An Old Problem in New Greece
ST. PAUL'S MACEDONIA to a greater extent even than the rest of the Greek nation was facing an almost overwhelming situation at the time of my first visit. For nearly six years this heroic little country had been wrestling with one of the age-old problems of that part of the world—the complicated problem always presented by the forced migration of a settled people.
The tragedy had occurred in September, 1922. Long before my visit every department of government together with a special commission appointed by the League of Nations was geared into the complicated machinery that had been set up to meet this unprecedented emergency. Ten years after my first survey of the country, the situation still was not altogether settled, but a stupendous task had been achieved; and at the time Hitler again threw civilization into reverse, history was on the point of recording that a serious national disaster had been transformed into a nation-wide blessing.
We arrived in the ancient Macedonian capital of Thessaloniki in the early morning of June 19, 1928. Waiting only the few minutes necessary for a new train to be made up, we continued on to the city of Drama at the eastern end of the province.
There were two principal reasons for a hurried survey of Macedonian conditions. Three weeks hence, a conference was to be held in Constantinople, or Istanbul, as the modern Turks prefer to call it, to deal with problems of the ex-orphan child. I had been assigned to speak on the topic, "The Education of the Out-Placed Orphan." In Greece some eight or nine thousand orphans of the eighteen thousand cared for in that country after the War and the Smyrna Disaster had been transferred from American institutions to the fields, the shops, and the homes of spacious Macedonia. No better region could be found in which to gather suitable material on this special subject.
There was also one other important item to be studied. Two years before, a Survey Commission had been sent out from America to investigate the work of Near East Relief and to make recommendations regarding the future policies of that organization. By that time (1926) the social and economic situation in the Near East had become considerably more stable. Furthermore, the total number of children in the many American orphanages throughout these countries had been brought down to twenty-five or thirty thousand. This was a small figure when compared to the peak of one hundred and thirty-five thousand, and the numbers were rapidly decreasing. Following a year of intensive research the Commission had recommended that this tremendous post-war relief organization, which had accomplished such a stupendous and humanitarian task, should, as speedily as possible, bring its activities to a close. This closing meant, along with other changes, the transfer of emphasis, during the few remaining years, from institutionalized programs to the task of providing thoroughly adequate field supervision and more appropriate education for those vast numbers of children who now suddenly found themselves facing the realities of life.
This same Commission had made another highly significant recommendation. They had strongly urged that a new organization be formed to continue the good will developed by Near East Relief while capitalizing on the rich experience of that philanthropic corporation in training orphans for eventual self-support. To be more specific, they suggested that such an institution should concentrate primarily on practical training related definitely to everyday needs, and emphasize mass education of a simple, direct sort carried to the people in their fields and in their workshops. Moreover, programs should be organized, they said, only upon official request and should be conducted in close cooperation with the governments concerned. The committee further reported that their study of conditions in these Near Eastern countries and their conversations with officials of all ranks had revealed the fact that there was sincere desire for leadership in this field of education. They stressed particularly the tragic neglect of rural peoples in all of these areas, a point still further confirmed when, during the following year (1927) Dr. O. S. Morgan of Columbia University made a thorough-going study of the agricultural situation in that part of the world.
It was considered necessary to try out, in a limited way, a few of the more important recommendations of this commission before chartering an entirely new organization or engaging in any large scale activities of this nature. Greece was reported to be a logical field for such research and Macedonia had already been suggested as perhaps the most suitable laboratory. I needed to visit the country, confer with officials, study the situation in the light of the comprehensive reports already submitted, and then to make more specific proposals concerning a possible experiment which might be attempted.
And so I came to Greece.
The trip from Thessaloniki (Salonica) to Drama took eight hours to cover a distance that should require not more than four. This fact was due not alone to the slow speed of the train, but as well to the devious route. Proceeding north instead of east, which was the direction of Drama, we soon left the plain of Salonica and rose during the course of an hour to the slightly higher level of Kilkis. Here, in this section, we saw numerous British and Greek military cemeteries which gave tragic evidence of the fierce fighting that took place on these fields during World War I. In spite of the evident small size of the farm plots, wheat, barley and rye seemed to be the predominating crops. Vegetables which were widely grown in scattered fields adjacent to Salonica were now seldom observed, and fruit trees not at all. The distant hills were entirely bare of forests, and heavy erosion was everywhere apparent.
