When the Cold War erupted in the Korean Peninsula in 1950, the Turkish brigade headed to South Korea to help South Koreans to defend their land. One of them was Sergeant Süleyman, a 25-year-old Turkish soldier.
However, he never expected that his decision to volunteer in South Korea would change his entire life.
On that fateful day, after an intense battle with the enemy in the dead of night, Turkish soldiers saw some movements behind the bushes. Alarmed, the soldiers then prepared to fire anyone who hides behind the bushes.
Süleyman who later approached the bushes was never prepared to see what he was about to find out.
There in the bushes, was a terrified little girl who had burst into tears by the time Süleyman saw her.
Süleyman quickly hugged the little girl and comforted her. He later learned that the girl had no identity, no home and no relatives who were still alive.
He knew that it could be dangerous to take a random child into their military camp but still, Süleyman could not just leave her in the middle of a war zone.
Luckily, the whole Turkish brigade was more than happy to welcome the little girl.
Soon, the girl stayed with them in the camp as they looked after her and fed her. Süleyman later named her “Ayla” which means “Halo” as her face was shining under the full moon when he found her.
Ayla proved to be a smart girl when she quickly picked up the Turkish language in a very short amount of time.
For one-and-a-half-years, Ayla and Süleyman formed a close bond like a father and daughter.
Unfortunately, in 1953 when the war came to an end and the Turkish brigade had to return to Turkey, they were forced to separate from each other. Süleyman wanted to take Ayla with him back to Turkey but it was not possible.
Ayla was then put in an orphanage, the Ankara School, which was founded by the Turkish government for orphaned Korean children to have an education.
For years, Süleyman never failed to pray that he could reunite with his lost daughter again. However, after countless attempts, the veteran who was at that time in his 80s began to feel hopeless.
A photo of late the Sergeant Süleyman and his wife.
According to Daily Sabah, on the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, Süleyman, then eighty five years old, attended the reception and shared his story with his fellow soldiers and officials who were there. A journalist took interest and tried to investigate further on Ayla’s whereabouts but failed. Archives of the orphanage were no longer retrievable and the search ended there.
It was not until one man who claimed that his sister knew Ayla and that Ayla now is known as Kim Eunja. When they visited 65-year-old Ayla at her home and showed her pictures of Süleyman, she burst into tears.
After all these years, Ayla still remembered Süleyman as her hero and her father.
In 2010, the long lost father and daughter finally reunited after 60 years of separation.
The tearful reunion saw 85-year-old Süleyman hugged Ayla and said, “It is over girl. I’m here.”
The two continued to get in touch with each other through letters and Ayla referred Süleyman as her father and Süleyman’s wife as her mother.
The two then bid the final goodbye to each other after Süleyman passed away at the age of 91 years old.
Süleyman passed away at the Haydarpaşa Numune Research and Training Hospital on December 7, 2017, due to multiple organ failures.
They may only get to reunite just for a few years after being separated for six decades but the fatherly love that Süleyman showed to Ayla will forever live in the remake of the story into film “Ayla: The Daughter of War.”
The Turkish film was even selected as Turkey’s official candidate for best foreign language film for the Oscars.
Even though it did not make it to the final list, the heartwarming story between Ayla and her father Süleyman has warmed millions of hearts across the world.
Watch the trailer of “Ayla: The Daughter of War” here
Credit: Daily Sabah