29 Haziran 2016 Çarşamba

Bringing Two Sides Together; Greece&Turkey

When Greece crosses my mind I remember the words “so close yet so far”.  During my childhood,  
I used to spend time studying maps which showed Turkey and its neighbour Greek islands very close
to each other. I would try to find invisible borders on the water and can not find the reason why we are not allowed to visit our neighbours. Despite of my short height and little age I would sometimes grab a pen and change the borders. Putting the borders away would bring freedom into my body and mind. Since that time I have been travelling those ‘forbidden lands’ with endless curiosity. After a long time I had the chance to cross the borders and meet my nigbours. When I met people from Rafina, a seaside town of Athens and after
listening to their stories I realised that they also experienced similar things and found the borders meaningless. It seemed that I was not alone. People of Aegean sea who had lived without borders for thousands of years have been far from each other for 90 years now.
With European Union’s project we get the chance to loosen up the borders at least a little. We didn’t sail to cross the borders but we flew to Athens. We were not suprised to be welcomed by olive trees, eucalyptus and vineyards. Athens and Greece as a whole flourished and developed after the population exchange between Turkey and Greece and gained its present identity.
What is the Population Exchange (Mübadele)?
The 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey (Greek: Ἡ Ἀνταλλαγή, Turkish: Mübâdele) stemmed from the "Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations" signed at Lausanne, Switzerland, on 30 January 1923, by the governments of Greece and Turkey. It involved approximately 2 million people (around 1.3 million Anatolian Greeks and 500,000 Muslims in Greece), most of whom were forcibly made refugees and de jure denaturalized from their homelands. (wikipedia)
I believe that without knowing what Mübadele means and how it has affected the Greek society, it would be impossible to understand this country and the people enough. The town of Rafina that we visited within the school project has 13 thousand people in it. The people are usually the children or the grandchildren of the people who had to migrate from Trilye (Triglia) town located in Mudanya-Bursa in Turkey. Many of the elderly and some of the big children can speak Turkish. When we talked with the mayor, Vassilis, we learnt some interesting stories of the local people. The mayor has visited his grandparents’ house many times in Triglia. The bakery that was used to be run by his grandpa still functions and belongs to a Turkish baker. Therefore the Mayor often goes to Triglia as he considers the town his and his ancesters’ homeland. Mudanya and Rafina have become sister cities and so mutual visits happen very
often. We noticed a lof of things in Rafina that are familiar to us from Anatolia. We were suprised to see people in both sides have almost the same way of behaviours, the common food names, use Tasbih, smoke hookah, drink coffee, bogma raki, traditional games and most importantly have strong ties with their families and have big love of olive oil. This is the common culture that was developed after thousands years of living together. Visiting Triglia House Museum where all common culture items are displayed and seeing lacy beds, the old instruments, the kitchen cabinets, black and white photos that are taken in Triglia made me understand how much they loved and missed their homeland. People who were not born in Triglia and even people who have never seen Trilye call this lands ‘my hometown.’
Not only from Triglia but people all over the Anatolia were forced to migrate to Rafina by decision of two countries. I would like to share feelings of people who have connections with Anatolia. Savvas who is in his 40s; “Our history, life story and roots of our family are all in the other side of Agean Sea. The other side is an important part of our identity. Every weekend in our house we make
lahmacun, kebab and baklava. Our traditions continue. If I didn’t know my story in Triglia I would not understand myself and my society..” “I wasn’t born in there Triglia but I know I will cry if I ever go there. This is why I always postpone my visit. I grew up with happy stories of my grandmother in Triglia.”
Kostas starts speaking with a constant smile on his face; “The Greek football club AEK was established in Istanbul. That’s why most of the immigrants from Turkey support this team. AEK’s sister team is Beşiktaş.”
Sissy who usually has unusual and exciting ideas tells me; “Mehmet, they should remove the borders and let people mix. Nationalism ruined both of the cultures. It dried them up. Shall we establish an association for Aegean with No Borders? I got excited with this idea as I always do and said; “Why not! Let’s do it”.  Amalia, who is always positive, enthusiastic  and ready for new projects, gets excited and says; "We need to do a lot of things to bring people together". At the end, we make new plans to meet both in Turkey and in Greece.
Katerina (65) who studied at the Greek Primary school in İstanbul shared with us her touchy story
showing the old photos; “I lived at coasts of Arnavutköy in Istanbul until 1975. Our house was located near the school and the church. When I was 13 I had to leave my beloved Istanbul. I still can not forget my hometown. I sometimes meet with my Turkish friends.” I liked her Turkish with Greek accent and the interesting details she told me about İstanbul. 
