Eye Witness


Greek MFA


Antonios Kapsambelis


Antonios Kapsambelis
Old Phocaea

Athens, 14/3/1959 & 20/3/1959
C.A.M.S. researcher: Zoe Kyritsopoulou

Italics: researcher’s commentary
Non-italics: testimony

Journey Sheet (14/3/1959)

I took the streetcar from Rigas Feraios street. and got off at the end of the settlement in Vyronas. I had two goals: To go find Sophia Yagtsi from Koula, a teacher. And Antonis Kapsambelis, from the pharmacy owner […], an information I got from Mr. Economou, cartographer at the Centre. I walked for a long time looking for S. Yagtsi, but it was impossible for me to find her house. I got lost. Suddenly I found myself on Ioanninon Street. God must have had mercy on me. I had been walking for so long I decided to go find informant Kaspambelis who lived around there. Dusk was coming and I had not written a single word. I ask the passing yoghurt seller, he pointed at a house with an external set of steps without banister, open to the void, and wet. It was still a construction site. I managed to walk up but I got frightened to death! In a tiny little room filled with a motley collection of old-time furniture, there were two older women sitting on chairs and a third one, lying on a bed. If only I could leave this place, I wouldn’t care about the stairs! I get so […] distressed seeing informants in bed, people laid down in general. What was I to do? I can write such things but I can’t do them. So I entered, squeezed myself close to the informants, towards the back of the room. It was cold; it was one of the few really cold days this winter. A petrol injection pump, like the one my father had brough to Sokia in 1912, it was impressive, but today it emitted a tiny little flame and was struggling to warm the feet of the informant. Whilst taking off my gloves and scarf and as I spread out my papers, I explained where I came from and what I wanted. We answered the questions in the order they are listed. I feel especially pleased, almost proud when my informants have things to say about the times of the Greek Revolution [1821]. I tried this on Old Phocaea too. We spoke about “The Lady of the Angels” too, which is how they called Virgin Mary. I left via the same staircase, of course. But I was no longer that afraid. And I said to myself yes, this time I managed to get quite a lot of information on Old Phocaea. At other times I’d gathered more generalised information. But now, yes. Whilst we were conversing, the two women left. They had their traditional triangular scarves on their back [“boxades”] and when they put them on their heads, they got me remembering the old days. That’s how women dressed in Smyrna, in Sokia, in Gerontas. They wore large woollen scarves and long shawls and once they finished work or had to visit some place near, they’d always wear them on their backs or, if it was too cold, on their heads too. They’d knit them themselves and were very proud of the knitwork, the motives, the whiteness of the wool, which meant they were very clean. These two women were the sisters of Mrs. Kapsambelis, who was the ill woman on the bed. They gave me their address too. I thanked them and left.

Informant’s Biographical Note (20/3/1959)

Antonios Kabsambelis was born in Old Phocaea in 1880. Back home he was a grocer. Now he is almost blinded by cataract and can’t work. He remembers the place, he misses it and talks about it all the time. I asked him all sorts of things, about the Exodus, and he’d say “what can I say? These things cannot be told.” And he’d fall into a bitter silence. His wife, her sisters and all his relatives come from the same town. The gather and talk incessantly. He’s a pretty good informant. He lives in the settlement of Vyronas. We take the streetcar from Rigas Feraios street. His address is on the corner of Ithomis St & Ioanninon, no. 39 or 41.

1821 (20/2/1959)

The Christians in Old Phocaea paid dearly for the 1821 Revolution. The Turks got to them through treachery. They asked them to gather up, that they’d hid them in their cellars, but they beat them to death. They must have killed about 70. The next day, they opened up the Castle door and called their relative to come and take them and bury them. My mother, whose family goes all the way back to Byzantine times, her name was Thodoroula, found my grandfather among the dead. He was still breathing. She managed to resuscitate him. She took him home and then he would ever more tell this story and what happened. The local Turks, afterwards, were nice to us. One of them in fact would always hide people in his vineyards when times got rough. The rebels who’d come from outside would do a lot of bad things to us.

Abdul Hamid’s time

The houses were tiny, on stuck on the other so that they could all fit in the old castle. In Hamid’s time rules changed […] more freedom was given and people started building nice and opulent homes outside the castle, we called them “xospita” [outside houses]. That’s when commerce and stock-farming flourished […]


[…] In 1914, we went to Thessaloniki and then we came back here. In 1922, whoever left, left. 22 members of our family were slaughtered.

Old Phocaea (Eski Foça)

Félix Sartiaux
Charles Manciet
 Anastasis Pallas
Giorgos Tzitziras
 Anastasios Giannaris
Antonios Kapsambelis

Thanassis Papoutsis

 Nikolaos Tsakalos

New Phocaea (Yeni Foça)