İhsan Devrim

İhsan Devrim

918-Ihsan… “Present!”

ne of the old and loyal artists of Turkish theater and cinema, Ihsan Devrim, is only one of the thousands of children whose life have totally changed with the services of Darüşşafaka Society with a history that goes back to 1.5 centuries. Ihsan Devrim, who passed away in 2010, is known as Sürmeneli Yakup Dede [in English: ‘Yakup Granddad of Sürmene’] by most of us, who was a character in the television series called “Super Dad” (in Turkish: Süper Baba), which was one of the most favorite TV dramas for millions of people in the 90s. 

In his life of around a century, he has shared unforgettable memories with a lot of people from Musahipzade Celal to Aziz Nesin, from Rıdvan Cebiroğlu to Salah Birsel, but he enshrines Darüşşafaka in his memory. “That is a wonderful memory… Thank God, I am from Darüşşafaka,” says İhsan Devrim, veteran actor of the Turkish theatre and cinema.

Being the oldest living actor of Istanbul City Theatres, İhsan Devrim welcomed us with Mrs. İlhan, his wife of 69 years, when we knocked his door in Etiler, Istanbul. The most important thing for him was our visiting him at his home in the name of Darüşşafaka. His first question was “Are you from Darüşşafaka?” A Darüşşafaka flag was displayed on the wall of his hall, and we saw a plaquette given by Darüşşafaka on TV set. We have met with a Darüşşafaka spirit not lost ever in spite of 73 years. Before listening his life story, we cannot help asking the reason of his loyalty to Darüşşafaka. İhsan Devrim replies with a single sentence: “My life has completely changed thanks to Darüşşafaka; I have become a literate person instead of being a dead-end kid”. In our conversation with İhsan Devrim, one thing led to another, memories led to other memories, and new stories got out of each story. İhsan Devrim has studied in Darüşşafaka between 1926 and 1936. His student number was 918. He said, “I was called ‘Kazatsky Ihsan’ at Darüşşafaka”, and added: “A dance called ‘Kazatsky’ was highly popular at the schools in those years. I was the best in Kazatsky.”

İhsan Devrim has studied in Darüşşafaka between 1926 and 1936, and has never severed his ties with Darüşşafaka in spite of seventy-three years after his graduation. As for the reason of his loyalty, İhsan Devrim says: “My life has completely changed thanks to Darüşşafaka; I have become a literate person instead of being a dead-end kid”.

Devrim, who was born in 1914 in Üsküdar, narrated his story as follows: “My father was promoted to be a Major in the Ottoman army. But I remember the retirement ages of my father, rather than his active service in the army. We used to live in Üsküdar, Inadiye Quarter, Bakkal Street. Then, the name of the street was changed to Musahipzade Celal Street.” At that point, Devrim states that they used to live in the same street with Musahipzade Celal, who is recognized to be one of the milestones of Turkish theater, and they established a close relationship. “Musahipzade Celal uncle showed concern for me. In Darüşşafaka, weekend holiday was in Thursday and Friday and then changed to Saturday and Sunday. Since my mother has lived in Ankara for some time, I was permanently staying in Darüşşafaka – they called as “singles” at those times.  Musahipzade Celal uncle said: “You will no more stay at the school, and come to our home at weekends.” Thus, for some time, I went to the house of Musahipzade Celal uncle at weekends.” İhsan Devrim also explained a memory of him with Musahipzade Celal uncle as follows: “Musahipzade Celal uncle was a real gentleman… I was also keen on painting. In Darüşşafaka, drawing papers were given to students. If I took one drawing paper to Musahipzade Celal uncle every week, I was given 25 kurush. Of course, I was riding on air. Think, at those times, pocket money given to a single once every fifteen days was only 20 kurush.” 

Turning point from a grocery boy to a famous artist

We asked Devrim to narrate his story of Darüşşafaka: “I studied at elementary school, in other words primary school, in Sokullu Mehmet Paşa located in Üsküdar Toptaşı. In Üsküdar, Paşa Kapısı, there was a school called Sultani, i.e. secondary and high school. But I did not have a father at that time because he passed away leaving my mother a widower. She used to sew clothes to make a living. I could not consider going to Sultani School. We did not even have the income to cover the books and notebooks required for the school. On those days, shoe repairing and being a grocery boy were ideal works for children as they both have tips. So, I had to work either as a shoe repairer or a grocery boy. A fatherly neighbor said, “You are wasting your life, son”, and asked me, “Why don’t you take Darüşşafaka’s exam?” I asked, “What is Darüşşafaka?” Then, he answered, “Don’t you know?” and started to talk about Darüşşafaka. It was 1926…  He added, “There is an admission exam at Darüşşafaka now. I will take you, if you wish to go.” I took and passed the exam in 1926.” 

Yet, passing the exam had not been enough after all. In 1926, Darüşşafaka had decided to accept eighty students, forty of which were coming from Darüleytan, i.e. orphanage, without being subject to examination, but seventy children had passed the examination in that year. Let’s hear the rest of the story from Ihsan Devrim: “At that era, there was an orphanage called ‘Darüleytan’. The children were really poor orphans without any parents. We were informed that seventy students, who had passed the exam, would draw lots for admission. There were three options for the lots: school, reserve and empty. The chairman of the committee for the procedure of drawing lots was a great musician Kazım Us, who had also studied at Darüşşafaka. When I drew the lot, it was empty. We started crying with my mother… There was a slope from the building of Darüşşafaka located in Fatih to the iron-gate. We walked through the slope crying in tears, you see. There was nothing to do: I would become either a grocery boy or had to have a similar job. There was no way to got to school for me. We went home. We had a grocer neighbor and my mother talked to him for taking me as an errand boy. The grocer told her that he would not pay, and he could only allow me to have the lunches with him. My mother accepted it.”

