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In the Homeland it was different. Memories of the East 1870-1924
Friday, 1 March 2013

In the Homeland it was different
George Manos, Agronomist, retired banker

Those who lived close to the refugees know very well that these homeless, ragged, starving and barefoot people did not just stand up. With their faith, their strength of soul, their culture and their hard work, they fought, progressed and distinguished themselves. They fought the forces of nature and poverty and won. In all battles they came out victorious. Only one thing they could not win. The nostalgia for “the Homeland”, which ate their insides like a woodworm. Their only consolation was memory. Most of their conversations, in the field or at night, were centered on the Homeland. They wanted to tell and re-tell it, thinking they were turning back the clock, reliving it. Slowly, however, the refugees of the first generation began to leave one by one. But they didn’t leave alone. They took with them into oblivion, their history, their language, their culture.

The sense of the great void they felt when they left prompted me to document their lives “at home”. I started from the sounds I had as a child. Then with a tape recorder I collected live testimonies. I also searched newspapers, magazines and historical aids. From the material I gathered, two books emerged, two different refugee stories. The title of the first one, “LEAP TIMES AND FURIOUS MONTHS “, is taken from the song of the Dead Brother, while the title of the second one, “IN THE HOMELAND IT WAS DIFFERENT. MEMORIES OF THE EAST 1870-1924”, is the last sentence of all the refugee narratives: “In the homeland everything was different”.

Both books are written in the idiomatic language spoken by the Greeks of the East and especially in the environs of Constantinople, with all the pauses, sounds and rhythm of the orality of that period. I preferred consciously to choose this language, because language, apart from being a means of communication and expression, is also an element of a people’s culture and identity.

The books are not historical in the formal sense. The historical events to which they refer arise through the narration of the protagonists themselves, as their own experiential elements. They live them, they tell them, and we learn them too. But they are not novels either, because they are based on real events and real people. That is why I have called them historical narratives.

My characters don’t just talk about historical events. They also talk about their lives and their everyday life. They are born, grow up, work, fall in love, marry, celebrate, sing, dance, and grieve. Through their narratives we learn about their language, their customs, their songs and dances, their clothing, their festivals, their weddings (joys), their christenings, their nights, their daily activities, the relations between them but also with the Turks, we learn about the self-government of the communities, about the very important role of the church and especially of the village priest, we learn about Constantinople, Smyrna and other cities, and about the legends of the time (Agia-Sofia, etc.).

Finally, through the pages of the books, it emerges that the annihilation of the Greeks of the Ottoman Empire was not a random event, but the result of a well thought out Turkish plan, which, with the slogan “Turkey to the Turks”, aimed at the disappearance of Christians in every way, and the creation of a pure Turkish state. Its implementation began in the spring of 1914 in Eastern Thrace and then extended to Asia Minor and Pontus.

From left:
– Angeliki Tsapakidou, Assistant Professor at the University of Western Macedonia and member of the HARH Board, moderator of the event.
– George Manos, author of the two books.
– Sophia Temekenidou, philologist and member of the Board of HARH.
– Maria Kazantzidou, HARH historian.
– Stylianos Manologlou, lawyer.
– Epaminontas Fachantidis, Professor Emeritus of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and President of the Association of Pontic Clubs of Thessaloniki.

 

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