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Brotherhood without borders and 'Tamama'

HDN | 11/22/1998 12:00:00 AM |

Known in Turkey through a tragic story called 'Tamama: The Lost Daughter of Pontus,' Yorgo Andreadis was born in 1936, in a small hut in Kalamaria, an immigrant quarter of Thessalonica. His father Kyriakos Andreadis came from a family from Georgia, in the Soviet Union, and was a member of the Pontus National Assembly. The Andreadis family first immigrated to Batum in eastern Anatolia, and moved to Greece in 1930 Erdem Yucel Istanbul - Turkish Daily News At the recent Culture and Book Fair in Edirne,

  • Known in Turkey through a tragic story called 'Tamama: The Lost Daughter of Pontus,' Yorgo Andreadis was born in 1936, in a small hut in Kalamaria, an immigrant quarter of Thessalonica. His father Kyriakos Andreadis came from a family from Georgia, in the Soviet Union, and was a member of the Pontus National Assembly. The Andreadis family first immigrated to Batum in eastern Anatolia, and moved to Greece in 1930
  • Erdem Yucel

    Istanbul - Turkish Daily News

    At the recent Culture and Book Fair in Edirne, organized for the second time this year, Greek author Yorgo Andreadis made an intelligent and foresighted speech titled, "Brotherhood with no Borders." Andreadis said that reason distinguished human beings from animals, enabling them to produce literature, science and philosophy. Anreadis stated that there were both wild and tame animals in the world, and that, due to a lack of intelligence, some species did not evolve. The author emphasized the harmful consequences of abdicating reason. He pointed out the contradiction in the fact that even great philosophers did not always live in peace. He criticized hostilities between neighbors, between states, and the war of all against all.

    In this vein, Yorgo Andreadis continued to speak about friendship and brotherhood with no borders...

    Known in Turkey through a tragic story called "Tamama: The Lost Daughter of Pontus," Yorgo Andreadis was born in 1936, in a small hut in Kalamaria, an immigrant quarter of Thessalonica. His father Kyriakos Andreadis came from a family from Georgia, in the Soviet Union and was a member of the Pontus National Assembly. The Andreadis family first immigrated to Batum in eastern Anatolia, and moved to Greece in 1930.

    After graduating from the Anatolian College in Thessalonica on a Fullbright scholarship, Yorgo Andreadis studied economics at Freiburg University in Germany. He wrote books about the culture and history of the Black Sea region. In these works, he narrated the Black Sea of his family and friends, describing places such as Gumushane, Trabzon and Tonya. It is impossible to not feel the tone of mourning and longing when he writes about these places. He regards his cultural writings, in part, as a vehicle for the improvement of Turco-Greek relations. These feelings have led him to organize tours from Greece to the Black Sea, and to the Sumela monastery in particular. In his words, his endeavors enabled him to "see Turkey fifty-one times."

    The author's goal in this book is the establishment of universal peace and brotherhood. Andreadis believes that mankind should be able to live together without forgetting the values that make us human and without discriminating between different ethnic, religious and racial groups. His ideas are clearly reflected in his books, "Temel Garip Tudoran" (1995), "Neden Kardesim Husnu" (Why My Brother Husnu) (1992) and "Tamama" (1993). The same feelings influenced his books "Pontus Kulturu" (The Culture of Pontus), "Klostoi: The Christian Converts" (1993), "From Myth to Exodus," "History of the Pontus Greeks" (1994) and "Adherents of a Secret Religion." Among these books, "Tamama," which received the Abdi Ipekci literature prize in 1993, tells the story of innocent people who had to suffer untold tragedies at the beginning of this century. In the words of Yorgo Andreadis, "Everyone who heard of this real and tragic story was deeply influenced."

    "Tamama," which was printed in thee editions in Greece and was translated into English and German, takes place in the small, lovely Espiye village of Tirebolu at the beginning of this century. At that time, Muslims and Christians lived in different neighborhoods and had friendly relations. Happy to live together and to share similar feelings, the Muslims congregated around their mosques while the Christians saw the church as the center of their spiritual life. Their unity stemmed from the fact that they were all, in the last analysis, the inhabitants of Espiye. Their friendship went back to the distant past, and passed from father to son. Thus, the unfortunate Ibrahim, neighbor of Papayannis in "Tamama," had to pay for his feeling of friendship by being shot through his forehead.

    Dark clouds soon fell on the beautiful life of Espiye and on the brotherhood of the inhabitants. The fate of this lovely village was suddenly reversed when the Russians declared war on the Ottoman Empire, which was vanquished in the Balkan wars. While part of the Russian army moved from Batum to Trabzon, another regiment advanced from Kars into Anatolia. In the meantime, Balkan refugees were being relocated in various Black Sea towns and villages. Unruly gangs oppressed the people, demanding tribute and challenging the local Ottoman forces. Vehip Pasa, military charge d'affaires of the area, prepared a plan with his German consultants and decided to send the non-Muslims of the area to other parts of Anatolia. He immediately set out to realize his plan. However, the roads through which the exiles had to go were blocked by gangs. While cold, illness and the gangs decimated the exiles, Papayannis, father of the "lost daughter of Pontus" Tamama and the village pastor, Tamama's uncle Kostis and her small brother Aleksandros, all perished on the way.

