Participants in population exchange head back to Greece

Participants in population exchange head back to Greece

ISTANBUL – Doğan News Agency
Participants in population exchange head back to Greece

Lütfü Karadağ (2L) speaks before setting off for the trip to Greece. AA photo

Turkish citizens who came to Turkey in the 1923 population exchange between Turkey and Greece have paid a visit to the homes they were forced to leave in Greece.

Lütfü Karadağ, 99, was only 10 when he left Greece as part of the population exchange agreement (known in Turkish as the "mübadele"). Karadağ was sent to Turkey on a ship with 250 others, despite not knowing any Turkish.

The nonagenarian is among the 700 people who boarded the Lois Olympia ship for Greece on Oct. 26, as part of an event organized by Istanbul’s Tuzla Municipality.

A majority of the trip’s participants are relatives and descendants of Turkish people who moved from Thessaloniki, Kavala and other neighboring cities to Istanbul. 

Hamiyet Yenilmez, 73, said her grandfather was among the Muslims who left Greece, adding that she was participating in the journey to quench her “undefinable longing” for the places her family left behind.

The mutual expulsion of communities from both countries to join coreligionists on opposite sides of the Aegean Sea resulted in the uprooting of more than 1 million Anatolian Greeks and half a million Muslims in Greece. Because the exchange was made on the basis of religious affiliation and not language or ethnicity, many of those uprooted did not speak the language of their new homeland when embarking upon the journey.