An old man in the crowd approached to us and said hello and started to tell us his story. “I did my military service in Sivas Temeltepe in 1972 for two years. When I came back to Istanbul the war of Cyrpus broke out. They told us to leave. So we had to leave everything behind us and migrate to Greece. Istanbul is my homeland. It was not a place to be left but what could we do?…”
Sophie, a primary school teacher whose grandfather came to Athens from Söke in Aydin within the Population Exchange Treaty says; “The history books in your schools and our schools show us as enemies. We should listen to the people’s stories both sides. Why the history books never mention long periods that they lived together peacefully?”
Meanwhile I was informed that the Greek government removed the information which contained discrimination about the Turks from school books four years ago. This news made me happy. I wish the same thing would happen in the Turkish textbooks soon.
We spent one long and lovely week in Rafina within the Project Mobility. During this week,  local
people and teachers showed us their hospitality, warm friendship and wanted to talk and learn about their homelands. We felt that we were treated specially as we came from their lands. Honestly we didn’t expect it.
One of our colleagues, Zeliha, confesses something; “We have all grown up with the war, fight and hatred stories between two nations. Thats why I was scared a little bit before coming here. However, when I came I felt relieved because people were very friendly and showed me no prejudice.”
My principal, Mr. Sami Bozkurt was very surprised by what he has experienced and heard; “Until coming here, I was only familiar with the sad stories of Turkish people who had to migrate from Greece to Turkey. I didn't know the story of this side. I am shocked with the big love of people towards their homelands. The mayor hugged me and called ‘My brother'. At that moment, I could hardly keep my tears coming down.”
We met not only Greek friends in Rafina. Our partner school organised the Festival Of Cultures and they invited traditional dance groups from different cultures. One of the groups was the Armenian kids. Adorable, energetic kids with their traditional outfits performed their traditional dances with the music similar to Kurdish. When they started to dance with the song called Lorki I got goose bumps. I felt like I was at a Kurdish wedding. These kids were the grandchildren of people who suffered from missing their homelands, too. When I talked to their team leader I learnt that some of the kids’ grandfathers were deported from Muş, Van, Maraş, Bingöl and other cities. I felt so sorry again. They invited us to the table full of Armenian foods, mezes and drinks. They were very delicious and very Anatolian.
City of Goddesses and Graffitis; Athens
Athens is the most influential city of the world with its’ philosophers, democracy and sculptures. You need to go study the city deeply to understand and experience the soul of the Athens. As I was
discovering this female city I noticed some interesting faces of Athens. Athens is a philosopher. Athens is an athlete. Athens is self confident. Athens tastes good. Athens is chaotic. Athens is romantic. Athens is feminist. Athens is Ocenius. Athens is the wine on the hills. If you wish to see at least some aspects of the city you should go up to the hill located in the very middle of the city by the cable car. On the peak you can go watch 3400 years old city and the home of 3.75 million people panoramically. The white church standing on the hill creates a holy athmosphere. The church and the Artemis temple at Acrapolis look at each other. At first glance from the hill you see not very high modern buildings across the city. The small green forests between the neighbourhoods let people have fresh air and
relax. The forests and partly the sea are the belts around the waist of Athens. After watching the city
from the hill you can easily visualize it on your mind. Then it is time to go down and touch the places that you saw from a long distance.
Greek Parliament building which symbolises the final version of the Greek democracy welcomes lots of visitors every minute. It is nice to see the soldiers dressed in traditional uniforms and take pictures with them. You can also chat with pigeons that stand on your arm and eat bread from your fingers. It is a good idea to buy Simit (traditional bread in a ring) and share it with the pigeons. They will love you.
You walk on the streets that are usually quiet and not crowded and reach the National Garden.  When you walk into the oasis that was created by a German Agronomists in 1838  you save yourself from the city rush, heat and the city itself. Isn’t it a
great idea to create some green zones where you can easily take shelter in. Athenians, who have always had big joy of life, enjoyed drinking and chatting were clever enough to create such zones very long time ago. Even though the ciy grew up and got bigger the botanical garden could keep itself the same. In the same area you meet the historical building of National Technical University of Athens.It is the  heart of science and the center of the protests. The university walls are decorated with radical political slogans and students usually has something to protest. The police is not allowed to enter into the university which makes the job of the protestors easier. Graffiti is a way of art and expressing views. Not only the university but most of the buildings in the city is covered with graffitis. Thats why we can easily call athens as the lover of Graffitti.

