Vasilis Kaptanoglou was born in Prokopi, Cappadocia, in 1907. At the beginning of 1922, he arrived in Piraeus with his mother and stayed in a makeshift shack in Tampouria with his brother’s family, who had arrived a few months earlier. Throughout his life, he never stopped playing the oud, the same one he had brought with him from Prokopi.
Amid the makeshift shacks of Tampouria, Vasilis met Eleni Dimou from Chili on the Euxine Sea, another refugee who had arrived in Greece with her father and her two sisters. This icon of the Annunciation, originating either from Prokopi or Chili, holds immense sentimental value for their descendants.
Giorgos Papagiovanoglou, a wool merchant, was originally from Sungurlu, a town located between Ankara and Cappadocia. At the outbreak of the Asia Minor conflict, he found refuge in Constantinople and, then, in Ano Poli, Thessaloniki. He married Tarsi Vlisidou and the couple had twins in 1943. At the time, there was a curfew and a blackout in the German-occupied city. Using the lantern that the family had brought with them form Sungurlu, Tarsi and a neighbour lit their way towards the Anagnostaki clinic where Tarsi gave birth.
At the outbreak of the Asia Minor conflict, Giorgos Papagiovanoglou found refuge in Constantinople, leaving his two sons behind, in Sungurlu, to reunite with the rest of the family later. After selling their entire wool stock, they arrived in Thessaloniki carrying a great amount of household effects and relying on their savings in English banks to rebuild their life. They resettled in a large Turkish house in Terpsithea Square in Ano Poli which they eventually bought.
Odysseas Papaioannou, one of the twin grandsons of Giorgos Papagiovanoglou, grew up in Ano Poli in the house of Terpsithea Square. He grew up rich surrounded by great poverty and the resulting tension profoundly shaped his personality. He left the family home for a few years, but returned to it, restored it and preserved a number of the household items brought to Greece by his grandfather’s family. Among them, this tapestry with an oriental theme.
Georgios Trechas and Konstantinos Raspitsos were born at the end of the 19th century on Englezonisi, a small island in the Gulf of Smyrna with a population of around 2,500 people, mainly Christians. From a very young age, they started working as fishermen to provide for their families. Two stone moulds for fishing hooks, today in the possession of Konstantinos Trechas, Georgios’ grandson, are some of the few belongings they brought with them to Greece.
Georgios Trechas, along with his young son Dimitris, and Konstantinos Raspitsos met again at the makeshift refugee settlement of Drapetsona where they started over: new homes, new boats, new lives. A wooden icon of the Virgin Mary is one of the few belongings they brought with them.
The objects the refugees brought with them from their homelands remained in use for years. A carpet from Sourmena in Pontus was first used as intended and now, 100 years later, it has been turned into a decorative tapestry.
The objects the refugees brought with them from their homelands remained in use for years and later were often repurposed and given new life. The Papadopoulou family from Sourmena, Pontus, brought with them a samovar which they used as a ‘mouslouki’ (a tin water pitcher).
In October 1924, the women of Sinasos brought their traditional outfits with them to Greece, as they considered them highly valuable both from a material and a sentimental standpoint. Some women even wore them during their first years in Greece before they were ‘hidden’ in closets for years to eventually be donated, usually by descendants, to the ‘Nea Sinasos’ Association Museum, where they are still kept to this day.
The women of Sinasos did not dance in public spaces, but only during private feasts in their homes and always accompanied by their fathers or husbands. During these feasts or other formal functions and celebrations, they would wear their ‘special’ traditional outfit, their version of formal wear.
The young women of Sinasos went to the water pumps to fill their clay pots with water for everyday household use. To protect the shoulders of their painstakingly constructed outfits from wear, they placed an ‘archaletsi’ over their right shoulder, a handmade cloth cover which they had usually made themselves.
The ‘archaletsi’ could be plain or decorated, adorned with patterns, embroideries, charms, beads or other ornaments. The fact that these shoulder covers were detachable and were worn every day allowed their makers to create elaborate versions that could act as accessories to the traditional women’s outfit which was usually quite conservative in its use of colour and pattern.
Charoula Panagiotidou has kept objects brought to Greece by her mother’s family. She still uses all of them in her everyday life and shares their stories with her children and grandchildren in an effort to keep the history of her family alive and preserve the memory of the house, the village, and the life they left behind.
Charoula Panagiotidou has kept objects brought to Greece by her mother’s family, like this piece of white linen fabric with a colourful embroidered border and a small towel with a cross-stitched border, faded and worn with use.
Pinelopi Kouvala brought many religious icons to Greece from Myriofyto, even some of substantial size. She donated most of them to a small monastery run by nuns near the family home in Kalamaria.
