Friday October 24, 2014 Search
Weather | Athens
19o C
12o C
News
Business
Comment
Life
Sports
Community
Survival Guide
Greek Edition
Longing for their homeland, no matter which side of the Aegean

The film recounts the ethnic cleansing and violent expulsions of ethnic Greeks from Asia Minor and Muslims from Greece, as told not only by historians but also the refugees themselves.

By Katerina Sokou

Before the bloody nationalistic conflicts of the 20th century, there was a world of empires, when ethnic coexistence gave rise to a fleeting era of cosmopolitanism that was doomed to end in death and displacement. The latter is the sober theme of a new documentary by Maria Iliou which sheds light on the forced exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The film, “From Both Sides of the Aegean: Expulsion and Exchange of Populations, Turkey-Greece: 1922-1924,” recently screened at New York City’s Quad Cinema, is the second part of a trilogy which started with the destruction of the city of Smyrna in 1922.

In this documentary, which follows “Smyrna: The Destruction of a Cosmopolitan City – 1900-1922,” Iliou tells the story of what followed: the first compulsory “exchange of populations” in the modern world, in which 1.2 million Greek Orthodox and 400,000 Muslims were forcibly relocated from Turkey to Greece and Greece to Turkey respectively. According to the documentary’s historical consultant, Alexander Kitroeff, the history of the population exchanges is the story of the 20th century: “All the wars and revolutions of the 20th century, apart from the millions of victims and the destruction, resulted in a large-scale displacement of populations.” He mentions “the thousands of immigrants created by the Russian revolution, the political refugees after Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War, the persecution of the Germans from Eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War, and the millions who were exchanged, without any kind of diplomatic agreement, between India and Pakistan after their borders were drawn in 1947.”

Without ignoring history, Iliou’s aim is to introduce a new perspective: the human element. Her film recounts the ethnic cleansing and violent expulsions of ethnic Greeks from Asia Minor and Muslims from Greece, as told not only by historians but also the refugees themselves. The probing interviews reveal the painful similarities of the experience, their testimonies coming to life with the aid of some remarkable archival films and photographs, as well as music of Nick Platyrachos that was inspired by the era.

The film itself was the realization of a promise Iliou made to her stepfather Takis, revealed the director, a Greek from Asia Minor, on opening night: “For years now I have been unable to forget this image: A quiet garden and my stepfather, Takis… telling me that at the age of 7 he suddenly saw his own father, an eminent Greek from the Pontus, dead, hanging from a tree in the courtyard of the command post in Kerasounta… My promise to Takis when I left Greece to study cinema in Italy was that one day I would make a film about the expulsion.” Iliou remembered that, “for many years, only the Asia Minor Catastrophe and the pain of the expulsion of our people existed for my family.”

It is a feeling shared by Meni Atsikbasi, a daughter of Greek Orthodox refugees from Turkey who was interviewed for the documentary. Atsikbasi grew up in a village on Lesvos inhabited exclusively by refugees: “I met many refugees and saw how their souls wept. And they always smiled wanly when they spoke of Asia Minor, their homeland, their houses, their lives there... This conversation took place every day. They'd finish work and then start talking about their homeland, what they did there, what it was like… And I can honestly say that from what they told me, I am familiar with every square inch of their homes... where the gardens lay... the pomegranate trees, the jasmine bushes where the bakery was located... everything about their life as though I was there.”

Husnu Karaman has a similar story to tell. His Muslim family left Crete for Turkey, but in their new home in Cesme, the conversation was always about Crete: “No evening went by without Crete. It was always Crete. What did Crete mean to my family? It was their homeland. My father always said they lived there 300 years... We sprouted roots there. We grew up there. But we were uprooted. Nothing you tell a refugee is of any value; all he seeks is his homeland.”

Iliou hopes that such narratives, preserved as family history, will allow for a new understanding of the past as a history of personal attachments to ancestral lands and a world of ethnic coexistence. Yet one doesn’t need to be a Greek or a Turk to relate to the story: This is a longing felt by any person who has been forced to leave their homeland behind. And as Kitroeff says, it’s not all in the past either: “The practice of populations exchange went on during the second half of the 20th century and continues to the present. The current developments in Crimea and the possibility of a redrawing of the borders foster the danger of new displacements of minorities between Russia and the Ukraine.”

ekathimerini.com , Friday March 28, 2014 (18:45)  
Galaxidi: Silent eloquence
Acropolis Museum to put the daily lives of the ancients on display
Katerina Vrana embraces humor as wild as her hair
The business of luxury hospitality
Rackets corner souvenir market at the foot of the Acropolis
It’s just after 9 a.m. on a Wednesday morning and the parking lot in front of the Dionysos restaurant close to the Acropolis ticket offices is jam-packed, even though it’s late October. More...
Local businesses come together to raise Zagorochoria’s profile
The Zagori Excellence Network, or ZEN, is a modern initiative that aims to promote Zagorochoria, an area encompassing 45 villages in the Pindus mountain range in Greece’s northwestern Epirus...
Inside Community
Inside Gastronomy
Inside Travel
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
 RECENT NEWS
1. TAIPED waits for green light from Eurostat
2. Trade deficit shrinks on big drop in imports
3. SMEs unable to claim subsidies
4. Taxes kept growing in second quarter
5. Thessaloniki Port expects 2014 to be record year
6. Athens, Nicosia satisfied by EU leaders´ stance toward Ankara
more news
Today
This Week
1. Woman killed in tram accident in Floisvo, south of Athens
2. Clocks to go back 1 hour on Sunday
3. Venizelos slams Turkey for 'flagrant violation of international law' off Cyprus
4. ECB vies for third time lucky in European stress tests
5. ECB bank assessment to show 6-billion-euro capital gap, Citi says
6. Cyprus GDP upgrade seen as boosting bailout exit plans
Today
This Week
1. The past, present and future of the Greek debt crisis
2. Greece’s closed society is central to its current malaise
3. Coalition shooting itself in the foot
4. Greece must stick to reforms, says Schaeuble
5. At least 11 banks to fail European stress tests, three in Greece, report says
6. Cyprus to block Turkey's EU talks after EEZ violation
   Find us ...
  ... on
Twitter
     ... on Facebook   
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright © 2014, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.