Izmir in Athens; Nea Symirni
Greeks who migrated to Athens from Izmir created a small Izmir in Athens. It is called ‘Nea Smyrini’ which simply means ‘New Izmir’. By creating Izmir’s clock tower, historical buildings, similar streets and the fair people tried to overcome the homesickness. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I’d say that they took Izmir to Athens with them. A resident of New Symirni, Katerina says; “People can not forget Izmir, Istanbul, Triglia and the other Minor Asia cities. We kept living the same life here in Athens after we left homelands.

Habitat in the Shadow of Acropolis; Monastraki Flea Market
When you enter the Monastraki Flea Market you feel like you are in Izmir’s historical Bazaar called
Kemeraltı. Colorful clothes that are displayed in front of the shops, people from different cultures walking in the bazaar, people enjoying their Greek/Turkish coffee, the cheapness, fruit vendors, constant movement… It is not possible not to feel like you’re at Kemeraltı Bazaar. The only difference is that people are not in a hurry and they are calmer. In this square where the mosque and the church neighbouring each other since the Ottoman era there are many tourists, pedlars, shoppers and the ones who try to avoid the heat by having their frappes. While hearing Turkish words occasionally and watching the giant Acropolis that behaves like the owner of the city you feel the east and the west sides of the Athens at the same time. It is not strange for Athens to carry the colours of East  as the city was ruled
by the Ottoman Empire for five centuries and Greece has alsways had close relationships with Middle East and Mesopotamia even before the Ottomans. The city, now, houses the Turks, the Pomaks, the Jews, Albanians, Syrians and other different cultures. This is what makes Athens charming… When wandering around in this ancient and colorful city I remember how Philip Marcel portraits Izmir or Thessaloniki in the 1920s in his book called Levand. Athenians have recently built a magnificent museum which suits the greatness of Acropolis. The old ruins are kept in the basement of the museum and covered with glass. When you walk on the glass in the first ground of the museum you look down through the glass and you feel like you’re walking in space. It is really inspiring to watch the works of the Greek
sculptures who are talented in giving soul and emotion to stones. It is also inspiring to listen and learn these things from a guide who does her job with passion and love. Temple of Artemis was a pagan temple which was converted to a church by the Romans and then converted to a mosque by the Ottomans. After the Greek independence war the mosque was converted to a church again.
What I like the most in Greece during my trip is the Greek cuisine and sweet conversation that usually happen while eating. This cuisine culture has succeeded to combine the sea foods like fish, calamari, octopus, shrimps with Mediterranean olive oil and spices with experience of thousands of years. Adittionally, Greeks have put amazing vegetables, fruits, wine, ouzo and raki from their fertile fields on the dining tables. Our new friends arranged such tables and created the lovely moments to experience all the beauties and tastes of the city.
We got into a deep conversations with Greek friends ignoring the borders while listening bouzouki and Greek melodies. We realised that our similarities make our relationship easier and on the other hand we agreed that our differences were not dangerous. They were just making our lives more interesiting. We were aware of the truth that living with similar cultures would be boring and would make the culture less interesting but living with different cultures would diversify our lives hundred times more and gives us joy. Thats why Population Exchange-Mübadele was a bad idea and made both cultures lose their colors and prevent them from effecting each other. It was like cutting off the vein of change between cultures. Since then both cultures isolted themselves from others and started to live without their relatives. What if it was the opposite? What if we kept on living in Minor Asia and Agean islands together? Wouldn’t two sides of Agean sea be more prosperious and colorful?

