The Storm Breaks at Smyrna
The Smyrna disaster of 1922 needs be only briefly mentioned here. It was the cause of the great exodus of all the Greeks of Asia Minor, but it happened so recently that many of the details are still fresh in the public memory. Let me itemize a few of these details:
The systematic burning of the Greek quarter of Smyrna by the Turkish troops under the very eye of Kemal;
The systematic slaughter of Greek men, women, and of children;
The organized looting of houses and churches; The unchecked, wholesale raping of women and young girls;
The segregation of all able-bodied Greek males from sixteen years of age to fifty, who were then driven inland, where practically all perished of forced labor, their destruction being hastened by starvation and assassination;
The deportation of the remaining women, children, and old men to Greece.
All these atrocities were clear evidence of the deliberate intention of the Turks to remove utterly all Greek population from Asia Minor, in pursuance of the program of the Turkish Nationalists under Kemal, by which Asia Minor was to be completely "Turkeyfied."
This plan to deport or exterminate the Greek population, thus made plain by the horrors of Smyrna, caused the immediate flight of thousands of Greek families from the other ports of Asia Minor. In many cases they were pursued out of their houses by their Turkish neighbors, who seemed spontaneously to attack them, in imitation of the Smyrna example. These thousands likewise poured in upon the seaports of Greece proper, swelling the flood of destitute refugees that was overwhelming the ancestral land. Within a few weeks seven hundred and fifty thousand people were dumped like cattle at the ports of Salonica and Athens, and upon the larger Greek islands of the Aegean Sea, such as Crete, Mytilene, Chios, and Euboea.
The condition of these people upon their arrival in Greece was pitiable beyond description. They had been herded upon every kind of craft that could float, crowded so densely on board that in many cases they had only room to stand on deck. There they were exposed alternately to the blistering sun and cold rain of variable September and October. In one case, which I myself beheld, seven thousand people were packed into a vessel that would have been crowded with a load of two thousand. In this and many other cases there was neither food to eat nor water to drink, and in numerous instances the ships were buffeted about for several days at sea before their wretched human cargoes could be brought to land. Typhoid and smallpox swept through the ships. Lice infested everyone. Babes were born on board. Men and women went insane. Some leaped overboard to end their miseries in the sea. Those who survived were landed without shelter upon the open beach, loaded with filth, racked by fever, without blankets or even warm clothing, without food and without money.
Besides these horrors the refugees endured every form of sorrow—the loss of husbands by wives, loss of wives by husbands, loss of children through death or straying, all manner of illnesses.
If ever the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse rode down upon a nation it was when this appalling host appeared upon the shores of Greece, that was trampled by the flying hoofs of their chargers and scourged by the spectral riders of War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death. But the little Greek nation, of only five million souls, met their brothers in distress with unshaken courage and with open arms. Every home in Greece threw wide its doors and took in some of the refugees. In Athens more than five thousand rooms in private houses were opened to them. Public schools were turned into hospitals, town halls were used as barracks, even the beautiful National Opera House in Athens was filled with refugees, each of its velvet-lined boxes becoming the home of a whole family, while scores more slept upon the floor of the auditorium and on the stairways. Relief work was organized on every side. In Athens , the famous Old Palace on Constitution Square was turned into a headquarters where bread was distributed daily to thousands of refugees, where lists of names were posted for the purpose of reuniting families that had been separated in the chaos at Smyrna, and where the general direction of all relief measures was centered.
The streets of Athens were transformed by the surging multitude that now invaded them. The city had been almost somnolent before this irruption. It had been living the staid life of an orderly small capital, where business had grown into established channels and where life had settled into an easy and familiar routine. Overnight all this was changed. Now the streets were thronged with new faces. Strange dialects of Greek assailed the ear. The eye was caught by outlandish peasant costumes from interior Asia Minor. Sidewalks were crowded. Avenues that had been pleasantly ample were now filled with peddlers' carts of refugees who were trying to make a living by selling a few strings of beads or bits of finery. Cobblers set up their stools and trays along the most fashionable thoroughfares. The great rock of the Acropolis, that rises with almost sheer sides in the very heart of Athens, looked down upon as strange a sight as it had seen since the days when Phidias was adorning the Parthenon at its summit. At its base sprung up a new Angora, a new marketplace, packed with tiny shops displaying all the varieties of small merchandise that refugees could scrape together for sale.