914 Rıdvan: The first child psychiatrist in Turkey

Ihsan Devrim narrates his life-changing story, with the same excitement which he felt on that day upon a letter that came from Darüşşafaka while he was waiting to be a grocery boy: “I received a letter from Darüşşafaka after seven or eight days following the drawing day of the lots. I had not started to work as a grocery boy yet. Our door is knocked, and then a voice came “Mail”… We have nothing to do with mails. A brownish yellow envelope… Darüşşafaka is written on the right side. I opened the envelope. A letter addressed to my mother: “You have to see Darüşşafaka Principal Ali Kami Akyüz together with your child at date … and … time.” We showed it to uncles in the neighbourhood. They said: “It is good for you. Go there. They won’t call you in vain.”  We went to Darüşşafaka with my mother. Ali Kami Akyüz was brother of İsmail Safa, a poet from Darüşşafaka. He has also studied in and then appointed as principal of Darüşşafaka. He served as one of the unforgettable principals of Darüşşafaka for years. He left the office when he was elected as a member of the Parliament for Istanbul. He was a very valuable person. İsmail Safa, Vefa and Ali Kami brothers… All three have studied in Darüşşafaka. Ali Kami said: “There has been a mistake in Ihsan’s lot. One side of the paper that he drew is completely empty and ‘reserve’ is written on the other side. Some of the children who passed the exam could not be registered because of their health conditions and it was found out that some of them had fathers as a result of the investigation we made. Then, we had to look for the fourth reserve. We are accepting Ihsan under these circumstances.” We were very happy. I accepted to start from the fourth grade, i.e. to study previous two grades once again, although I had graduated from the primary school. Had I known French a bit, I would not lose a year. In that year, forty children came from Darüleytan, and we were divided into two branches: the students who passed the exam and the students who came from Darüleytan. One of those students was Prof. Dr. Rıdvan Cebiroğlu, i.e. 914 Rıdvan, who is one of the first child psychiatrists of Turkey and the founder of the Department of Child Psychiatry of Istanbul School of Medicine.”

917 Nusret: Aziz Nesin

Indeed, one of the most interesting students who are mentioned in Ihsan Devrim’s memories of Darüşşafaka is Aziz Nesin, who is an unrivalled author of Turkish literature:“I was at the second grade of the secondary school. My student number was 918 Ihsan, and there was 917 Nusret, i.e. Aziz Nesin, next to me. Nusret was a quiet and shy boy. Nusret left the school at the seventh grade, as his father -who was considered to be dead- returned home.”

Ihsan Devrim had a passion for literature for a certain period. He has published three books called ‘Evimiz’, ‘Hatıralar’ and ‘Yemen Türküsü’ [in English: ‘Our Home’, ‘Memories’ and ‘Yemen Song’]. Devrim’s literary life started in the years when he was studying at Darüşşafaka: “I was into literature in 1930s. There was a journal called Resimli Ay [in English: ‘Pictorial Moon’] and also an additional journal called Küçük Hikâyeler Koleksiyonu [in English: ‘Short Stories Collection’]. They started a story competition. I was at the seventh grade. At Darüşşafaka, my student number was 918 and there was a friend next to me: 919 Rüştü… I had written two stories and wanted to send them to the competition. Rüştü was a character in one of my stories and I won the competition with that story. Resimli Ay Matbaası [in English: ‘Pictorial Moon Printing House] presented Rüştü with ten or fifteen books and journals. After I won the competition, I subscribed to a journal called Varlık [in English: ‘Life’] and they started to publish my stories. In 1934, my signature became quite famous: Sait Faik, Ihsan Devrim and Ümran Nazif…”

When he was in the first class of high school, Devrim started to publish a magazine named “Gündüz”. He narrates that era of his life as follows: “We met with friends from Robert College. They wished to publish a magazine. They accepted me as well. “Yücel” magazine which was published for years. Then, I said to myself “Why don’t I publish a magazine?”, and I started to publish Gündüz magazine when I was in the first class of high school. It lived for five years. In 1938, I was in the Faculty of Law. My wife was also in the same Faculty. We have met recently. He was in the second grade, and I was in the first grade. I was leaning over backwards to publish Gündüz. She said to me: “You are getting very tired, leave it.” I took her advice. After one year, I left the magazine publishing business. Then, we, as three friends, opened ABC Bookstore: Storywriter and journalist Burhan Arpad, poet Salah Birsel and me… There was Maarif Bookstore at the left hand when you walk into Cağaloğlu Slope from Ankara Street. We rented a shop after it. We distributed duties among ourselves. Every day one of us would come early, open the store and clean it… God rest his soul. Salah Birsel started to cry off saying, “I am a poet, I cannot sweep a shop.” Therefore, Burhan and I left the partnership. There was a butcher’s shop across ABC Bookstore. I rented that shop and opened Devrim Bookstore. Devrim Bookstore could survive for long years, but I published Rıfat Ilgaz’s book called ‘Sınıf’ [in English: ‘Class’]” God rest his soul, Rıfat Ilgaz was a leftist and was a member of an illegal leftist political party. When we published ‘Sınıf’, we were sued in the Military Commission in Tophane. Therefore, I was obliged to sell Devrim Bookstore, because I had no money to hire a lawyer. At those times, lawyers would charge vast sums of money for such political lawsuits. Then, I sold the store at 3 thousand lira and gave all of it to the lawyer.”

