From Hania to Smyrna

Seeing Hania was like experiencing deja vu for Mufide Pekin. «It seemed very familiar, as if I had known the street, the neighborhood for years. I felt at home. The language was the one we spoke at home. The food was the same. I saw old women in black, just like my grandmother. The music was familiar; everyone knew the songs I’d learnt from my grandmother, like ‘Samiotissa.’ Then I understood the tragedy behind the population exchange: Those people were not only transplanted geographically, they were uprooted culturally and psychologically.» Pekin, the daughter of Turkish Cretans, speaks fluent Greek with marked elements of the Cretan dialect. She talked about Hania, the city where her parents were born and lived till 1925, when the population exchange took them to Smyrna, «a foreign place.» Pekin lives in Istanbul, teaches in the English Department of the University of the Bosporus, and translates books from Greek and English into Turkish. She first visited Hania in 1992, to find her mother’s house, and since then has returned regularly to see Greek friends she has made. «The Greeks I met in Hania helped me a lot because they were refugees from Asia Minor and had had similar experiences, if not worse ones,» she said. She recalled their enthusiasm when they heard her speak to them «in Cretan.» She and other «children of Lausanne» set up the Foundation of Lausanne Treaty Emigrants, aimed at saving the common refugee heritage based on friendship between the two peoples. The foundation organizes excursions to the lands of their forebears and collects oral and written accounts from first- and second-generation refugees.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.