey, something more can be provided to help people. But even our own government, I mean the Turkish one, follows a wrong path. For instance, Turkish business people provide masks to famous people in the USA instead of helping their people. I strongly believe that only solidarity between people will solve this issue. To make the situation better, governments must have release the actual case numbers and make hospital accessible for all sick people. Nowadays almost 20.000 tests per day are implementing in Turkey, where 80 million people locate in. In fact, all people needs proper health care by the government that they voted for.

For sure, lockdown is a part of the solution but besides, have to secure your people as well in order for the lockdown to achieve true success. In Germany, the government paid thousands of euros to their people without considering the deadline of the virus. Their rents were paid, they kept getting their salaries. Whereas here, before government told us to stay in quarantine, we locked ourselves home. Also, in Turkey, ages below 20 and above 65 are in lockdown but the rest needs to work. What is the purpose of this prevention, then?

🎤Who do you think fight against the pandemic most successfully when you take the whole world into consideration? Do you even think such country exists?

New Zealand seems like on top. They closed their borders just in the beginning. Their government handled the situation more safely.

🎤What do you miss the most while in lock down?

I miss going out for a coffee with my friends and ending up in a bar to drink Campari. I could be so happy by singing out as well…

Visual Credit: S.L. Hillman

🎤What might be the major and minor consequences of the pandemic when everything calms down?

Depression and xenophobia. Seriously, what is about to come makes me more nervous than what we have been dealing right now. The majority will lose their jobs and there will be no art-related activities until next October. We need some time to free our minds. For two to three weeks, life in outside will be hell. All I hope is that the virus won’t strike us again.

Here in Greece, the commercial places are planned to be open beginning from the next week, but there will be curfew after midday. Also, summer is coming so it is possible for Greece to have some financial issues since its economy is based on tourism. Honestly, since everything is pretty unclear for all of us, it’s really hard to come up with any clear prediction.

🎤Do you have any plans for your the post-pandemic period, both in academic and professional manner?

No idea. It will be extremely hard because until October, it seems like we are off business. I guess I will end up camping somewhere during this summer -quarantine mood but without walls, in other words. We don’t know anything about the future of the schools, festivalsa and concerts. We have lack of inspiration in these days so we can’t release a new album. So we try keeping ourselves in kind of zen mood and pushing ourselves to stay as patient as possible.

CALL FOR ART WORKS: European Week AgaInst Cancer VIrtual ArtIstIc ExhIbItIon 2020

“Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses – especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else”

-Leonardo da Vinci

The Association of European Cancer Leagues in collaboration with European Student Think Tank and the Medical Museum of the University of Crete is issuing an open call for entries to a virtual artistic exhibition to mark European Week Against Cancer.

The exhibition will combine artistic expression with cancer prevention awareness by encouraging students and young professionals in the health field to get creative and learn more about the European Code Against Cancer through artistic means.

OBJECTIVES

-Encourage creativity and elevate the voices of students and young professionals in the health field.
-Promote the European Code Against Cancer and encourage young health enthusiasts to learn more about it.
-Raise awareness of the importance of including health promotion/cancer prevention and visual arts in medical and healthcare curricula across Europe.
-Raise awareness of the value of incorporating arts-based approaches into health promotion and cancer prevention to affect change and for advocacy purposes.

WHO SHOULD APPLY?

*Any health & life science students and young professionals in the health field residing within the WHO European Region

*Between 18-35 years old, creating 2-dimensional artworks related to one or more message/s within the European Code Against Cancer and/or expressing the importance of healthy lifestyles in reducing the risk of developing cancer through one of the following medium: drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, design, crafts, collage, mixed media and new/digital media.

DATES AND DEADLINES

Deadline for Submission: 10 May 2020 (23:59 CET).
Virtual Exhibition Dates: 25 – 31 May 2020 on ECL’ s website (you will be sent the exact link in due course).
Live exhibition: TBC (the organisers will try to organise an exhibition at the Medical Museum of the University of Crete once restrictions due to the pandemic are lifted).

ELIGIBILITY & RULES

Please READ CAREFULLY the call’s eligibility criteria and rules as well as your rights & obligations on the document below:
https://www.europeancancerleagues.org/wp-content/uploads/EWAC-2020-Call-for-Artworks.pdf

Submissions which do not respect the eligibility and procedure rules, will be disregarded.