Ihsan Devrim on stage

Devrim’s theater career started at Darüşşafaka: “When we were studying at Darüşşafaka, we established a troupe called Üsküdar Gençler Mahfeli [Üsküdar Youth Center]. We started to prepare plays with my friends from Darüşşafaka and Üsküdar. There was Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi [in English: ‘Republican People’s Party’] (CHP) [in English: ‘RPP’] across the Üsküdar Park and CHP provided us a hall. We started to stage plays on Saturdays and Sundays at that hall. The people of Üsküdar embraced us. Musahipzade Celal uncle always helped me. Mr. Cevat, a painter from Üsküdar, was painting our scenery and décor. We had such a psychologic deal: an art deal… But four or five members of our amateur troupe were from Darüşşafaka. They were sleeping in our house after each performance. My poor mother started to host us in the large hall of our home. It was like a dormitory room. We had such a life.”

Opening the curtains

Although Devrim left the School of Law at the end of the first grade, he met and got married with Mrs. Ilhan while she was studying at an upper class at the same school: “I got married and moved to Bakırköy. I started working at Bakırköy Community Center. We had an absolutely amateur stage life. Turhan Göker, who was a good actor, was also working with us at the Community Center. He was also working at the City Theaters and he was insisting me to apply to the City Theaters. He said to me: ‘Start to work as prompter, then you can be promoted to acting. You have talent.’ I had also a friend from Darüşşafaka in City Theaters. He was from an upper class. Then, he left the school and entered the theatre: Sami Ayanoğlu. I got a letter from City Theaters in 1950 or 1951. In the letter, I was requested to see Mahmut Moralı, who was a director at the City Theaters located in Tepebaşı. Then, I found out that Turhan Göker had applied to the City Theaters on my behalf.”

Devrim explains that day as follows: “Democrat Party (DP) has come to power after Republican People’s Party (CHP). A committee from City Theaters has met to rewrite the guidance of CHP era. And there were my friends in the committee, because I had also some time been involved in politics. I had served as Bakırköy district president of DP. In the day I went there, the committee was in meeting for guidance. My friend Selahattin Karayavuz, who later became a Trabzon deputy, was also in the committee. When he saw me, he asked: “What are you looking for here?” Mahmut Moralı said: “We are recruiting İhsan as a prompter, but are going to cast him as well.” “All right, let’s immediately recruit him,” said Selahattin, and I was recruited. Thus, I started to work as a prompter in City Theaters. Then, I started to play a bit part. Later, Vasfi Rıza (Zobu) transferred me to comedy. At those times, comedy and drama were in separate buildings. Now, both are non-available. Thus, I entered in City Theaters, was promoted, and retired as a senior actor in 1973.”

Fame with a single TV drama

As an old and loyal actor, he was widely acclaimed at ‘Süper Baba’ [in English: ‘Super Dad’], which was broadcasted on a private TV channel in 1993-1997. Perhaps, that is why he said that his role as Sürmeneli Yakup Dede [in English: ‘Yakup Granddad of Sürmene’] in the TV drama has excited him the most: “The TV series lasted for five years, and then we started shooting ‘Baba Evi’ [in English: ‘Family Home’]. The audience likes me. I will never take this for granted. In Süper Baba, my role was dubbed by Müşfik Kenter. He was excellent. Müşfik has also made a great contribution in the growth of this role. Later, I did not receive any good script. Some companies sent scripts, but some were unethical, and some contained zealotist propaganda. I don’t play in any of them. They said they were going to pay more, but money does not mean everything to me. For this reason, I didn’t accept those bad offers.”  

Like a seagull…

We learn that a poem of İhsan Devrim has been composed as a tango song. “I don’t pretend to write poems, but my poems are published in such magazines as Varlık and Yücel. Even a poem named “Like a seagull” was composed as a tango song. It was 1940. We are yet flirting with my wife. We have serious intentions. Families also know. Ms İlhan, her brother Fahri and I have gone to a picnic. I heard a song. I cocked my ears to lyrics. I said: ‘Friends, this is my poem.’ Fahri went to the source of music, and asked them to replay the song. In those years, there was a record label named ‘Sahibinin Sesi’. The record was released by them. I called the lawyers of my uncle. They said that I could get copyright royalty. They sued the firm. The record has outsold, and I was paid a lot of money. When we married, we bought our houseware with that money.”

When we ask about his unforgettable memories in his life of around a century, he says that his most important aspect is to be from Darüşşafaka. “That is a wonderful memory… Thank God, I am from Darüşşafaka.”

