“Citizens” focuses on people born and raised in Istanbul and who are masters of their domains. In this section, described as unsung heroes of Istanbul, we talk about citizens’ Istanbul, profession, yesterday and today.
Once I heard it from a friend of mine. “When my father wants to buy pork sausage, he goes to that pork butcher in Dolapdere.
Words: Sidni Karavil
Images: Işık Kaya
Once I heard it from a friend of mine. “When my father wants to buy pork sausage, he goes to that pork butcher in Dolapdere. I cannot tell you how good it is.” Then, incidentally, Işık - the photography artist who takes black and white portraits for us, too - mentioned it. “Actually, you can also make an interview with the owner of that pork butcher in Dolapdere. He is the only pork butcher in İstanbul. They are an old Greek family who lived İstanbul.”

I found myself dialing the number of İstanbul’s last pork butcher, İdeal Salam. The founder of the İdeal Salam, Lazari Kozmaoğlu’s son was on the line. “He would love to talk to you about his memories of İstanbul. He cannot hear well but if you talk loudly during the interview, there will be no problem. We will be waiting for you on Monday.”

On the contrary to the rainy weekday, they greeted me very warmly in this small butcher’s shop. When I introduced my name, they asked me where I was from. It turned out that they knew my wife’s late grandfather. When I looked around carefully, I realized that the ones who stand on the cash and on the shambles are Lazari’s and his brother Kozma’s children. Lazari invited me to upstairs for conversation. On a small kitchen counter, the staff’s meal was being cooked. We sat side by side near the adjacent round table.

Lazari - who was born in Kuzguncuk in 1944 - went to Fener Greek Male High School - or with his own words to the Kırmızı Mektep (Crimson School). He is upset about the fact that the Crimson School is now called the Patriarchate. “That place has been a school for 500 years; I don’t understand why they name it Patriarchate.”

They used to go from Kuzguncuk to Eyüp with the morning ferry. They used to play football after school, and in summers they used to go swimming to Kuzguncuk’s shore; in fact, they once swam all the way to the opposite shore. “We had very strong friendships: Seven Muslims, a few Jewish ones and we. Whenever someone says something bad about us, our Muslim friends used to immediately defend us. The doors of the houses were always open. There was a Greek Association in Kuzguncuk. There used to be tours arranged to Polonezköy. We used to go there 5--10 liras per head.” He had a faraway look in his eyes. “Atatürk’s relatives were our neighbors. Makbule Hanım used to visit us with the car. Her driver used to take us to the Çamlıca hill, and order us ice cream and corn with the money he took from his boss.”

After 1960’s, two open-air cinemas were put into service in Kuzguncuk. They used to go there in summers; in winters they used to go to the cinemas in Üsküdar. “When we went to the cinema, we used to stay there until the evening. We used to watch three films in a row. We used to have no money left for us to return home. So we used to hold on to the back of the streetcar.”
After that, I learn that they are fans of Beşiktaş as a family. I - as a Beşiktaş fan who went to the Beşiktaş - Galatasaray game last week for the first time after years and left as a winner- rejoice to hear that. I wonder how the game adventures were back then. Were the frustrations and exultations as powerful to the core as they are today? Did the fans use to discharge during the game? “It used to cost 50 kuruş to go to the game. Drunks and junkies used to stand beside us.

We were young kids. We used to be afraid of them.” From here, I move into Lazari’s youth and I learn that he became a boss suddenly after 20. “My father got sick before I went into the army; my mother started to work. For two years I served in the army very well. First, I was in İzmir; then, I went to Erzurum as a sergeant. Our First Lieutenant was from Üsküdar. When he learned that I was from Üsküdar too, he took me to his side immediately. I used to teach literacy to the ones who don’t know how to read and write. I used to read the letters. The Lieutenant didn’t give the discharge papers to the ones who cannot read the National Anthem by heart. Every evening, I taught them the National Anthem. I was the only one who knew it completely. I was named ‘the bright sergeant from İstanbul’”.

And right that moment our photographer Işık came. After saluting Işık sweetly with a head nod, Lazari started to talk about his business life. “For 10 years, we were in the Ayazağa town. And for the next 40 years, we have spent the time here, in Dolapdere. In Turkey, if you pay your taxes and work decently, your business succeeds.”

Kozma came inside and asked Işık what would be photographed. Işık told that she would take portraits. “You can take them for the interview but don’t take the photographs of the shop. We may get in trouble.” Lazari interrupted and said that there was nothing to be afraid. It was impossible not to notice the sweet dispute between them. I get to know this İstanbul gentleman sitting across me better with the answer I get when I ask him what he likes to do these days, where he likes to go in İstanbul. “Before I had an infarction in 2003, I was in the casinos, in the nightclubs, every night. Then I decreased the roaming, of course. I had seen so much entertainment back in those days, today’s entertainment doesn’t mean much to me. In my days, there were only a few casinos. In the nightlife, everyone used to salute each other even if they didn’t know each other. No one used to look at the woman who came with another person. Now I come to work and go home, that’s it.”

When it’s time to take photographs, Işık and I catch each other’s eyes. Lazari’s natural pose when he looks out the window at the adjacent gas station reveals the sadness resulted from his life experiences. He has such an attitude that implies “What does it matter whether they take the photo or not?” When the staff meal is ready we cheer up. During the photoshoot, he offers us meatballs. We smile. Downstairs, Lazari proudly shows us his photographs with Zeki Müren in Yeşilköy coasts which he took when he was young. At that moment Kozma comes near. He shows the board where the photographs of all the celebrities who came to the İdeal Salam are hanged. “Even Eda Taşpınar came here”. Lazari says that Işık is prettier than this lady.
Casanova Lazari, a sweet brothers’ dispute, pork sausages and, nostalgia...

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