On Lesbos, today's refugees are met by the children of refugees from a century ago

 October 21, 2015                                                PRI's The World

Constantina Mesisklis and her friends, women in their 80s and 90s, are a fixture on the bench in Skala Sykaminia, the tiny seaside village on the northern coast of Lesbos where 1000s of refugees have been arriving from the nearby Turkish coast every day for months on end.

Constantina Mesisklis, center.  PHOTO: ALISON TERRY-EVANS
 The population of Skala Sykaminia numbers about 150 and all of them are the children, grandchildren or great grandchildren of a another group of refugees — the Greeks who fled Turkey in 1922-23 after what is known in Greece as “The Asia Minor Catastrophe.”
Thousands escaped in boats as the Turks routed the Greek army and set fire to Smyrna, today’s Izmir. Eventually a population of 1.5 million Greek Orthodox, Greek language speakers would be expelled from Turkey to Greece; likewise, 500,000 Muslims were forcibly resettled from Greece back to Turkey. Today more than half the population of Lesbos descends from the 1922 refugees.

“My mother came here alone when she was a girl in 1922,” Constantina tells me in her soft voice. “Her parents were dead over there.” She learned English in the United States, where she lived for many years before returning to Sykaminia to bury her husband two years ago. “They didn’t have anything. It was very, very hard. There was no food to eat, no work, no clothes, no nothing when she came.”



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