The importance of May 19 – Ananias Tsirabides – Emeritus Professor of the University of AUTh, President of HARH
Due to the pandemic, the extraordinary conditions we are experiencing have created great changes and difficulties in the operation of our Archive. However, this year we are all honouring May 19 and paying tribute to the victims of the genocide.
There are many narratives about the persecutions, deportations and massacres of hundreds of thousands of Greeks in South Asia and Thrace. What happened between 1914 and 1923 is a black page in the history of mankind. The eradication of the Greeks is one of the most unprecedented crimes in human history. After 27 centuries of life, a population was uprooted from its land leaving behind ancestral homes, churches, tombs of ancestors.
The issue of Genocide can only be understood if we understand the nationalist ideology of the Neo-Turkish and Kemal on which the modern Turkish state was built. Moreover, the birth and development of official Turkish historiography has been based on collective falsehoods, trying to prove among other things that the various ethnicities living there are of Turkish origin, that the Turks are native to the region or ultimately that Genocide was committed by the Armenians and Greeks and not the Turks.
Savvas Kantartzis in his book “Victory without a rhomphaia (i.e. close-combat bladed weapon): the Damascus of the 20th century” (1973) records the destruction of the village of Beyalan, the Kotyoron region by the “Chets” (i.e.thieves) of Topal Osman. Beylan was one of hundreds of Greek villages destroyed by Turkish gangs:
“At dawn of February 16 1922, the Chets, being more than 150, entered the village screaming and shooting. With screams and swearing, thundering the doors and windows with the stocks, they called on everyone to get out of the houses and gather in the square. Then they were ordered to enter the two two-storey houses, chosen to complete their criminal purpose. Like rabid beasts, they were thrown at women, babies and old men, and with fists and kicks cornered them in both houses. Their number was close to 300 people. And when they were sure no one was left out, they locked the doors, while the heartbreaking screams, the desperate crying and the loud begging for mercy and help formed a tragic musical concert, tearing up the sky and buzzing in the surrounding mountains and forests.
It only took a bunch of dry leaves and some cardboard to light the fire. And soon the two houses became fireworks and were burst into flames and black-and-red smoke. What followed at the time is not described. The mothers hugged their babies, crying and shouting “mommy, mommy!”. The girls and the other women with the old parents, the children and the sick, screamed and hugged each other as if they wanted to give and take courage and help, as their hair and clothes were on fire and the flames started licking their bodies. Wild screams of people, blows to the chests and walls, everything was in ruins.
It didn’t last many minutes. The tone began to fall quickly, until hey were cut off at once and the voices and the crying went out. And there was only the wood, which was rubbed by the fire, and the burnt walls and beams, crashing on the bodies, which were now lying like piles of coal and ash on the floor, in the two haunted houses of Beyalan.”
It is very important that the crimes of the Kemals of this period were admitted by certain members of the highest Ottoman society, who had a direct connection with this issue. Anxious and opposed to the harsh measures of the Kemal government towards the Greeks were even some Kemal Members, especially of the Pontus region, who were accused by their colleagues.
Reports of unpublished archives of foreign ministries and other state and private archives on the drama of Pontian Hellenism are not finished. In total, until the compulsory exchange of populations, more than 353,000 Greeks of Pontus, approaching 50% of their total population, found a woeful death in towns and villages, in ravines and mountains, in exiles and prisons, in labor battalions. 1134 churches, 960 schools and 815 communities were looted and destroyed.
In addition to the historical documentation, which has been largely carried out with the systematic work of Professor Fotiadis, there must also be recognition of the crime and punishment of the culprit. The issue of the recognition of Genocide is complex and has to do with serious geopolitical interests. In other words, while we know in detail what happened and, above all, the fact that there was a central organization and a specific objective of the disappearance of the Christian people, we do not have the aknowledgement of the crime by the other countries. In other words, neither the Ottoman documents themselves revealing the genocide, nor the diplomatic archives of the Germans and Austrians -close allies of the Turks- nor the diplomatic documents of the other major powers or the testimonies of the missionaries and charities are sufficient.
May 19th is a day of remembrance for the Genocide of the Pontians and for the unforgettable homelands of Pontos. Promoting its international recognition is a duty of honour for all of us.
This year’s coronavirus pandemic has not allowed our Archive to play a more active role in the celebrations of remembrance and honour that took place every year on this day, and unfortunately they have been cancelled. We hope to quickly return to normality and we promise to deal with this issue and much more about Greek refugees, more assertively.
