My grandmother is called Belma


She was a crook-nosed beauty of blonde hair, high brows and sharp cheekbones to guide you, mercilessly, to her blue, teardrop eyes, always enhanced by a cat-like black liner. Old photos reveal a bright, inconsistent woman who changed expressions and hair like her day’s clothes. As a dancer and singer, she was a piece of Istanbul’s burgeoning artistic world, her band behind her in one photo, Terry Moore and Conrad Hilton beside her in another.

In several, someone catches her in the reflection of a mirror, withdrawn, coy. There is one, though – a photo of a man’s hands sketching her in pencil – which revealed the most to her granddaughter. His thin lines dictate a lifted eyebrow, closed but soft lips, an uncertainty in her eye. I recognize her. This is the same woman who sits before me now, peering out the loft window to Nisantas, skin like paper, eyes searing blue and clear as day. They give away her inherent trepidation where otherwise it would never be found.