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The refugee hovels on the seafront wall of the Castle

The refugee hovels on the seafront wall of the Castle

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After the Izmir disaster in 1922 and the population exchange in 1923, the Castle of Chios hosted, one more time, uprooted people, the uprooted Greeks. These were people who deserted their homes, the tombs of their ancestors and their whole life after 2.500 years living there, once and for all. People who came under tragic circumstances from all these lands that were enslaved till 1919 and by now they have become lost, from glorious centres of the Greek civilization. Izmir was one of them, where Hellenism and Greek language prevailed in all nationalities of the ottoman city.

We have all seen photos of Chios Castle and in particular Porta Maggiore as well as the walls with refugee shacks. These pictures seem distant, since in the beginning of the 21st century there started the demolition of the refugee houselets on the inland walls, despite the fact that they constituted a historical phase of a monument which had a special importance. The houselets with numbers 13, 15 and 17 in Theokritou Street on the seafront wall, behind the old Police Station, were decided to be conserved. They are now part of the property of the Ephorate of Chios Antiquities. Yet, due to the fact that they face static problems, some tearing down works are taking place until they are restored.

Wall cupboard and door in numbers 15 and 13

According to me, the refugee settlements and the various scattered houselets should be protected monuments by the Greek State. They are not just specimens of a first attempt of urban planning as concerns the settlements, but they are also vehicles of our history, as buildings that housed the uprooted Greeks. For this reason they should be witnesses of memory so that the uprooting and the refugeeism from Great Greece will never be forgotten. A good idea could be to suspend on the house the history of the family that lived there as well as their origin: Izmir, Aydin, Trapezous, Antalya, Makri, Livisi, Reisdere, Mortovani…

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These thoughts cross my mind while works on the houses in Theokritou street are in progress, which seem to have been built and restored in different historical periods. In number 15 there is a low, one-storey building with walls 60 centimetres in width, made of fortress domes during the 1920 decade, in number 13 the addition of a storey of the 1970-1980 decades, in No 15 tiles from the Elephas tile-works that belonged to Michalos family, Guichard-Carvin from Marceilles and Allatini from Salonica, mud bricks of N. Katsianos from Lythri and later bricks, a one-panel front door of the mid-20th century and extra additions made of tin, plywood and chipboard in number 17. One wonders whether the hovels by the walls were built before Asia Minor disaster and housed the Christians, Moslims or the Jews who lived in the castle. On which criteria were the families that resided in the newly-built settlements chosen and which ones stayed in the shacks?

View of the port hovels
   The hovels in Theokritou Street  

Markopoulos family from Kato Panayia stayed in the houses with numbers 13 and 15. Klimis family occupied No 17 and later Kostas Papanikolaou from Aivali.

Acknowledgements to the residents of the neighbourhood by the seafront wall, to Mrs Anna Misailidou and the Direction as well the stuff of the “Korais” State Central Historical Library of Chios.

Sketch: Vassilis Ayiannidis. Photographs: Yiannis Voulgaris, Vassilis Ayiannidis. Translation from French: Vassilis Ayiannidis. Τranslated into English by Anastasia Pentakis.

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