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Christos narrates the story of his ashtray, which he keeps at his house as a family heirloom. 

My father would use it, and we’ve kept it. We still use it, my wife does, that is, because I don’t smoke.

He explains that he used to live in Volos before moving to Athens, and that his parents were Pontic Greeks and came to Greece as refugees from Russia in 1939.

My father was born in Yalta, near Sevastopol in Crimea, and my mother in Brosnik, which is now in Georgia. Both of them were born in Russia, but their parents were from Pontus and had migrated to Russia. In 1939, together with a wave of Pontic Greeks from Russia, they came to Greece, first to Piraeus and then to different places across the country. Some of those who came in 1939 moved, or rather, were moved, to Volos. There, my father met my mother, both Pontic Greeks of course, both refugees, but they didn’t know each other beforehand. They got married there and I was born in January 1946, in Volos. That’s the story of my parents’ movement.

When I finished high school, in 1964, I took the entry exams and was accepted into the Athens School of Agriculture, which is now called Agricultural University of Athens, and thanks to, or rather, because of that, the whole family moved to Athens, where both me and my brother, who is four years younger, studied. When we first came from Volos, we were staying in Agia Varvara. The house is still there but none of us lives there anymore. My brother left and lives in Lefkada with his family now, I live in Egaleo, close to our last house. My wife doesn’t have a refugee background, I met her while I was working as an agriculturist in Pyrgos, Elis, where she is from. We then got married and now we have a family, with children and grandchildren.

There is one thing I don’t remember well: whether they brought this ashtray from Russia or if it was made here in Greece. The motif on it is Russian, not Greek. My father had this friend, his name was Boris (a Russian name, but he was Greek) and like my parents, he had also come from Russia and lived in Volos. He used to work at a metal factory and what I don’t know is whether this was made in a metal factory in Volos or if it came from Russia. It’s probably from Russia – I repeat that the motif is Russian. I have seen it here as well, or rather, I’ve seen a bad copy of it, on some old lamps that also had this dancer. But in any case, this motif is Russian.

We kept it at home for many years, along with other things they had brought from Russia, which have now been lost. Someone took a few of them, another one took some others, in any case, they don’t exist anymore. This has remained and I preserve it as a family heirloom. When I was a kid, my father would smoke and put out his cigarette… Yes, I remember my late father and I keep it as an heirloom.

I have nothing left of the other stuff, as others took them and they got lost. There was a sewing machine where my grandmother would manually sew our underwear and our trousers when we were little, a gramophone with a cone that was brought from Russia, together with Russian records of old songs, a samovar… Russians drink a lot of tea and they have this kitchen utensil for tea, similar to the kettles we have now. It was like a kettle, it was an urn that had a small tap for water, inside the urn there was a bronze pipe and between the urn and the walls of the pipe they would put the water. Inside the pipe they put the coals, just like the flatiron that worked with coals, which we had as well. They would set fire to the coals, the water would heat up, they would open the tap and the boiled water would come out. They had a small teapot as well, where they would put the tea and then add the water. Russians drink a lot of tea, all day long, vodka and tea.


Creator of object:
Place / Country of creation:
Year / Era of creation:
Before 1939
Christos Aleksandridis
Type / Description of object:
Ashtray with ballerina figure
Object route:
Russia – Greece (Volos – Athens)
Year / Era of movement:
1939 –
Reason of movement:
License of digital image:

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