Balkan Romeo and Juliet story of Kemal Ataturk and Eleni
The story of unfulfilled love between Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and a beautiful girl from Bitola Eleni Karinte, called Balkan Romeo and Juliet by many, happened at the end of XIX century but still attracts attention and is one of the most interesting and most visited tourist attractions in Bitola. Tourists from Turkey travel thousands of kilometers to visit the Memorial Room of Ataturk in Bitola Museum, take photos under Karinte’s balcony where this huge love saga took place, and read the letter she wrote to Ataturk.
The father of modern Turkey – Mustafa Kemal Ataturk graduated from high school in Bitola in 1899. Although there is a lot of information about his success and behavior at school, little is known about his private life.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is a Turkish officer, revolutionary and statesman, founder of the Republic of Turkey, as well as its first president. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk became known as a very capable military officer during the First World War. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, he led the Turkish national movement in the Turkish War of Independence. By establishing a provisional government in Ankara, he defeated the Union forces. His successful and wise leadership of the army and military battles led to the liberation of the state and the founding of Turkey. During his presidency, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk implemented economic, political, cultural and social reforms in the country.
He managed to transform the old Ottoman Empire into a modern democratic and secular state. All the changes carried out by Atatürk and his ideals are called by one common term – Kemalism. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was born in Thessaloniki in 1881. After his birth, he received the name Mustafa, while his last name was Kemal, which translates as “perfection”. He was named after his mathematics teacher because Atatürk possessed excellent knowledge in the field of mathematics. In his early years, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk attended a religious school, on the advice of his mother, but it lasted for a short period. Later, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk enrolled in the private secular school Shamsi Efendi on the advice of his father.
Love story of Eleni and Kemal
According to a legend, the greatest love of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was precisely from Bitola, that is, it was the beautiful Eleni Karinte.
Eleni was a beautiful girl from a famous Vlach Christian family with a house on the main street – Shirok Sokak. It is not established whether there really was anything between her and Mustafa Kemal, but according to the legend mentioned above, her love with a Muslim was a great shame for her family, so she was sent to Lerin (Florina), where she was married to a man she did not love.
Kemal very often went on walking down the most famous street Sirok Sokak, so one afternoon, just before Easter in 1897, he noticed beautiful Eleni sitting on the balcony of her father’s house, the rich merchant Eftim Karinte. Their house still stands on the corner of the street opposite hotel Epinal. The young girl, his peer, was not indifferent and she looked upon the tall, handsome, blue-eyed cadet. Mustafa went past their house every day and young Eleni waited for him on the balcony. They were burning with strong, yet forbidden love. One day Eleni ran away from the house through the basement and they left Bitola together but her father, Eftim, found them and locked the girl in the house. Later he bought another house in Lerin (Florina), took her there by force, and was determined to marry her to another man.
“It has been a year since he grabbed me from you, locked me in the house and wouldn’t let me out for a whole month. I didn’t cry because I knew that all those locks and prison are in vain. I saw the man he wants me to marry only once and he asked if I could love him. I said no, I can only love my first love. I haven’t seen him since then. My father hasn’t forgiven me and I haven’t forgiven him either. Your Eleni Karinte who will always love you and wait for you forever.”
Love letter of Eleni Karinte to Kemal
Many years have passed, I am still waiting to hear from you. If you ever receive my letter, remember me, see my tears on the paper. Years and events pass, there are many things said about you. If you love another woman when you read my letter, tear it up and ask her if she believes that one Eleni Karinte from Bitola wasted all her life waiting for a man with whom she only spent a day. If you love that woman as much as I love you, don’t tell her anything, I wish her to be happy as you are. But if you remember the girl on the balcony, and don’t love any other woman, I want you to know that I am waiting for you and will wait until the end of my life. I know that you won’t forget me and will be back…”