Eye Witness


Greek MFA


Thanassis Karasakalis / Nikos Vroutanis


Thanassis Karasakalis / Nikos Vroutanis

Athens 8/4/1964 & 15/4/65


Both inside our homes and outside, in the coffee shops, we spoke Greek everywhere. There were very few of us who knew how to speak Turkish. We didn’t have Turks in our village, we did whatever we pleased. All Christians, we were free. We’d sing Greek songs. And the women, when someone died, they’d lament them in Greek: “you were a handsome man/ and an angel came and took you”, these kinds of things.


Right opposite Karaca Dağı, in front of the headland, there was this islet, Partheni it was called. It was about 500 meters from the shore. A very small islet, all rocks. No running water no nothing. During both persecutions, that’s where we fled to and saved ourselves.


We had sturdy, stone houses. Made with chiselled cornerstones. We’d bring the stones in with ox carts from the quarry in Amourtis. We didn’t put wooden frames around our doors, but stones, which we called souvedes (söve). We pierced the stone with chisels, put in an iron rod, pour in melted lead and fix the door. Around fifteen houses had two floors and the rest were single-storey. We didn’t have separate rooms, the whole house was a single, big room. [p.75 missing] [for the roof] We placed a thick beam, rafters, joists, and threw seaweed and soil on top and then clay (geren). These roofs would last for years, they were very sturdy. Every year, for any amount of clay that was washed away by water, we would replace it in September. When we wanted to lay foundations we sent for the priest to bless them. And on all four corners of the house we’d place a bottle with ayiasma (holy water). And then , simultaneously with slaying the necessary cockerel, the owner of the house had to throw a sultan’s coin to the head craftsman. It was alien workers who built our houses, from Phocaea, Mytilene, and Bulgaria. In 1909, on the day of the Epiphany, there was an earthquake and a lot of houses crumbled; some were torn in two. The Turkish government sent tents. We slept outside for more than fifty days. Then craftsmen came from Mytilene and Callipoli (Gelibolu) and rebuilt our houses. 


The school was close by the church. It was a single-storey, one-room thing paved with floorboards. It had 4-5 desks and a balckboard. Not many children attended, about twenty all in all. The girlst didn’t go there, they thought it was bad luck. There were six grades and one teacher for all. In my time, the teacher was very strict, he beat us a lot. And he’d sent us to the mountain to cut the sticks ourselves. One time he made me kneel on stones for punishment. I never went back to school again. The books would arrive from New Phocaea. We had this book, a rag we called it, and a sheet with multiplication tables. In History class we learnt Greek history. Lately they had also started teaching Turkish at school. Nobody came to check up on us. We’d sing Greek songs, about Kolokotronis [*a Greek revolutionary hero]; it was almost as if we were in Greece. The schools opened in September and stopped as soon as the St Constantine feast was over [in May]. We didn’t have school reports. The teacher had a book with all our names in it. When a different teacher came, he simply handed over the book. There were two books in the village: the school’s book and the church’s book. At the end of the year we were tested on poetry and poems, just us, our parents did not attend. We’d pay fees according to how much you earned. Married, single, we all chipped in for the community. Only the very poor ones didn’t pay. Maintenance for the school building came from this bundle of money too.

Old Phocaea (Eski Foça)

New Phocaea (Yeni Foça)



 N. Vroutanis & G. Savvas
T. Karasakalis & N. Vroutanis