İhsan Devrim’s poem composed as a tango song: Like a seagull

You ran away just like a seagull yearning for the far afield
From the coast of my love, and from the horizon of my eyes
You came and went away just like a summer cloud
What remained in me from you is the sound of a rain
But the clouds will of course meet again one evening
And one morning the seagulls will return to their coasts
I wish you also return to me like a seagull and I reembrace you
I wish you again rain into me like a summer rain

Darüşşafaka Magazine (November 2009)


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Bülent Şenver

Bülent Şenver

“First of all, Darüşşafaka is a school which raises decent people for life”

“First of all, Darüşşafaka is a school which raises decent people for life”

Economist, banker, strategic management consultant Bülent Şenver (DS’70) is one of the dozens of children whose life was changed by Darüşşafaka... Şenver, who took part in Turkey’s recent economic acts, was selected as the “banker of the year” twice in a row, was also Darüşşafaka’s “fearless” goalkeeper, gymnast who does the air back flip, member of the Bitlis, Artvin, Kars, Karadeniz, Erzurum folklore teams, the organist of Ateş Altılısı orchestra, the leading actor of the theatre plays, the clever photographer of the photography club, the indispensable of the scouting team. The veteran banker Bulent Şenver who has made name for himself and is preparing his new book “Başarının Sırları” (“Secrets for Success”) for printing, explains how he met Darüşşafaka: “In our time, you had to finish the fifth grade to take Darüşşafaka’s exam.

Personally I wasn't aware of Darüşşafaka. How did I find out? Through my aunt. My aunt was a nurse. She heard about it. Since my father had died, when I finished the fifth grade my aunt asked me, “There is a school called Darüşşafaka. It helps children who do not have a father. Do you want us to have you take the Darüşşafaka exams?” I accepted. First I took the written exam, and then the oral one. I received a document saying I passed the exam. After that, we needed to take health-related reports. We completed them all with a great enthusiasm. My now deceased mother was with me. The first image in my mind related to that day is the green iron gate of Darüşşafaka... 

... At that time, the gate seemed very big to me. I was scared when I walked through a huge iron gate. I felt like I stepped into another world. You are entering an enormous place. When you stepped inside, you were welcomed by a magnificent historical building.  The impression the historical image of the school created was unforgettable.  In fact, this is a big adventure for a child of that age... An unfamiliar environment, people... You kiss your mother goodbye and set out to a whole new adventure with other children. Everything is new for you... You rediscover, relearn everything.”

Şenver who indicates that Darüşşafaka has a special place in his life says, “In our time, only male students were accepted to Darüşşafaka. Two years after our graduation, they started to receive female students. In our last years, they had started to build the foundations for the girls’ school. A new building was being constructed for girls. But we went to school men to men. For us “girls” meant going out on Wednesdays, watching the girls in the Fatih High School for Girls from afar, giggle, and try to make an eye contact without even knowing them, their names. And then there was the Istanbul High School for Girls. Istanbul High School for Girls in Cağaloğlu was our sister school. 

When we needed female students for our activities, they would come from that school. I have always been in this kind of activities all my life.  I love folklore. I played in almost all teams including Bitlis, Artvin, Kars, Karadeniz, Erzurum. When I was a senior at high school, we played a theatre play called “Bozuk Düzen” (Bad Order). There were three female characters in the play. All three of them came from our sister school Istanbul High School for Girls. I played the main guy. According to the play, I had a girlfriend. That theatre play became real shortly after. I got married to Hülya from the Istanbul High School for Girls, my girlfriend in the play. We got engaged after high school, when we were at university. And we got married as soon as we finished university. Therefore, Darüşşafaka has always been with me in my life.”

Şenver, who indicates being a socially active student says, “There were pieces, theatre plays in Darüşşafaka. Each year Hayrettin Cete organized a play in English. We would also play a game in Turkish, too. I would certainly take roles in both. I was also the goalkeeper of the class team. I used to catch many balls. My nickname was “the Panther”. They used to call me “fearless,” too. I would jump onto the feet of rival player’s feet who came in front of the goalpost and grab the ball from between his feet. I used to play basketball. I was in the gymnastics team. I was the only student who could do the air back flip. We formed an orchestra in the second grade of high school. It was called the “Ates Altılısı”. I was playing the organ. Kemal on bass guitar, Yusuf on rhythm guitar, Faruk on solo guitar, Ilhan on drums and Kansu as the lead singer.”

Şenver who describes his seven years in Darüşşafaka as “The years of discipline, rules and preparation for life” says: "At that time, in-school discipline was too strict. Some rules were not flexible as they are today. Maybe the opportunities were too limited. There we had a life where the borders were defined and we were not allowed to exceed them, it was like a military discipline. Our life in Darüşşafaka had many positive influences on us later on. We carried the discipline, standard, rules, code, the habit of living with principles and order to every phase of our lives. Of course there were ones who completely followed the rules at school and ones who followed them less. I was one of the followers. I always passed the class receiving a certificate of attendance or appreciation. I was always among the top three or four of the class. I was both socially active and successful. Darüşşafaka we used to live in was a school which raised decent people for life. We were raised to be modern young people who have beautiful values, a world-view, and a vision.”

Şenver explains what kind of a change Darüşşafaka brought into his life like: “Had I not got into Darüşşafaka, I would attend a regular high school. Therefore I wouldn’t be able to learn the English I learned in Darüşşafaka. In those years, it was crucial to graduate from high school as an English speaker. Darüşşafaka provided us with this language. Secondly, if I hadn’t graduated from Darüşşafaka, I wouldn’t have this high of a possibility to get into Robert College. Because Robert College was an expensive school and mostly the children of wealthy families would take its exams and get into. 

