NEWS

He dreamed of Edessa till the day he died

His father left the city when he was 17, and «dreamed of Edessa till the day he died,» said Sedad, a retired schoolteacher. His father’s memories prompted him to read about Edessa, which his father, who spoke Slav, not Turkish, called Vodina. Sedad’s children urged him to visit and he had heard enthusiastic reports from others who had gone on the foundation’s excursions, so he set out with just a piece of paper on which he had written details of his family and some place names. He never managed to find his family’s village but did he walk around the area. «I felt as if I had come home; I could stay here forever. I’m excited and I feel like crying, too. As if I could see my father here.» He explained how his father detested the «great powers» that had marked the fate of millions of people, «when Muslims and Orthodox Christians used to live like brothers.» What do the visitors expect to find? «Nothing. Just to take a little soil to put on my father’s grave,» said Iker Nuri Baskin, who works in the tobacco industry. He has commercial dealings with Greece, Greek friends and is a fan of the Greek soccer team, AEK. His family roots are in Exaplatanos and Fustani, in Pella. Though he visits Greece frequently, this was the first time he had visited his grandfather’s village. «As we approached Edessa, I felt very emotional. The feelings are strong; this is my grandfather’s home. The two countries are so alike,» he said. «I don’t know your grandfather, but my father was from Kaisareia,» Mr Anastassios, 81, said in Turkish to Baskin, as they shook hands. Baskin had visited the village of Aridaia, where he spoke to the locals. «They’re like us, looking for their homelands,» said Elli Panayiotelidi from Exaplatanos, who made him a coffee. In the village square, Theodoros Arabatzis, 78, explained to the visitors that he didn’t know their families. «But I invited them for coffee when they come back, to get to know me and my wife. We are from Bursa. We learned Turkish before we learned Greek.» In Fustani, the Turks sat with the Greeks at a cafe in the square. They received a warm welcome there, too. «They don’t want anything from us; they just want to see where their forebears lived and to take a little soil from there to put on their graves,» said Mr Akritidis, who gave Baskin some soil for his father’s tomb. As one of the locals explained: «The municipality is going to be twinned with a municipality of Bursa. At least two or three groups come here every year from Turkey. It’s a new kind of tourism for us. And we go to Turkey.»