These petty merchants, however, were the fortunate aristocracy of the refugee horde. Upon the bare hills about Athens, now bleak and cold with approaching winter, were camped the less fortunate tens of thou-sands, huddled in tents pieced out of burlap bags, or in huts extemporized out of the ubiquitous five-gallon Standard Oil cans. Some, who could find not even these crude materials, dug desperately into the earth and found a damp refuge from the elements in caves. At the Piraeus, the port of Athens, eleven miles away, the beach was lined with the tatterdemalion encampment of other thousands of refugees.
Misery is always picturesque, the one sorry virtue of human sorrow. Shoes made of pieces of discarded automobile tires became almost the standard footwear of the refugees. Clothing made of flour sacks was a fashion born of necessity, and was hard-pressed for first place by garments improvised out of burlap or pieced together from mere rags. The simplest implements were hard to come by. Tin cans served for cooking utensils, rusty nails were substituted for pins, and a real needle was as valuable a curiosity as it is to an Esquimau.
Tennyson said that "sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things." These wretched myriads knew that heavy truth. Even the humblest had been happy peasants, in a familiar land, accustomed to the pleasures yielded by a few vines and fig trees, eating their pilaff at ease after the day's labor, comfortably clad and sheltered. Many had been used to every luxury. Women who now stood in line for hours to receive a half loaf of bread had once been able, only a few weeks before, to command every delicacy that the palate could crave. Many shivered in rags, who had lately been dressed in Paris fashions; and cowered in mud huts, who had been mistresses of palatial mansions. Now they shared the great democracy of misery, mourning the loss of the men of their families, and shuddering at horrible memories of frightful scenes along the quay at Smyrna.
Everywhere in camps, markets, barracks, and streets you might see thousands of forlorn, grief-stricken, bedraggled people, many of them with histories as sad and appealing as Longfellow's "Evangeline," except that they told no stories of love.
They were no longer wandering about. Their journeys had ended, and now they were divisible into various groups. Thousands and thousands of them were most heroically facing this almost irremediable situation. They girded on their armor and entered this new fight for existence with a grim determination that foretold their eventual success. Many of them had acquired in their past independent positions amongst their people, and those were gathering their neighbors around them. They planned to recreate their old surroundings and make a joint effort to reproduce their past conditions. The spirit shown by these leaders was admirable. They seldom presented to us their individual claims. They always said "our people" should be placed here or there, and "our people" are especially fitted for such and such work. It showed what long usage had done. These leaders treated all their villagers as their families. Of the unattached, few asked for charity, but nearly all implored for work. They spurned permanent doles. They begged for opportunities which would make them self-supporting. The big camps that were thrown up in the vicinity of Athens soon became villages and early showed signs of being citified. It just required a little guidance and the temporary support of the Greek Government, the Refugee Settlement Commission, and the other help-rendering activities to bring order out of chaos and render first aid to those injured people. Their injuries were not merely physical, affecting single individuals. Their injuries were the total disruption of a fine civilized people, the destruction of family life, the uprooting of villages and towns and casting the survivors pell mell into new surroundings. They were deprived of their accumulations of wealth, their government, their traditions, their families, and those fine interrelations which make up society.
The worst predicament that confronted them was that their breadwinners and their youths had nearly all been killed or imprisoned. Here was an unusual condition. A rearrangement had to be made for these people in spite of all these shortcomings. It required the acceptance by the survivors of additional burdens. Fortunately they were ready and almost anxious to assume them. The very extreme depression they were facing seemed to restore to them the energies of their youth. They did not sit down and mourn for their sons and their sons-in-law, but apparently threw off ten or twenty of their years and successfully replaced the lost members of their families.