School and Education…
The schools in Greece are until 14.00 o `clock and some kids can stay until 16.00. In my school we are 6 primary teachers and we have another 7 teacher for English, German, French,PC, music, art and gym.
We spent one week in our partner school. It was like our second home during this period. What did we see? What did we learn? Greek schools are subsidised by the municipalities. But the government pays the teachers salaries. The primary school lasts six years. The school we have visited has wide garden and a gym with multipurpose use and the classes usually have between 20-25 children. A teacher teaches a class only two years. In a school with 130 students there are 6 teachers, 6 subject teachers, 1 principal and a few workers. The principal has to hold at least a masters degree. There are no chocolate, biscuits and others ready products in the school canteen. Students can microwave the foods they bring from home in the canteen. Only homemade borek, pogaca and sandwiches are sold. Teachers use this canteen to eat, drink coffee and sometimes smoking. They do block lessons in the schools and on the breaks all students are taken out to the garden. Teachers watch kids in the school garden just in case. Motivation of the students and their behaviours to each other seem to be positive. They try to support each other in group works instead of competing. Seeing there are no tests or race for exams in this system (at least at primary level) makes me happy. They do their lessons with projects, reading, narrating and creative writing. By the way there are Chinese, Bulgarian, Albanian and students from other nationalities attending the school. They know
Greek quite well and they seem to be adapted to the school environment. Also they have good relationship with the Greek students. Schools are full day and ends at 14.00. There’s a nice regulation for the children of working families. When the school finishes children of working families stay at the school until 16.00. There is always a teacher to monitor or coach them.
Kids start to learn English at kindergarten. After teaching in classes and talking local people on streets I can say that local people can speak English well. Subject teachers teach PE, English, German, French, PC, art, music and gym at primary level. Kids have religion classes but non-Orthodox (Protestant, Catholic) and Muslims, Jewish, Zarathustra and kids with other religions are not obliged to attend the religion classes. When a school’s population exceeds 300 children it is divided into two parts and the municipality opens a new school. Children from Rafina are friendly, energetic, open to innovation and they are fond of talking to people from different cultures. Now we help Turkish and Greek kids become penpals and start friendship from the very beginning of their life.  
I returned from another trip and I’m not same anymore. I’m a different person with what I’ve experienced, what I’ve seen and what I’ve listened. From now on, I look at the Aegean history, people lived in these lands and nature from a different perspective. Obviously it is going to be in a positive way. This is what I get from journeys each time. Now, it is time to share what I have experienced.

Next meeting with new Greek friends from will take place in this part of the sea, in Izmir. We will visit where the Greek grandfathers used to live, we will add Baglama to Bouzouki and sing Agean songs together. We will drink Ouzo and Raki together and dance Sirtaki and Halay. We will read both Yaşar Kemal and Dido Sotiro who genuinely believed in peace and friendship of the Greeks and Turks. In this way we will make a tiny
contribution toward reuniting Ageans' two sides. And finally, it seems that I will travel to Triglia to bring greetings  sent by friends in Rafina. And I will touch the works of their ancestors for them. It also seems that the journeys will go on until the two sides of the Agean Sea come together and the borders disappear. For me, this is not a dream J.

Translated from Turkish by Gülce Dilay Erdem

                                              Many thanks :)

Hiç yorum yok:

Yorum Gönder