Showing posts with label Asia Minor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Asia Minor. Show all posts

Friday, June 10, 2016

How Minority came To Dominate Anatolia

The source here is not known to me, but this article link is a fascinating read, and includes the following:
In a "cultural process known as elite dominance, a minority imposes its culture on the majority. The Turkification of Asia Minor is evident in the fact that genetically, the majority of today's Turks are most closely related to Greeks and Armenians rather than Central Asian Turkic peoples, like the Uzbeks and Kazakhs."

Friday, April 18, 2014

Don't Want To Live Like A Refugee

This rather lush Greek book promotion says we are all refugees and author Dimitris Karavasilis asks, what if the our children don't have any memories of Asia Minor? What if they don't feel it in their soul? An obvious fear, since many of those children read English and the stories are in Greek.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Power of Pontian Dance

You don't need to speak any Greek to be engaged for at least the first 15 minutes of this video that shows the power of dance! It's undenyable.
It's interesting to see how in step the dancers are doing the "Σέρρα" dance, bonding with small movements. See how holding hands supports body movement, even in old age!
Pontos, on the Black Sea in Northern Turkey, was unique. The people were Greek, but had their own dialect, music and dress, all with a certain Turkish influence. As the Ottomans battled ethnic minorities in the 1910s and 1920s, the Pontians became refugees, and were sent mostly to Northern Greece -- much like the Greeks in Asia Minor and other parts of what is now Turkey.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Mourn, Be Fierce. One Life to Live

From the balcony: Arvanitaki at Carnegie Hall 2/1/2014. 
Eleftheria Arvanitaki enthralled a packed Carnegie Hall with her songs Feb. 1.
They included heavy laments, but these miroloi were uplifting in their poetic pain. Such songs are not wallowing in sadness, but what one blogger calls "stoic innoculation." It's a very Greek sentiment, aided by the uplift of the bouzouki. And, last Saturday, there was innocence conveyed in the breaks in Arvanitaki's voice, and a collective sway we felt whispering the lyrics together. The New York Times review notes that she draws on rebetika that is "mournful and fierce." Rebetika is the Asia Minor musical-blues influence that arrived in the 1920s with devastated refugees forced to abandon their homes.
I can't get enough of one Arvanitaki song, "το παράπoνο," ("The Lament"), which is an adaptation of an Odysseas Elytis poem. The poetry doesn't translate easily. It roughly says that one may set out to do one thing in life and find, looking back, that it was as if someone else was acting. It concludes: "a second life, there isn't." However, halfway through one's life, there is the other half to live ...
Εδώ στου δρόμο τα μισά 
 έφτασε η ώρα να το πω 
Άλλα είναι εκείνα που αγαπώ 
 γ'αλλού γ'αλλού ξεκίνησα. 
 Στ' αληθινά στα ψεύτικα 
 το λέω και τ' ομολογώ 
Σαν να 'μουν άλλος και όχι εγώ 
 μες' στη ζωή πορεύτηκα 
 Όσο κι αν κανείς προσέχει 
 όσο κ'αν τα κυνηγά 
Πάντα πάντα θα 'ναι αργά 
 δεύτερη ζωή δεν έχει.
Below, Arvanitaki sings the song To Parapono, with more of her hits to follow. The song is on a 1996 album of Greek poetry set to music called,"Songs For The Months" explained on a great music blog. Other quiet songs I recommend: Καθρεφτίζω το νου and Παράπονο (Ξενιτιά).  In New York, her orchestra included Armenian oud player Ara Dinkjian. More from a clever British blogger who says musical laments, for Greeks, are "not wallowing in sadness, but stoic innoculation." Here's the ANT1 Greek interview with Arvanitaki about the New York show.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hand of Peace