Great credit should be given to the young women. Their heroism and devotion were simply amazing. It showed what stuff these people were made of. They did not succumb to the temptations of those miserable miscreants of society, the cadets, who hovered at the entrance of these camps and tried to beguile these fine girls into the pleasure haunts of Athens. Fortunately, with the assistance of the police we were able to make short work of these rascals. Many of these girls single-handed supported families of three and upward. They worked at anything they could find, in the shops of Athens, in rug and other factories, as domestic servants, and some of them on their sewing or knitting machines in their own homes.
Of course there were tremendous numbers of completely forsaken people and shiftless ones. Their dilemma was indescribable, and so was that of a number of victims of tuberculosis and malaria. In this big broad readjustment these latter people had to meet their fate. It could be softened a little, but there were no means at hand to remedy it completely. They were doomed.
Immediately after my arrival in Athens I was visited by a number of refugees whom I had known in Constantinople. They implored me to use their services in any capacity at all. One of them, Alexandra Joanides, reminded me how when we first met at the Constantinople College for Women she had been dressed as an American Indian, and how I had walked with her in the college grounds. She was now anxious for a position that would give her a living. She is a brilliant woman, full of life and mental resources. She had become a very active feminist and republican. As an adherent of Papanastasiou she was in constant touch with the activities of these progressives. She was sprightly, irrepressible, and full of hope for "her people," as she called the refugees. As secretary of the commission she reported to me all the activities of the various political factions, and her reports were very intelligent and instructive. Eventually she married a man who became Governor of Mytilene, and she helped him most gracefully and effectively to fill this post.
Another old acquaintance who called was our former steward at the Embassy in Constantinople, a man who had owned two houses and a vineyard in Therapia. He took the post of steward at the Embassy because it was the height of the ambition of all men in his profession to end their career in that way. He had a wife and four children, and was out at his elbows. His property had been confiscated, and he was walking the streets of Athens looking for work. He was a sad contrast to the gentleman who so meticulously functioned in our American Embassy. I appointed him custodian of the Refugee Settlement building and manager of the messengers. Now, in 1928, he is fully reestablished, owns a nice refugee home in one of the settlements, and two of his daughters are working and helping to support the family.
Rose Sartinsky, another graduate of the Constantinople College for Women, applied for work and became my private secretary. She did not possess the exuberance of spirit of Alexandra Joanides. She felt the grief of her people as though it were partly her responsibility to bear it. She was a most amiable and tireless worker, and used her evenings to teach stenography and typewriting to the girls at the Y. W. C. A. Little pleasure did she seek or have. Her greatest joy was to supervise a summer camp for these waifs of the Y. W. C, A. I took her with me on my tours of inspection, showing her how to make them, and then having her go by herself. I felt that only a Greek refugee could secure from these sufferers their real stories. Anyone who really wants to secure an exact picture of these poor sufferers can do no better than to read her unedited account of these various visits. Miss Sartinsky's little personal comments add a charm to her statements, and rob them of some of their gruesomeness. I am going to give you her reports exactly as written by her:
Report on Koundouriotis Camps. (Dated Athens, May 9, 1924.)
These camps are at Polygene, near the military school, on of the best situations in Athens. There are in all 463 houses giving shelter to more than 5,000 people, but in view of the fact that newcomers have arrived and there was no room for them, tents have been added and the refugees themselves have built some wooden barracks, which are more private than the other dwellings, where two, and in some cases three, families live together.
This is one of the first camps erected, and its inhabitants, some of them camped there over a year, have had sufficient time to make a sort of living and become more or less self-supporting.
They are not beggars, they do not ask for charity but for work. Work! Work! this is their cry, but alas! little or no work is to be found. They do not mind what work they have to do, or how hard they have to work, so long as they get a few drachmas a day. Women who in their country did nothing else than take care of their children and house are now working in factories, 8, 10 and even 12 hours a day. They go as washerwomen, char-women, use all their efforts, never grumbling, but pleased when they earn enough to bring some food to their hungry children, and even, whenever they can manage it, they help those who being old or sick cannot go out to work.