However, it provided scholarships for a limited number of students from Darüşşafaka who passed the exams. Thanks to that scholarship, I had the opportunity to go there. In short, if I hadn’t been a Darüşşafaka graduate I wouldn’t have such university history. Therefore I wouldn’t have these skills and this good education. Another important point is that, in Darüşşafaka I was trained to succeed under hard conditions. I developed skills like making something out of nothing, making something big out of something small, doing with less while being able to dream big. Your emotional gains in Darüşşafaka come in handy in your future life.”

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Halit Çevik

Halit Çevik

If Darüşşafaka had not been there for me, I would have not come this far”

When Halit Çevik first attended Darüşşafaka, it was 1966 on the calendar, and he graduated in 1974. He attended Ankara University Faculty of Political Sciences Department of International Relations in the same year together with his 7 friends graduated from Darüşşafaka. Çevik, who started working as the Third Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a year after his graduation, has climbed up his career steps one by one. Çevik was assigned as the Second Secretary at Turkish Embassy in Khartoum in 1981, as the Consul at Turkish General Consulate in Stuttgart in 1983, as the First Secretary at the Department of Multilateral Economic Affairs in 1987, as the First Secretary at Turkish General Consulate in Athens-Piraeus in 1989, as the Undersecretary at Turkish Embassy in Athens in 1991, as the Chief of Branch at the Marine Department in 1993, as the Head of Department at the Special Counsellor to the Minister in 1993, as the Consulate General at Turkish General Consulate in Zürich in 1995, as the First Secretary at Turkish Embassy in Beijing in 1997, as the Deputy of Special Counsellor at the Prime Ministry’s Office of Senior Foreign Affairs Counsellor in 1999, as the Head of Department of Aviation in 2000, as the Deputy Directorate General for Maritime and Aviation in 2001, as the Special Counsellor of Undersecretary in 2002, as the Ambassador of Damascus in 2004, and as the Deputy Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2009. Çevik, who was assigned as the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations in October 23, 2012, narrated his story of being a member of Darüşşafaka as follows:

"I started to study at Darüşşafaka in 1966. I am from Gölcük. I lost my father in 1963. I was going to Inkılap Primary School in Gölcük. One of my teachers, Nadiye Bağdatlı – R.I.P. – informed and supported me about Darüşşafaka. So, I took and passed Darüşşafaka’s admission exam. I, therefore, came to Istanbul. In the period of 1966-67, we started to study at Darüşşafaka as three classrooms.  Our principal was Nazıma Antel and our president of society was Fettah Aytaç. When we passed to Preparatory Class 2, we continued as two classrooms.  Of course, there was a system for passing to a higher grade based on a hard elimination at that time. When we came to High School 3, a lot of students had not passed and left. Nevertheless, the students of 1966-1974 are bond with each other at heart, and we are still in touch intensively. The solidarity of all students whether left or not is highly strong. I believe that you become a member of Darüşşafaka at the time of admission, not graduation."

Çevik, who evaluated the degree of education at Darüşşafaka in those years, said,

"The quality of education was unchallenged. All of my friends who graduated in that year attended universities, and I still use my knowledge on English language that I was taught at Darüşşafaka. After Darüşşafaka, we, seven friends, attended Ankara University Faculty of Political Sciences in 1974. Of course, the periods of 1974-78 were the Çevik, who evaluated the degree of education at Darüşşafaka in those years, said, "The quality of education was unchallenged. All of my friends who graduated in that year attended universities, and I still use my knowledge on English language that I was taught at Darüşşafaka. After Darüşşafaka, we, seven friends, attended Ankara University Faculty of Political Sciences in 1974. Of course, the periods of 1974-78 were the hardest years of the university education. Nevertheless we all graduated. Unfortunately, we lost a close friend, Ali Fuat Okan, who died in the incidents at the ceremony of May 1st in 1976 in Istanbul. Among seven members of Darüşşafaka, I started to work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and my long journey in my professional career then started."

Çevik stated,

"If Darüşşafaka had not been there for me, I would have not come this far", and added, "I say this because we had a sound and profound training in Turkish and learned a foreign language very well. You would find yourself thinking in your mother tongue. So, if you do not know your mother tongue well, your thinking process would also fail. In addition, if you know your mother tongue well, you would learn a foreign language much more easily. For example, I noticed that I was a little bit slow in learning English at the preparatory class 1, and studied on Turkish grammar at first upon recommendations of my teachers. Above all, Darüşşafaka taught us the methodology of studying and learning. These are the values that you may constantly use throughout your entire life; and once you have them, you may successfully be prepared for life and walk through its rocky roads easily."

Çevik, who said,

"Being a member of Darüşşafaka is a value per se”, added, "Darüşşafaka is a sense of belonging which provides a lot of values to a person in the social life. I have always been loyal to Darüşşafaka and I know that I am not alone. If there is a member of Darüşşafaka at any platform, we keep a close contact. Sometimes, the doors that have not been opened by using my official title, open upon being a member of Darüşşafaka; but as I said, we are not misusing it. It is probably something that comes with the values, which we interiorized through education. For the members of Darüşşafaka, merit is significantly important; a person who does not deserve a duty is by no means chosen solely for being a member of Darüşşafaka.” 

