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GreeceRemembering the 100th Anniversary of Asia Minor Catastrophe

Remembering the 100th Anniversary of Asia Minor Catastrophe

Catherine Tsounis
Catherine Tsounis
Contributing Editor The copyrights for these articles are owned by the Hellenic News of America. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hellenic News of America and its representatives.

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 Facts through World leaders and Sassos Family of Nea Iraklitsa

     “I am in hearty sympathy with every just effort being made by the people of the United States to alleviate the terrible sufferings of the Greeks of Asia Minor. None have suffered more or more unjustly than they.” – United States President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)1.
     In his memoirs Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story (1918) Henry Morgenthau wrote;
Evidently Turkish nationalistic policy is aimed at all Christians and not confined to Armenians… “Will the outrageous terrorizing, the cruel torturing, the driving of women into the harems, the debauchery of innocent girls, the sale of many of them at eighty cents each, the murdering of hundreds of thousands and the deportation to, and starvation in, the deserts of other hundreds of thousands, the destruction of hundreds of villages and cities, will the willful execution of this whole devilish scheme to annihilate the Armenian, Greek and Syrian Christians of Turkey — will all this go unpunished?”
     Ambassador Morgenthau continued saying: “Acting under Germany’s prompting, Turkey now began to apply this principle of deportation to her Greek subjects in Asia Minor… This procedure against the Greeks not improperly aroused my indignation. I did not have the slightest suspicion at that time that the Germans had instigated these deportations, but I looked upon them merely as an outburst of Turkish ferocity and chauvinism. By this time, I knew Talaat well; I saw him nearly every day, and he used to discuss practically every phase of international relations with me. I objected vigorously to his treatment of the Greeks; I told him that it would make the worst possible impression abroad and that it affected American interests… “Turkey for the Turks” was now Talaat’s controlling idea.”
    This fact was made clear by Ambassador Morgenthau “Their [the Young Turks] passion for Turkifying the nation seemed to demand logically the extermination of all Christians—Greeks, Syrians, and Armenians. The Armenians are not the only subject people in Turkey which have suffered from this policy of making Turkey exclusively the country of the Turks. The story which I have told about the Armenians I could also tell with certain modifications about the Greeks and the Syrians. Indeed, the Greeks were the first victims of this nationalizing idea.”2
     2022 is the 100th Anniversary of the Asia Minor Catastrophe. What happened to the survivors? I learned the history of Iraklitsa, Eastern Thrace from Mr. Theodoros Lymperakis – Lawyer of the Court of Appeal of Thrace account“In Eastern Thrace, the ancient land of our ancestors, a prominent place was occupied, already in ancient times, by the cities and fortifications of the Thracian beaches of Propontis…The population of these towns and villages, truly Greek (from the 32,000 inhabitants of the early 20th century, 30,500 were Greeks), with iron, national conscience and prosperous schools, lived almost free until 1913, when that horrible persecution began. of the Greeks of the East. Thrace, which lasted until the declaration of World War I and continued almost throughout its duration… about 1,850 people were engaged in agriculture…. while many had emigrated, to Constantinople and abroad. They never forgot their homeland, which they constantly and in every way helped. The community was fully self-governing…
     The people of Heraklion had a Code, which was kept in the church and was considered by the Diocese, the validity of which was recognized by the Ottoman Courts. It registered all kinds of legal acts and official deeds, such as wills, dowries, donations, shops, etc. Although this Code reached Kavala, , but it was lost as soon as it arrived, in the courtyard of the church of St. John. In the early hours of July 27, 1912, a strong earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.6, originating from the fault of Anatolia passing through Propontis took place. All of them (Greeks overseas) came to the care of the earthquake victims of their village, in collaboration with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
