Quotes

 Dimitri Soyler with his family, circa 1952.

The following testimony was submitted via our online questionnaire by a relative of the family. 

 

1. From which region of the Ottoman Empire were your ancestors from?:
My father was born in 1912 in Samsun in the Black Sea region called Pontos. He was from a rich and large family of 60 to 70 persons including himself and his relatives. My grandfather was a teacher in his village and was responsible for any papers that had to be filled such as marriage certificates. He was like the mayor of his village. He owned tobacco farms. My father was a very private man and didn't discuss his past with people.

2. How did their life change when the Neo-Turks and/or the Kemalists came to power? :
On the 19th of May 1919, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk went to Samsun and hired Topal Osman, a militia leader and others like him, all Christian haters and racist bigots to take all the men. The men of Samsun were sent to do heavy work into exile. All their property was confiscated. During their march towards the interior of Turkey, all the men were slaughtered. None survived. Women, children and the elderly filled into churches and were burned alive. My father and his older brother went to hide on the mountains with some other Christians. Topal Osman, the militia leader and his people found my father's brother in his hiding place and killed him in front of my father's eyes. My father never forgot that till the day he died.  

3. Were they deported during the genocide? If so, when, where to, and describe their experience:
Yes, see above.

4. Were they held in a concentration camp or labor camp? If so, where was it located and describe the conditions :
No.

5. Did they lose family and friends? If so, how did they cope?:
60-70 of my relatives went missing. It was a lifelong struggle for my father who went looking for them.

6. Did anyone within Turkey including Turks try to help them during the genocide? :
My father was saved by a Muslim family who gave him a new first name and family name; Mustafa Soyler. That was until he married in 1946 and moved to Istanbul whereupon he changed his first name with the help of Mr Yakovos Bilek to the one given to him by his father and mother, but kept his family name which was given to him by his Muslim family. He became Dimitri Soyler. Keeping his Turkish family name was probably an easy option for him.

7. How did they cope emotionally with their genocide experience? Did it affect the remainder of their life? :
My father struggled all his life looking for answers. Until he died, he was looking for survivors from his family and why and how it all happened.

8. Did the denial of the genocide by the perpetrator (the successor state of Turkey) affect their ability to form closure?:
It affects me alot. Especially Turkey's president who accuses the Greeks and Armenians of burning Izmir before leaving, and that the genocide of Greeks and Armenians never happened.

9. How did they feel about Turkey after the genocide? :
My father felt negatively towards Turkey, but also towards Germany, England, France, Italy, America and partly Russia who he felt were also responsible for what happened at that time.

Likewise he felt that Greece was partly to blame. After the accord signing in 1923 up until today, the Government of Greece never looked after our rights. At the time, Venizelos and his government got 12 billion dollar value for the Turks leaving Greece for Turkey. However Greeks that had to leave Pontos, Smyrna, Asia Minor and Eastern Thrace left behind  more then 100 billion dollars worth of goods, houses, lands, businesses, schools, hospitals and many more. They also lost the lands they were born, their country for 3000 years. No Greek Government has since ever tried to get answers from Turkey for what happened.  

10. Additional comments
As mentioned, my father was saved by a Muslim family who gave him a new first name and family name; Mustafa Soyler. I have my uncle's name Athanasios. This is the name of my father's brother who was killed in front of my father's eyes. I was born in 1950. My older brother Georgios was named after my grandfather who we never met. My older sister is Despina who has the name of my grandmother who we also never met because of the genocide.

With the help of the Red Cross in 1964-65 my father was able to find 2 of his family members in Greece; his sister Kiriaki Georgiadou living at Haritomeni in Drama who he visited and stayed with for a month. He learned from her that there were no other survivors from our family other than one cousin living in Thessaloniki by the name of Theoharis Kalaitsidis. He visited him too.

I also lived through the Istanbul Pogrom of 6–7 September 1955. The Istanbul pogrom was a government instigated series of riots against the Greek minority of Istanbul in September 1955. It can be characterized as a crime against humanity comparable in scope to the November 1938 Kristallnacht in Germany perpetrated by the Nazi authorities against Jewish civilians. I was 5 years old when it happened. I was living across from the church. They burned the church. My father said these are the Muslim Turks. I was scared to death. It has affected me psychologically till today.

Then in 1964, Istanbul-born Greeks were forced to leave. What could you cram into a suitcase if you were forced to leave your birthplace only with personal items weighing 20 kilos and money amounting to 20 dollars? This might sound like a killer question, but thousands of Istanbul-born Greeks had to answer this in a very short time when they were exiled from the city in 1964.