    To add to the family's woes, a typhus epidemic caused the death of Tamama's mother, Kyrizki, forcing her daughters Marigoula and Symela to manage on their own in foreign territory. After an arduous two-month march, the villagers of Espiye and those who had joined them on the road, finally reach the city of Sivas.

    At this point, I would like to quote from Yorgo Andreadis: "Which villagers? Only the remnants of a once lively and happy village... An old Byzantine city and a military center of the Ottoman Empire, Sivas was a flourishing city at the time. Exiles kept arriving there. The state had relocated the survivors in barracks and military academies. They were given food in military refectories. Obviously, a bowl of soup was not enough to appease people's hunger, and children in particular went hungry. However, they were highly resourceful and devised a solution. They would run away from the barracks, go around in the narrow streets of Sivas, and knock on people's doors to ask for help. Little Tamama did the same thing. First, she did not know how to beg, but later on, she started to follow her older sisters and adapted their methods. The people of Sivas were kind and helpful. Prejudices against Christians and Greeks and fanaticism had not taken hold in this area. People still had principles. They could not simply go on with their lives, turning a blind eye to the poverty around them.

    "A number of Turkish families adopted the orphaned Christian children to save them from the grips of poverty. Haci Emir is a striking example. Haci Emir was a poor cobbler, living in a small and modest house. He had eight children, all of them girls. He took two orphan boys to his home and raised them with his own children. And he loved them dearly. He hoped that these boys, whom he had wanted with so much fervor, would stay with him even after the war and the return of the Christian population to their villages. Perhaps, with the will of God, they would let him adopt these orphans."

    In the meantime, Tamama had become a beggar, the only way out of her desperate situation. Perhaps it was fate that made her ring the door of Major Mustafa (Okay) Bey. The tender heart of Ayse, the major's daughter, was filled with compassion for Tamama. Tamama started to live with this man and his daughter. Major Mustafa Bey adopted Tamama as his daughter, changing her name to Raife. In the meantime, her siblings and some other exiles fled to Greece."

    In this book, Yorgo Andreadis emphasizes once more that there is no "just war," or "good war." The truth that all wars are murderous and that participants are corrupted by their deeds is brought to the foreground. There are great similarities between Yorgo Andreadis' "Tamama" and Dido Sotiriyu's "Give My Greetings to Anatolia." The words of Sotiriyu, who received the 1982 Abdi Ipekci Peace Prize, strike a similar chord:

    "My father was a soap manufacturer. I was born in Aydin and spent my childhood there, living with my family. In 1922, I had to leave Anatolia and join my uncles in Greece. My family immigrated later. The memories of my early childhood have become unforgettable. My father's friend Talat Bey and his family, and the Greek and Turkish children with whom I played in the streets are still fresh in my memory. I was so much under the influence of my past and my experiences that the idea of writing a book on this topic became irresistible."

    Brotherhood with no borders is not an impossible dream. In fact, there should be no problem which cannot be resolved through tolerance and mutual understanding. It is sufficient that people comprehend the true meaning of the word brotherhood and approach their problems in the light of reason and knowledge.

    It is rather curious that Yorgo Andreadis' "Tamama" received a negative reaction from the "Intellectuals' Hearth" in the Black Sea region. It is difficult to understand the reason for this reaction... It is not true, as these people claim, that this book "insults our nation, distorts historical facts and serves the goals of a neighboring country." Even if there are small errors in the historical data, the subject of the book is the bitter truth about war and about a homeless, suffering humanity. This experience is not particular to the Anatolian Greeks, as it has also been endured by the Turks in Greece.

    In his writings and during discussions, Yorgo Andreadis emphatically makes explicit his opposition to war. He has also expressed, in his letters, that he would be the first Greek from the Black Sea region to be buried in Trabzon. He tells us that he has prepared his tombstone both in the Greek and Turkish languages:

    "Let people who are opposed to the friendship between our two countries vent their anger at my grave. I am not angry at them. However, I want the other people who believe in our friendship to come and share their feelings with me. I believe that they will be encouraged by my optimism. And when this friendship becomes a reality one day, remember my words. Let one of you come to my grave and give me the news. I will hear these words."

    I would like to end this article about Yorgo Andreadis and his dream of a brotherhood with no borders with some words by Dido Sotiriyu:

    "Give my greetings to Anatolia... Let them not bear a grudge om us for shedding blood on this soil... And let the hangmen who provoke war between brother and brother be cursed!..."

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