Greek turns house into Turkish museum
Setting a good example of Turkish-Greek friendship that stands the test of time, a Greek man has turned his house into a mausoleum with artifacts that were found in his garden and belonged to Turks who were forced to migrate to Turkey due to the Lausanne Convention.
According to a report by daily Milliyet released on Oct. 17, Nikos Koutras bought a house in his hometown called Lekani Village in Greece’s northern province of Kavala.
Before the Lausanne Convention that paved the way for the exchange of Turkish and Greek populations, the name of the village was “Mincinos” and was the home of Turks.
After the convention signed by two countries’ representatives in Lausanne on Jan. 30, 1923, in the aftermath of the Turkish-Greco War of 1919-1922, residents of “Mincinos” moved to the village of Erdavut in Turkey’s Black Sea province of Samsun.
Koutras, who started digging his house’s garden to build a wall, found scores of stones that looked like “sarcophagus.”
With the help of elderly Greeks living in the village, he found out that there was a cemetery and a mosque belonging to the Turks in the region once where his village now stands.
Then he started collecting all tombstones found in his garden or nearby area discarded by villagers.
He established a mausoleum in his garden and converted his house into an exhibition hall with these artifacts.
Taking the photos of each tombstone and artifact, he got in touch with Andonis Anastasopoulos, a Turcologist from Resmo Turcology Institute in Crete, and wrote a book about the things he found in his village.
“I am looking forward to hosting grandchildren of Mincinos residents,” Kotras said proudly.
His recent guest was Esat Ergelen, the head of the Society of Lausanne Exchanges, in his house he calls “exhibition hall.”
When asked what motivated him to open an exhibition hall, he said, “I am Pontian. My roots go back to the Black Sea region of Turkey.”
“I tried to create a feeling of empathy when I found those things. I asked, ‘If I were them, what would make me happy?’ I thought they’d be happy to see all the artifacts at a center, so I built one,” he noted.
Talking about the latest tensions between the two countries, he just noted, “There may be tensions or wars between countries. But fundamentally, people are brothers.”
Stating that he has discharged a responsibility toward history, he said: “Some Turks came to my exhibition hall. I took pride in seeing smiles on their faces.”
During his visit, Ergelen also thanked Koutras for claiming the memories of their “old neighbors.”
“Nikos has planted a Northern Cypress-pine in the mausoleum. We agreed together to plant a sapling of friendship in my next visit,” Ergelen said.
He also made a call to all Turkish nationals visiting Kavala. “If you happen to pass by Lekani, visit the house and drink Nikos’ coffee.”