The streets of this Liliputian town are very clean and in some of them there are trees planted. In front of almost every house there is a tiny garden with two or three flowers in it, as there is no room for more. In the evening, after the day's work, the women and young girls take their chairs and sit in the open air, chatting, while their fingers are busily engaged in some needle work, the mothers mending the family's clothes while the girls make lace or some embroidery work, which they afterward sell at rather low prices. When they have a little piece of stuff and some minutes to spare, they make little curtains for their windows, and covers for the tables, which are made out of cases. Nothing is missing in this place. They have two large laundries with plenty of water, well ventilated and lighted, where twenty women can wash at a time.
They have their school, which unfortunately I could not visit, as it was too late, and the teacher who had the key was away, but I saw several little girls sitting on their doorstep with their books on their knees absorbed in study.
Farther off there is the market place. Some of the men who were fortunate enough to find people enough interested in them to lend them some money, built small barracks which they are using as shops. A few sacks of sugar, potatoes, beans, some boxes of cigarettes, not of the best quality of course, etc., represent the stock of the grocer, who, when I asked him if business was getting along well, said that he was doing fine work. He hoped he would soon be able to pay of his debt and afterward try and enlarge his enterprise. Next to him is the butcher and green-grocer. You can also see a coffee house and a pastry shop which, except on Sun-days or some holidays, are not very active. The shoemaker and the carpenter also have their quarters. They seem less fortunate than the others, however, as shoes are rather a luxury and are worn only on great occasions; and as for furniture, the refugees make themselves their stools and tables out of cases. They cannot find any work outside of the camp, as there are many more shoemakers and carpenters in Athens than are needed.
There is not that look of despair which you see on the faces of the refugees in the National Theatre. These seem ready; for a new life. Perhaps this is due partly to the fact that the place is bright and sunny and not dark as the former.
I went to one of the tents which is large enough and in-habited by Erano Housetian, his wife, three daughters and, two sons. The place is spotless and the ground is covered by mats. All round the tent there are crude divans made of mattresses and covered with blankets. They also have some stools, a table and a set of shelves on which you can see a few cups, glasses and plates neatly placed and very clean. Some knits and knots give to the place a homelike atmosphere and there is an air, if not of cheerfulness at least of satisfaction. The father, the two sons and one of the daughters, are working, so that they are well fed and properly dressed. One of the daughters, a beautiful young girl of about 18, was making a dress for her younger sister. I asked her if she was pleased with her present life. "Yes," she said, "compared to others we are rather fortunate, as none of our family has been killed or kept prisoner, and we are also able to earn our living, but I can never forget our house with its big garden all around. It was so well furnished and we had plenty of dresses to wear. I had my trousseau ready; I have been working on it for years and years, and now everything is burnt." Tears filled her eyes at these last words. They lived in the interior of Asia Minor, and some time before the catastrophe they took as many of their belongings as they could and went to Smyrna. As soon as they arrived the Turks came and they had to fly, leaving everything behind. In their country they also owned many shops which they used |to lease. The father was working for the railway company and getting a substantial salary, which shows that they were amongst the wealthiest people of their country. The girl asked me if I thought there was any hope that they would be allowed to go back, to Asia Minor. "We love Greece"—they say—"but we cannot forget our birthplace, our homes, our lands, where we have been happy for so many years. The people here have done so much for us, but we are dependent more or less on others, wh
Close to that tent there is another one where conditions are not so good. Indeed it is bare of all furniture and in it lives an old woman of about 65, Ekaterian Aslanoglou, with a little blind boy. You can at once see the hopeless look on the woman's face and understand the struggle for life. She also has a daughter of 30, who, far from being a help to her, is a burden as she is sick and most of the time is at the hospital. She was away and I could not understand from the mother what was the trouble with her. When I went there the woman was busy making bricks out of mud which she dried in the sun. She is doing this work when she has some spare time and hopes that before winter she will succeed in building a hut where she and her children shall find a better shelter against the rain and cold than under the tent. She is the only support of the family. She is doing some washing and gets about Drs. 20 a day, but the misfortune is that she cannot find work every day, and sometimes a whole week passes without her being able to earn a cent. You can see from her manners and talk that she was used to quite a different life. They are from Neni-Hissar (near Kessaria), where they owned a large house, besides another house in Constantinople which they leased. And now this woman, who had two houses of her own, is trying to build a hut out of dried mud and is looking forward to it just as if it were the nicest dwelling.
