Here we see important sites of memory for the Greek [Rum] Communities of Istanbul: the historic Rum schools of Phanar Greek Orthodox High School and Ioakeimeion Girls' High School which are located directly opposite to each in Fener neighbourhood of Istanbul (‘Phanar’ in Greek). These are prominent institutions and buildings, and the former is still active, albeit with vastly reduced student numbers because of the dwindling population. The schools are a core childhood memory for older diaspora community members who were displaced in the expulsions of 1964 and had to leave Istanbul due to other political suppressions. Alumni groups are highly active in Istanbul, Athens and as far away as Melbourne.

Phanar School is a hub of transnational community cultural events. It is nicknamed the ‘Red Castle’. It is a prominent landmark on the skyline of Istanbul, visible from many points in the Historic Areas of Istanbul World Heritage Site. The statement of Outstanding Universal Value, which is a key component of World Heritage listing, stresses the city’s ‘incomparable skyline formed by the creative genius of Byzantine and Ottoman architects’ but the post-Byzantine history and the culture of the Rum are not recognised in the WHS or in other official heritage narratives, which celebrate instead the 1453 Ottoman conquest of, and dominion over, the city. 

Ioakeimeion Girls' High School
The school was established in 1870s. The land was donated by Joachim II (1802-1878) the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and the school was built by his successor Joachim III (1834-1912). Aspasia, who is in her 80s, a retired teacher from Istanbul now living in Athens, explained that the School was established for girls of the Fener and Balat area, because the school in Pera [Zapyon] was both too expensive and remote. She worked at the Ioakeimeion for twelve years from 1957. In her years, the school in Pera still was bigger and richer. Despite its more modest state, Aspasia said that the Ioakeimeion was well run and in good order in her time.  Aspasia lived on the other side of the city at the time. She would take the ferry to Fener, where she would climb the steps up the hill to get to the school. Although it was hard to get to work on time, when she could, she would often go to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Fener, to light a candle on her way to school. 

Aspasia remembers the school fondly, but it was not without tension. There were some Turkish teachers at the school and although often their relationship was good, it was often related to the political situation between Greece and Turkey: when the tension was high between the two countries, this made itself felt at the school.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Ioakeimeion had nearly six hundred students. In the 1980s, depopulation of the Rum community meant that the school had to close because of low student numbers; the pupils joined the Phanar Greek Orthodox High School, which became co-educational. Aspasia, on the other hand, was transferred to Zapyon Girls’s School in Pera. 

The Ioakeimeion is still closed to this day. It is not possible to visit and the building is unsafe to go inside. For now, community memories of the school are still vivid, but as generations pass these will be lost.

Phanar Greek Orthodox High School
The School dates from 1454, one year after the Conquest of Constantinople, when it was opened by the Patriarch to educate the children of the Orthodox community. Today’s building, sometimes known as the ‘Red Castle’, dates from 1883. Today, there are only about 40-50 students attending the School, after a dramatic decline in the community’ s numbers following the expulsions of 1964. Many of the Rum who left Istanbul for Athens attended this School and are members of graduate associations. 

 I visited the school with Thanassis, who is in his 80s and is the only remaining graduate in Istanbul from his year and class. The rest had to leave for Athens. He said that the graduates of the school were very attached to their school: it not only “educated” them, but also “taught them about life”. His fellow graduates meet in the same place and at the same time every week in Athens. “They don’t need a phonecall. Whoever is available shows up”. 

Although student numbers are very low and the future of the School is a question, staff, students and alumni – going back decades, like Thanassis – all try to keep their School alive. The School is an important venue for events and intergenerational sharing of the Rum culture of Istanbul. Below, you will see some sound recordings of an event that I attended with Thanasis. 

These are recordings of a concert performed by the schoolchildren in November 2019 in collaboration with schoolchildren from Greece.

Stelyos is from Istanbul. After many years as a member of the Ecumenical Patriarchate choir, he moved to the island of Gökçeada (Imroz) in 2020. He teaches music in a Greek high School and trains the Greek children of the island to sing traditional Orthodox church music. 

