Outcast Europe

Memories of Displacement and Movement

Outcast Europe

Carpet

According to mr. Kyriakos Batsaras, president of the Greek Community of Assyrians, the route of the carpet starts from the village Tal, in Mosul, in present-day Iraq, in the early 1910s, when the persecutions by the Young Turks army begun. The Assyrian population moved to Russia through Iran by land. Russia granted asylum to Assyrian populations, mainly due to the common religion. After the start of the October Revolution, the Assyrian population decided to leave, due to fear of the effect the revolution would have on potential persecutions of Christians. In 1922, they started with the boat from Novorosinski in Northern Russia, and they went down to Bosphorus in search of asylum. In the Narrows of Dardanelles, they asked for asylum in Turkey, that rejected them. They ended up in the quarantine station of Makronisos. From there, after being subjected to medical examinations, they are transferred to Agios Georgios -a small island between Perama and Salamina. From there, they are taken to Aegina, to Poros, to Pireaus, and to Kalamata, and from there to Larissa Station, then to Moschato and finally to Egaleo, where the largest part of the Assyrian population still lives today. Mr. Batsaras mentions: “In comparison with Greek refugees, the difficulties we were facing were enormous, doubled-up that the other refugees. Because you couldn’t speak, you didn’t have a point of reference”.

Ladel and Koumari (cup)

“From the paternal side of the family, the grandfather didn’t want to leave his village, Gülbahçe. He indeed used to say “I was born here, I will die here”. The grandmother, however, said “I am not staying here, Vassili, I will take the girls and leave”. Therefore, the men stayed behind, and when the Çete (armed gangs co-operating with the Turkish army) arrived the great catastrophe started. Her dad decided to go and leave the grandfather behind, since he insisted on staying. Thus, Mrs. Leontaridi’s father left in 1922 with many more people, and they reached Korakas (a mountain after Gülbahçe); they were approximately 100 people, who stayed there striving for survival, both children and adults, for more than 20 days. During these 20 days of the retreat, they were eating roots. For drinking water -which was the most important- they had invented a whistling shibboleth “ssss” to notify that it is time to drink water. They had a sheet iron pot, that one would fill up and then with the ladle and the koumari (=cup) they all tried
to drink, in order to survive. Once, when he was out filling the pot, her father was seen by a Turk, who chased him; her father, in order to escape, fell over a cliff. He survived the fall, with the following paradox: his heart moved to the right side, and since then his case was often presented to students of Medical university as a medical phenomenon”. Evaggelia Leontaridi

Handbag

“During the normalisation, the feeling of fear and general mistrust among people was ubiquitous and very intense. I once applied for a business trip to Vienna. However, I was summoned to the police and I was told that my travel was not in the interest of the state and my passport was taken away. After several years, I found out that someone reported me. I rather did not try to find out who reported me. When my wife and I wanted to go on vacation to Yugoslavia, they gave me only a so-called ‘grey’ passport which was valid only for that country. Later on, we managed to get the remaining necessary documents and we knew we would probably not come back. As part of the vacation, there was a trip to Venice and we felt that was a good opportunity to leave. Thus on June 21, 1984, we migrated and we thought we would spend the rest of our lives abroad”. Karel Foustka

German – Czech dictionary

“From the point of view of the regime, our family was denigrated also because of the fact that we used to go to church. When I wanted to study at a grammar school and then study medicine, they did not recommend me. I could only study at a medical high school. Deciding on whether to emigrate was very difficult for me because I had a very sick mother. But my relatives agreed to take care of her. At the time of my departure, I was five months pregnant. Another obstacle we had to overcome was the lack of knowledge of the language as I started learning German only a few months before the journey. I got a little Czech-German dictionary that we took with us. When I had to go to the hospital in Vienna shortly after arriving, it was a big problem to communicate with the doctors. The communists tried to make our life uncomfortable even abroad – they sent a false statement to Vienna that I had stolen five hundred pieces of bed linen in Prague when working as a nurse and that that was the reason for our escape”. Naďa Malášková

Tencere

This Tenjere (pan) has been owned by the family of mrs. Anneta Tsoporidou since the 1920s. In 1922, her grandmother, Myrofora, with her husband Vassilis and their children, among which was also Anneta’s father, Yorgos Tsoporidis, who was still a child, moved from Turkey to Greece, with the Catastrophe of Asia Minor and the greco-turkish exchange of populations. The Tenjere (pan) accompanied the family through a lengthy adventure, driven primarily by ethnic and political motives, from Ancara in Turkey to the village Straisa (present day Ida in the municipality of Pella, Greece) which was the slavic, and most well-known name of the village at the time.

In Ida, the father of mrs. Tsoporidou married Eleftheria Tsouni, who was of slavic origin. They fought together during the (greek) Civil War, on the side of the communists. Their children were sent to Czechia (then Czechoslovakia) by the Communist Party with their consent, in the context of what was called “Child concentration” or “Child saving”. When the war ended, Anneta’s parents were given refuge in Tashkent, current capital of Uzbekistan (then part of the Soviet Union).

At the same time, during the Civil War, the grandmother Myrofora together with other members of the family, among which was also Petros Bozhinis, the nephew of Eleftheria (Anneta’s grandmother) were sent to Bulkes (present-day Maglic) in Yugoslavia. The grandmother Myrofora took the pan with her, the same pan that had followed the family 27 years before, in their first refugee route from Turkey to Greece. Grandmother Myrofora moved to Czechia in the early 1950s and then to Tashkent in 1961. When she moved to Czechia, she left the pan in Bulkes, to her putative grandson, Petro Bozhinis, the son of Lena (sister of grandmother Eleftheria).

