"From Both Sides of the Aegean"

Friday, March 21, 2014

Maria Iliou, who wrote and directed the documentary “From Both Sides of the Aegean: Expulsion and Exchange of Populations, Turkey-Greece: 1922-1924,” and historical consultant Alexander Kitroeff, discuss documenting the ethnic cleansing and violent expulsion of Greeks from the Ottoman Empire. In the first compulsory “exchange of populations” in the modern world, 1.2 million Greek Orthodox and 400,000 Muslims were forcibly relocated from Turkey to Greece and Greece to Turkey respectively. “From Both Sides of the Aegean” opens March 21 at the Quad Cinema.


Maria Iliou and Alexander Kitroeff

Comments [6]

bob in Manhattan (also East Harlem)

You might say that I was a child of both genocides, with Jewish grandparents from Germany, Austria, and Poland, and a Christian Armenian grandfather. Both my mother and father were born here, in NY and NJ respectively. Without knowing most of the details of my grandparents' immigration here, as a child my mother frequently visited her German uncle and his family. He vividly told of being in Germany and a neighbor urgently knocked on his door to warn him (somehow)that Nazis were on their way to seize him and his family, and he managed to escape and come to the US. A very chilling close call.

My father, along with his sister, mother and father weren't so lucky. My grandfather, getting a message from his father that his mother in Turkey was dying, traveled there with his wife and children, sadly to find out that she passed away before they arrived. The year was 1915. My grandfather was taken prisoner by the Turkish/Ottoman army, but because he was a good cook for Turkish food and spoke fluent Turkish, they allowed him to live and eventually released him. However, my father, then only 5 years old, witnessed his mother and sister killed in their home right in front of him and he was knocked unconscious, perhaps also appearing dead. After waking up to the horror, and being locked inside there for at least 2 days, was finally taken from there to a hospital. His father found him there, nearly starving to death, only then learning that his wife and daughter were dead. Being deeply despondent, he abandoned my father to grow up in various boarding schools, and my father grew up in terrible conditions in Istanbul, only escaping by hiding on a ship bound to the US, when he was 18 years old.

All of which had me and my mother desperately trying to be forgiving toward my father, even as we were the targets of his unpredictable explosive angry violence. Both of my parents are long gone, but the trauma of the Armenian Genocide lives on within me, but with the enlightened knowledge that helped me to never re-enact such a violent temper.

Germany fully admitted to the Nazi genocide, gives official recognition to the Holocaust, and forbids the use of Nazi symbols. Turkey, however, not only forbids its own citizens to mention the Armenian genocide, but unforgivably threatens to break off relations with any nation, including its US NATO protector, which dares to make the slightest mention of the Armenian genocide. I have no grievance with any person of Turkish heritage, but I still await the day that the US or other free democracies will finally have the guts to condemn any Turkish government for denying its historical role as a monstrously murderous nation.

Mar. 21 2014 02:59 PM


Not every conversion here is about Jews.

Mar. 21 2014 01:27 PM

Sounds very primitive. It is all kumbaya without serious historical analysis of the events.

Mar. 21 2014 01:24 PM
Cynthia from East Harlem - WOrk

PS to my prior comment - Population Exchange sounds deceptively "gentle". My uncle and grandfather had to leave (escape) first and then my grandmother, dad and aunt separetly. Smyrna was where my aunt went to learn to be a seamstress. My grandfather spoke 7 languages just to show what a multi-cultural place Constantinople (Istanbul) was.

Thanks for discussing this - very fitting as we approach Greek Independence Day on March 25th

Mar. 21 2014 01:14 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

The most displaced people in history were the Jews, who were almost completely displaced from their homeland. However, after 1948, as a result of the war, about 710,000 Arabs fled from what became the State of Israel, and about 856,000 Jews left the Arab and Muslims states. The problem is that the Arab states chose not to integrate the Palestinian Arab refugees into their societies, whereas 650,000 of the Jews displaced from Arab the countries became Israelis. The rest went to France, the US and elsewhere. But there was in effect a population swap between Israel and the Arab states, but this is rarely described as such in the media. It is usually incorrectly depicted as ethnic cleansing by Israel, whereas the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries is almost never mentioned.

Mar. 21 2014 01:12 PM
cynthia from east harlem

My dad was one of the "exchanged" at age 3. I am so pleased their story is being told.

Mar. 21 2014 12:15 AM

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