      During the Balkan Wars and World War I, the inhabitants of Iraklitsa and the whole of Thrace suffered many hardships, among which was the systematic attempt of the neo-Turks to exterminate or forcibly expel from the ancient hearths all the Greek populations. none of them agreed to become Turkish. The neo-Turks tried to achieve this by sending men to the “neglected drums” or labor battalions, displacing women and children and the elderly in Asia Minor with the aim of systematically exterminating them from hardship, murder, rape of women, oppression and terrorism, but also with the high taxation and the commercial exclusion of the Greek economic units, sufferings which were increased by the action of Bulgarian komitatzids, who passed through all of Thrace and oppressed its Greek inhabitants in a way no better than that of the Turks. In 1914, the first Displacement (first persecution took place, with Thracians going as refugees to Lefki, Nicea(modern Iznik). Out of 773 villagers, 395 returned to homes in 1918 with Greek troops during the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922. They faced the harsh reality that most of their homes were destroyed. Many did not return and immigrated elsewhere. In 1923, the population exchange occurred with everyone leaving.”3 The first expulsion of Greeks from Asia Minor was 2014. They returned with the Greek army in 2018-2019. Finally left in 1922 and 1923 with the population exchange between countries.
     Thracians and persons of Western Anatolia “suffered during the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922. A war was fought between Greece and the Turkish National Movement during the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of World War I, between May 1919 and October 1922. As a result, the Greek government accepted the demands of the Turkish National Movement and returned to its pre-war borders, thus leaving East Thrace and Western Anatolia to Turkey. The Allies abandoned the Treaty of Sèvres to negotiate a new treaty at Lausanne with the Turkish National Movement. The Treaty of Lausanne recognized the independence of the Republic of Turkey and its sovereignty over Anatolia, Istanbul, and Eastern Thrace. The Greek and Turkish governments agreed to engage in a population exchange in 1923.”4
     The refugees from Iraklitsa founded a new settlement called Nea Iraklitsa in Kavala, Macedonia. “Nea Iraklitsa was founded by refugees from Eastern Thrace in 1924, when 102 families settled there.  It is located 13 kilometers west of Kavala. Nea Iraklitsa is famous for its picturesque port and for its beach, with its many taverns. One of the main attractions is the church of Panagia Faneromeni, where the miraculous Icon of Megalocharis is located, which, according to tradition, was crafted by the evangelist Luke. The Cara of Agios Charalambous, the Hieromartyr, is also kept.”
     Dimitri Sassos, PharmD,  Community Leader, activist, President of the Parish Council of Kimisis Church. Poughkeepsie, NY, shared his family history from Nea Iraklitsa, Kavala.
     “The Sassos Family of modern-day Nea Iraklitsa,  Kavála,  Greece, were originally Mikrasiates refugees from Iraklitsa Eastern Thrace,” he explained. “My father’s grandfather, who he was named after, Panagiotis Sassos, was the first mayor of the new town Nea Iraklitsa. He was a local leader and developer of the greater area surrounding Nea Iraklitsa and Palio towns outside of Kavála. We have a modern-day saint born in Iraklitsa, Eastern Thrace. Saint Savvas of Old Iraklitsa was a great asceticconfessoricon painter, and miracle-worker. He is one of the new saints in the Greek Orthodox Church.
     Mr. Theodoros Lymperakis summarizes the meaning of the 100th Anniversary best: “A series of small gems in the crown of Eastern Thrace were, dear compatriots, Ganochora. A series of small gems, with a long history and a pre-eternal, Greek culture, the end of which occurred when, in October 1922, the great exit of Thracian Hellenism from its hearths was completed. Then the Great Idea of ​​our nation disappeared, then the de-Hellenization of that ancient part of the Greek land began and was completed quickly by the Turks. But we owe it to ourselves, the great debt, to keep our historical memory alive, to be exemplified by our mistakes and the vested interests of foreigners, masters of our “allies”, and to achieve and maintain its unity as the apple of our eye. of our people, especially now that our Nation is going through difficult times again.”7
Mr. Demetrios Sassos keeps his great grandparent’s roots alive in his family. It is important to remember where you came from, that keeps you grounded so you will stay strong.

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