St. Irene Chrysovalantou reliquary,
basil & jasmine

I was accidentally drawn into an outdoor Astoria procession with an icon and holy relic held on the shoulders of many men.
Chanting and incense wafted into New York City police cars. Locals sipping Sunday coffee at a cafe stood up as the silver-encased hand of St. Irene Chrysovalantou processed under the subway tracks on the familiar pavement, full of somber faithful instead of traffic.
Long ago, St. Irene was renowned as a young monastic leader who saw clearly into the future. She was born in Cappadocia, which is now in Eastern Turkey, and refused marriage to Empress Theodora's son in Constantinople (now Istanbul). (Bios on Wikipedia & local church Website.)
The local icon of "St. Peace" and the reliquary (at right), are surrounded by yellow coins and jewelry left by prayerful penitents.
Participants in the procession wore traditional Greek garb. The rest received a lapel sticker, apple slices thought to work miracles, and sweet bread laced with mastic and orange. At the end of the procession, the icon was passed over the faithful, who lined up on closed streets for a blessing.
Several ducking under the flower-framed image were clearly ill and in need.
The St. Irene Chrysovalantou Greek Orthodox church and monastery in Astoria, New York were plagued in recent years by scandal, detailed here.) The church reports directly to the Patriarch of Constantinople, who defrocked the founding leaders in 2012 and assigned new ones. More in my other post here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Old is New Again in Cihangir

The Cihangir neigborhood is one that is up and coming -- full of tiny food stalls, sweet shops, a few galleries and many vintage shops.
It's very hilly and residential - no sidewalks to speak of, so walking is treacherous but everyone dodges the uphill cars pretty well, especially the proliferation of stray cats. The view is beautiful from my vantage point, and the area is connected to Istliklal Caddesi and Taksim Square. There were a number of Europeans here at one time.
It's near the new Modern Art Museum, and there's a swank new hotel across the way with $250 rooms. The front desk man there told me last night that a lot of artists and writers live here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Quince Marmalade

My mother carries on my Asia Minor grandmother's fading tradition of making quince marmalade.
It's like the candied spoon sweets that hospitable Greeks once served in a tiny dish with a glass of water to house guests. Who has time for "visiting" now.
The hardest thing about cooking quince, mom says, is removing the skin.  But the result tastes so wonderfully unique. It's simply the fruit simmered in sugar, cinnamon and water - with a bit of lemon juice. Ideally, you have a special geranium leaf to place on top. (You also remove the quince's core and seeds, which make a good tea for a cough or sore throat.) You can make similar treats with grapefruit skins without rind, tiny pears with almond, or rose petals. Another related delicacy: cooked sour cherries mixed with ice water -- the perfect summer drink.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ezme Spread

SUNNYSIDE, QUEENS -- This delish meze called ezme or esme is a bit spicy, with walnut, tomato and garlic. Trying it at Turkish Grill and wondering if my γιαγιά made it.
What I liked at "Smyrna," a Turkish (!!) resto in Hell's Kitchen, and at Turkish Grill, is crunch, sweet and sour.
But online recipes are full of variations. Fresh tomato alone won't work and you have to hand chop everything superfine. Turns out "ezme" translates to "crush" and is like a salsa but more of a paste. So, based on an amalgamation of recipes below and what I have tasted, the strategy seems to be: mash onions, salt with sumac, de-seed fresh or canned tomatoes, then  drain tomatoes of all liquid after chopping - flavor may be best using canned plum tomatoes whole no skin. Plus, tomato paste. Another key: pomegranate syrup or paste. Right! Green and or red pepper has been very subtle, so probably put lemon directly on that before blending. I have had ezme at three different places with a few walnuts and some garlic chopped.
But none of these recipes recreates all this. So until a Turkish chef weighs in, ezme goes down as Turkish secret sauce! Recipes: From a Mediterranean charter tour company, a surprisingly good recipe and explanationTurkish Cookbook's version.'s take. Some sites call it Acli Ezme. This version from the blog "Saffron and Lemon" is written by a Middle-East food enthusiast in Japan and has some good meat recipes for after lent. I like this site for Turkish cooking tips, but it's not archived well so there isn't an obvious ezme recipe.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Greek Independence

President Obama just said "καλησπέρα" (good evening) to a White House gathering for Greek Independence Day.
Archbishop Demetrios then called on Americans to honor 1821 by raising voices for the downtrodden. In honor of the day, here's one devoted American with Greek heritage who you never heard of: John George Pappas, 90, of New York and Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
He died on March 4 and I happened to see his tiny obituary in the New York Times March 13: born in Manhattan to Greek Parents from Asia Minor (George and Lucy Papazoglou or "Pappas"), he earned a physics degree from Columbia University during World War II. By 1945, he was recognized by the U.S. War Department for his "essential work" on the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He later became chief chemist at Benjamin Moore, inventing the first commercial exterior latex paint. He married and had a daughter. His funeral was at St. Luke's Greek Orthodox Church in Pennsylvania.
In Athens, you will see photocopied death notices on neighborhood poles. In American newspapers, you're lucky if editors deem your loved one's death noteworthy. Good that George Pappas' heirs paid for three rich inches in the Times.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ugliness & Beauty

St. Irene Chrysovalantou, Astoria NY
This post as been updated: St. Irene Chrysovalantou is the prettiest Greek Orthodox church in Astoria, but was tainted by allegations of sex abuse.

