Sophia, Elly Anagnostou's mother on her wedding day at the age of 16.
The following testimony relating to Elly Anagnostou (b. Giresun 1917, d. Melbourne 2002) was submitted through our online questionnaire by Katy Anagnostou. Elly was the 3rd of Sophia's children. Sophia died in Melbourne in 1970 at the age of 85.
1. From which region of the Ottoman Empire were your ancestors from?:
My mother was from Kerasounta (today Giresun) in the Pontus region of Asia Minor.
2. How did their life change when the Neo-Turks and/or the Kemalists came to power? :
My mother had 4 siblings. She was very young, about 5. Her family were wealthy, owning land and oil producing factories. My grandfather was sent on a death march with the other men towards the interior. My grandmother Sophia, great-grandmother and the 5 siblings were rounded up with rest of the women and children and taken to the football ground. There they were herded together and were going to be shot. They lived right on the Black Sea. But luckily the captain of a ship that was in the harbour offered to take them to Greece. They ended up in Ioannina. She told me that the jewellery she wore (in the picture, see above) was old gold and they often sold the gold liras from the jewels to buy food. Surprisingly my grandfather Danili survived because he was an excellent tailor and would sew and repair the officers' uniforms. He had his own factory employing many staff. He eventually reunited with his family in Ioannina several years later. They had one more daughter, whom they called Eleftheria.
3. Were they deported during the genocide? If so, when, where to, and describe their experience:
My grandfather was deported around 1921/22.
4. Were they held in a concentration camp or labor camp? If so, where was it located and describe the conditions :
My maternal grandfather who was sent on a death march survived but he never fully recovered his health.
5. Did they lose family and friends? If so, how did they cope?:
6. Did anyone within Turkey including Turks try to help them during the genocide? :
7. How did they cope emotionally with their genocide experience? Did it affect the remainder of their life? :
Oh, yes both sides of the family carried this upheaval with them for the rest of their lives. My maternal grandmother's parents were wealthy oil, peanut or hazelnut farmers who had their own factory. They left behind everything. My mother was too young to remember but her brother, Uncle Yiannis hated them . He took the cross from the Greek Church and threw it in the Black Sea so the Turks wouldn’t get it.
8. Did the denial of the genocide by the perpetrator (the successor state of Turkey) affect their ability to form closure?:
They were young and did not understand. My grandmother rarely talked about it, although she covered her hair with a scarf all her life.
9. How did they feel about Turkey after the genocide? :
The stories and scars of my grandparents were left in part in me. That Genocide and aftermath, affected both sides of my family and I have very, very few tangible materials from that time, except that photo and their oral stories.