Together with his wife Pelin Suer, Stelyos established the Café Aman Istanbul music band in 2009. Café Aman sings the music of Istanbul in Greek and Turkish. The band is reviving the Rebetiko repertoires from Anatolia and Greece and the tradition of the café-aman taverns, where traditional songs were performed from 19th-century Century Ottoman times. He explains the concept of ‘Istanbul Music’: 

The group is popular in Greece and Turkey. Stelyos talked about a very successful concert that they did in a large concert hall in the centre of Athens, the Megaron, in November 2019. Café Aman istanbul was invited to the Megaron and had to perform two nights in a row at the Hall because of the level of interest. Tickets sold out quickly. Stelyos said that at the time they were working on ‘Istanbul city music and heritage’ and decided to take this to Athens: We come from the City [Istanbul] (Από την Πόλη έρχομαι).

The Café Aman Istanbul knew that some Greeks from Turkey in Athens were fans them, but the huge interest in Athens was a surprise for them.  He explained why that was:

I thank Stelyos for his time and for giving me permission to use these photographs and songs. 

This story on this page was going to be different. It is not completed, and it won’t be. This is about Nikos Manginas, who was a journalist and a photographer at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. We lost Nikos on 10th April 2021. 

Nikos was a generous, helpful person with a great sense of humour. I am grateful to him for his time and support. He always hosted me with a warm welcome and generously gave gifts, such as books that are relevant to my research. Although he told me a lot about himself, we did not manage to conclude our discussions about the Patriarchate, Fener and Beyoğlu, about himself and his family. Here I’ll write what I know, based on the time I spent with him. 

Nikos was ‘a child of Beyoğlu’ as he put it. That’s where he began taking photographs.  He was a graduate of the Zografyon Greek High School and studied in Athens afterwards. 

When I first met him at the Patriarchate, I was wating for permission to film in a church. We started chatting. He listened to me talk about what I was doing and told me his story. He told me about his mother, Anastasia Nikolaidou Mangina, who was a teacher and a headmaster at the Greek orphanage in Büyükada; he showed me a picture of her. We agreed that he would tell me more details about his mother and family another time, and we planned to meet again. 

He also briefly mentioned his grandfather, who died in the Gallipoli Campaign as an Ottoman soldier when Nikos’s mother was 3. His grandfather, Nikola Nikolaidis, was born in the historical Greek ‘Rum’ settlement in Trilye, in the Mudanya District of Bursa, a city in the north west of Turkey. He told me that his mother was proud of her father because of the sacrifice that he made for his country, although she only ever saw him in photographs. Nikos gave me a copy of a newspaper article in which he talked about his grandfather. He was disappointed that although his grandfather was a şehit [martyr], the contribution of ‘non-Muslims’ (a term he disliked because he felt it implied discrimination) in the wars went unrecognised. Nikos was given the name of his martyred grandfather’s. 

He showed me that he had a vast archive of photographs of the Patriarch Bartholomew that he himself had taken. Nikos was very close to the Patriarch and had followed and took photographs of him since 1991, in his all national and international visits, in his services, and sometimes in his daily life. Once I was talking to Nikos at the Patriarchate and he wanted to go to the church immediately when he heard that the Patriarch was going to attend the evening prayer. This was just a normal routine prayer, and not otherwise a special occasion. The presence of the Patriarch was the main focus for him. We went to St George’s Church at the Patriarchate and he took many photographs of him. 

The independent initiative Istos is a Greek ‘Rum’ organization in Istanbul established in 2011. One of the first activities of Istos was to revive the historic publishing tradition of the Greeks of Istanbul that was discontinued over half a century previously due to political pressure. They aim to contribute to knowledge about the history, culture and life of the Rums and to general historical understanding of Istanbul. Since part of the Rum community has remained in Istanbul, Istos seeks to counter a romantic and nostalgic perspective on Rum culture in the city that is based on a sense of loss.