This church-monastery adhered to the old Julian calendar, unlike the majority of Greek Orthodox and other Christian churches that follow the "new" Gregorian calendar. St. Irene functioned without official blessing or affiliation in the 1980s and 1990s, but was absorbed into the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in 1998. It now reports directly to the Ecumenical Patriachate in Turkey. 

Someone brought me to St. Irene for a visit in 1998. I had a dark dream afterward that instructed me not to enter the doorway. I visited a decade later, and the sermon contemplated the likelihood humans will be implanted with computer chips. Later, at a summer festival, a priest was shouting about Greek nationalism and women were selling gold jewelry that penetents had left at the icon of St. Irene to exact miracles. Λουκουμάδες to go, please.

As for the scandal: without any U.S. court accountability, a verdict was doled out by the mother church decades after many events allegedly occurred. In April 2012, former St. Irene Chrysovalantou Archbishop Paisios and former Bishop Vikentios were demoted to the status of monk, in Greece, by the Patriarchate, following an investigation of horrible abuses. The sordid allegations, some involving groups, were not confirmed nor denied. Paisios initially fled to Greece, preventing New York cops from talking to him. In the unprescendented private church hearing in New York, in 2011, dozens of St. Irene abuse victims and those with knowledge were videotaped for review by the Patriarch in Istanbul. The defrocking followed. 

Christian forgiveness likely enabled a predatory psychological power game. How many people are responsible? How do victims recover, and what is the collateral damage to others? How does a worship community rebuild? Will lawsuits cripple the church? And what really happened?  

The big leak: a young St. Irene nun gave up her vows, said she suffered sexual travesties at the monastery, and turned over roughly $260,000 in cash, and gold coins, to the NYPD 114th Precinct in Astoria, according to this WSJ/Fox video The woman says she turned over $500,000. (See the National Herald article.) Things came to a head when Vikentios' brother Spyros Malamatenios made shocking sexual allegations about Paisios in "Predators in Our Midst," a National Herald exclusive republished by 

The former nun, now in her late 20s, was a typical story: the daughter of a priest named Fitzpatrick with 12 children, she was brought up in the monastery to believe males and females, tonsured and otherwise, of all ages, living in close proximity, was normal -- TOTALLY contrary to all church rules and common sense. Another very sad story: the confession of a woman who divorced to become a nun at St. Irene Chrysovalantou -- with her 9-year-old daughterThis nun eventually left St. Irene for the nearby, renegade St. Markella Greek Orthodox Church and monastery, and explains how she didn't protect her daughter.

St. Irene Chrysovalantou, Astoria NY

Sadly, there is a website dedicated to survivors of abuse in Orthodox Churches called This is a relatively new phenomenon for the U.S. Orthodox. One case that emerged decades after the fact in Chicago and Texas is outlined in court documents here. The story of Fr. George Pyle also is explained in an article.

And then there's a rather grotesque-but-humorous caper about monks in Greece who tried to fly the bones of a dead nun from Athens to an island, but airport officials would have none of it. "It's ok," the monks told security, "She's a saint."

More reading here on the cult mentality that can creep into Orthodox Christian churches steeped in strict tradition and obedience.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chaos and Classicism

The rebirth of classicism in art between the world wars, exemplified by this Picasso portrait from a private collection, is the subect of a Guggenheim Museum exhibit through early January. Picasso painted this piece, "Buste de Femme, Les Bras Levees," in 1922, the year of the Greek exodus from Asia Minor. Yet there is no mention of the international castrophe in the timeline and history at the start of the exhibit, which focuses on Italy, France and Germany and includes many other artists. In the year of the Lausanne Treaty, 1923, Picasso said: "The art of the Greeks, of the Egyptians, of the great painters who lived in other times, is not an art of the past; perhaps it is more alive today than it ever was. Art does not evolve by itself, the ideas of people change, and with them their mode of expression."
* The New York Times exhibit review says, "Whether [Picasso] was celebrating classicism or mocking it is a little hard to tell."
* Also worth seeing online: Guggenheim's YouTube collaboration, YouTube Play: 100s of stylish, independent videos.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Asia Minor Rocks!