At some distance from the tent I saw a sort of hole in the rocks and to my great surprise a woman was standing at the opening. She greeted me with a smile and asked whether I would not like to go and have a little rest in her home. She seemed to be proud of being its owner, and indeed when I went in I saw that her pride was justified. When she and her husband first arrived at the camp it was late in the year, all the houses were occupied, the few tents were crowded and there was no room for them anywhere. At last they found a grot under which they went to get shelter. Some time after they understood that there was no way of getting another house or anything better, so they decided to make the best of it and give to their grot a more comfortable look. The task was far from being an easy one but they did not lose hope. They started digging the rock and after much effort and many days' work that former hole was transformed into a rather large and suitable dwelling. Now the room was ready but bare, so they had to get to work and furnish it. No sooner said than done. They found some packing cases, from which they made a bed, some stools, and a table, as also the indispensable set of shelves for their cups, glasses, etc. The husband did his best to find some work. The only thing he was offered was to break stones. He would have to work eight and sometimes ten hours a day under the scorching sun- or in the sharp cold, but, although he is more than 60, and of course not very strong, he did not hesitate one minute to accept it, for he had to choose between this and starvation. His wife told me that this job is very trying for him. In the evening he comes back dead tired and she is afraid he will not be able to stand it much longer. All he gets for this is Drs. 3 a day [Note: the drachma was then worth about 1.75 cents; later it was stablized at 1.33 cents] and they manage with them to feed and dress themselves, and now and then buy some-thing for their little home. They bought some blankets with which
Another woman confirmed the statement about the heads of the young girls. Some of them, those who could escape, fell into the sea, preferring to be drowned rather than fall in the hands of the Turks. None of them from 10 to 30 and even 40 escaped. Vourla was the place where the most beautiful girls of Asia Minor were found. The inhabitants were proud of this, but the time came when this pride had to be paid by death. The Turks fell upon them as flies on the honey and killed, killed, killed, finding a fierce pleasure in exterminating those unbelievers, who, despite all the efforts of the Mohammedans, continued to rebel against them, and even those who could escape went so far as to prefer to be drowned than deny their faith, be taken in the harems and become the wives of the murderers of their fathers and brothers. Well so much the worse for them. Those who were caught had to pay for the whole lot.
After this I went to one of the big houses, composed of two rooms in which two families (6 people, relatives) live. One of the rooms serves for bedroom and sitting room, the as bedroom and kitchen. These people are amongst the most fortunate of refugees. The men were working at the railway company in Smyrna, as engineers, when the city was tured by the Turks. For five months after the catastrophe the Turks kept them without doing them any harm, because they needed engineers to mend the railway machines, etc, which had gone to pieces. As soon as the railways were in good shape again these men were discharged, and after paying tremendous sums of money they got permission to leave Smyrna, bringing with them one or two trunks, their clothes, mattresses and blankets. They were also able to save part of their money. Their rooms are furnished with luxury com-pared to others. They have real beds, chairs, a table and a petrol machine. They have one or two Turkish rugs on the walls too. Three days ago the husband of one and the brother of the other family found a good job and they are grateful and hopeful. Up to now the women were selling their jewels, one after the other, so as to live, and considering from the few rings and brooches that remained, they must have been rather valuable things. Two of their houses in the suburbs or Smyrna have not been burnt and they continue to hope that some day they will be allowed to go back and start their former life again. In one of the corners a watch light is burning before some ikons. It is burning there day and night. "We have to pray God for the return of our eldest son, who is still with the Turks," they said.