Istos is not just a publishing house. It makes films and has a choir that sings in Greek (the choir also includes Turkish people). It organises language courses, and workshops and events on the Greeks of Istanbul. Lastly, there is Istos Café. So, Istos is a cultural focus for the Greek communites in Istanbul. Indeed, Istos (Ιστός), means ‘network’.

Here is the link to Istos (in Greek and Turkish):

I thank Istos for their time in talking to me and giving me permission to use their material, in particular to Yorgo and Foti Benlisoy.  

Dimitris (Vafiadis) Daravanoğlu is a member of the Greek Community of Istanbul but also has Armenian and Italian roots in his family. He still lives in Istanbul. He is in his 30s and working as an electrical engineer.

He has been interested in his family history and developing his own museum with his family history from 1800s, their objects and a large photo archive. He wants to tell the story of non-Muslim communities of Istanbul through his family history and share it with wider audiences. To do this, he has established a website called 2mi3museum. He talks about family members, the souvenirs that they bought on their trips, stories of weddings, baptisms, and some of the difficult experiences that they faced, including the Wealth Tax, the incident of the Twenty Classes - (Yirmi Kur'a Nafıa Askerleri - "Soldiers for Public Works by Drawing of Twenty Lots”) and the 1955 Pogrom that profoundly affected the future of the non-Muslim communities of Turkey. 

You can see and read about 2mi3museum here:  

I thank Dimitris (Vafiadis) Daravanoğlu for his time in talking to me and giving me permission to use this material.

Ligor was born in 1941 in Çengelköy, a district on the Bosphorus in the Asian site of Istanbul. His family moved to Kurtuluş on the other site of the city when Ligor was 8. He went to Zografyon Greek High School but could not continue his study. He started his working life at a very early age by helping his uncle at a famous patisserie of Istanbul, Gloria. He says that it was difficult to reach the cashier for him when he started working. 

Ligor says that in the late 1950s and 1960s, he had to wait for the last screening of the cinemas in order to finish his work. At the time, cinemas such as the Atlas, the Yeni Melek, and the Emek in Beyoğlu were very popular and people would go to patisseries after the films. It was very difficult to find a cinema ticket, so you had to buy it in advance or last-minute from black market dealers.

Since 1964, Ligor has been working at Baylan which is one of the oldest patisseries in Istanbul. Baylan was established in 1923 in Beyoğlu by Greek Orthodox immigrants from Albania. Ligor talks about Harry Lenas, the son of Filiip Lenas who started Baylan with his cousin Yorgi Kiriçi. Harry loved his job and often invited master chefs from other countries, like Switzerland and France. Ligor remembers that once they had a Swiss week in the Karaköy Branch and decorated the whole shop with Swiss flags. The chefs prepared Swiss products and sculptures made of sugar. 

Ligor still works at Baylan, but in the Kadıköy branch that opened in 1961. He takes a long journey from Kurtuluş to Kadıköy to get to work very early in the morning. Although it is a long crossing, he enjoys coming to the shop because it is important to him. 

Istanbul’s patisserie shops were famous from the late 19th century. They were mainly run by non- Muslims and the Greek communities of Istanbul were particularly active. Today, because of the diminishing population of this community, many historic patisseries have shut or are run by new Turkish owners who aim to safeguard the original concept and the taste of the products. Baylan has a similar story: Harry did not have children and was old, so he sold Baylan to a large Turkish chocolate company in 2009. The company kept Baylan in its original form and retained its staff, including Ligor. Ligor says that they continue to use the old recipes, but some of them do not sell, because people are not familiar with them today. Also, the names of the products have changed; in the past, French names were more common, but some of these are no longer known.  

Ligor says that Baylan is in good hands. However, he is sad about how the Greek communities of Istanbul are diminished:

Ligor and his daughter are the only remaining members of their family in Istanbul and Ligor is currently the last Greek to work in a historical traditional patisserie of Istanbul. 

Stelyos Berber talks about the importance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople for the development of Greek Orthodox Church music and how music played a significant role in Greek Orthodox culture for centuries. Stelyos sang in the choir of the Patriarchate in Istanbul for 20 years, before which he attended as a child. 