Alexandros Oustampasidis and Anastasios Polychroniadis received a special permit from the Revolutionary Government and the Ministry of Hygiene allowing them to rent a boat and sail from Thessaloniki in order to reunite the refugees originating from the wider area of Amisos and assist with their resettlement in Macedonia. During one of these trips, Anastasios Polychroniadis was finally able to reunite with his own family, his wife, and his two children and they all returned to Thessaloniki. His wife, Elisavet Alsanoglou, brought with her this sewing machine.
Even though she had already sold most of her valuables to help her husband flee to Greece, Elisavet Alsanoglou still managed to bring with her a few objects which carried significant emotional or practical value. Eventually, what was handed down to her daughter, Maria, was a sewing machine, some kilim rugs, and a small silver box with the icon of Agios Georgios. These objects are today in the possession of Elisavet’s granddaughter, Martha Karpozilou.
The family of Kyriakoula Moschou brought few items with them to Greece, mostly religious icons. Apart from carrying great value for their owners, these icons soon became symbols for the whole neighbourhood. They gave hope and instilled courage, helping the refugees cope with the hardships of their everyday life. The icons did not just stand for their faith in God, but were also symbols of the solidarity and the kindness that brought the neighbourhood’s residents together.
This sewing machine, which is still functional, encapsulates the entire story of the Michailidou family’s movement from Pontus to Russia and then to Greece. Anastasia Michailidou chose to carry this heavy and cumbersome object on this long journey, highlighting the practicalities and material choices that migrants have been faced with throughout history.
Half of an icon of Agios Eleftherios survives in Chania. We can see half the body of a saint dressed in blue, green, red and white holding a sceptre. The face of the saint is missing, but the name ‘Eleftherios’ remains. The wood on which the figure of the saint has been painted has been torn in half.
On her father’s side, Gogo Rakopoulou hails from Prousa, while on her mother’s side, her ancestors were originally from Smyrna. Their original surname is not known, since they adopted the surname ‘Tsichlakis’ upon their arrival in Chania. These four icons travelled with them and, after the family had settled in Greece, they adorned their homes and, later, their descendants’ homes.
Gogo Rakopoulou describes how, when she took the icons out to clean them, she noticed that some of them had writing on them. As she says, one of the icons was probably her family’s diary.
A crimson wedding dress from 19th century Cappadocia was donated by Alexandra Melita to the ‘Agios Polykarpos’ Brotherhood of Asia Minor Refugees in Chania. It is accompanied by a photograph of the couple.
Young Evangelia Meimaroglou’s scrapbook was donated to the Brotherhood by Mairi Meimaroglou-Markogiannaki. Leafing through its pages, we can catch a glimpse of what a personalized scrapbook from the beginning of the 20th century looked like.
Ourania Stamatiadou-Koutsogianni, the granddaughter and namesake of Ourania Stamatiadou, is a retired educator and the chairwoman of the ‘Englezonisi’ Cultural Association of Asia Minor Greeks of Nea Ionia, Magnisia. She is overwhelmingly generous with stories of her family and the rest of the Englezonisi refugees. Besides sharing her narratives, she also keeps two small vases brought to Greece by her family on a small display at the association’s offices.
A silver tray, two small vases and a silver flask engraved with the icon of Agios Georgios are all the belongings Ourania Stamatiadou-Koutsogiannis’ grandparents managed to bring with them to Greece. These objects are part of her family history, but also of the history of all refugees. Ourania believes that their value lies in their ability to disseminate and preserve refugee history.
For Ourania Stamatiadou-Koutsogianni, the story of her grandparents, starting with their origins, then their exodus and the new life they built at the refugee neighbourhoods of Nea Ionia, is part not only of her family history, but also of the history of Asia Minor Hellenism in general, of the refugee movement of 1922 and the new refugee settlements which sprung up all over the country.
Kleio used this tray in family ceremonies, mainly weddings where it was used as a display for the wedding wreaths. She polished the tray often and passed it on to her daughter, Anna Kyriadou. For Anna, this well-travelled tray encapsulates her family’s history.
The set was made in Bavaria and bought by Panaretos in Constantinople. It was a gift for Foteini who wanted a china set so that she could throw dinner parties just like her friends. It is uniquely decorated with a chrysanthemum pattern, while most china sets of the time were adorned with roses.
The embroidery adorned with the name of Eirini Chantzara was passed on to her daughter, Popi, and then to her granddaughter and namesake, Eirini, who chose to donate it to the Folklife and Ethhnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace in order to ensure its preservation.
From grocery shop owner in Vatum, Pontus, to travelling greengrocer in Piraeus, Georgios Tsouchnikas and his family became refugees twice, both times carrying along their few possessions. Among them were these scale weights; important work tools, but also reminders of the shops he left behind and proof of his hope that he would be using them in his new life.