Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Greece 1903 - 1923 (Bite-sized Version)

Greece in 1903 -- when Eugenia Sarris was born in Koroni, Messinias -- was hardly the idealized, white-washed vacation-spot we know today, current economic crisis notwithstanding.  The country ruled by King George I did not include Epirus, Macedonia or Crete -- as they were still part of the Ottoman Empire.  Ancient Greece was ancient history.  

The Greeks rose up against the Turks in 1821, leading to the establishment of the Kingdom of Greece in 1832 -- freeing southern/central regions, but launching a tumultuous period peppered with more foreign intervention and royal intrigue.  In 1864, Britain ceded the Ionian Islands to Greece, and in 1881 Turkey gave up Thessalia. But by 1893 Greece was insolvent, a poor country throughout the 19th century in spite of the successful resurrection of the Olympic Games in 1896. While a few Greeks managed to get rich, most did not -- leading to waves of emigration as a way to escape rural poverty. 

Northern Greece -- including the Naoussa area where my father would be born in 1920 -- finally became part of Greece in 1913. Indeed, current-day Naoussa Carnival celebrations are based on stories celebrating heroic resistance to outsiders, including elite Turkish Janissaries often made up of Naousseans taken away as children. Greeks leaving the country in the early 20th Century had deep-rooted feelings against the Turks, based on real-life experience...Greece has a long history of foreign intervention and population issues (escaping Lebanese, Iraqis, Syrians, etc.) primarily because of its geographic location.

WWI and losses in Asia-Minor (culminating in the exchange of populations) dominated through 1922, leading to continued political upheaval.  In 1923, George II was about to go into exile and governing Venizelists were in constant conflict with monarchists. Coup then followed coup. But by then, Yiayia Sarris was in Stockton -- on a mission for a better life, while never forgetting from whence she came.  There were no entitlements, just hard work and sacrifice for the generations to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment