Postcards by Hannah Katerina


When I was 19 and about to go off to University in Istanbul, I promised my grandad that I would write him postcards to let him know how I was getting on. He seemed pleased with my guarantee, “Will you promise that you won’t stop writing? Even if I die? I want to know what happens after I’m gone.” At first, I had laughed, taking his remark to be comical, but the look on his face told me that he meant it in all seriousness, and so I agreed in all seriousness.

After he died, I didn’t write for a while. It wasn’t that I had forgotten my promise, but more that I didn’t know where to send the postcards. What should I write as his address? Should I still call him grandad or do people change their names after they die, like how they change them when they get married? After I had written it, I looked back at my note and worried it was too short. I had written so many questions, why had I done that? It wasn’t as if he could reply. Could he? I felt like I hadn’t said the important things, but then again, I wasn’t sure what the important things were.

I posted the card the next day, early in the morning, without thinking.

Months passed before I thought of writing again. I don’t know what it was, but I was sat in the window of a coffee shop watching the world go by and I thought of him.

I found a scrap of paper in my bag

I can see a man and woman on a tandem bike, going along in the traffic.

Who cycles in Istanbul? They must be foreign.

A man a carrying a tray of food just walked past. A gust of wind blew 2 of the napkins away, but he didn’t notice.

I took a sip of my coffee before I continued writing,

The man has just come back and picked up the 2 napkins. He put them in his pocket, even though they were dirty. I think he thought that no one was watching.

Now this is very strange. I have just seen a man carrying two briefcases, one in each hand!

I enjoyed writing so much that it was only a week later when I wrote the next one,


I thought you would want to know that there is a man who remembers every single day of his life. Like, you can say ‘what happened on the 13th of April 1986’ and he can tell you exactly what he did.

There’s also this woman who’s voice sometimes randomly changes to a French accent, and she can’t control it. It’s a syndrome apparently.

I heard about it on the radio.

It was strange to write to someone and never receive an answer. It was possible to lose yourself in the task, unrestrained by thoughts of what the recipient might think, might reply.

Bored one afternoon at work and hoping to make myself look busy with an important task, I stole some letter paper from the office and used it to write to following letter;

Hi Grandad,

I’m in the habit of stealing stationery from work, even if I never use it. I have stacks of paper at home. Pens too. I can’t even say for certain why I do it, maybe I’m getting my own back against the boredom.

It had been a long day at the office and a short ride back to the small apartment where I lived. When I got there I flicked on the light and saw on the table an envelope with my name on it. The handwriting was my father’s. The strange thing was that my dad had been dead for 10 years. As one might, I began to think that maybe, just maybe, he was alive, living a secret life somewhere nearby. The thought made me shake with fury. To steady myself, I sat down, opened it, and pulled out the letter. “Dear Son,” was the way it began. “Dear Son”, and then nothing.

I decided not to write back, and then, several months later, on an idle Tuesday, I wrote two letters in 10 minutes, one to my grandad with news, and one to my father, in retaliation.

Hello Grandad,

The price of simit went up again. Now the simit with cheese and tomato is 20 lira. But not to worry, I’ve started buying the plain one, and bringing my own cheese and tomato in a small plastic pot. It works out cheaper, but it is a bit of a hassle, it must be said. Sometimes I wonder whether it would be better to just pay a few lira extra for the convenience.


Hello Dad,

Then nothing!

I didn’t write for several years after I wrote that letter. There was no reason why, I just didn’t have much to say, and well, what was the rush?

One day, a few years later, when I was riding the ferry into work in the morning, I was handed a large envelope by a mysterious looking man. It’s hard to say whether he really looked mysterious at the time. In fact, I must admit, that part is a detail that I’ve added to the story later to make it sound more interesting, but now my retelling of the story has overridden the reality of events, and I no longer recall what the man really looked like. In any case, the point is, I was given a large envelope by a man on a ferry.

My name was written on the front, in handwriting I didn’t recognize.

Do you remember how you bonded with your father over music? Do you remember how his skin smelt when you were 7? Why do you never want to remember it? You must remember it!

That evening I wrote back, all of my anger boiled down into just a few piercing lines;

You once joked to me, “My reward for this life will be a thousand kilos of dirt shovelled in my face.” Well, you were wrong. You are seven kilos of ashes in a box, crammed on my bookshelf. Funny.

A few weeks had passed, and I still couldn’t put my father out of my head. I suppose my anger hadn’t all come out yet. I decided that I would write again. I would write a letter where I said everything and didn’t leave anything out.

I’m well, thanks for asking.

I thought I saw you at the bus stop getting on the 94

You looked well!

I didn’t though.

You never even visited Istanbul, I’m not sure you ever went on a bus.

Will it always be like this? Half catching glimpses of you?

I could have gone on, but as I read it back I felt it summed everything up, so I stopped before I went too far. I’ve learned through bitter experience that it is never good to go too far. I went back to the 94-bus stop and left the letter on the bench there, making sure that nobody saw me arrive or leave.

The last envelope arrived while I was sitting on a park bench in the one remaining patch of green in Istanbul. I had come down there to eat a lahmacun which I had bought for my dinner. It wasn’t something I would usually do, but somehow that day I was particularly craving it. I piled the greens onto the bread and soaked it with lemon juice, rolling it tight like a carpet, or a cigarette. It was only a small park, but you could see the Bosphorus through the gaps in traffic of the adjacent road. Just when I had pierced my Ayran with the small plastic straw, a large group of unwashed men arrived. They sat down in the park for a few minutes, conversing in Arabic and running their hands through the grass. 5 minutes later, a group of pick-up trucks arrived, and they all piled into the back. It initially struck me a mystery to be solved, but I soon realised the tragedy and sunk into a deep sadness.

I finished my lahmacun and then scrunched up the wrappers to throw away. I was just about to release it from my grasp when I noticed a letter with my name on it sat there in the bin, slightly covered with refuse. I quicky took it out and brushed it off, though it had been stained by grease and onion, which I found upsetting.

I opened it to reveal a letter, typed on an old-fashioned kind of typewriter, which read:

“Don’t grieve, don’t lament. Nothing is ever gone. Anything lost is just waiting to be found again.”

Hannah Katerina is a writer and journalist based between Palermo and Istanbul. Her works have been featured in Recess, The Frontbench and Blueprint. She is currently working on a forthcoming novella. She can be found on social media @hannahkaterinaa

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