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Nahit Çakar

Nahit Çakar

“I don’t know if this debt is payable but that’s what I am trying to do.”

stanbul University Istanbul Medical Faculty Department of Anaesthesiology faculty member Prof. Dr. Nahit Çakar is a Darüşşafaka 1979 alumni... After graduating from İstanbul University Cerrahpaşa Medical Faculty, Dr. Çakar followed his passion for learning that originated from his Darüşşafaka years, and completed his specialization on anaesthesiology and intensive care in Istanbul University Istanbul Medical Faculty. His endeavour to pass his knowledge on others continued throughout his progress from “chief resident” to “associate professor” and then finally to “professor”. Having taken part in various research projects abroad for three years, Prof. Dr. Çakar says “at the moment, 24 of my colleagues in the hospital were the students whom I once taught... Words fall short to describe what it feels like to work with 24 doctors who have been my students at various points throughout the twenty-five years of my profession.”

Prof. Dr. Nahit Çakar’s story of life that changed with education begins with the primary school teacher who motivated him to take the Darüşşafaka exam. He feels so grateful that he still continues to see his primary school teacher. “I still feel indebted”, he says, adding: “I don’t know if teachers like that still exist. We were a class of 25 students. Private tutoring was a novelty that none of us could afford. After classes were over, he used to gather us in the library, tutored free of charge, gave us tests to work on. When we were at the fifth grade, he made us take the exams of various schools. I passed the exams of Darüşşafaka, Galatasaray High School, and İstanbul Boys’ High School. It was 1972... My teacher asked for me and said “You passed all of the exams but the most suitable school for you would be Darüşşafaka...I will send you there.” That was because his house was close to ours and he knew the financial struggle of my family. I am one of the few students whose father was alive to attend Darüşşafaka. We were four siblings, we used to live in a one bedroom house.”

“We were a group of people coming from the same deprivation and poverty”

Prof. Dr. Çakar, describes his first few years in Darüşşafaka: “Teachers’ attitudes were extremely nice. In the first day of school, there were teachers calling me by my surname and I was very surprised. At first I felt a little lost since I was away from my family, but I adjusted very quickly. Throughout the years I started to spend my holidays in school because there were more things to do in school than at home. We learnt about friendship, camaraderie. We were a group of people coming from the same deprivation and poverty. Maybe that’s what keeps us close even now...Seeing how our teachers adopted us made Darüşşafaka a home for us.” 

Çakar, who is keen on both literature and science, says that he chose the literature section in high school and adds “But deep in my heart I always wanted to be a medical doctor and a faculty member. I couldn’t pass the medical faculty exam at the first year since I graduated from the literature section, so I took the exam next year to win Dicle University Medical Faculty, and the next year I won Cerrahpaşa Medical Faculty.” 

He aimed for a life as described in the Darüşşafaka March

Prof. Dr. Çakar who stresses that he always aimed to be an educator as well as a doctor says “Because our march goes “We are from Darüşşafaka, our knowledge illuminates the homeland...” and that is why I am a medical doctor for 25 years and also teaching at the university for 25 years.” Prof. Dr. Çakar mentions that being a Darüşşafaka student makes one feel responsible for the society, and adds “doctors who are Darüşşafaka alumni don’t only work as doctors. They teach at the university, take part in professional organizations and associations. For instance, I was the president of Turkish Society for Intensive Care for a while, because being from Darüşşafaka is a product of social responsibility and it is very important for us to transfer what we had from Darüşşafaka.” Saying that his professional success lies on his education in Darüşşafaka, Prof. Dr. Çakar adds: “I learnt English in Darüşşafaka. That is how I got the chance to work in many countries and publish in many international journals.” Prof. Dr. Çakar, who develops new ideas in the High Advisory Board for Darüşşafaka’s future, says “I don’t know if this debt is payable but that’s what I am trying to do.”


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Funda Özkan

Funda Özkan

Being a member of Daçka is a chosen fellowship.

Journalist Funda Özkan, who graduated from Darüşşafaka High School in 1987, is now practicing her profession -started in Dünya newspaper- as a columnist in Akşam newspaper. Özkan, who lost her father in the year she started schooling, has taken Darüşşafaka examination at the 5th grade by guidance of her teacher and ranked 27. Darüşşafaka memories of Özkan, who was at the same grade with journalist Yeniçeri, starts with the camp organized in Iznik:

“After passing the exam, an officer from Darüşşafaka visited our house for identifying our financial status. Then, I received a notification for admission to Darüşşafaka. In that year, before the school started, they took all the students, who passed the exam to Darka Holiday Village, which was established in Iznik by our elder brothers of Daçka. The students of Darüşşafaka, who finished preparatory school, were also there. A great educator, Sir Hayrettin Cete, one of the legendary administrators of Darüşşafaka was in charge of the students. I have first met with English language at that camp. We started preparatory school after the camp and only learned English.”

Özkan, who attended Istanbul University Faculty of Communication after Darüşşafaka, said

“We, three close friends, were studying at the same faculty in that year: Me, Fevzi Yeniçeri and Atilla Güçlü, whom we lost at a traffic accident a couple of years ago… Meanwhile, Mehmet Bahtiyar was studying at Italian Philology and Izzet Kemal Erkal was studying at Cerrahpaşa School of Medicine. We were always together except the lectures. In other words, my best friends were the students of Darüşşafaka at the university. Of course, when we were studying in Darüşşafaka, we paid for nothing, but the real life was different. We had to have money even for going to the university every day. Then, Darüşşafaka came to our aid again and awarded scholarship to me just like to all graduates who attended the university.” 