Greek Orthodox music is also called ‘Byzantine Church Music’ because the tradition dates back to the Byzantine times. After the Conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, the Patriarchate of Constantinople remained as the central church of the Orthodox Christians and they continued the Byzantine music tradition. 

In this tradition, there are two choirs, each with male singers, standing at the two sides of the soleas which is the sanctuary platform in Orthodox Churches. The music has complex and specific modal and tonal characteristics.

Stelyos says that it’s hard to continue this tradition in Istanbul, since the city’s Greek population has diminished dramatically. Although the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople helps to keep this historic tradition in its homeland, its future survival is at risk because of population change. 

Here you can hear the sound of hymns from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul. The Patriarch Bartholomew I attended and sang during this service. The recording was made by sound artist Tim Shaw on our visit to Istanbul in 2018. We are grateful to the Patriarchate for their permission to record this.


Dimitris lives in Athens. His parents left Istanbul in 1964 when Turkish state exiled people with Greek citizenship. In the video, Dimitris talks about his journey from the harbour in Karaköy to Athens by himself as he had to follow his parents. It was the first time he left Istanbul. He tells the story of his journey and his feelings upon seeing Greece and Athens for the first time. He also describes what Piraeus, Sounion and Athens were like in 1964. 

Elena is the daughter of Dimitris, who left Istanbul for Athens in 1964 when holders of Greek passports were deported from the city. Dimitris talked often to his daughter of Istanbul. She was born in Athens and has lived all of her life there. Once, she travelled to Istanbul and took the tram from Atatürk Airport. When the tram passed through the ancient Walls of Constantinople, she recognised them from her father's stories.

I feel this nostalgia through my dad [Dimitris]. But for me, it was even stronger because I had all this historical approach of the walls, and then it’s when you get to the walls, it is like that is the city, you know, that is the city! So that was... I started crying, because I feel this nostalgia through my dad, because he comes from there. So, [for me] it is two layers: [I understood the history but] it is also my personal family story. I know that [my dad] is attached to the city and I know he always wants to go back. I know his best years, his childhood, his more, like, carefree years, were spent there.

[He said] ‘Now I am going to show you my place’, and he took me to all the places. He took me to Samatya where he was born. That is the city as I saw it through my dad’s eyes. He would take me to all the places and he would tell me nice stories. So it was like everything was perfect.

I think Greek people, my dad, and my grandmother, they all have this very idealised view. I don’t know if it is - maybe a large part of it is - also true. But they always focus on the good things. Like they want to see it as something magical and idealised. Yes. In a very beautiful way.

You walk from Tekfur Palace [inside the walls] to Eğrikapı… Gates are usually straight, but not this one. That’s why it’s called ‘crooked gate’… When you went out on the right-hand side there was a Greek cemetery, and there was a football pitch opposite, which was called Bozkurt Club. Behind that, there was a big open space where we went to catch birds with my father. We used to get goldfinches, colourful birds with a red stripe on their heads and white tummies, and browny-yellow feathers. They were good singers… We took one home, and its tummy was not white, more like pink…

In 1955 [after the Istanbul Pogrom], the first thing I did was to have a little talk with the bird. As a child I used to talk to the bird, telling it all of my secrets. This time I took the cage to the window and released the bird. I told it that I now understood that we had done a cruel thing by capturing it, because now I felt imprisoned too. 

This is the story of Minas, who is in his 70s now, and lives in Athens.

Theodoros is in his 70s. He left Istanbul in 1964 and now lives in Athens. He graduated from the Zografyon Greek high school. Every year the school celebrates graduates from 50 years before. In November 2019, Theodoros and his friends and fellow graduates came from Athens to Istanbul to celebrate this event. After this, they visited the graveyards of the Zografyon teachers. Theodoros and many others talked about the importance of their schools. They have graduate associations in Athens where they meet regularly and follow events in their school. Someone said, ‘it’s like supporting a football club; we are fond of our schools.’ After attending the event and visiting the headmaster, I came across Theodoros and his friends in the school. They said they wanted to come back and say a ‘last goodbye’ to their school and the headmaster, who is held in deep respect by the community. 