When I learned that as a Christian in Turkey I can't be a police officer, this was the last nail in the coffin. After my obligatory army service I left Turkey and never returned. The thing that most bothers me personally is that I did not fall from the sky. I was never able to have a grandfather, a grandmother, an uncle, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, sisters in law, brothers in law because of Ataturk, Topal Osman and his group of people who killed 60 to 70 of my relatives. We lost our 3000 year old lands. Why? Over the last 50 years I've been looking for answers for closure. My father died in 1969 in Istanbul. My mother is from Tokat. She is Armenian. Her family also endured alot. She died here in Canada. My brother died in Greece. My sister died in Canada 3 years ago. I am the only living member of the real Tsokektsidis family. What's been done to my family, on both sides, is inhumane. How can one human do this to another human. I hope one day they answer to God.

 

The marriage certificate of Dimitri Soyler showing a line through Mustafa, his original name, replaced with the name Dimitri. His mother's name is listed as Bespina (Despina) and his father's name Yorgi.

 

 

 

The following testimony was submitted via our online questionnaire by a relative of the family.

 

1. From which region of the Ottoman Empire were your ancestors from?:
My father was from a place called Apess in the Sivas region.

2. How did their life change when the Neo-Turks and/or the Kemalists came to power? :
The Turks would chase them with guns. There was one notorious Turk in particular by the name of Topal Osman. They were also burning villages.

3. Were they deported during the genocide? If so, when, where to, and describe their experience:
They deported my father at a very young age along with the other men. We weren't told much, but we beleve all the males of our family died there.

4. Were they held in a concentration camp or labor camp? If so, where was it located and describe the conditions :
They were made to work in labor battalions. We don't know where that was. They would beat them so that they would work. That's what he told us.  

5. Did they lose family and friends? If so, how did they cope?:
Yes, all the men died. There were no more males left. Only women and children. The rest of the family were expelled. They boarded ships at Samsun and arrived in Greece. They carried wheat in their sacks. Only the women left. Our family was left without a father.   

6. Did anyone within Turkey including Turks try to help them during the genocide? :
Nobody helped. When they were leaving at Samsun the Turks would rob them. Turkish fishermen tried to abduct my grandfather there too.

7. How did they cope emotionally with their genocide experience? Did it affect the remainder of their life? :
They didn't talk about it. They only spoke about their homeland. They never talked about what they witnessed. They just tried to survive since they were left with nothing.

8. Did the denial of the genocide by the perpetrator (the successor state of Turkey) affect their ability to form closure?:
They never thought about it. They felt pain because they lost their homeland and the people that were lost. They felt sadness and pain.  

9. How did they feel about Turkey after the genocide? :
They felt bitterness and enmity towards Turkey and the Turks.

 

Nikolaos Daldavanis (standing, far right) and his family.

The following testimony relating to Nikolaos Daldavanis (1907-1990) of Smyrna (today İzmir) was submitted via our online questionnaire by his daughter.



1. From which region of the Ottoman Empire were your ancestors from?:
My father was from Smyrna (today İzmir).

2. How did their life change when the Neo-Turks and/or the Kemalists came to power? :
In September 1922, he and his family were forced to the burning waterfront of Smyrna and were forced to flee.

3. Were they deported during the genocide? If so, when, where to, and describe their experience:
No. The only way they could survive was to escape into the sea, or die.

4. Were they held in a concentration camp or labor camp? If so, where was it located and describe the conditions :
No camp, but an Italian ship sailed them to Athens. My father was about 15. He lost his family at the time, only to be reunited much later in Samos.

5. Did they lose family and friends? If so, how did they cope?:
Yes, they lost friends and neighbors. But they remained stoic. My grandfather died of a heart attack on the island of Samos as a result of stress related to this horrendous experience. They held a funeral for him there on Samos.

6. Did anyone within Turkey including Turks try to help them during the genocide? :
My father fell unconscious and a Greek neighbor took my dad by skiff to the Italian steamer the Constantinopoli.

7. How did they cope emotionally with their genocide experience? Did it affect the remainder of their life? :
They never ever talked about it in front of us, or in our presence.

8. Did the denial of the genocide by the perpetrator (the successor state of Turkey) affect their ability to form closure?:
Nothing was said.

9. How did they feel about Turkey after the genocide? :
Horrible, but visited Kuşadası many times from Samos, not knowing the horrific story until I read Lou Ureneck's book The Great Fire.

 

 

The Tsami family in Pireaus c. 1932.

The following testimony was submitted via our online questionnaire by a relative of the family, George Tsenes.