There's some really interesting animation in this short that conjures up the Triplets of Belleville, a wonderful French animated film. And the music, a song called "Nightwind" isn't all bad. But I can't  figure out why the band is called Asia Minor. I found the link on a Facebook page dedicated to Asia Minor, but a minor Asia Minor page having nothing to do with the actual place in what's now Turkey! It's amazing how a region so famous for thousands of years has disappeared and its name, co-opted. But then maybe that's tribute  - when a Google search turns up Bible quotes on Ephesus, not when it's a band in Malaysia fascinated with skulls.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What is Genocide?

This Wall Street Journal news alert just in: "A U.S. congressional panel has approved a resolution declaring that the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I was genocide. In Turkey, the government said it was recalling its ambassador from Washington in response. The House Foreign Affairs Committee endorsed the resolution with a 23-22 vote Thursday, even though the Obama Administration had urged Congress not to offend Turkey by approving it. The resolution now goes to the full House, where prospects for passage are uncertain."
You can read:
The history of this issue, which includes the expulsion of Greeks from Turkey leading up to the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, as told by the U.S.-based Armenian National Institute.
Today's Zaman, an English-language Turkish paper seemingly sympathetic to minorities in Turkey, on how this "Shook Turkish-American Relations." (Wish I could read and translate more from the Turkish newspapers' websites ....)
The New York Times on the Congressional effort.
The Christian Science Monitor on how declaring "genocide" hurts American interests.
The initial Wall Street Journal article.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Watch 60 Minutes 12/20!

Watch 60 Minutes Sunday for an interview in Turkey with Orthodox Christian Patriarch Bartholomew. Video Preview here.
CBS travels to Cappadocia, in far Eastern Turkey, to highlight the Christian church's expansion from Jerusalem to Constantinople 17 centuries ago. When I traveled to Jerusalem and Istanbul last January, my experience was a mixture of sadness and joy, with Islam vs Christianity and Judaism. The Patriarch says the church feels "crucified" living in Turkey; it's hard to imagine a revitalized church in my grandparents' country. (For more on their Turkish village, and my visit with the Patriarch last January, click here.)
CBS writes: "One and a half million Orthodox were expelled in 1923 and another 150,000 left after violent anti- Christian riots in Istanbul in 1955. A population once numbering near two million is now around 4,000." Bartholomew is considered global leader to the 300 million-member Orthodox Christian Church. For more on Turkey and religion, check out a World Focus piece on Islamic extremism in Turkey.
Also see and hear the story, with Web extras!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Asia Minor stories

If you descend from Asia Minor -- the region of Western Turkey that was once a more diverse place with Greeks, Armenians, Jews -- I would love to record your stories large and small. Write me or post family names, where and how they lived, what year they left and why, photos, links. It's like piecing together a puzzle, but the stories have many common threads. And not enough has been done to collect stories in English, in the United States. I review all material; please leave contact info if you want to talk offline. Αν κατεβείτε από τη Μικρά Ασία - θα ήθελα πάρα πολύ να ακούσω και να καταγράψει τις ιστορίες σας μεγάλες και μικρές. Γράψε μου με το όνομα της οικογένειάς σας, πού και πώς έζησαν, όσα χρόνια και αν μείνει και γιατί,  φωτογραφίες, καρτ-ποστάλ, σύνδεσμοι - θα ήμουν ευτυχής να σας καλέσει και συνέντευξη σας στο τηλέφωνο ή με το Skype. Εγώ αναθεώρηση όλου του υλικού, και δεν πρέπει να δημοσιεύονται στο blog. Παρακαλώ αφήστε τα στοιχεία επικοινωνίας σας.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Manti & Yogurt!

Little dumplings filled with a beef-onion-black pepper mix are called manti in Turkey, and I'm serving them tonight with a garlic-yogurt sauce.
We didn't eat these delicious-but-heavy dumplings growing up. Finding them was tough, even in New York City. But I discovered home-made manti at a deli in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn where the halal butcher and proprietor, Ali, also makes bastourma, a reddish, cured meat. Ali was kind enough to give me a little of the paprika-red pepper spice I need to add flair to tonight's table and I bought some sour-cherry preserves. Mmmmm.
Ali is from near Bursa and says the peaches in the area are huge, and that people love to eat chestnuts, which he conveniently provided in candied form in a tiny $10 jar at the cash register.