1 st Global Polıtıcs Summer Academy ın Athens: apply now

Organized by The Institute of Global Affairs of the American College of Greece and the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ΕLIAMEP)

Event Venue: Athens, 30 June – 3 July 2020

Application Deadline: 24 April 2020

The modules offered during this intensive short-term program provide participants with a plethora of insights and different perspectives on the current security landscape of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Special emphasis will be placed, among others:

1) on the new security threats and challenges emanating in the broader Mediterranean region;

2) on the strategies adopted by state actors and international organizations for managing migration in the region;

3) on the evolution of the long-standing conflict between Greece and Turkey and the prospects for cooperation in an era of uncertainty and transformation;

4) on the “Geopolitics of Energy” in the Eastern Mediterranean and its role in becoming a catalyst for cooperation and conflict resolution instead of amplifying existing conflicts and triggering new ones.

Moreover, the “Ambassadors Forum” will close the series of lectures with a roundtable discussion between the Ambassadors of certain key-states in the region (USA, Greece, Israel, and Cyprus) on the prerequisites for promoting stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.

You may find more information on the programme and participation cost in this link.

Click here for the agenda of the summer academy and here for the application form.

Academic Coordinators

Professor Panayotis Tsakonas, University of Athens; Head, Security and Turkey programme, ELIAMEP 

Dr. Haris Vlavianos, Director, Institute of Global Affairs, American College of Greece

Contact Information

Ms. Marianna Vasilopoulou: events@eliamep.gr and/or MsMaria Sermpou: instituteofglobalaffairs@acg.edu

This content is taken from https://www.eliamep.gr/

SONGS GATHER US ALL: SING FOR ALL!

The healing power of music has been used as a therapeutic intervention since the late 18th century and is considered as a tool to fight against the fear of pandemic nowadays. Starting from the very first day of lockdown, people in Italy have been singing in their balconies as they were used to do centuries ago -even the ones that have millions of followers such as the famous Ferragnez family.

As the days go by, this collective singing tradition has become more creative and impressive. As more people have been involved, more sounds have emerged all around us . A compelling example of that was released on the 6th of April by a group of people with different backgrounds. Under the title of “ThesSingers”, 40 people gathered to cover a historical song by Antonis Vardis and Costas Tripolitis.

Credits: ThesSingers Facebook Page

Within just a few days, their work has reached out more than 4.000 audiences and hundreds of comments that are full of gratitude.

Click here to watch them on Youtube.

In the meantime, another initiative was about to start on the other side of the Aegean sea. An Istanbul based acapella choir that aims to embody the polyphonic, diverse, and colourful culture of Eurasia has invited everyone to join them with a particular song for an online concert.

Credits: Chromas Choir Official Website
Translation: For the first time in Turkey: Sing with us Turkey! #MusicFitsinHome

Today at 19.30 /CET), the choir will hold an informal Q&A session via a Zoom meeting.

Until the 17th of April, Chromas Choir will receive the online applications through their official page.

Baklava Magcalls everyone to #stayhome and apply for such inspiring gatherings with hope in wherever they are.

Have yourself a sweet quarantine, everyone!

Border Blockage: How Turks ın Bulgarıa helped hundreds of stranded truck drıvers

Turkish Embassy in Bulgaria and Ambassador Aylin Sekizkök, together with the General Consul of Turkey in Plovdiv – Hussein Ergani and the chairman of Yesilay Bulgaria – Ahmed Pehlivan combined efforts to provide food & water for drivers, waiting with days to pass the Bulgarian-Turkish border in Kapıkule. 

Food for 2 days, water and other basic necessities were donated to hundreds of drivers, who are currently stuck on the border crossing between Turkey and Bulgaria in Kapitan Andreevo (Kapıkule), because of the Coronavirus pandemic. The campaign was launched thanks to the tight cooperation between the Turkish Embassy in Sofia, the General Consulate of Turkey in Plovdiv and the Green Crescent Turkey.

PHOTO-2020-03-25-11-55-59

The queue at the border is currently exceeding 50 kilometres, as drivers from Bulgaria, Turkey, Poland, Hungary and many other countries are waiting for medical checks, before they are allowed to enter Turkish territory. The Coronavirus restrictions imposed by the Turkish government, request for body temperature measuring of every driver, as well as signing an official declaration. Any other non-essential type of travel, such as tourist visits, are strictly forbidden for all non-Turkish citizens who wish to enter Turkey now.

Every driver has received 2 loaves of bread, 2 litres of mineral water, some type of meat (Bulgarian cheese for the vegetarians) as well as a desert or a candy. The aid has been delivered to more than 2500 drivers, who were personally visited by General Consul Hussein Ergani and Mr. Ahmed Pehlivan, chairman of Yesilay Bulgaria.  As Mr. Ergani said: ‘Some of the drivers here have been waiting for 3 or more days, they were not prepared to wait for such a long time. This is why we are doing everything we can to help all the people who are currently in this situation.’