Petros Bozhinis, as a son of Slavomacedonians, didn’t stay in Bulkes, that was being governed by the Communist Party, but moved to Skopje, then part of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, in Yugoslavia, in November 1951; he
took the pan with him.

Petros Bozhinis, cousin of mrs. Anneta, gave the pan to Alexandra Balandina, daughter of Anneta, knowing her passion for the family history, in Skopje in 2009, a few years before his death, in 2013. Petros, thus, even though
his children didn’t appreciate the pan, secured its recognition as a family heirloom with deep historical and sentimental value.

The history of mrs. Anneta’s family. Anneta, together with her four siblings, lived in Czechia in a orphanage for 5 years, and got reunited with their parents in Tashkent on the 27th of August 1954. There, she got married to
the Russian Vladimir Balandin, and had two children, Alexandra and Yorgos. In 1976 they migrated to Skopje, capital of the then Socialist Republic of Macedonia.

Since Greek authorities wouldn’t accept her with a Russian husband, neither would Russian authorities let him go out of the country to move to Greece (which didn’t belong to the Warsaw Pact), Anneta decided to apply to move
to Yugoslavia, since it was a country that was close to Greece, and also the country where the Slavic-speaking part of her maternal family lived, and where her parents also moved a year later.

The Greek state, using different excuses, denies the entry in the country to mrs. Anneta for one decade more. In 1984, she enters Greek land for the first time, since she was given permission to attend the funeral of her father,
who returned to his homeland to die and be buried there. She managed to be repatriated in Greece with her family, in 1988, where she is living until this day.

Trunk

According to mr. Kyriakos Batsaras, president of the Greek Community of Assyrians, the route of the trunk starts from the village Tal, in Mosul, in present-day Iraq, in the early 1910s, when the persecutions by the Young Turks army begun. The Assyrian population moved to Russia through Iran by land. Russia granted asylum to Assyrian populations, mainly due to the common religion. After the start of the October Revolution, the Assyrian population decided to leave, due to fear of the effect the revolution would have on potential persecutions of christians. In 1922, they started with the boat from Novorosinski in Northern Russia, and they went down to Bosphorus in search of asylum. In the Narrows of Dardanelles, they asked for asylum in Turkey, that rejected them. They ended up in the quarantine station of Makronisos. From there, after being subjected to medical examinations, they are transferred to Agios Georgios -a small island between Perama and Salamina. From there, they are taken to Aegina, to Poros, to Pireaus, and to Kalamata, and from there to Larissa Station, then to Moschato and finally to Egaleo, where the largest part of the Assyrian population still lives today. Mr. Batsaras mentions: “In comparison with Greek refugees, the difficulties we were facing were enormous, doubled-up that the other refugees. Because you couldn’t speak, you didn’t have a point of reference”.

Back-pack

”I’m from Shiraz, in the South of Iran. I was a mechanical designer for an oil refinery and petrochemical factories. When I was in Iran I had a political problem with the government. There was an election in 2009 after which
the situation deteriorated so I had to leave my country. I went to Turkey and from there someone drove me to Hungary by truck. I didn’t plan to come to Hungary, I just wanted to go to a safe place. It was dangerous in Turkey so
my family paid for a truck that transferred me here with a group of other people. I was on the road for 6 or 7 days. When I arrived here I didn’t know where I was. The driver told us to go towards the light that seemed like a village. He said once we arrived we could go anywhere we want so we did as he told us. But when we got there, there was only a gas or electrical station and nothing else. The Hungarian police found us and took us to a closed camp. That’s when they told us that we were in Hungary. It was a very tough situation because I didn’t know who I was surrounded by, what they would do to us or what the situation was like. I didn’t know much about Hungary. I knew a little about football players and when I was a child there were some buses in Iran that were imported from Hungary. But that was all the information I had. I met my wife here and we got married 3 years ago. Our baby was born this year. When migrants or refugees arrive to a new country they need help to learn the language and to find a job. But in the past 6 years only my wife helped me and nobody else. The situation has been very hard but I feel happy when I’m with my family. I grew up in Iran, most of my memories, good times and bad times, are from there. I miss my family, I miss my culture. Fortunately I can adapt to any culture. But no matter how flexible you are in the end you still feel that something is missing. Food is something I can cook by myself but culture is what’s always missing. If I hadn’t been forced to leave Iran I would have never considered coming here, not even for a moment. But I had no other choice. For me home is the place where I feel free. It doesn’t matter where. If you’re not free, if you’re under oppression you don’t feel like you’re home. Sometimes I don’t feel at home here. There are racist views, but people
don’t have enough information. If you have information you can understand people. In the past Iran accepted refugees from Europe but people here don’t know this. They think: “Why did these people come here?” They understand if you explain but generally they’re not open. They treat you like someone unwanted. A former colleague of mine called me a terrorist. He thought Muslims were all terrorists and that’s all there is to it. So I sat down with
him and told him about our history and culture. Then he understood it’s not true. And these kinds of things have happened several times. The past 6 years were hard but good as well. I’m sad and happy at the same time. I lost
many things in my country. But I’m happy because I learnt many things which I can teach to my children. I hope I can transfer this knowledge to a new generation”. Amir