Message from the Municipality of Kalamaria on the Genocide of the Pontians
19 May 1919 – 19 May 2020
The Municipality of Kalamaria commemorates, in a climate of devoutness and respect, the Day of Remembrance of the Genocide of the Pontians, with symbolic “images” without drumbeats but in a climate of confounding, without mass events and confusion, respecting the protection measures to limit the pandemic, as it should be.
The symbolism of the mourning of the genocide is intended not to allow time to fade the pages of history but to keep alive the bloody drama of the Pontians in everyone’s hearts.
In the morning, Mayor Dardamanelis sent the Greek flag to the Town Hall.
Today, on the eve of the black anniversary, from 9 p.m. until midnight on May 19th, the Town Hall building in the square of refugee Hellenism will remain illuminated in red, symbolizing the blood of the innocent victims of the Genocide and the timeless mourning that will bring to life the deep wounds of the refugees of Pontos.
All morning, on the day of the great tragedy will echo in the center of Kalamaria elergies of Pontos and excerpts from testimonies that will reflect the cries, pain and bitterness of the refugees.
During the day, on the balcony of the Town Hall will stand a pair of Pontians (from members of the Pontian clubs of Kalamaria alternately) with authentic pontian costumes paying tribute and marking the day. The couple will be flanked by the banners of the Fraternity of Cromnians, the Caucasian Association “Prometheus”, the Union of Pontians of Kalamaria and the Pontian Association “The Mithrians”.
As it will get dark and always in the sounds of the “Caitedes”, the Town Hall of Kalamaria will be “painted” in red.
In the evening from the same balcony, the voices of young Pontians will sound reciting and recounting the loss and pain of their ancestors, while live music will praise the sacrifice.
The bells of the Holy Metropolis of Kalamaria will toll mournfully, inviting all of us to observe a minute’s silence from our homes and balconies.
The day of remembrance at the “blood-stained” Town Hall of Kalamaria will end with an elergy and engraved on everyone’s mind:
“Romania (i.e. the Greek people), although it has passed, is flourishing and bringing many more…”.
We stress to our citizens to avoid overcrowding and comply to the security measures, so that next year we all be healthy and gather to honor Remembrance Day.
We stay safe, we stay winners, we stay with the memory alive, we stay Greek.
Ivan Savvides message on the Genocide of the Pontians
In a message, Ivan Savvides refers again this year to the Day of Remembrance of the Genocide of the Greeks of Pontos.
“Dear brothers and sisters, fellow countrymen!
Every year on the day of the tragic day for the Greeks of Pontos, on May 19th, our hearts are tightened with pain and our thoughts and souls are transferred to the homelands of Pontos, to our ancestors.
Every year I wonder – are we heading in the right direction? Have we done enough for the world not to repeat the same mistakes, such as the crimes against the Christian people of Asia Minor? Where should our efforts be directed so as not to cut the invisible thread, which unites all of us, the descendants of the Greeks of Pontos, who are now scattered throughout the world? And I find the answers to each of us, to our behavior and our actions.
The Center for Pontian Studies was founded at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the Headquarters is operating, which means that we did not allow this page of the history of the Greek people to be closed.
The TV series “The Red River” is on air, which means that the echo of the pontian tragedy will resonate in the souls of many people around the world.
There were premieres of serious documentaries, shot by our brothers from Greece, the USA and Australia. Young people have carried out a series of actions, dedicated to the study of the Pontian disaster, and are involved in highlighting the issue at the UN.
All these actions show that we, Pontians, don’t give up even in the most difficult times.
Yes, today we will not all gather together to honor the victims of the Genocide of the Greeks of Pontos. We will not walk through the streets of our cities, untying the banners with the pontian flags. But I feel that our people are more united than ever. Social networks are full of personal stories of families who experienced tragedy, memories of the lost homeland, children’s drawings, songs and poems recited by young people, the pontian lyre echoing through the TV screens and the internet. That means we’re alive, alive as a population.
On this sad day for us -a day of reflection- let us pray for all the wasted victims of the Genocide of the Greeks of Pontos, for the relatives and friends, for the populations, who suffered a fate similar to ours. May the Lord rest their souls and help us overcome sufficiently the difficulties and trials he sent us.
I am sure that, first of all, emergencies unite people, awaken healthy forces in humans, open up new ways of cooperation, interaction, assistance.
Our common task is not to stop our work for a minute, which aims to inspire our people to further creative activity. Even if our ancestors are an example of insubordinate spirit and inner strength.
Our common task is not to stop our work for a minute, which aims to inspire our people to further creative activity. Even if our ancestors are an example of insubordinate spirit and inner strength. God bless us all!
Eternal memory to all wronged.
With deep appreciation and love,
President of the Federation of Greek Communities of Russia”.