Oldest Karamanli misses home
Monday, August 3, 2009
ATHENS - Hürriyet
The last surviving Karamanli says he misses his friends and his village back in Kayseri, and that he is proud to share his hometown with the Turkish president.
The last surviving Karamanli, or Karamanlides in Greek, 98-year-old Stavros Farasopulos, says he misses his friends and his village back in Kayseri, and that he is proud to share his hometown with Turkish President Abdullah Gül.
Farasopulos was born in the village of Ağırnas in the eastern province of Kayseri in 1911 as a member of the local Karamanli community. Karamanli was a Greek Orthodox Christian community whose first language was Turkish written in the Greek alphabet and lived mainly in Kayseri’s Cappadocia region. Their name drives from the Karamanoğulları state that was based there before the growing Ottoman Empire annexed it in the mid-15th century.
The Karamanli community had to leave Turkey during the compulsory population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923 when transfer was solely based on religion, even though the Karamanlis’ first language was Turkish and most didn’t speak a word of Greek.
Farasopulos said he has missed his Turkish friends and his hometown since leaving it in 1924. He currently lives in Western Thrace, where his home is full of photos of Kayseri and one featuring President Abdullah Gül.
Among the mementos he keeps are letters dating back to when his family lived in Kayseri, letters in Turkish but written in the Greek alphabet.
Farasopulos’s eldest son, Nikos, speaks fluent Turkish. “My father brought me up as a proper Karamanli,” said Nikos.
When asked about his life in Ağırnas before 1922, Stavros Farasopulos said: “My best friends were Enver and Niyazi. Turkish was my mother tongue.
Farasopulos then started talking about the period after World War I when Greece invaded Turkey.
“At that time, Greeks and Turks killed each other, but in my hometown nothing happened. That was because there was nothing that separated Turks from Greeks
. During Turkey’s Independence War [1919-1922] I seldom saw a Turkish soldier in my village,” he said.
“I know my Kayseri and the Karamanlis. Turks, Greeks and Armenians are the same.”
Farasopulos said when he and his family first arrived in Greece he was discriminated against because the only language he could speak was Turkish
Years later, in the 1960s, a friend from back in his village, Turan, came to visit Farasopulos in Greece. The first time Farasopulos went to his village after 1924 was in 1970. “When I went there in 1970, I was welcomed with open arms. I stayed there for two months. I didn’t want to leave. They later rebuilt the Ayi Anargri Church in the village. I thanked the mayor,” he said.
The last time he visited Ağırnas was in 2000. “I have grown old. I really want to visit my hometown but how can I?” he asked, citing his age.