Vasileios Anastasiades
A Survivor’s Story

I was born in Kaesareia/Kayseri district, Kappadokia, in 1912, but
grew up in Ak Dagh Maden, Pontus. I remember Aristotle
Onassis’ father, a friend of my father’s, warning him to leave Asia
Minor before war broke out. My father, however, could not leave as
he had a family to look after. In 1916, when I was three or four
years old, they took my parents into exile. My elder brother took
me by the hand to a field where hay was grown. We cut some and
ate it to satisfy our hunger. We collected wild grasses, ground
them into flour, baked them like flat bread and ate. I remember
searching ant nests for kernels of wheat, which we would eat.
When the Turks hit Pelemet, attacking the French, the Hellenes
and especially those who worked on the railways, that is when
they took us into exile, the men separate from the women,
separate from the children. The children were taken to
Zougoultah. Next to us was a camp for Hellene POWs, all but one
of whom died as slave labourers. The sole survivor was Dimitrios
Pairahtaroglou. The soldiers gave us some of their meagre food
rations, so that we would not starve to death.
When the Red Cross was notified about us (about our captivity)
and came looking for us, the Turks would move us around by
night. One Christian prisoner, serving as a guard, told the Red
Cross where we were hidden, on condition that they free him
also. That is how one hundred and fifty children were saved.
I came to Hellas in 1924, with the Exchange of Populations. We
went firstly to Kythera, where we stayed for about two months, and
then to Larissa. There they offered my grandfather the local
disused Turkish mosque as a home, since he was a craftsman
(and craftsmen were highly valued), but he refused to live there
because he did not want the building to remind him of the Turks,
from whom he had suffered so much.

{Mr Anastasiades passed away in 1994.}
Sophia Stambolidou

I was born in the village of Tsegeri, Thermi/Thermohonta district,
Pontus, in 1910. The deportations, the privations, the hardships,
began in 1915-16. From that time on, we lived in the forests. I
remember my mother telling me, as we hid in the woods: You are
young and without sin. Say your prayers for God’s help.
I remember in the district of Goulouts-Teresi, where the Turkish
Army had encircled us, our guerilla fighters, after battling all day
and seeing that the Turks were very numerous, saw that the
women and children had to be moved to a safer location. Before
we left, however, our leaders agreed to smother the very young,
as they feared that the cries of the babes-in-arms would betray us
all and none of us would survive. One of those smothered was
the child of my brother, Chrysostomos Kyriakides. The father of
one little girl, Konstantinos Toutsoglides, could not bring himself
to smother her, so he left her behind. A few days later, we found
her alive and she was eventually brought to Hellas with us, to
Oinoe village, Kastoria.
The group was moved to a large forest, near the village of Ayios
Ioannis, Keris district. The Turks froze in fear when they found our
smothered children. They realised our guerilla fighters were
determined to do whatever it took.
We came to Hellas with the Exchange of Populations in 1923, via
Romania, to Thessaloniki. After a few days there, we were sent to
the village of Neo Petritsi (Serres prefecture, eastern Macedonia),
about Christmas 1923. We spent a few days in the village school,
and were then taken, in the depths of winter, to the Bulgarian
border, to the village of Mesaia. In 1957, we moved to Hrani
village, Katerini district (Pieria prefecture, southern Macedonia).
Maria Katsidou-Symeonidou

I was born in Mourasoul village, Sevasteia/Sivas district, on
August 15 1914. I remember the deportations well. In 1918, I was
about four years old, when one day I saw my father in the village
square. I ran to him and asked him for the pie he brought me
every day from the family-owned mill. He replied: O my child. The
Turks are going to kill me and you will not see me again. He told
me to tell my mother to prepare his clothes and some food for
him. That was the last time we saw him. They killed him along
with another ten men.
I remember another time when a Turk warned our village, saying
that all the young men should leave. This because the next day,
Topal Osman would be coming. Indeed, those that left, were
saved. They still killed fifteen men, including the teacher, the
village president and the priest. Topal Osman had caught three
hundred and fifty men from neighbouring villages. He had them
bound, murdered and thrown into the river that ran through our
village. I still remember the echo of the shots. They were hauling
the bodies by ox-cart for nine days to bury them. Most of them
were unrecognizable, as their heads had been cut off.
In 1920, around Easter, the Turkish Army came and told us to
take with us everything
we could. We loaded up the animals, but the saddle-bags tore
open and most of us were left without food. On the deportation
march, the Turkish guards would rape the women; one of whom
fell pregnant. In the Teloukta area, about half our group was lost
in a snow storm. From there, they took us to a place without
water, Sous-Yiazousou; many died of thirst. Soon afterwards, as
we passed a river, all of us threw ourselves at the water; people
fell over each other in the rush; many drowned. We reached
Phiratrima, which was a Kurdish area and they left us at a village
near a bridge. It was here that the pregnant girl gave birth, to
twins. The Turks cut the newborns in two and tossed them in the
river. On the riverbank, they killed many more of the group.
The killings ended only with the agreement for the Exchange of
Populations (1923). This is how we were saved. I came to Hellas
in 1923. As I was an orphan, I arrived with the American Mission,
at Volos (Thessaly). From there, we went to Aedipsos, to Larissa
and finally to Aetorrahi village, Elassona district, where I settled. I
migrated to Australia
in 1968, to be with my sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren.

{Mrs Katsidou-Symeonidou passed away in November 1997.}
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