In fact, every family, even the poorest, has its ikon; those who can afford it have more, and the watch light is always burning. Those who are safe thank God for it and place some hope in the future; others, who have some members of their family still in the hands of the Turks,'' pray for their safe return; and those, the more numerous, whose many a beloved one has been killed, pray for their souls. Their faith never fails them, and I have seen a woman whose husband and two sons were killed, who was living in a hut by herself, with not even a chair to sit on, but she never forgets to light her watch light before the ikon and never did she utter a word of protest. "God took from me everything I possessed, husband children, house. Such was His will and my only hope now is that I may soon be called to go and meet them."
The last house I visited did not bear such an air of desolation. On the contrary, it was one of the cases where there seemed to be some hope and relief, and this is because these people have been assisted in the beginning and were able to buy some yarn and start making carpets. The mother, Ourania Armoza, is too old to work, but her son and daughter fare working hard. The daughter is making carpets and her brother is selling them. She seems to be satisfied with her earnings. She showed me some nice little rugs for which she was asking 600-700 drs. each. It takes her from 15 to 20 days to finish one. They also have a little grocery shop in the same room and are selling sugar, coffee, rice, cigarettes and candy. They are from the interior of Asia Minor. Their room is clean and tidy and no effort is spared to make it look cozy. I was then conducted to one of the barracks occupied by P. Palassakis and his wife. It has the size of a rather large room. Two of his brothers went lately to the United States and as soon as they got a job they did not forget their brother here. They sent him some money with which he was able to buy boards and build his barrack and furnish it with a bed, two chairs, a table and a small cupboard. The wife made the curtains and the covers, and the room looks very smart. In Melemeni, where they come from, they possessed several houses, one of which has not been burnt, and they too hope that some day they will go there and continue their former lives.
I picked up all this information from different points of the camp, going into the little houses and speaking with the Women in their own language. I showed that I understood their sorrows and felt for them. Some of the women thought that I went there to give them some news of the prisoners. They were depressed when I told them I was not in a position to give them any information. They ask me if I could help them to find out what had become of their beloved ones. Poor souls! A month ago the last prisoners arrived and it was announced that no more were left. But these people are still hoping against hope and watching for their husbands, sons, brothers, fiancées, until some day a friend comes carrying the sad news that those who are so anxiously awaited will never come back, they have been killed or have died from starvation or ill-treatment.
Seeing those little houses and grots one is reminded of the story of Robinson Crusoe, with the difference that instead of its being displayed in the wilderness it takes place in the midst of the busy and civilized world of the Twentieth Century. I left the camp full of admiration for these brave strugglers with life who, with but a little assistance, would accomplish wonders.
Report on the Refugees at the 7th Boys' School. (Dated Athens, May 31, 1924.)
This school, located near Athens, is composed of three large rooms, giving shelter to 22 families, or 91 individuals, amongst whom there are only 17 men, 7 of whom are too old to be of any help to their families. The others are women, quite a number of whom are above 60-70. Most of them have to support three, and even in several cases five, children. Nearly all the men who have been kept by the Turks have not and probably will not come back.
The clothes of the women and children, although worn-out, are clean and tidy. They were kind and ready to answer all my questions, although many a time their words were broken by tears when they wanted to describe to me how they used to live in their own country, and when they remembered those who were left behind and whom they would never see again.
All the men and nearly all the women were away at work. They leave their children to the care of the old women or others who for some reason or another cannot go out to work and must stay there all day long. Kallipoi Pantopoulou is the mother of six children and a two-months'-old baby. She showed me, with great pride, the three of them who were there (6-4-2 years old) and who really are beautiful little children, with fair, curly hair, and big, blue, bright eyes. They are like the mother, who probably was a nice woman before but now sorrow has broken her down. She keeps' her children as clean as can be. The others are working already, although the eldest is only 14 years of age. "I wish I could send them to school," she told me—"but we can't afford it, they must work because my husband only gets Drs. 35 a day and it is not enough." They come from Aivali where they had houses of their own and the husband was a flour dealer. It appears that they were living fairly well there.
