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The History of the Orga Family and Women’s Survival Strategies in World War I
Through the lens of the history and experiences of the Orga family in Istanbul during the First World War, this paper probes everyday survival strategies employed by women to survive the hardships of World War I in the Ottoman Empire. Focusing heavily on the actions and strategies of his mother and grandmother, İrfan Orga’s memoir, Portrait of a Turkish Family, is one of the most eloquent accounts of daily life during World War I in Istanbul. Orga’s novel, Dark Journey, incorporates similar themes in a fictionalized account that puts female survival and suffering at the center of the story of the Ottoman First World War. Drawing upon these works, as well as Ottoman archival sources, parliamentary minutes, press materials and other life writings, this paper offers an initial look at a basic yet overlooked question: how did women survive the war? This paper draws out examples of specific everyday strategies for survival and examines the emotional and psychological effects of how womens’ efforts to survive the loss of their homes and their men transformed their personalities and indelibly changed their lives and the lives of their children and beyond. In doing so, this paper offers an initial look at how a focus on women’s survival strategies–specifically as narrated by Orga–can provide a new window into the perils of militarization and war and the extension of their effects across time through family experiences and relationships, and the way these family histories are shaped by later experiences and the dynamics of memory.
Geographic Area
Ottoman Empire
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