Slovak Who Makes Peace in Cyprus

Slovak daily Hospodárske noviny interviewed Sylvia Tiryaki and published an article entitled “Slovak Who Makes Peace in Cyprus” under its regular section Slovak Recipe for Success, i.e. series featuring interviews with successful Slovaks living abroad. If you speak Slovak, check Sylvia Tiryaki’s recipe here. If you are interested in English version of the interview, continue reading below.

HN Interview in English

Sylvia Tiryaki. Our expert in international relations helped the former Secretary General of the UN – Kofi Annan – in his search for a peaceful solution.

They were unknown, when they were leaving their homes and became top experts abroad. In our series Slovak Recipe for Success, we tell you stories about successful Slovaks.

She belongs to the very few Slovaks, who have found their new home in Istanbul, Turkey – a city of 17 million people, that connects Europe and Asia. After eight years in the city on Bosphorus, she thinks more in Turkish than in Slovak. As a young Slovak and a mom of a little boy she has become very successful in what she is doing. Such success is not very common in Turkey – she got to the very top of the Turkish political science. Moreover, together with her colleagues she established her own NGO, which ranks among the most respected ones in the whole Istanbul. “I actively try to help out with the search for a solution of the long-lasting conflict between the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots,” says Sylvia Tiryaki, who gives lectures on international law at the Istanbul Kultur University, is a columnist in one of the most read daily newspaper Turkish Daily News and organizes conferences with high level representatives from the member states of the European Union.

Tiryaki made a legal analysis of the peace plan proposed by the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Some parts of her analysis appeared in the Annan’s blueprint of the peaceful solution, which was voted on in the Cypriot referenda.

Happiness behind borders

Ever since her student years, Sylvia Tiryaki had a feeling that she would find happiness abroad. “I have traveled around the world. I have spent half a year in Australia and in other countries, too.” Why Turkey then? “Originally, I came to Istanbul for two days only. However, I met my husband and as you can see, I have been here for eight years already,“ laughs our amiable Slovak.

Nowadays, Tiryaki is one of the distinguished Turkish experts in international relations. Since 2003, she has worked in the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation. She has been a coordinator of all the projects dealing with Cyprus and central and Eastern Europe for five years. “In September, with my colleagues from this foundation, we established Global Political Trends Center. All of our activities are focused on the Turkish foreign policy, especially on the conflicts, that are linked to Turkey or in which Turkey can play a role of coordinator,” says Tiryaki.

Turkey has been one of the main actors in the diplomatic row over the Mediterranean island of Cyprus for more than three decades. It is in this area, where the Slovak political scientist found her sphere of influence. In the diplomatic world, Slovakia has become a skilled agent of the peaceful talks between the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots. Some of the negotiations were organized by our embassy in Nicosia.

The world is aware of our activities and respects them. “The peaceful talks are conducted under the auspices of the United Nations, but our efforts are surely being noted and appreciated in Turkey, as well,” confirms Tiryaki.

A piece of Slovakia in Istanbul
While there are not so many Slovaks living in Turkey, i.e. a couple of dozens at most, they meet on regular basis and try to help each other. “What creates a good bit of Slovakia here in Istanbul? Most probably it is us, who have a part of our heart at home in Slovakia and the other part here in Turkey. What makes me really happy is that our university signed an Erasmus agreement on exchange of students with the Comenius University in Bratislava. This is already the fourth year for us to have Slovak students over – three to four students every semester. They usually study Turkish foreign policy at the Department of International Relations,” adds Tiryaki.

Slovakia is known in Turkey also thanks to Alexander Dubček, who served as a Czechoslovak ambassador there between the 60ties and 70ties. “I was very pleased when they named a park in Turkey after him,” says Sylvia Tiryaki.

When Dubček came to Turkey at the end of the year 1969, the country welcomed him with an enormous interest. “On his way from the airport to embassy, he was literally being haunted by the paparazzi,” says the current Slovak ambassador to Turkey, Vladimír Jakabčin. It is the bust of Alexander Dubček, that welcomes all the visitors at the entrance to our embassy in Ankara.

 A Slovak-Turkish expert in international relations, Sylvia Tiryaki, for HN: There is hard work and many compromises behind everything

Could you tell us your recipe for success?
I do not really have a special recipe for success and I actually do not think there is something that could work for everyone. I know one thing for sure though – a miracle that would just bring you somewhere does not exist. Everything is a consequence of your activities or of how you set up your life. There is only hard work, discipline and many compromises behind everything. There is no shortcut to success.

Why did you decide to go to Turkey particularly?
When me and my husband got married, a question on whether it would be better and more convenient for our family to live in Turkey or in Slovakia arised. In case neither Turkey nor Slovakia would work, our third alternative was Australia. Our final decision was Istanbul. It would be much harder for my husband, who is a Turkish plastic surgeon, to settle down in Slovakia than for me to settle down in Turkey.

What helps you the most in Istanbul?

I find it very important that I have a great support from my family. I was really lucky in this – I have an awesome husband indeed and a great son. My son Teodor is only five years old, yet he is involved in everything that is going on in our household. If he were not like this, I would not be able to be so active professionally.

Was it difficult for a Slovak lady to become successful in a country with a rather Muslim population?

Turkey is a huge and a great country with a giant potential. The native people somehow have it in them naturally that when they look at people around them, they do not see foreigners in them. The important thing is what you do. The value of your work is more important than anything else. That is why a notion “foreigner” almost does not exist here.

Most probably, the roots are to be found in the history of the Ottoman Empire, since Turkey could be considered as its heir. The Ottoman Empire opted for implementing various elements from foreigners and foreign cultures instead of converting these elements according to their likeness. Hence, the foreigners were never forced to abandon their identity and actually it has stayed like that till today.

By Pavel Novotný

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