Özkan, who started to work in Dünya newspaper at the second grade of the university, summarizes

“I first worked at the department of foreign news thanks to my English skills I gained at Darüşşafaka. I actually was an average student and my foreign language skills were not even that well. I, however, worked at the department of foreign news and constantly engaged in translation. In the second year, I left Dünya and was transferred to Sabah newspaper in 1990. I was one of the three economy journalists of Sabah. In the meantime, I got married and had to earn more money. Therefore, I started to translate books. I was working during the daytime and translating at nights, and continuing to take examinations at university. After working in Sabah newspaper, I got into magazine business and then television. In 1996, I started to work as a columnist in Yeni Yüzyıl newspaper. Then, I worked in Radikal newspaper for eleven years, and I am working in Akşam for three years.” 

“If Darüşşafaka had not been there for me, I would have not come this far.” said Özkan, and she expressed her feelings by stating “This is a fact for every child who studies at Darüşşafaka. My mother’s financial status was not sufficient after all. If I had not attended Darüşşafaka, I would have graduated an average school.” Özkan summarizes the role of Darüşşafaka in her professional life: “We were well educated in Darüşşafaka, although we studied at Darüşşafaka in a period when democratic rights and freedom of expression were suspended under the shadow of coup regime of September 12. Just think for a moment, we could not find a book to read in the great library of Darüşşafaka, since many books were forbidden. Fortunately, we had the chance to read Shakespeare, Steinbeck and Hemingway in English. Most of all, Darüşşafaka helped me develop self-confidence. I was interviewing the most important Turkish businessmen and politicians as well as chasing frauds when I was at the age of 20.”

Özkan, who underlined that her friendships are one of the priceless values, which Darüşşafaka introduced to her life, said,

“My closest friends are still the members of Daçka… This has not changed for 33 years. This is an awesome luxury and wealth. In Darüşşafaka, there are such close friendships – I call them the ‘chosen fellowship’ – that go beyond fellowship… Most people cannot get along with their sisters or brothers. This is because you were born from the same parents and you have to be relatives, but you have the freedom to choose here. I, therefore, have many chosen fellows and I am nothing without them''

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Doğuş Özdemiroğlu

Doğuş Özdemiroğlu

Thanks to Darüşşafaka, we have learnt to be good individuals

I sometimes try to imagine how my life would be shaped if I had not entered Darüşşafaka. Most probably, I wouldn’t be a basketball player. When I started to study at this school, I was given guidance to focus on some fields according to my skills. Afterwards, all kind of opportunities were provided so that I could develop those skills.

Doğuş Özdemiroğlu, graduated from Darüşşafaka High School in 2015, is one of the most favourite players of Doğuş Basketball Team of Darüşşafaka. Born in 1996, Doğuş was selected to ‘Young B Basketball Team’ with the performance he displayed. Considered as a promising player of Turkish basketball both with his playing and his character, Doğuş graduated in 2015 after spending 10 years at Darüşşafaka for which he had left his hometown Balıkesir.

Remembering with gratitude his primary school teacher who helped him to prepare for Darüşşafaka Entrance Exam, Doğuş says “I was receiving an average secondary education. My opportunities were limited. However, when I came to Darüşşafaka I saw that there was no limit to what I can achieve” and shares his story about playing basketball: “I was playing football before I came to Darüşşafaka. When I came here, I met with our sports trainer. He invited me to participate in the youth set-up of Darüşşafaka Basketball Team since I was tall for my age. I did not want to participate in the beginning because I was already playing football. However, my opinion changed when we started the trainings. Thus, I began to play in the youth set-up when I was at 4th grade. Last year, I was selected for the National Young Men’s Team meanwhile I was playing in Darüşşafaka Doğuş Basketball Team. We got the European Champion Cup with the National Young Men’s Team. Also, we were playing in the second league with Darüşşafaka Doğuş Basketball Team but climbed up to the first league after getting the championship cup once again.” 

Imagining how his life would have been shaped if he had not studied in Darüşşafaka, Doğuş shares

“Most probably, I wouldn’t be a basketball player. For example, most of my friends in Ayvalık could not do what they are actually capable of due to the scarcity of opportunities. When I came here, I was given guidance to focus on some fields according to my skills. Afterwards, all kind of opportunities were provided so that I could develop those skills. Also, there are a lot of values that Darüşşafaka ensures that you adopt. I believe that everyone should study in Darüşşafaka in order to learn friendship, sharing and solidarity. We also learnt to be conscious and good individuals at Darüşşafaka.”

Currently studying in Beykent University, Doğuş says

“My biggest dream is to play in European Cups with Darüşşafaka. Darüşşafaka Doğuş Basketball Team will have a long-lasting trace in Turkish Basketball. It has been my home. Thus I would like to stay and continue my basketball career here.”

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Nuriye Varoğlu

Nuriye Varoğlu

"Fortunately there is Darüşşafaka, and fortunately I am from Daçka.."


Nuriye summarizes the change that Darüşşafaka has made in her life: “When I visit Manisa, where my parents are living, I meet some of my friends from my previous school. Believe it or not, I feel like an alien when I meet them. Some of them have already married, the others have no aim neither any dream in this life. Especially in such moments, I feel very happy to have entered Darüşşafaka and to be a Daçka student.”

