this land… we shall never see again. Testimonial of Rozìta Pavlìdou, Kokkinia
this land… we shall never see again.
Testimonial of Rozìta Pavlìdou, Kokkinia
…Amidst the Turks we had friends, as well as enemies. Some loved us and some loathed us. Our friends tried in every way to turn us into Turks, because, as their Quran preaches, if they win over just one Christian and turn him into a Muslim, they will be saved. Those who loved us, would protect us against those who wished to harm us. We would often bribe them so they would leave us alone. If, for instance, we had liquor which was prohibited by Kemal, we would secretly give some to the police commander and he would instruct his gendarmes not to come by us -or, if they did come, to look the other way.
With the war going on in Smyrna, Turkish refugees started to appear. They were all wealthy. They stayed in the homes of Greeks. Some houses they would rent, some they would occupy by force. They restricted Greeks to one area and occupied the rest.
At the same time, or a bit earlier, Greek prisoners were brought to us from Smyrna, Sparta, Nazli, Denizli. Back then, they had brought five hundred children. They were skinny. They were naked, full of lice and wounds. They were hungry and begging us to help them. I would go to the chief of police. “Please, let me have some of these children to save them”. He promised he would do that, just they were about to send them away. Indeed, when they gathered the children to send them away, he pocketed sixty liras I had collected for him and let me have fourteen children.
The father of two of these children was living in my house.
He had been among those who had been brought to our village. At night, they sat together for dinner. The father was touched; he turned to me and said: “You have Jesus together with his disciples today in your home”.
Of these fourteen children, one stayed with me at home until the end. The others were scattered around, in other homes. Some survived, some died. The child I had kept with me was Thòdoros. He had become friends with my own child, they used to play together. We lost him as soon as we arrived here. I don’t know his last name. We heard he had married a priest’s daughter and that he was living somewhere in the country. I didn’t find out where his village was.
As I said, we kept fourteen children and the rest were taken away by the Turks. We heard they had taken them to Sevasteia. They suffered. Suffering, hardships, lice; in the end, there was a cholera outbreak and most of them perished.
Turks would handpick the most beautiful girls out of the refugees who had come to our village. They would take them away by force. They would force them to marry. Their parents would die from sorrow…
In 1922, the Turks allowed for the first time those who wanted to leave the country, to do so. Twenty families left back then. We were greatly touched with each group of people who would leave. Then again, it was difficult for us to up and leave. How were we to abandon our home? Our home was a palace, my son. Each stone, each brick was worth a lira. Each plank was worth a lira. “We don’t mind the cost, as long as it is solid and beautiful”, we would tell the masons. They were telling us that we were going to get compensation. This was our consolation.
In early 1923, they issued the same permit again. “Those who wish to leave, need to do so within thirty-one days”. This was when we, too, made this decision. We started the preparations…
Before leaving, we went to church. We had the holy communion. We visited the cemetery. We went there together with the priest. He read out the Bible, we wept. “Oh, we will never see this land again. Oh, brother… father, mother, oh my child, forgive me for leaving you among the Turks”.
Later, the Turks handed us the vesikà, we made the final preparations, we found carriages… we loaded them. Before setting off, I went back in my house one last time. “Alas, my beautiful home, I went through so much pain to build you”. I would kiss the walls and the doors, crying; those around me crying along, Turks and Christians alike.
We started out in eight carriages. Others joined us later…
We reached Ulukisla. We spent the night over. On the next day, we heard the train. People would exclaim: “Come, come see a long thing that’s moving this way”.
We loaded our stuff up, boarded the train, and came to Mersin.
…They made us stay in the English warehouses, encircled in barbed wire. We weren’t allowed to go outside. Those of us who had money, would pay to stay in separate rooms…
Every day, we would see through the windows people carrying five-ten bodies out. They would toss them in gorges, in lakes, wherever they could think. Imagine having to dig graves to bury all those people.
Thirty-two days later, the ship sailed in… We went down on the beach. They frisked us. Two women would frisk the women and one policeman would frisk the men.
They discovered 50 liras in the shoulder pads of the jacket of some poorly dressed man. Since then, they would be more meticulous with those who were poorly dressed, whereas they would let those who were better dressed go through faster. Me and my children went through easily…
After the body search, we boarded the boat. It was rocking and we went crazy. “We’ll drown, we’ll drown!”. It was the end of the world. It wasn’t as if we had actually seen a boat before. We were afraid that the boatman would drown us, so we handed him five liras each.
We reached the ship. It was Italian. The crew came down and helped us on board, with kindness… We made it to Chios.
From there, we were dispersed. Some left for Thessaloniki and some others went elsewhere.
12, 14, 17.1.1955