‘When you leave you always want to go back’

Sefa Taskin finds it almost impossible to describe the feelings he had when visiting the place his parents are from. «You feel strange, because you’ve grown up with stories about those places, stories that are an important part of your parents’ culture. It’s like confronting something very familiar, even though significant parts of the picture are unknown. If you don’t hold yourself back, tears will come to your eyes. And when you leave, you always want to go back,» he told Kathimerini. Taskin traced in reverse the route his parents and grandparents had taken during the population exchange mandated by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. He managed to locate his mother’s house in Polichnitos, Lesvos, though it was in ruins, but never found the home of his father’s family in Yiannitsa, where the entire Turkish neighborhood has disappeared. A retired engineer, now an olive producer, Taskin was mayor of Pergamon (Bergama) from 1989 to 1999. He lives in Pergamon and Smyrna (Izmir). His family is from Lesvos and Macedonia, while his wife Majide has roots in Pristina and Florina. They are both regular visitors to Greece, where they have many friends who also visit them in Turkey. In Yiannitsa they met a bookseller of Armenian origin from Adana, and in Lesvos they met Greeks whose families were from Pergamon, Smyrna and Aivali (Aivalik). «Our ‘old countries’ unite us through food and drink, architecture, customs. We’re all children of refugees so we can live together.»

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