Interview held in 2015 with Nuriye Varoğlu, who graduated from Darüşşafaka High School in 2016 and entered Thrace University Medical School the same year…

When I go to Manisa, I meet my former classmates. When I am with them, I feel myself like an alien. Some have already married, and some do not have any purpose or any dream in life. Particularly at those times I say to myself ‘Fortunately there is Darüşşafaka, and fortunately I am from Daçka.’                                                             

Studying at 11th grade at Darüşşafaka High School, Nuriye Varoğlu is one of the students who last year won the Turkey Finals of CASSINI - Scientist for A Day Essay Contest which is a scientific essay contest organised by NASA and is the writer of one of the 5 essays that were sent to be issued on the website of NASA, representing Turkey. Nuriye, besides painting and participating in poetry ateliers, is preparing for university entrance exams at the same time.

Being originally from Manisa, Nuriye Varoğlu participated in the Darüşşafaka Entrance Exam in 2005 from İzmir. When she passed the exam, she came to Istanbul especially with the encouragement of her teacher and left her family in Manisa.

Nuriye, participating in the contest of NASA with the encouragement of her science teachers, shares this process with us: “I am very fond of astronomy. I frequently use the planetarium and the observatory. I try to watch all celestial phenomena. The topic of the contest was “Which of the two orbiters of Saturn should be selected for launching a satellite in order to open the way for more scientific researches?” As a result of my researches, I wrote an essay in which I defended that it should be Iapetus. My essay was selected among the five essays that will be sent from Turkey to be issued on the web-site of NASA. 

Ranking in the top places in physics experiment competition, Nuriye says: “I am studying in Science-Maths field. I am especially fond of science and feel very happy while learning new things. However, I still have not made up my mind about the career that I am going to follow up. Darüşşafaka has given me an endless supply of self-confidence. I believe that I can do anything. I can think more profoundly. I feel so confident as to stand on my feet when I graduate from Darüşşafaka. For example, I have a sister who had difficulty in adapting when she went to Ankara for university education. I have no such worries about my future.”

Sent by Darüşşafaka to a private education centre for preparations to enter university, Nuriye says “What Darüşşafaka has given us in terms of education is priceless. One of the best aspects of being a Darüşşafaka student has been the brotherhood ties. Students from all around Turkey come here and spend 9 - 10 years under this roof. We come from different cultures and turn into a huge family.  We step into the real life with the assurance that we will never stay alone as Darüşşafaka students.”

“I feel like an alien”

Nuriye summarizes the change that Darüşşafaka has made in her life: “When I visit Manisa, where my parents are living, I meet some of my friends from my previous school. Believe it or not, I feel like an alien when I meet them. Some of them have already married, the others have no aim neither any dream in this life. Especially in such moments, I feel very happy to have entered Darüşşafaka and to be a Daçka student.”

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Hacı Ömer Güven

Hacı Ömer Güven

I am trying to be a good individual in order to pay my debt to Darüşşafaka

“I am trying to be a good individual in order to pay my debt to Darüşşafaka.”   Interview held in 2014 with Hacı Ömer Güven, who graduated from Darüşşafaka High School in 2017 and entered Gaziantep University Medical School…

I don’t think that I would ever know what handball is or would be able to play table tennis which I really enjoy now, or I would ever be good at chess or play drama if I had stayed in Kayseri.

Remembering that he could not eat properly in the first weeks after he started Darüşşafaka, for losing his appetite, Hacı today says that he is so accustomed to everything in Darüşşafaka and thus cannot imagine leaving it one day: “I feel so attached to this school that I don’t know what I am going to do or how I am going to leave it when I graduate. I feel closer to my school than to my family. My friends feel like my own family.”

Hacı, the youngest son of a family with 5 children, has supported the education of his elder brother by saving his allowances: “My brother studied music and needed to receive a paid education on teaching in order to be a music teacher. Thus, I saved money for a whole year and gave it to him. Now, I feel that I have begun to support my family.”

He wants to be a doctor in order to serve the public

Aiming to be a good doctor that dedicates himself to the public, in the future, Hacı studies hard to fulfil this aim. He shares that the education he receives in Darüşşafaka helps him in making his dreams come true.

In the American Mathematics Contest 8, organised by The Mathematical Association of America (MAA) in 2013 and to which over 150,000 students participated, Hacı took part in the top %5 among all the participants and entered the honour list. He says that he likes courses like History and Literature besides being especially fond of Mathematics and Science.

Indicating that the best contribution of Darüşşafaka has been to help him improve himself in social aspects, Hacı says:

“I don’t think that I would ever know what handball is or would be able to play table tennis which I really enjoy now, or I would ever be good at chess or play drama if I had stayed in Kayseri. Here, I played Oliver Twist at 5th grade. I have become social and have had many friends. I have everything that I can imagine here.”

Hacı, one of the successful students of Darüşşafaka, shares “You may ask why I study this much, be so ambitious and try to improve myself. The answer is that I feel indebted to Darüşşafaka. While thousands of people are donating their pensions, allowances and the money that they could have spared for themselves, for our education, I believe that I cannot do anything but do them justice. This is my way of motivating myself. I am trying to be a good person in order to show my appreciation of their kindness and to pay my debt.”

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