Theodoros also talked about his school years. At that time, his high school was only for boys. The Zapyon Greek High School, in the same neighbourhood, was for girls. All the other Greek high schools were segregated along gender lines too. However, due to the vast decline in the population of the Greeks in Istanbul, the schools introduced mixed-gender education. Theodoros talked about how they were not allowed to have any contact with the girls. However, he said, ‘we always found a way to communicate':

Theodoros is in his 70s. He left Istanbul in 1964 and lives in Athens now. He likes football. His passion for football and his interest in other sports started in Beyoğlu Spor (Pera) Club in Istanbul in the 1950s.

Theodoros started to play football at Beyoğlu Spor when he was a child. He was also in the athletics team. They used to train in Gezi Park in Taksim and he enjoyed it very much. His mother thought he was getting too tired, so she did not allow him to continue to practice any sports. However, this did not stop his passion for sport, particularly football. He often went to Beyoğlu Sport football team and Fenerbahçe matches. 

After leaving Istanbul, Theodoros’s passion for football continued in Athens. He was already a supporter of the AEK Athens while in Istanbul, but he became a bigger fan of the team in his new home city. He said to me that he cries when he sees ‘his team’ on the pitch or on TV. AEK was established in 1924 by a group of refugees from Istanbul and Asia Minor. Some of them were former athletes in Beyoğlu Spor and other clubs in Istanbul, such as Kurtuluş (Tatavla). The team chose the colour of Beyoğlu Spor: yellow and black. They took the symbol of Byzantium: an eagle with two heads. They are also building a stadium at the moment, which will be called ‘Agia Sophia’, inspired by the Walls of Constantinople. Theodoros showed me his bracelet and necklace with the two-headed eagle AEK symbol. He told me ‘this is my life; it reminds me of Istanbul…’  

Theodoros is in his 70s. He left Istanbul in 1964 and lives in Athens now. The family was affected by the political tensions between Turkey and Greece relating to the conflict over Cyprus. He was very upset about this because for him Cyprus meant little to his family. ‘My parents only had primary school education and they did not even know where Cyprus was. We have never been there, and I will never go until I die because back then it affected my future!’ His parents moved to Athens two years after Theodorus went there. Before this, they lived in the Firuzağa district in Beyoğlu. His father sold their flat in Istanbul and could only effort a small one in Athens. Theodoros missed Istanbul and the nice big bedroom that shared with his brother. 

Theodoros and his friends, who are also from Beyoğlu and live in Athens, always stay in the same hotel, which is located at the beginning of Sıraselviler Street in Beyoğlu. They visit the graveyards of their families first and then they visit their old school. This is always followed by a visit to the Bosporus, or the Princes Islands, and some shopping. He buys Turkish tea glasses and küp şeker (sugar cubes) that he cannot find in Athens. The hotel is very close to everywhere that ‘he wants to go to’. Most importantly, it is near to his old flat in Firuzağa. He said he walks there by himself from the hotel, looks at his old flat, and touches the main door of the apartment building; then he says goodbye. This often makes him cry.

When father Georgios got to seven or eight years old, he became a candle-bearer at the church with his friend. ‘Of course, we were very excited and had fun with our friends carrying candles. We thought it was a very important duty.’ This went on until they were about twelve or thirteen years old. After that, their religious elders started to teach them to chant and to read the psalms properly, along with other children. For father Georgios, his teacher was very important to him. He stayed at his side for around four years with his friends.

The elders of the patriarchate went to different churches – maybe not every Sunday but on certain significant Sundays – and held services. While they were holding the service, they would take a choir along with them. So, during that period, Father Georgios and his friends went with the elders of the patriarchate to every corner of Istanbul, to every church. He said ‘we loved going with the grown-ups on the bus. At that time, the patriarchate used minibuses. We went to a lot of places in those four years.’ He also talked about how, at the time, ‘no area affected me more than this one [Yedikule area].’

