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

At home, it was different.
Georgios Manos, Agronomist, retired bank clerk

Those who lived close to the refugees are well aware that these homeless people, the ragged, the unfed and barefoot, have not just stood up. With their faith, the power of their soul, their culture and their hard work, they fought, evolved and excelled. They fought the elements of nature and poverty and won. In all the battles, they came out victorious. Only one couldn’t win. The nostalgia for “the Fatherland”, which like a woodworm ate their guts. Their only consolation, the remembrance. Most of their conversations, in the field or at night shifts, focused on the Fatherland. They wanted to say it and say it again, thinking they were turning back time, they were reliving it. Gradually, however, the refugees of the first generation began to flee one by one. But they weren’t leaving on their own. They took with them their history, their language, their culture.

The sense of the great emptiness they left behind prompted me to record their lives “at home”. I started with the sounds I’ve had since I was a kid. Then, I gathered live testimonials with a tape recorder. I’ve also looked in newspapers, magazines and historical aids. From the material I gathered, two books emerged, two different stories of refugees. The title of the first “LEAP YEARS AND ENRAGED MONTHS” is taken from the song of the Dead Brother, while the title of the second “IT WAS DIFFERENT BACK HOME. MEMORIES OF THE EAST 1870-1924” is the last phrase of all the refugees’ narratives: “everything was different back home”.

Both books are written in the local dialect spoken by the Greeks of the East and especially on the outskirts of Istanbul, with all the pauses, sounds and rhythm of the orality of that time. I preferred

consciously this language because, in addition to a means of communication and expression, language is also a cultural element and the identity of people.

Books are not historical in the typical sense. The historical events to which they refer arise through the narration of the protagonists themselves, as their experiential elements. They live it themselves, they narrate it, and we learn it ourselves. But they are not novels either, because they are based on real events and real persons. That’s why I’ve called them historical narratives.

My heroes don’t just talk about events historically. They also talk about their lives and their daily routine. They are born, they grow up, they work, they fall in love, they marry, they celebrate, they sing, they dance, they lament. Through their narratives we learn about their language, their customs, their songs and dances, their clothes, their festivals, their weddings (joys), their baptisms, their night shifts, their daily occupations, their interaction with each other but also with the Turks, for the self-governing of the communities, for the very important role of the church and especially the simple priest of the village, we learn about the “City” (Istanbul), Izmir and other states, and about the legends of the time (Agia Sofia, etc.).

Finally, through the pages of the books, it is shown 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, in combination with the slogan “Turkey to the Turks”, aimed at the disappearance of Christians in every way, and at the creation of a pure Turkish state. Its application began in the spring of 1914 in Eastern Thrace and then expanded to Asia Minor and Pontos.

On the left:
– Angeliki Tsapakidou, Assistant Professor of the University of Western Macedonia and member of the Board of Directors of HARH, coordinator of the event
– Giorgos Manos, author of the two books.
– Sofia Temekenidou, philologist and member of the Board of Directors of HARH.
– Maria Kazantzidou, historian of HARH.
– Stylianos Manologlou, lawyer.
– Epaminondas Fachantidis, Emeritus Professor at AUTh and President of the Association of Pontian Associations IP Thessaloniki.

 

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