Somehow I find it very difficult to put my story down in writing. It has taken me many attempts just to come this far. It’s strange, because I’ve told it innumerable times, and that without much trouble or hesitation. But putting it down in print… why is that so difficult? Maybe because I will have to choose one version.
The problem is that I personally don’t have a recollection of the abduction or the problems leading up to it. My story has always been a regurgitation of what others have told me. First, what others have ordered me to say, and later, my own patchwork of all the versions I have collected.
So here is my mosaic, the puzzle of what really happened, that I have been working on most of my adult life.
My parents got divorced when I was 8. They had separated two years earlier. They both remarried rather quickly, my father to a woman with three sons of her own he had met in group marriage counseling, and my mother to a man from Turkey. The separation and divorce had been amicable, with my father relinquishing custody of myself and sister and brother. However, once the new spouses came into the picture, I guess jealousy arose. There were arguments, my father disobeyed the visitation rights, brought us home hours or even a day late. My new Turkish stepfather brought a culture clash onto the scene, along with his short temper.
So my mother and stepfather decided to take my brother, sister and me to Turkey, conveniently forgetting to tell my father. It’s still unclear whose idea it was, and exactly why it happened. In the beginning they often said they just wanted a little vacation, to let things cool off. But then it doesn’t’t make sense – why did they sell our house and put all our belongings in a dumpster?
I have a hunch that my father’s initiation of a relationship with another person in the marriage counseling group infuriated my mother, seeing that the purpose of marriage counseling obviously is to try to save your marriage, not start a new one. Maybe the abduction was a way to take revenge.
Once we were in Turkey, my dad “ruined” things by calling the international police. My mom and stepfather changed our names, cut our hair, and spoon-fed us a story we were supposed to tell if anyone asked. We were told that if our father found us, my mother would be put into jail for violating the custody rights, and we would never see her again.
Once our dad tracked us down, he started a court case demanding custody. By this time a few months had past and my mom and stepfather’s incessant brainwashing had led us to start believing out father was a monster, a sexual molester, and a violent brute. Our initial instincts to want to see him and to write letters to him were soon extinguished. My mother had us write letters to the court describing how our father had sexually molested us. Although it was not true, she was the only parent we had left. Perhaps a mixture of fear that we might lose her too, combined with the fact that she was the only familiar person in a completely foreign country, was what led us to finally believe her.
Days became months, and life started to take on the shape of a normal existence. We went to school, learned how to speak Turkish, made friends, went swimming and explored the tangerine groves. After almost three years, it was time to move on once again. My stepfather had become involved in underground politics on the wrong side of the government, and my mother had a little baby and another on the way. Along with the court proceedings my dad was pushing, things were getting too uncomfortable.
So we went to Sweden. My mother had relatives there. But before we were able to meet them at the airport, the immigration authorities took us into custody. We ended up spending a year at an immigration camp before being granted asylum and given an apartment of our own. My mother had our names changed once again in order to make it more difficult for my dad to find us.
However, somehow he did, and started another court process in Sweden, trying to get visitation rights. By this time we were completely indoctrinated to hate him, so it was natural for me to even testify in court that I never wanted to see him again.
As my siblings and I approached adulthood, we started to question what we had been told, and wanted to see things in a different way. We wanted to hear our father’s side. One year my mother finally decided to not throw away the birthday card our paternal grandmother sent to us, and so we finally got in touch with her, and through her with our father.
So in the end I met my dad – 13 years after we were taken away. We are still getting to know each other, but our relationship is on the right track. I am happy to say he was the one who led me down the aisle at my wedding, and he helped my little son learn how to walk. Things can only get better.
And against the odds, I also have a good relationship with my mother. The abduction has always been a taboo subject with her, and any attempt to discuss it has ended in a teary failure. It’s a pink elephant in the room we have learned to live with.