This icon of Agios Eleftherios, the Patron Saint of childbirth, belongs to Dimitri’s family. This icon was hanging on the wall of their home in Istanbul until they left in 1964 due to the exile of the Greek citizens. Dimitris's father, Nikos, had a shop in the Karaköy district of Istanbul. They both used to go to the Agios Nicolas Church, which was near his father’s shop. Greek- Orthodox people commemorate the Feast day of Agios Eleftherios on 15 December every year. 

According to their tradition, on the feast day of a saint, an icon of them goes on display in the church. However, Agios Nicolas Church did not have the icon of Agios Eleftherios. Every year, Dimitris’s father took this icon to the Church to be displayed for two days. Today, the icon is hanging on the wall of Dimitris’s house in Athens.

The Agios Nicolas church dates back to the 16th century, but the current church was built in 1804. The ‘Turkish Orthodox’ community took ownership of the church with the support of the Turkish State in 1965. Later, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul started a court case for the return of the church, along with another church in the same area – Agios Ioannis – which is in the same situation. 

These collection plates belong to the church of Agios Konstantinos and Eleni in Paşabahçe in Istanbul. They are from different time periods. As the population of Greeks declined dramatically in this neighborhood, the plates are not in use anymore and were placed in store in the church. The president of the Church’s foundation is Thannasis, aged 82. With his wife, he is the only remaining Greek in the neighbourhood. He took out of them from storage and cleaned and displayed them in a specially-made cabinet in the narthex of the church. 

This window is in the church of Agios Konstantinos and Eleni in Paşabahçe in Istanbul. It is a special window. The president of the Church’s foundation is Thanassis, aged 82. He brought the window piece by piece from Athens over multiple trips and many years. He and his wife are the only remaining Greeks in the neighbourhood.

The church, he says, is like a home to him. Four generations of his family have been married, baptized there, and had funerals there. He spends much of his time there, whether lighting the oil lamps or curating an extensive, informal collection of objects, documents, and images. These represent his life, but also the life of the church, the community. These collections are carefully displayed in the private areas of the church.

I remember it as a very beautiful picture in my head, like a dream…’ That’s how Athanasios started to describe his memory of a night service to celebrate Easter in the 1960s. On one of these nights, when Athanasios was a child, he was taken ill. He was lying down and watching the service in the yard of Agia Triada Church from his bedroom window in his Beyoğlu home. There was a crowd of people holding candles. The idea was that all of the lights would be turned off, and, in the darkness, a priest would light a candle. The person next to the priest would light her or his candle before passing it on. The light symbolises knowledge. Athanasios watched how the light was passed from one person to the next, and how the light grew in the dark in people’s hands. They were also singing a hymn – Christos Anesti (Christ resurrected). He said some people might not know all the hymns, but everyone would know this one, as it is so popular. The idea was that the congregation would take their candles and walk to their homes and light an oil lamp there. However, due to a dramatic decline in the population of the community and security issues, the congregation doesn’t leave the church anymore. Even during Athanasios’s years, it wasn’t always easy. Some people in the street blew the candles out to disrupt the ritual.

This chandelier is in Athanasios’s home in Athens. He brought it in the 1980s from his family’s flat in Africa Han, a well-known inn in Beyoğlu, Istanbul. The chandelier was a wedding gift to his grandfather from one of his closest friends, a chef at the famous Tokatlıyan Hotel. Athanasios’s grandfather married in 1914 in Kadıköy in Istanbul. He worked as an electrician who did the electrics of the Africa Han where he later lived.

A man called Ragıp Pasha built and owned the Han. According to Athanasios, he rented out the inn to non-Muslims. Athanasios said this chandelier is important to him because it reminds him of Istanbul. It now hangs from the ceiling of his bedroom in Athens, but in the old days, it was in the living room. He remembers doing his homework underneath it. He was attending Zapyon Greek School at the time. He said there was another living room, but it was closed to him since it was only opened for guests, so he spent a lot of time under the chandelier. When he hung it in his new home in Athens, he had to shorten the long chain quite a lot as it was designed for the high ceilings of flats in Beyoğlu. 

