By: Demetrios Giannakaris, Special to the Hellenic News of America
“In Union there is strength.” – Aesop
The year was 1914, a battered and discouraged Ottoman Empire that had so far remained neutral was led into “The Great War” by “revolutionary” Pashas and glorious German promises. A secret alliance was signed with the Central Powers on August 2nd of that year; an alliance that would lead to the destruction of the empire, the annihilation of indigenous Ottoman ethnic groups, and the creation of the modern Turkish Republic. These events that are so painfully engrained within the Greek psyche are what led to what we call the “Pontian Genocide”, and commemorate every year on May 19th. The events of that time and what transpired was not entirely within our control. What is within our control is how we commemorate, recognize, and detail those events. What can we do to keep the memory of those lost alive, and how can we prevent the horrific cyclic repetition of history?
Since before the oracles whispered in Delphi, a Greek’s greatest enemy has, and always will be himself. So quick are we to raise arms both literally and figuratively against “hmeterous”, we forget the world changing results of Hellenic unity. We ask ourselves why there is no recognition of the Hellenic Genocide and we immediately look to blame “the Turks”, as we always do. Not that the Turkish government hasn’t embarked on a systematic anti-recognition effort of propaganda, imprisonment and political blackmail … But, that hasn’t stopped us before, has it? I’m talking about Greek Education Minister Nikos Filis denying the Genocide, when all evidence points to the contrary. How can we commemorate the atrocities committed when our own Education Minister denies it? It is this lack of unity that has been detrimental to our efforts. Another example of our disunity is the three “different” Genocide remembrance days (Pontian, Asia Minor, Cappadocian, etc.) being observed, as well as more than one National Pontian Organization in Greece. It is because of this constant byzantine like state of political affairs, that we have become disoriented in our goals, and of course our constant need to point the finger at each other. This is what I, a laymen have observed and lamented upon most of all, every May the 19th.
They tore down our walls, they burned our churches, and they threw our brothers and sisters into the ocean … yet here we are. Now what do we do to honor the hundreds of thousands of ancestors whose lives and homelands were stolen from them? We must remember. We must make sure everyone remembers. Will a paper of recognition achieve that for us? We live in a world of ever changing political alliances and a piece of paper from a government essentially means nothing. The International Association of Genocide Scholars has already made a definitive assessment and settled the case. All we need is for the world to “speak of the Greeks”, to remember those who lost it all. We must all as Greeks, regardless of our roots combine our efforts into the dissemination of knowledge concerning the Hellenic Genocide, independent of personal aspirations. One Genocide recognition day, with one recognized term (Hellenic Genocide) to start, followed by a strong scholastic effort (such as that of the “Asia Minor & Pontos Hellenic Research Center” here in the U.S.A.) to open museums and use the media to educate the people on the truth of the events of 1911-1922. The Hellenic Genocide must become a piece of our collective Hellenic cultural identity, our most powerful weapon, only then will the memory of those lost be eternal. It isn’t a Pontian issue, it is, and must be a Greek issue. Only then can we hope that the atrocities that befell our people will not strike another innocent group.
“Forgive … Never Forget May 19th”