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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 25 November 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 25 NOVEMBER 2017 21 GREECE Kolonaki, Athens. Drama, Northern Greece. village from scratch in the early 1950s, the hamlet resembles a military base with grid-like streets, but the homes, oh, how they reminded me of a more northerly, climate-appropriate version of the refugee houses I saw in Kavala or those remaining in the canyons of a more vertical, concrete Athens. I also figured that many of the residents in Beloiannisz had been refugees twice. Expelled, often enough from comfortable homes in Asia Minor or Turkish Thrace, they may have grown up in the refugee housing I saw in Kavala, Drama, or Nea Ionia, and then ended their days as refugees in the same type of dwelling over a thousand kilometres to the north. Having seen where the Asia Minor refugees ended up, in Greece and elsewhere, I also had the opportunity to visit parts of Turkey, the lands from which these hapless yet hardy and resourceful refugees had fled. In particular, I greatly value the I spent time wandering through the villages around Smyrna, such as Urla (Vourla), the birthplace of one of Greece’s greatest bards, George Seferis (Seferiades). Here, and in the village of Foca (Phocea), on the other side of the breathtakingly beautiful Bay of Izmir, I found stately Greek houses, and occasionally the faint traces of Greek letters or a cross on the marble door lintel. On a quiet autumn day, with the Aegean sun oblig- ingly and benignly bright, the shadows cast could easily be those of its former Greek inhabitants. Not that the current inhabitants look tan Muslims of the Izmir area, many of whom speak a Greek even in the third generation sounding hauntingly like the Cretan I heard while The houses I had they took away from me. The times happened to be unpropitious: war, destruction, exile. - The Thrush George Seferis (Seferiadis) much different, as many of them descend from Turkish refugees from Greece, including the Greek-speaking Valaades Muslims of Macedonia or the proudly Cre- growing up in my Salt Lake City, Utah hometown. The Turks have their own stories of expulsion and refugees, as I realised in Smyrna and in Istanbul, where the train from the Attaturk Airport to Taksim Square announced a stop in the suburb of Yeni Bosna (New Bosnia). Turkey may have been the primary agent of expulsion and genocide, and the seismic effects of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian disintegration the source of the Serbian refugee saga I saw in its human and architectural form, but the real lesson is that wars create refugees, and being a refugee is a terrible tragedy. “The land and its buildings never forget” a Serbian once told me, in the midst of one rakija-fuelled afternoon chat. He referred to the expulsion of the Germans from northern Yugoslavia, but the same could be said for the Serbs’ lost homes in Kosovo or Croatia, whether a charred ruin, empty, like the ghost villages of Asia Minor or crumbling ex-Greek houses in the Phanar District of Constantinople, or ex-Greek houses now Turkish for three generations. All possess a story. Some spectral or aural feeling remains. The same is there, if we care to find it, in the elegant Turkish homes of Thessaloniki’s Ano Poli or the baroque German homesteads of Serbia’s northern province of Vojvodina. But the deepest nostalgia lies in the humbler hamlets of the refugees, wherever they are. These structures in plain sight hide the human history of a rough yet beautiful neighbourhood, and though silent, are among the best cautionary tales against conflict.
18 November 2017
02 December 2017