Athanasios left Istanbul in 1975 in his teens because tensions over Cyprus between Greece and Turkey made his life very difficult. He is from Beyoğlu area of Istanbul, but very often they visited his maternal grandmother’s house in Göztepe. A trainline went by the house, but the nearest stop was about one kilometre away. His father, who also liked visiting his mother-in-law’s house, used to go by train to her house. In those years, the trains were slow and powered by steam. When his train passed by the house his father used to open the window and shout ‘aki aki’ to call his son. Then he would throw his bags from the window for her to pick up and take inside. That way, he did not have to carry them all the way from the station. Athanasios remembers the sounds of the bags being thrown from the train…

They visited this house in the 1960s until his grandmother died in 1973. He remembers the place with fields around, where he used to play with his friends. There was no church in Göztepe, so they had to walk to Kalamış or Fenerbahçe. The fields and muddy roads meant that they had to take extra shoes and change them before entering into the church because one had to enter the church with clean shoes. 

There were two houses in a big yard and the next-door neighbour was his family’s tenant, Mehmet Bey, and his wife, Muazzez. Athanasios said they did not have any children and loved him very much. They also used to fight a lot. During their arguments, they sometimes threw kitchen utensils into the garden, and these often ended up in Athanasios’s grandmother’s yard. After the arguments had calmed down, Ayşe used to ask Athanasios to give back the utensils: ‘my dear, our utensils…’ Athanasios said ‘we had such beautiful memories in Göztepe…’

After many years, he took his parents to Göztepe to see the house. However, they found that it was not there anymore. They were upset at this. Today there is a park there.  •

Maria is in her 80s. She is a retired teacher from a Greek school in Istanbul who emigrated to Athens after she retired in 1990s. Many members of her family were already in Athens. She went to university in Greece and finished in 1957. Maria pointed out that in those years there were political tensions between Turkey and Greece relating to the conflict over Cyprus. After she finished university, she went back to Istanbul by ship. She arrived in the harbour in ‘Galata’ [Karaköy]. She had a big suitcase holding many books, newspapers and magazines. At customs, books, magazines and newspapers were often checked to see if they were ‘political’. Maria said she wasn’t sure if her newspapers or magazines included anything that could turn out to be a problem, but she wasn’t worried about it.

Unfortunately, Maria ended up in a line where the officer was well known for her strict rules, making it quite likely that Maria’s luggage would be checked. Maria’s sister, who was waiting for her at the harbour, was worried. When Maria’s turn came, the notorious officer asked what she was doing. When Maria said she had just finished her study in Philosophy and Literature, the female officer said to her: ‘a woman who reads philosophy would not lie’ and let her go through without checking Maria’s possessions. 

When she told me about this, tears came to her eyes, her voice trembled, and she said: ‘I still get excited and feel emotional when I think about that moment. Who knows, maybe she wanted to study Philosophy but couldn’t.’

A Greek doctor at the Balıklı Greek Hospital talked about the female Greek nurses who were from the local orphanages. They stayed in the Hospital and were trained by the doctors. So, it was a different kind of a ‘nursery school’ back in the early 1900s! He remembered a midwife and a nurse, Ms Ana, who helped the ophthalmologist. The doctor said: 'she used to examine a patient prior to doctor's appointment, inform the doctor on the phone about the condition of the patient, and the doctor would give her instructions about what to do before he arrived. Doctors used to trust her so much.’ These were unlicensed nurses, who were taught by doctors and learned through experience. Licensed nurses arrived much later, ending the tradition of the orphan nurses. Today there are few Greek nurses and doctors at the hospital. 

