Opening Remarks By He Ambassador Selçuk Ünal Concert And Exhibition 600th Anniversary Of Polish-turkish Diplomatic Relations

Ottava Büyükelçiliği 30.01.2015

Your Excellency Marcin Bosacki,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the Turkish Residence for this joint celebration of the 600th anniversary of Polish – Turkish diplomatic relations. The 600th anniversary was celebrated throughout 2014, in Turkey and in Poland, as well as in third countries. This event, a joint organization of Turkish and Polish Embassies, was initially scheduled for December 2014. It was postponed and now marks the closing of the 600th anniversary celebrations.

It is also a pleasure for me to host this event together with Ambassador Bosacki, whom I had the privilege to work before our assignments in Ottawa. We have started to act as the Spokespersons of our respective Foreign Ministries around the same period almost four and a half years ago.

According to Polish sources, two envoys from Poland visited Sultan Mehmet in 1414 in Bursa, then the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which was acknowledged as the beginning of the diplomatic relations between two countries. 600-year-old relations is not only an exceptional phenomenon for political history. Our gathering here today bears testimony to the friendship and alliance between our nations as envisioned by our ancestors. Today, Turkey and Poland are two NATO allies and strong economic partners, enjoying excellent relations based on this historical background.

During the 16th-18th centuries when Turkey and Poland were neighbours, Poles and Turks faced each other in military conflicts, but allied as well. However, the alliances we have forged have grown stronger in centuries. The Ottoman Empire was the only country who did not recognise the Partitions of Poland. Poland’s national poet Adam Mickiewicz, who passed away in Istanbul in 1855, expressed his feelings as follows: “We Poles cherish the Turks for not having yielded to force in front of our enemy and for not having consented to the partition of our homeland.”

Polish leaders of independence movement have found refuge in the Ottoman soil. After 1850s they settled near İstanbul in the village Adampol (Polonezköy) which was named after Prince Adam Czartoryski. Sultan Abdülmecid, who was under pressure by Russia, Prussia and Austria-Hungary to return the political refugees famously declared that: “I would surrender my crown and surrender my throne, but I would never surrender those seeking shelter in my state”. As you know, this still is the tradition.

For 123 years, although Poland was not represented in Istanbul and elsewhere, Polish Ambassadors were called at the official events held at the Ottoman Court in absentia. They were announced afterwards as “He is on his way”. A popular saying predicted that: “Poland will be free again on the day the Turks water their horses in the Vistula”. This was realised in 1918 when Poland became independent after the Great War during which Turkish soldiers fought side-by-side, once again, in the Galician front.

The cultural interactions among the two peoples and their mutual reflections on the daily lives of Turks and Poles have also been remarkable. The words of Turkish origin, such as torba, yogurt, kilim, arbuz (karpuz) are used in the Polish language. Turkish influence can be widely seen in the carpet designs, clothings, fashion and decorations, weaponry and even architecture in Poland. Albert Wojciech Bobowski was one of the Poles who during the 17th century joined the Ottoman service as interpreter. He was the first to translate the Holy Bible into Turkish. Konstanty Borzęcki (Mustafa Celaleddin Paşa) were among the many Polish Generals who served in the army. His grandson, Nazım Hikmet, would later become a world-wide Turkish poet. One should also mention the world-wide famous soprano Leyla Gencer, “La Diva Turca”, who was born in Polonezköy in Istanbul.

This exhibition aims to summarize some of these remarkable aspects of this deep-rooted friendship between our two countries. This robust relationship between the two staunch allies in Europe, with its strength based on sound friendship and cooperation, as well as the rich political and cultural heritage of our 600 year-old friendship, will certainly contribute to the further development of our ties in the centuries ahead.

This month, we also commemorate the beginning of the Red Army’s occupation of Poland at the end of World War II – a period when we again stood together. We were together with my dear colleague Marcin at the commemoration of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day the other day speaking after each other and today here. We thank him and his Embassy for all their efforts and contributions for the lovely concert today.

Cinkuye. Thank you.

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