Another woman of perhaps more than 65 is taking care of her two grandchildren, while the mother is working as a servant and supporting the whole family. The little girl is not more than 12 years old, she has a sad, melancholic look and one can see in her eyes the whole drama of the family. There is none of that childish care freeness left in her. The answers she gave me were too serious, too sorrowful for her age, and I cannot forget her eyes full of tears when to my question where her father was, she pointed to the sky with her little finger and said "There," They had been expecting him but instead someone came and said that he was killed a few days after his captivity. This little girl is now working at a shirt-factory all day long. For the present she only gets Drs. 3 a day because she is just learning and her only hope is that she will soon learn to work sufficiently well and get a raise in her pay which will enable her to help her mother. Thus at the best period of life, when as a rule the children think of nothing but play, and those who are going to school consider it a hard job to study, hundreds of children like this little girl spend all their sunny days in the prison-like atmosphere of factories with the only expectation that some day they will be able to help their mammas.
Another old woman of about the same age, Eleni Lazarou, is also looking after her two grandchildren while the mother is out the whole day working at a carpet factory from eight o'clock in the morning to seven or even eight in the evening for the poor salary of Drs. 800 a month. Her husband was a prisoner, he came back four months ago but owing to the ill-treatment of the Turks he is suffering from consumption. He is at an hospital but his wife has to pay for his medicines, etc., which cost at least Drs. 100 a week. "We had no time to rejoice for his return"—said the mother-in-law—"ever since he came he has been in bed. At the beginning we thought that with proper care and solicitude we could bring him back to life, but it is too late, we soon found out that there is no hope, everything is useless and he will soon leave us." She told me she had another daughter with two children, who a week ago learned that her husband died in Smyrna. One of her sons, a former prisoner, came back in a pitiful condition it appears. He has a wife and children to support and tries to work, he is willing to do it, but he has not the power, he gets exhausted very quickly and of course the future is not at all promising for this family. "In Smyrna"— this woman told me—" I was so happy. All my children were married. They had their homes where nothing was missing. The men were working very well, all were cheerful, and now I can't send my grandchildren to school because they have no stockings and shoes to wear; every day there is some bad news, and one after the other our people are dying." She told me that sometimes she goes and does some washing so as to help her daughter, but as she is old and not at all strong she cannot do this very often.
Socrates Illiopoulos has his wife and five children, the eldest of whom is 11 years of age. He is a shoemaker and lately he has found a job where they give him 30 drs. a day. Two of the children are sent to school, the others are too young. In Kirkayats they had two houses, lands and vineyards and now they have not even a small room of their own. "After the free country life we were living, it is difficult, specially for the children, to live in this closed atmosphere" the women told me. They had to walk four days and nights from their country to Dikeli in order to get on board a ship. They took with them as many things as they could, clothes, silver, etc., but on their way they got tired and they had to drop one by one the bags containing the few things they had saved. Nevertheless they consider themselves happy because none of their family have fallen in the hands of the Turks and this really is a great privilege.
In a small little room there remains a family of four people, Fotini Pashalopoulou, with her son, an old mother and an old aunt of hers who has been left alone in the world. It appears that her son is suffering from consumption and this is the reason why they have the room to themselves. There is some sort of furniture, some pictures hanging on the wall and it is cosy and smart. You can at once see the difference from the other rooms where several families live together. Fotini is a nice woman of not more than 28 years of age and is a widow. She was neatly and nicely dressed. As a rule she does some washing and when she is at home she ' does some sewing work. "We can manage to live," she told me, "but I cannot stop working even a minute." She is so delicate and seems so much unused to this hard work that , one wonders if she will be able to go on with it for very long. Life was easy and cheerful for her when she was at Smyrna; now she is taught the other aspect of it too. The only thing she was able to bring is an ikon. "I could not leave it in the hands of the Turks," she told me—"it would have been a sacrilege."
