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‘What I saw, what I heard, the people I met, made me realize suddenly who I am’

The stories of his childhood came to life for acupuncturist Ilias Constantinidis when he visited the Pontus region in 2004. «I felt as if I was in the Promised Land, in my holy places, regardless of the fact that neither my father nor I had ever lived there. What I saw, what I heard, the people I met, made me realize suddenly and absolutely who I am,» he said. The trip he and his friend made, driving 4,500 kilometers to Trabzon by way of Sebasteia (Sivas), Argyroupolis, Panaghia Soumela and Ankara, was a journey of self-knowledge, as he described it in his work «Journey to the Pontus: My Roots.» The grandfather whose name he bears was from Sidirohori, now Harmancik, between Ardassa and Argyroupolis. His great-grandfather was born in Sokhoum, in what is now Georgia, when his family was forced to leave during the turmoil of the Russo-Turkish War. Constantinidis was born in Paranesti, Drama, but his grandmother’s stories awakened in him a love for the Pontus. «We went to the most remote places,» he said. «We met people who spoke Pontian Greek. I was astounded, listening to the women talk as though I was in Macedonia.» Sidirohori is now deserted, Constantinidis explained. He described being reduced to tears at the sight of two courtyards: «I’ll never forget it.» Constantinidis is already planning his next trip.