PHOTO-2020-03-25-11-55-59 (1)

The official representatives from the Embassy in Sofia and the Consulate will also assist anyone, who experiences difficulties to fill the declaration, Mr. Pehlivan explained: ‘Apart from donating food, we will also help everyone who needs help to fill the required documents. Right now there are hundreds of people stuck here, coming from many other countries besides Turkey. The aid is reaching everybody, regardless of their nationality’.

Headline picture: http://www.piqsels.com

Others: Nebahat Pehlivan, Ahmed Pehlivan 

an ıntervıew wıth stella karachrıstıanıdou: buıldıng a common future

Stella Karachristianidou holds a diploma of Greek Philology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, with a focus on Medieval and Modern Greek Language and Literature. Today, as she decided to live in Istanbul, she demonstrates remarkable efforts in establishing a cultural dialogue between societies by teaching Greek language to Turkish people. Read on to learn more about her journey.


Stella Karachristianidou

As a Greek who has already experienced living in Greece, England, Netherlands,  Germany, and Turkey, how would you define the cultural characteristics of those varying societies?

Ι think that each society has unique cultural characteristics. England, Netherlands and Germany have more similarities. For example, people there are more open to diversity and act more independently. Even though they are aware of their traditions, they tend to adopt a more modern lifestyle. On the contrary, young people in Greece and Turkey have stronger bonds with traditions, even if they try not to, because societies in these countries make a hard effort to keep them alive. And for sure, Turkey and Greece share many cultural elements in music, food, behaviours which I think every Greek and Turkish person can identify.   

Just as Baklava aims, you also foster a collaboration between Greek and Turkish population. How does art function in the creation of an intercultural dialogue?

Art is part of human nature and is not restricted by the meaning of borders. It can communicate universal messages. Therefore, it can work easily as means of dialogue between people from different cultural backgrounds. Despite, in order to understand the messages of art, you do not need to speak the same language. For example, Turkish people love Greek music and Greek population tends more and more to watch Turkish series because probably these two societies are into each other’s culture.  So every kind of art can bring closer different societies. 

As far as we know, you do not define yourself as part of the minority communities in Turkey. How did you decide on working with the Greek Orthodox community in Istanbul? Do you have any particular reason for choosing such path?

I am not a minority member because I was not born here. But I would like to consider myself as part of the Greek minority, since I am Greek, and I live here now. So I think for every Greek who comes here, it is one of his / her first options to collaborate with people who speak at least the same language and they can serve in positions for which they have the necessary qualifications. I started working at a minority newspaper here in Istanbul and then,  RUMVADER, the main representative body of the whole community, had a need for a person with experience in EU projects. That period, I had just returned from Germany where I attended a 2-month training on cultural management and I believe this was the best opportunity to contribute to the general effort of the minority to communicate their culture and their rights. 

Apart from the projects you have been conducting and participating in recent years, you also put effort in teaching Greek language and culture as well. How did this journey begin? 

I studied Medieval and Modern Greek Language and Literature. I came to Istanbul 5 years ago to do my internship at the Consulate General of Greece. Almost immediately, I realized the general interest of the Turkish people for the Greek language and culture. So, the moment I decided to live here, I knew that I want to be part of all this effort of creating a cultural dialogue by teaching the language. 

You have held a series of language workshops at Kiraathane in Istanbul. Is there any thematic purpose of those ateliers? Do you think you have achieved the level that you aimed?

I am setting the goal of each workshop according to the motivation of the participants. This time, the participants are learning Greek for touristic reasons, let’s say. Most of them want to have conversations with the locals when they go to Greece. Therefore, at the moment, I set as a goal to teach them simple forms and words with which they can have a simple every-day dialogue. We should not forget that Turkish and Greek as languages do not have many similarities in language forms and grammar.  We have common words but, still, new learners should devote more time and effort in learning Greek than it would be needed for another language. The workshop is not completed, but I think that we are in a very good level. 

In terms of values and the way people behave, could you go for a comparison between Greece and Turkey? What has brought your attention so far?

I believe one of the main differences is the general attitude towards women. Even though, there is an on-going struggle for gender equality, you can evidence in every-day life the unequal treatment of women. This is what first shocked me.  It is different to know it as information and different to experience it. I am not saying that gender-equality is implemented in every field in Greece. But, for sure, women are confident that they can find support when is needed. 

Also, people who live in this country cannot find their inner peace. At least, the people with whom I am in contact, are constantly worried and feeling insecure for the future.  I think it is the same feeling that Greeks had during economic crisis. Hopefully, things for Turkey will be better in the future, too.  

