Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Emotional morning for Niyazi

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It was an emotional morning for Turkish-born New Zealand citizen Niyazi Gunaydin who attended his first dawn service yesterday. Photo / Ben Fraser
It was an emotional morning for Turkish-born New Zealand citizen Niyazi Gunaydin who attended his first dawn service yesterday. Photo / Ben Fraser

Rotorua's Niyazi Gunaydin says he can now appreciate what Anzac Day really means for New Zealanders.

The former Turkish man has in New Zealand for 17 years, and been a citizen since 2012, but had never attended an Anzac Day service until yesterday.

Mr Gunaydin hails from the city of Samsun, on the northern coast of Turkey on the Black Sea, and spent a year in the Turkish army on national service duty when he was 24 years old.

Now the owner of Cafe Ephesus on Eat Streat, Mr Gunaydin was invited to attend the dawn service at Muruika War Cemetery at Ohinemutu by a friend. Initially he said he was nervous, but when people he knew told him it was nice to see him there, he felt a lot more comfortable.

"I am sad because it's hard to understand why those Kiwis had to come to my country to fight a war for the British. When [British Prime Minister Winston] Churchill sent the New Zealanders to Gallipoli they were being used by him, it was not their war."

Mr Gunaydin said it was an emotional morning and he was surprised at how many people got up early to remember those who died in the many conflicts New Zealand had been involved in. "I do not like war and Turkey has always had good relations with New Zealand, even more after the [First World] war. We have always respected the men who came to fight."

He said the conflict in Gallipoli not only helped forge the nation of New Zealand, it was also a major turning point in the history of Turkey.

"Everyone in New Zealand knows Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who commanded our forces there. It was then the Ottoman Empire, but later he became the first president of Turkey. He created the new Turkey."

He said it was a great experience to watch the sun rise over Lake Rotorua and watch the many veterans during the parade. "I felt very sad to know so many people died so far away from their homes and families in New Zealand. It was very unfortunate it happened, but you can't change that now. We must all move on and try to bring peace to the world."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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