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My grandmother was born in Istanbul and then lived in Smyrna, her mother had 7 children, they had a very nice house and a very good life. My grandmother’s mother was very coquettish and, also, very much in love. Because of that love, they decided to have kids.

Katerina narrates that her grandmother was born in Marmaras, at Prigkiponisia, and she describes to us the day of the Burning of Smyrna.

The house was in a state of panic, my grandmother’s mother and her husband took their 7 children and, along with them, 7 sheets. They went to the port and my grandmother’s mother found a friend of hers, Areti, who knew some people and was already in a boat ready to leave. My great-grandmother grabbed her youngest daughter, Katina, who was still a baby, wrapped in a sheet, and threw her in the boat. Katina was my grandmother. “The baby and your eyes”, she said.

Katerina explained to us that this story was carried on from the older children of the family.

Areti took my grandmother, took her to Thessaloniki and, from there, they hitchhiked to Chalkida. When my grandmother grew older, Areti explained to her what had happened and that she’s not her biological mother. She showed her the sheet and told her the story behind it.

She explained that the sheet doesn’t exist anymore, but these two handkerchiefs have remained, which her grandmother’s mother threw in the sheet.

My grandfather saw her one day at her porch, fell in love with her and stole her. Miss Areti didn’t want to give her away, but eventually she came to terms with the marriage. They threw a party and my grandmother said she would use the sheet as a tablecloth. Areti told her that she can’t do that because it’s dirty and my grandmother told her that if they didn’t do it she wouldn’t get married. And so, she marries my grandfather and, ever since then, at every celebration, she would put the sheet as a tablecloth. Areti was complaining but my grandmother persisted, a rebel! She would put flowers on the stains.

My grandmother was a really cool person, she never went to school, but she read, she sent three kids to the university with money that my grandfather would give her and she would hide in her bra. My grandfather was a mechanic, he worked at the textile factory, here, at the School of Fine Arts. They all passed away, the grandfather died, one of the daughters died from a stroke, the sheet was always there, for all the important moments of her life, at funerals, marriages, even at my baptism.

At some point, my grandmother had a stroke, hemiplegia, and she said that if she dies she wants to be buried with the sheet. So it happened. She left with that connection, she never left it, it wasn’t just a memory, it was also a proof of her path in life and of her connection to her mother.

Katerina tells us that they don’t use the handkerchiefs, but she would like to turn them into lamps one day. She explains that the house in Moschato was built by her grandfather while she was still living in Oropos with her grandmother.

My mother still sleeps in the same bed that my grandmother used to sleep, where she gave birth to her children. We’ve told her, many years now, that we can buy her a new bed, but she doesn’t want one, she has been sleeping in it for 84 years, because she wants to have a material object to connect her to her mother, like my grandmother had her sheet. I’ve caught myself holding on to different kinds of stuff.


Creator of object:
Place / Country of creation:
Asia Minor (Smyrna)
Year / Era of creation:
Before 1922
Katerina Anastasatou
Type / Description of object:
White handkerchiefs
Object route:
Constantinople – Minor Asia (Smyrna) – Thessaloniki – Chalkida – Oropos – Moschato
Year / Era of movement:
1922 – 2000s
Reason of movement:
Burning of Smyrna
License of digital image:

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