 

1. From which region of the Ottoman Empire were your ancestors from?:
My great-grandmother’s family was from a place called Kırkağaç. My grandfather’s family was from Smyrna.

2. How did their life change when the Neo-Turks and/or the Kemalists came to power? :
They could no longer live in safety in their homeland.

3. Were they deported during the genocide? If so, when, where to, and describe their experience:
No. My great-grandmother took what she could with her along with her children and fled to Piraeus, Greece. They arrived in Greece and were labelled refugees. She is pictured above with her daughters.

4. Were they held in a concentration camp or labor camp? If so, where was it located and describe the conditions :
No, they weren't held in concentration camps; she thought she was leaving for a short time thinking she would return to her home.

5. Did they lose family and friends? If so, how did they cope?:
Yes. The two young ladies to the left and right in the above photo lost their husbands when the Turks deployed their troops. Information passed down to us state that many of our relatives who lived there suffered greatly; many lost their lives by beheadings, hangings etc. The Turkish soldiers rode in with horses and indiscriminately killed people with their swords, setting fires to their houses. Women were raped, slashed with swords and as crazy as it sounds, they had their breasts cut off. My grandmother was about 2 years old when it happened. As they were boarding the ship to flee, the Turks took all their belongings. I believe they boarded an Italian ship. My great-grandmother was able to sneak some belongings on board for her children by stuffing them into pillow cases.

6. Did anyone within Turkey including Turks try to help them during the genocide? :
Yes. The local people tried to help prior to the troops arriving. I was told that the people of Kırkağaç lived together and were very happy for many many years. They had great relationships with other religions such as Muslims and the Hasidic Jews that made up the community.

7. How did they cope emotionally with their genocide experience? Did it affect the remainder of their life? :
As far as I could tell, my grandmother was able to cope throughout her life. My great-grandmother however always talked about going back home all the time. She and her parents were born there.

8. Did the denial of the genocide by the perpetrator (the successor state of Turkey) affect their ability to form closure?:
She never spoke of the genocide.

9. How did they feel about Turkey after the genocide? :
I know that my grandfather was angry but my grandmother never spoke about it.

10: Additional comments:
My great-grandmother was educated in England and her father was the Mayor of that town. She spoke Greek, French, English and one other language that she did not recall. Her daughter on the left Tasia was a designer of Persian rugs. What caused the suffering of millions of peace-loving people during that period was the hate, rhetoric and propaganda of various people and governments.

 

Ourania Zografos and her husband Antoine Sigalas at their wedding in France (c. 1934).

The following testimony relating to Ourania Zografos (1913-2014) of Smyrna (today İzmir) was submitted through our online questionnaire by her granddaughter.

 

1. From which region of the Ottoman Empire were your ancestors from?:
My paternal grandmother was from Smyrna (today İzmir)

2. How did their life change when the Neo-Turks and/or the Kemalists came to power? :
My grandmother fled Smyrna in 1922 after seeing soldiers killing all the men. My grandmother was 9 years of age at the time. She saw her father being taken as a prisoner. She never saw him again. Her mother, sisters and brother boarded a boat with her to safety.

3. Were they deported during the genocide? If so, when, where to, and describe their experience:
No. They boarded a ship and arrived in Pireaus, Athens. They all worked. The children did housework for the rich to survive.

4. Were they held in a concentration camp or labor camp? If so, where was it located and describe the conditions :
No

5. Did they lose family and friends? If so, how did they cope?:
Yes. They lost friends and their father in front of their own eyes.

6. Did anyone within Turkey including Turks try to help them during the genocide? :
No idea. But they had many Turks as friends before all this happened.  

7. How did they cope emotionally with their genocide experience? Did it affect the remainder of their life? :
Yes of course. My grandmother talked about it all the time. She wanted us to know what happened. Her story was not in books. She wanted us to be proud of being Greek. She also told us how they left Greece and went to France due to experiencing discrimination from the Greek people.

8. Did the denial of the genocide by the perpetrator (the successor state of Turkey) affect their ability to form closure?:
No, they didn’t care as they went to Athens. They then moved to France.

9. How did they feel about Turkey after the genocide? :
No hatred. Just sadness.

 

Subcategories

Witness testimonies provide a valuable first hand account of the genocide. The list below includes accounts by survivors, relief workers, diplomats and officials.

The following testimonies were submitted by members of the public via our online questionnaire.
To submit your ancestor's story, click here.

Quote #2

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) - British Statesman

“... Mustapha Kemal's Army ... celebrated their triumph by the burning of Smyrna to ashes and by a vast massacre of its Christian population...”

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