Isaac Yfantes in the USA, c. late 1940's.
Isaac Yfantes/Yfantides (b. 1886 - d. Boston 1967) and Sofia Yfantes (nee Sideropoulos b. 1885 - d. Boston 1960's) were from Şebinkarahisar, Turkey. The following testimony was submitted by their great-granddaughter through our online questionnaire.
1. From which region of the Ottoman Empire were your ancestors from?:
My great-grandfather Isaac Yfantes was from Şebinkarahisar (formerly Kolonia) in the Ottoman Empire (today Turkey). My great-grandmother Sofia Yfantes (nee Sideropoulos) also lived there however I believe they both may have originally been from the seaside town of Ordu or had some connection to it.
2. How did their life change when the Neo-Turks and/or the Kemalists came to power? :
My maternal grandfather's family was financially well-off but when the Neo-Turks came to power they were reduced to poverty. My grandfather's brother George starved to death around this time. My great-grandfather came to America in October 1913 ahead of the rest of the family to help get the family established there. My grandfather Paul Yfantes/Yphantes (b. 1908 Şebinkarahisar - d. 1981 Boston) immigrated to New York with his mother Sofia and his younger brother Kyriakos and older sister Simela (b. 1904 Şebinkarahisar - d. 1980's) in June 1920.
3. Were they deported during the genocide? If so, when, where to, and describe their experience:
I don't know the exact details but my great-grandmother and her children were marched all the way from Şebinkarahisar to Istanbul. From there they ended up in France and then America.
Isaac Yfantes (seated) with his grand-daughter Joan on the floor in front of him and his grandson George playing cards. George was named after Isaac's son George who starved to death in Turkey. Seated far right is Sylvia, a family friend whose parents were from Ordu.
4. Were they held in a concentration camp or labor camp? If so, where was it located and describe the conditions :
Not that I know of. My grandfather and his two siblings didn't speak much about their early years in Turkey. I can only assume it was difficult to talk about.
5. Did they lose family and friends? If so, how did they cope?:
Yes, relatives of ours starved to death. Also, as mentioned, one of my grandfather's brothers, George passed away during the march that my great-grandmother and her children were forced on. I was told that my great-grandmother buried one of her children on this trek. I assume this was George although I also heard that my great-grandmother was pregnant at the time and may have lost another child.
6. Did anyone within Turkey including Turks try to help them during the genocide? :
Apparently at some stage my great-grandmother tried to hide some Armenians and as a result she was beaten up by Turkish soldiers.
A landscape photo of Şebinkarahisar brought by the family to the U.S when they immigrated in 1920.
7. How did they cope emotionally with their genocide experience? Did it affect the remainder of their life? :
My grandfather and his siblings barely talked about it. I imagine it was quite a scary and difficult experience to live through.
8. Did the denial of the genocide by the perpetrator (the successor state of Turkey) affect their ability to form closure?:
I'm not sure, but as a descendant, yes it affects me.
9. How did they feel about Turkey after the genocide? :
My grandfather would spit on the floor whenever he would hear the word "Turkey" even if it was in reference to the animal. When my grandfather was a young immigrant boy in elementary school learning English, a teacher asked the class if they were going to have Turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. At that stage my grandfather didn't know about Thanksgiving, so when he heard the word "Turkey" he spat on the classroom floor.
Addendum: Although most of my family were lucky enough to escape Ottoman Turkey during the genocide, the unfortunate thing is that we lost contact with some of our relatives. For instance I believe that my great grandfather had one or two brothers who also fled to the US during that time but I cannot locate them. I think they may have ended up in Ohio but I am not sure. I recall hearing that my great-grandmother used to visit Ohio by bus many years ago to visit relatives. I've tried locating these relatives but I have had no luck.
Alex Sideropoulos (middle) with his two nephews Paul/Pavlos Yfantes (right) and Kyriakos Yfantes (left) some time in the 1920's in the U.S. Alex was from Ordu, Turkey and was the brother of Sofia Sideropoulos. He was widowed at a young age and arrived in the U.S in 1909.