If there were a sorrow parameter, the things that Esma Uludağ went through would undoubtedly be one of the most sorrow stories witnessed in history.
Her story began on April 20, 2015, somebody knocking her door very early in the morning. As part of an investigation conducted in Ankara, police came to her home and take her into custody. She was arrested on April 24, and spent 64 days in prison. Then she was expelled from her job. She was charged with sending her kid to a school affiliated with the Hizmet Movement, getting treatment at the Şifa Hospital, and having 293 liras and 28 pennies in her account in Bank Asya.
Her husband, Mehmet Ali Uludağ, was also expelled from his position as a constabulary officer. He had to hide in a friend’s house for eight months as an investigation had started about him. In the meantime, the police constantly visited his home and to protect his family he decided to flee and seek asylum in Germany.
Three months after her husband, Esma Uludağ also decided to leave. Towards freedom, she tried her chance first in the Aegean Sea and then in the Maritsa River. She attempted to cross rivers and seas, five times with her three children. During the 25 days of fleeing attempts, they came on the edge of dying several times. Finally, they managed to reach the other side of the border, Greece.
During this journey, Esma Uludağ had fallen into a canal and she carried her baby up over her head when her body had submerged in the water. Scream of her daughter: “Mom, I’m freezing”, in the video shot on the Greek border by a companion, has been engraved in memories.
She had to move their house eight times in Athens, where they waited 6.5 months for the official family reunion in Germany. On the day she moved into the eighth house, she texted her husband and said “I’m not good”. All she had been through had become overwhelming. Due to pressure and stress, pimples appeared on her body, heart palpitations began, her body felt numb, and her psychology was not good. On the evening of the day they moved to the new home, she suffered a stroke and then a cerebral hemorrhage.
Esma Uludağ, reported by message to her 1600 km away husband that her situation was bad. Her husband tried to reach everyone he could reach in Athens, and told “don’t worry, I’m arranging an ambulance, it is coming”. She could not stand on her legs; she crawled to the elevator first, then reached the ground floor and crawled to the main door of the building. She just managed to open the door and collapsed there. In the meantime, her prison friend Ayşen Albayrak, who was also in Greece, had arrived. She was delighted to see her. She told Ayşen: “I was very scared that something would happen to me while I was together with my children and they would get scared. Now I don’t worry and feel peaceful because you are here”.
When the ambulance arrived, Esma Uludağ lied on the stretcher herself. She told to the friend of her husband: “Tell him that I love him”. The doctors could not save Esma Uludağ despite the half-hour intervention in hospital. “For the first time, I learned there, what desperation literally is” tells her husband Mehmet Ali Uludağ, while talking about that day.
Esma Uludağ, known for her curiosity for learning and self-development, had finished two universities and she wanted to complete the third in Europe, where she headed towards freedom. Her dream was to study law and become a human rights advocate.
What is left from Esma Uludağ’s journey, which started with a police raid on the morning of April 20, 2015, are; three children, a yearning husband, her dreams, and things displayed here: dresses of her and her kids remaining from “the march to freedom”, diplomas, certificates of high achievement and her glasses.