Kayakoy, Turkey. In the green hills by the sea, you can walk to the shell of what once was a church. Why was it abandoned?
The surrounding ancient stone houses too seemed devoid of life, save an occasional roaming turtle. This used to be a seafaring village up until 1920. It wasn’t a natural catastrophe that caused its demise. It was strictly man-made.
In World War I, the Turks invaded the newly independent Greece. It was accepted in the same way as President Putin’s seizure of the Ukraine’s Crimea. Some people protested but governments looked the other way or rationalized the conquest.
In the aftermath, the ethnic Greek Christians were forcibly moved from Turkey to Greece and the ethnic Turkish Muslims were forcibly moved from Greece to Turkey. This population swap of over one million people, was implemented sometime around 1924.
From Macedonia in Greece, Muslim farmers were placed in the rocky hills of Kayokoy among thousands of stone homes. Agriculture proved unsustainable so they left, and Kayakoy became a ghost town. The guide told us that the Christian fishermen sent from Kayokoy didn’t know how to speak Greek and faced hostility in Greece.
Was anyone truly happy with the swap? Tourists now can walk around the ghost town. The abandoned church provides lovely views of the sea.
But once you know the history, a sense of melancholy permeates.
“The tragedy of forced migration and displacement affects millions, and is fundamentally a crisis of humanity, calling for a response of solidarity, compassion, generosity and an immediate practical commitment of resources.” —Pope Francis, March 2017
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