Özgür Duygu Durdur
“My father was a tavern keeper in Bandırma. Our customers were mostly Turks. They are handsome, profligate Turks who know how to drink, sit and get up. We counted them, they us. I used to come out of school and help my father. First our schools were opened. They said, ‘You have established a great civilization on these lands, this land is yours. The Turks came and usurped it.’
Simo, who was born in Bandırma, worked as a tailor in Beyoğlu for a while, left Turkey in the 60s and settled in Piraeus, and died there, tells all this in Mihri Belli’s memoir, ‘People I’ve Known’.
Why we started with Mihri Belli, let’s explain: Mihri Belli is Kapetan Kemal, who fought side by side with Greek guerrillas in the mountains of East Macedonia during the Greek Civil War, published the newspaper Savaş, which was published in Turkish on the mountain, and was named by his friends in the Democratic Army founded by the Greek resistance fighters. He says in his memoirs that the period he spent in the mountains of Macedonia between 1947-1949 was full of the most precious memories of his life. Mihri Belli’s father was the first person to organize a gang movement against the armed Greeks in the Çatalca-Silivri region during the War of Independence. Belli’s feelings towards the Greeks, which were no different from an ordinary Turkish nationalist in his early youth, were completely changed when he met Venizelos during his trip to Athens in the early 1930s and met the Greeks from Karaman.
‘CRITICAL LOGISTIC SUPPORT TO THE RESISTANCE WILL COME FROM TURKS’
The political landscape in pre-Civil War Greece, which brought Mihri Belli together with the Greek guerrillas in the mountains, will plunge the country into a terrible darkness. Civil war is approaching step by step. During World War II, many armed and unarmed resistance organizations emerged against the occupation in Greece, which was under the occupation of the Axis Powers consisting of Germany, Italy and Bulgaria between 1941-44. The continuation of the resistance, the establishment of a new Greek government in exile under the guidance of England in those years; It is through the organization of the resistance in the Middle East over the Western Anatolian coasts. The ultimate aim is the establishment of a new Greek government in Cairo.
Western Anatolian coasts are the most suitable point for mass migration, among which deposed ministers, deputies, bureaucrats, militias and communists take part. Because all these immigrants from different segments we have mentioned are struggling for the same goal. Getting rid of Nazi persecution is the first goal. Thus, the leaders of the resistance will mingle with the civilian population and continue first to the shores of Western Anatolia and then to Egypt. And critical logistical support to the resistance will come from the Turks, who were in the enemy ranks only 20 years ago.
‘IF A PUBLISHER CAN BE FOUND, I WANT THE MEMORY OF CAPTAIN GEORGE MINIOTIS TO BE PUBLISHED’
“I hosted my distant relative, George Miniotis, from Chios, who came to Athens for health problems in the fall of 2008. While we were drinking our ouzo in the afternoon, he told me about his adventures during the World War II resistance as a member of an organization that gathered information in the Eastern Aegean and transported refugees from Greece to Turkey by boat. These events, which I had never known before, intrigued me greatly. As a matter of fact, when Captain George said that he had recorded his memories of that period, I decided to help him publish them. I computerized the manuscripts, made corrections, added notes, mapped their routes and attached relevant photographs.”
Greek researcher and writer George Poulimenos, who wrote the book ‘Miniotis Family during the Occupation Period/Resistance in the Aegean in the Years of 1941-1944’, prepares the book he mentioned for publication in 2011, but due to the economic crisis in Greece, the book meets the readers approximately seven years later. Published by Alpha-Pi publishing house in Chios in 2018, the book reaches a limited number of readers. Saying, “I believe that the book is an important document for those interested in the history of that period,” George Poulimenos hopes that the memoirs of his distant relative, Captain George Miniotis, will reach readers in Turkey if a publisher can be found.
‘WE GO TO THE FIGHT BY SINGING’
Prof. from Ankara University. Dr. Serdar Sarışir’s ‘II. According to his article titled ‘Greek civilian refugees who took refuge on Anatolian shores during World War II’, the total number of Greek civilian refugees who took refuge on Anatolian shores between 1941 and 1945 was 31 thousand 398. Among these refugees were civilians, as well as partisans working for his government in exile.
Two important names come to the fore in the organization of asylum seeker transits from Greece to Turkey; Noel Rees, the British representative in Chios and also the regional leader of the British intelligence, and Captain Stamatis Miniotis from Chios… A team of experienced sailors, including Stamatis’ son George, sailed from the Aegean Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. emigration begins. While the British intelligence also supports these organized works, the ‘Lady Mary’ and ‘Lillias’ yachts of Girauds, one of the well-known Levantine families of Izmir, are used in the logistics of the business.
It is possible to find sad as well as exciting anecdotes in the memoirs of Captain Miniotis, which George Poulimenos brought together in the book. One of them is the arrival of a group of Greek partisans from Euboea Island, close to the Greek mainland, to Çeşme in great secrecy. While the partisans, who stepped into Turkish territory without being caught by the Germans, celebrate by drinking wine and having fun after their safe journey, the Turks from Çeşme are surprised. They ask how they can have fun when their homeland is under occupation. The answer given by the partisans is: We go to war singing.
‘SHOULD THE PIECE OF THE EARTH THEY HOLD THEM NOW EMBRACE THEM LIKE THE MASTER?’
Let’s go back to 80 years ago and try to visualize this scene in our dreams; On the shores of Anatolia, which was the scene of the population exchange tragedy in 1922, there are hundreds of people who drifted ashore in the Aegean for hours, holding on to boats or pieces of wood they could find, just 20 years after the population exchange. Women, children, the elderly… Immigrants from Samos, Chios and the surrounding Greek islands who hit the shores of Kuşadası, Çeşme, Bodrum, and Urla… Many of them already have an Anatolian background. They were forced to leave the lands they knew as their homeland only 20 years ago. The question ‘Will the land they take refuge in now embrace them like their own mother’ is always in them. Just as Tailor Simo said; “What happened to those beautiful people, those master Turks?”
According to Hasan Fuat Hepişeri, a relative of Hasan Reis from Kuşadası, who supported the Greek resistance movement, the people of Kuşadası saved many Greek immigrants from death during this period; those who were sick were treated, houses to stay were found… Captain Miniotis’ memoirs do not mention a serious public order problem between Turks and Greek immigrants in Çeşme.
‘Aegean Sea belongs to your fish, not to anyone’
One of the living witnesses of the period is Hamit Güngör Topal, 90, from Çeşme Alaçatı. Born in 1932, Topal said, “I remember very well the times when Hitler ravaged Europe. I was a primary school student. We used to hear German soldiers parachute into the island of Chios in front of us. The port of Alaçatı was crowded with Greeks fleeing the German occupation. Sometimes, we would see families, children, old people, women, men, groups of people walking on the road. We used to give bread to the hungry,” he tells about those days.
“They have been here a long time. We opened our homes to them. So there was no problem among the peoples. Among those who fled was a governor named Dimo, followed by another governor named ‘Yani’. Yani’s daughter and I went to the same primary school here,” she continues.
Topal worked for many years as the chief of technical service at Çeşme Altınyunus Hotel and retired from there. Topal shares some anecdotes he remembers from that period: “Many years after the events I have described, one day a Greek named Nikos Tambakopulos came to Alaçatı. His ancestors used to live here. He settled in Canada. He wanted to see their old house, so I took him. He went around crying. He took one of the flowers in the garden and smelled it. He wrapped it in his handkerchief and took it with him.” Taking the floor from his great uncle, nephew İbrahim Topal intervenes and adds, “There is a saying attributed to Tsipras,” adding: “The Aegean Sea is nobody’s property, the Aegean Sea belongs to the fish. There was no problem between our Turkish and Greek peoples. We even established a cooperative here with our Gummy friends. ”
‘THE HOUSES ARE BECOMING THE HEADQUARTERS OF THE RESISTANCES’
Although the peoples were friendly, the arrival of thousands of immigrants who took refuge on the Aegean coast could not prevent some serious events from happening in those years. According to some sources, 15 immigrants who were on a boat in Zeytineli, Uzunkuyu locality on October 9, 1941 were killed by Turkish soldiers, and an 18-year-old girl was raped and murdered. The perpetrators of this incident, on the other hand, were caught four years later upon a tip and hanged in Konak Square.
One of the Turks who support the Greek resistance movement is Hasan Denizel, known as Hasan Reis, who is one of the well-known figures of Kuşadası. Hasan Reis, born in Crete in 1870, mobilizes his barges in the port for immigrants fleeing the Nazis who occupied Samos, opposite Kusadasi, and saves hundreds of immigrants from drowning in the Aegean with his son Ali.
Like his father, Ali Denizel supports the Greek resistance movement that fled to Turkey; their houses become the headquarters of the insurgents. Among the immigrants they rescued is Costas Sofoulis, who will return to Samos after many years and become a professor at the Aegean University. The letter sent in 1944 from Egypt, which Costas found years later, hiding the correspondence of his father Emmanuel Sofoulis, who joined the resistance, with Ali Denizel, is an important document.
Sent by the exiled prime minister of the Greek government to Ali Denizel, who established close relations with prominent figures of the insurgents, including Emmanuel Tsouderos, who will become the first prime minister of the government-in-exile, as well as Emmanuel Sofoulis, who will become the Greek Minister of Immigration years later, it is still in the Lalaunis Museum in Athens. On the back of the thick gold chain watch, the following handwritten note is written: “For the valuable services rendered to the Greeks by Ali Denizel from the Greek government… March 25, 1944, E. Tsouderos.”