Maria Pierno is living with her sister and her daughter, 25 years old. The latter has had pneumonia and was taken to the hospital. Now she is on her way to recovery and they want to send her back to the school. The hospital kept her more than four months and if now she is out of danger and on her way to recovery of course they cannot have her there any more, as there are many other people who are seriously sick, who need immediate care and who are anxiously waiting for a vacant bed in the hospital. The mother at the same| time is afraid to bring her to that place lest she have a relapse again, and I think she is not wrong. How can this girl rest and regain health in that noisy and unhealthy atmosphere of the room, where all the families are cooking, and without even a bed to lie on! "The main point," said the| mother, "is that I have not the means to feed her properly." She is supported by her sister who only gets about Drs. 15 a day. She herself cannot work because she is suffering from rheumatism. Their situation is really fearful. In another room I saw the wife of Ioannis Herouvim with her baby who is only one month old. Her husband is working and gets 35 drs. a day but he has to support, apart from his wife, his old father and mother and a sister of his. He is the only man of the family left. One of his brothers was a prisoner but as no one has heard from him they believe he is dead. The grandmother had the little baby on her knees and was singing to him. "This is my only consolation now," she told me. In Smyrna they owned houses and vineyards and now their only belongings are two blankets.
Stillianos Kivopoulos was a prisoner and he just came back. I asked him to tell me how they were treated by the Turks. "I could talk for days and days and never be able to give you an idea of the horrors I saw," he said. He was a war-prisoner. When they were taken from Smyrna they were 3,000. They were told that they should walk to Magnissia (near Smyrna). They were only a few miles out of the town when they met Turkish soldiers armed with clubs, guns knives, swords, and everything they could find. As soon as the Greeks arrived the Turks started killing them, and as our soldiers of course tried to escape the Turks, who were in a hurry to finish their business and to destroy as many unbelievers as they could, found that the best method was to hit them and then throw them into dried wells that were around; thus even those who were not killed at once had not the least chance to escape death; and so corpses and wounded men were heaped up in those wells. These bodies were so many that the wells were filled up to the top and those who by chance were thrown in the last and were not very seriously wounded were able to get out later. Some of them turned mad at the time, and what was principally haunting them was the howlirig of those dying men who were buried alive in those graves. The most fortunate of course were those
' who were killed at once. Some of them, very few, succeeded in running away from the Turks while they were so busy. Later, however, the Turks caught them again. This man was one of them, and he told me that out of the 3,000 only 250 had not been killed. He told me that several times during his captivity he wished he were dead and only the thought of his young wife prevented him from committing suicide. They were left several days without any food or water, they had to work 14-16 hours a day, and were beaten like dogs. When the Turks did give them some food it was 100 grammes of bread, made out of barley and some currants. He said that later they were better treated but they had great difficulty in getting away.
Now although he does not look strong and healthy he is working and considers himself lucky to be back and with his family again. "I have worked For so many years," he says, " I had my house and some vineyards, I thought that I had not to worry any more about the future, but the Turk came. Everything has been destroyed and now I have to start all over again, but in spite of all this I thank God that I am alive and able to work."
Phili Balaban, a woman of more than 65 is supported by her granddaughter, a girl 16 years old. This child is the only member of the family left, her parents are dead as also one of her uncles. In Smyrna they had their houses, lands and vineyards. The girl was being brought up for quite a different life, which makes things more difficult for her now. When she comes home she makes the meal, tidies their little corner, etc.
Heleni Zahariou is supported by her son who is only 17* years old and he gets 30 drs. a day. One of her sons has been! killed by the Turks and of course her house and all her longings have been burnt up.
I am of the opinion that if these people are moved from that school and have their own houses their conditions will improve considerably. They will feel at home and of course this will encourage them a great deal.
In hearing their stories and thinking over the whole thing, one is bewildered at the ruin which has been caused in so short a time. Some hours have been enough to destroy the work and efforts of so many years, to make hundreds of widows and orphans, to take away from old parents their children, their only hope and joy, and to plunge these once happy and merry people of Asia Minor, into everlasting grief and mourning!