Mihalis’s grandfather was a horse-and-carriage driver in Büyükada in the early 20th century. Atatürk and his aide, Kılıç Ali, visited the Island in 1927. They both spoke Greek. According to Michalis’s grandfather, Kilic Ali’s Greek was especially good. Twenty carriages were needed for this official visit. The man in charge of the carriages didn’t expect that the drivers would be given any money by Atatürk and his party. Because of that, he sent Greek and Armenian drivers rather than Turks, since it didn’t matter to him whether they would be paid or not. One of the Greek drivers was Mihalis’s grandfather. 

In fact, Atatürk and Kılıç Ali gave the drivers a tip larger than the normal price. In the following years when they returned to the Island they asked again for carriages. This time, remembering the large tip, the manager sent Turkish drivers. However, Kılıç Ali understood what was happening, called the manager, and told him off. He then asked him to bring the previous years’ drivers instead. 

Mihalis was emotional when he told me the story. His voice trembled when he told me how the Greeks and Armenians were called for unpaid work, and what Kılıç Ali’s gesture meant to them. 

Mihalis said that for Greek Orthodox people, the most important religious event is Easter. He remembers Easter times in Büyükada when he was a child: he used to go to the services in PanayiaChurch and Agia Georgios Church with his family. He remembers hens and sheep wandering around in the garden of the Agia Georgios Church. The priest provided everything that was needed for the church, including baking bread and making wine. Mihalis said that in the old days there was no electricity on the roads and getting to the harbour would have taken one and a half hours from the church. It also wasn’t an easy walk, as the church was on top of a big hill. 

Mihalis is from Büyükada. They left Istanbul in 1969 when he was 13. His first visit to Istanbul was about twenty years later, but his memories were still vivid. He remembered the way to his old house and other places where he used to go: his cousin’s home, his school, Panayia Church, Agia Georgios Church… He also went down to the seaside where there used be an ice-cream seller between four and six in the evenings. He loved ice-cream when he was a child and always bought some from that seller. He wanted to buy ice-cream like in the old days, and the same person was still there. In fact, the ice-cream seller recognised him, as he thought that Mihalis’s face had not changed! The ice-cream seller pointed to Mihalis’ old house and asked, ‘didn’t you used to live there?’ Mihalis said ‘yes’.

Mihalis says ‘the place where I was born is my home and I miss my home [in Istanbul]. [That’s why] I visit it [Büyükada] at least twice a year.’

When Yorgi lived in Samatya in 1948, the Land and the Sea Walls had ‘a very powerful effect’ on him. He said: ‘first of all, the Sea Walls, the Marmara Walls… I used to go out on top of the Marmara walls. I used to dream about old ships arriving from the sea. Then, when I went past the battlements, the gate to the battlements was open. I bent down and looked in. It was dark but something emanated from inside, as if it were the smell of ancient times.

It was on top of Samatya sea walls, while passing the battlements. I actually sensed that.

In the Conquest of Constantinople (now known as Istanbul) of 1453, one of the most famous stories is how the Ottomans breached the Byzantine sea defense. To stop a naval attack, the Byzantines installed an immense chain in the water, from one side of the Golden Horn to another. A section of the chain is on display at the Harbiye Military Museum in Istanbul. The story goes that Sultan Mehmet II was able to bypass this defense by having the fleet dragged up onto the banks and carried on land past the chain.

Yorgi is a retired architect from Istanbul who has lived in Athens since 1966. He has created numerous architectural drawings relating to Byzantine Constantinople. These are on display in the lobby of the Ecumenical Federation of Constantinopolitans in Athens. After reading many historical sources and building models of the chain, he now believes that the waterway is too wide for a single chain, and that the defense was more likely to have been made up of many chains with bigger links.

Dimitris lives in Athens. His parents left Istanbul in 1964 when the Turkish state exiled people with Greek citizenship. They died in the 2000s, but they had always wanted to be buried in Balıklı cemetery where their families are buried. In 2020, some years after their deaths, it was possible for Dimitris to take their remains to be reburied at Balıklı to honour their wish. In late 2019 he travelled with his daughter Elena to Istanbul to begin arrangements for this and to visit the cemetery. In 2020 he returned the bones and there was a reburial ceremony. Come back again to read more about this story and watch the film that we are making about it.