What kind of an attitude you have in terms of minority rights within the scope of fundamental rights? In your point of view, which specific point must be urgently improved for the rights of minorities in Greece and Turkey?

I think that the role of every human rights defender should also be to ensure that the rights of national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities are highlighted and taken into account. We should bear in mind that minorities enrich the societies of each and every country in the world. Especially, Greek and Turkish minority’s status in Turkey and Greece respectively was shaped by a clear historical legacy of the Ottoman Empire and historical bilateral agreements concerning minorities in Turkey – namely the Lausanne Treaty of 1923. While the last decade, several reform packages have dealt with minorities’ problems, minority rights abuses still weaken minority foundations and the integration of minorities into the dominant social and political structures. I believe that the Turkish minority in Greece face less problems. I do not want to underestimate their importance, but the history shows that the Greek population faced in the past serious abolition of their rights with a result of the current situation which is the Greek community to fight for its survival given such dwindled demographic numbers which have a direct effect on the community’s participation to the civic life of their country as active citizens. 

 Unfortunately, these citizens are not received as equals. Due to the Lausanne Treaty, these people are used for mutual agreements between the countries which I think is totally unfair. These people have the same responsibilities and same duties as the other citizens, but they are not conceived like this. 

How do you handle the rough times during your research and language projects in Istanbul? Have you faced with an issue that made you feel like you cannot get over it?

I am happy because until now, I did not face major difficulties. I am grateful, though, because, I had people who supported me in every step of the projects I implemented. So, whenever I had difficulties, they were also there and helped me by exchanging ideas and finding solutions. 

Have your ever received a comment/message that you have never forgotten from the people you engaged via your projects and courses? If so, could you share one of them with Baklava followers?

During the implementation of the EU project :Bridging the Gap, building together a common future that the Association for the Support of the Greek Foundation (RUMVADER) implemented last year, there were many participants of our activities in cities of Turkey apart from Istanbul that they expressed their lack of  knowledge for the Greek minority in Turkey. Of course, now, the Greek population´s numbers are small, but still they are part of Turkey’s multiculturalism. This shows something about the education that young people receive nowadays in Turkey. I should stress that young people were always eager to learn and discuss. So, they need the proper stimulus and they were open to develop an intercultural dialogue. It is normal to afraid the unknown, the ‘other’, but if you come closer and start a conversation, you will realize that there are more things that unite us than the ones which separate us apart. 

From the Project Organized by RUMVADER: “YANYANA”

In the light of your experiences and dialogues in Istanbul, what can you say about the overall situation about ethnic and religious minorities and their future?

I believe that you do not need to be a minority member to realize the fact that minorities in Turkey are facing persisting difficulties and problems. I will express my view mainly for the Greek minority because basically I live and work with them. I cannot talk about the other minorities, but, for sure, Greek community is needed to be supported by younger members and new people with vision, who will set new goals and find new motivations to actively implement the necessary actions to address the problems that the Greek community continues to face. Moreover, demographically speaking there is a real threat to the Greek community’s survival, a community with historic ties to this land and the effects of the loss of Greek culture will greatly affect the cultural identity of Turkey. In order to reverse this, first the state and public actors need to contribute by helping to overcome a series of legal obstacles that exist and make it unable to fully incorporate new members into community’s internal structures.  We cannot forget that the current situation of the community is close related to decisions that the state took in the past. Second, the community itself need to overcome the old structures and start thinking productive collaborations and strategic plans which can efficiently handle the challenges that Christian communities face today. It is true that some members of the Greek community has steadily started to conduct activities to outreach to the general public and to enhance the capacities of its individual members since 2012. In particular, RUMVADER, the main representative body of the whole community, implemented its first EU funded project “Minority Citizens-Equal Citizens” from 2012 to 2015 targeting its own members in an effort to raise their awareness on the internal affairs and challenges that the community has to fight for and build their confidence in expressing itself coherently, constructively and effectively in political processes at every level. After that, the Yenikoy Greek Orthodox Community implemented another EU funded project entitled “Social Media and Minorities” with the aim to investigate the social media usage habits of minorities, to inspect the role of social media in social relations and the determine the obstacles against the recognition of differences in social media and freedom of expression. In 2016, RUMVADER started the implementation of its second EU funded project, “Bridging the gap, building together a common future,” contributing greatly to an increased respect and understanding for minority communities and pluralism in Turkey. Nevertheless, the results of these Actions will be feasible as long as the Greek community will continue to count members and to be active in civic life.