There were many Armenians
who were loyal to the Turkish nation. Here is the story of one remarkable
example, who came through when his nation needed him the most.
|The Story of Berch Keresteciyan
Istanbul 1919 ... a city of suffering
under the pain of Allied occupation ... Berch Keresteciyan Efendi, in those days, is the
Director of the Ottoman Bank.
Mustafa Kemal knows him from Selanik, as
the president of the bank’s Selanik branch.
Berch Keresteciyan Efendi also happens to
be the Vice President of Hilal-i Ahmer (Kizilay), the “Turkish Red-Crescent”.
In the Istanbul of those days, a city
teeming with spies on every corner, Berch Keresteciyan meets with Mustafa Kemal’s
attorney Sadettin Ferit Bey and divulges the following information:
“You are, I believe, both the attorney
and a close friend of the Esteemed Pasha. The ship that the Esteemed will be taking to
Samsun will be sunk by a British torpedo boat outside the Bosphorus. Please convey this
warning to the Esteemed Pasha.”
Sadettin Ferit showed up at Mustafa Kemal’s
house in Sisli with the bad news, although it happened to be a rather late hour of the
As soon as he boarded Bandirma, the ship
that would take him to Samsun on the first leg of what would develop into the Turkish
National War of Liberation, Mustafa Kemal asked Captain Ismail Hakki Bey “is it possible
to cruise as close to the shore as possible?”
The captain hesitatingly admitted to the
Pasha that this was his first voyage in the Black Sea, and he didn’t quite know where
the rocks or shallow banks were at.
Mustafa Kemal responded: “Then we’ll
sail with compass.” When the captain replied embarrassingly that the ship’s compass
did not work either, Pasha smiled gently and said: “No problem. Great is Allah. You
still try to hug the coastal line to the extent possible.” Bandirma, by cruising as
close as possible to the shore, reached Samsun without any major mishaps.”
The bank director warned of an
attack planned for Ataturk's ship
After Mustafa Kemal launched the
liberation campaign in Anatolia, Berch Keresteciyan Efendi, as the Vice President of
Hilal-i Ahmer Society, personally oversaw the shipment of crates of medicine from
Istanbul to Anatolia on cargo barges. Through the same crates and barges, Teskilat-i
Mahsusa (the National Intelligence Organization of its days) was also smuggling
weapons to Anatolia as well. Mustafa Kemal and his friends were carrying on the war
under great privation and difficulties, and were trying their best to stop the Greek
occupation forces marching towards Ankara. The enemy was stopped at Inonu. Both armies
were getting prepared for one final showdown.
The 2420th Rotary
Regional Governorship has presented an honorary certificate posthumously to a Turkish
citizen of Armenian descent, Berc Keresteciyan Türker, who saved Atatürk's Iife in
1919. The then General Director of the Osmanli Bank, Berc Keresteciyan Türker,
informed officials that the ship on which Atatürk was to board on May 19, 1919, would
be attacked, and thus, saved Atatürk's Iife. The honorary certificate was received on
behalf of the Iate Berc Keresteciyan who died 50 years ago by Deputy Patriarch of the
Turkish-Armenians, Krikor Damadyan, during a ceremony held at the Cemal Resit Rey
Concert Hall on May 30.
elected as a member of the Turkish parliament
At that point,
however, the Turkish side discovered to their great dismay that the firing mechanisms of
the artillery pieces were in such bad shape that they were unusable. The war could not be
won if the artillery could not fire. The firing mechanisms were sold in Istanbul’s black
market. However 15,000 liras were needed; a great fortune in the early 1920s. Nobody was
able to produce the required amount.
At the end, Mustafa Kemal wrote a letter
to Berch Keresteciyan Efendi, asking for the procurement of the direly needed funds.
Berch Keresteciyan’s reply to the Pasha’s
envoys was clear and simple: “Come back at midnight and I’ll have it ready for you.”
Keresteciyan withdrew everything he had in his personal bank account and delivered it to
Mustafa Kemal’s envoys. The missing firing mechanisms were purchased and sent
immediately to Anatolia.
After the victory, Berch Keresteciyan Efendi retired from the
Ottoman Bank and was employed as a technical consultant at the state-owned Ziraat Bank.
After the surname Law passed the Turkish Parliament, Mustafa Kemal gave the last name “Türker”
to Berch Keresteciyan, a man whose services the Pasha could never forget.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
In 1934, Atatürk made sure that
Keresteciyan was elected as a member of the Turkish parliament from Afyon the same city
from where the last and decisive Pitched Battle of the Commander in Chief was launched in
August 1922. Thus Keresteciyan became the first Armenian member of the Turkish Grand
National Assembly. Berch Keresteciyan Türker served in the Turkish parliament until 1942.
He passed away in 1949.
So goes the story of Berch Keresteciyan
Türker ... We have learned about his story during a presentation by the American
historian Prof. Justin McCarthy, at a lecture he gave at the Rotary Club in Istanbul. The
Rotary Club, in a touching gesture of homage to Berch Keresteciyan’s exemplary memory,
has presented a Certificate of Honor prepared in his name. This very meaningful document
was delivered to the custodianship of Archbishop Mesrob II of the Turkish Armenian
Tufan Türenç (Hürriyet)
Translated by The Turkish Times
Thanks to armenianreality.com