In another hour or so we began turning more to the east, passing a beautiful lake called Doirani, where, according to my travel companions, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Bulgaria join at one point near its center. Soon after leaving this international spot, we began to skirt the high Belles mountains which separate Northern Macedonia from the southern frontier of Bulgaria. These mountains were quite thickly wooded in places and, judging by the trees that grew near the railroad, the forests contained many plane trees and oaks, walnut and beech. Farm animals were much more in evidence, and we saw flocks of sheep and goats and a few scrubby cows. The crops were also more diversified. In addition to the wheat and rye there was an occasional field of corn, some tobacco, sesame seed, garden vegetables, and even a few fruit trees, such as apples and pears.
After still one more hour, but not so many miles farther on, we crossed the Strymon River which might be considered, for want of a more definite line, to divide Central Macedonia from Eastern. This temperamental stream, coming down through the Ruppel Pass from Bulgaria, sometimes is nearly dry and then again swells up to overflow its banks and flood the fields and the homes of hundreds of peasants.
Now south again, we passed the rich tobacco fields of the rolling Serres plain and then north once more over the foot hills of the Pangaion mountains where Alexander the Great mined his gold; and finally down into the plain of Philippi where, on a northern rise, the city of Drama is found.
Already I had gleaned a few facts from this much of my visit. The peasants lived in villages and not on widely separated holdings, as we do in America. Even though the daily travel to distant fields is not very efficient from a farm management point of view, it seemed to me that there might be certain compensations for this mode of life. Residing in such close proximity to one another, there should be strong social ties among the people of one rural center. Such a life suggested to me that an item of progress, once under way, would be likely to continue until the whole populace became thoroughly involved. Every village I saw had its church, sometimes a fairly good structure. Many of these settlements had creditable schools, judging by the size and the outward appearance of the buildings from which children came forth.
All along the way there were villages, obviously long established, which had, on the outskirts, extensive new quarters. In many places whole settlements had been newly created. They dotted the landscape and could not be missed. The houses were always the same. Small in size, shed roof of red tile, completely standardized, row on row, each with its stremma (one quarter of an acre) of yard, they appeared in the distance to be acres of New Jersey poultry houses. I was told that these were German-built refugee homes, imported as frames cut to size, and then quickly assembled to provide urgently needed shelter for the thousands of Greeks who poured into this country from Asia Minor during the late summer and fall of 1922.
At the city of Drama, which seemed but a village and yet boasted a population of sixty-five thousand, we were taken to the Near East Relief headquarters. Here one small house provided offices, living quarters for the personnel, and a guest room for the occasional visitor. The staff which was there must have been somewhat representative of the racial groups to be found in that region. There were two Greeks, an Armenian, and one White Russian. The American Director, who divided his efforts between Macedonia and Egypt, was not there at the time, and so it was not until later that I met tall, lanky, fun-loving, story-telling Major Davidson, bachelor father of thousands of orphans.
Davidson's efficient four assistants gave me a thorough introduction to the life of this region. I spent more than a week going about the countryside, observing the field work of Near East Relief, conferring with officials of the Commission charged with settling the refugees, studying the farming of the region, gathering material for the Constantinople conference, and trying to picture in my mind some type of experimental program that might prove to be useful both for the Near East Relief orphans and the general population as well.
There were out-placed orphans everywhere—thousands of them—in villages, towns, and cities; some adopted by couples who had lost their own children, others working in shops, a few driving cars for hire, still others operating pushcarts of miscellaneous merchandise as the first step in the process of becoming merchants. Many were on contract as laborers for farmers. Orphan girls were found in homes working as maids or sometimes as governesses. All were being carefully supervised. Occasionally unscrupulous employers attempted to exploit these inexperienced youngsters, but the American relief staff soon put an end to such practices. Sometimes boys were inclined to be lazy, or they took advantage, perhaps, of generous guardians. Good advice, promptly given, often helped in such cases. They all needed to learn how to save, how to bank the small accounts which they earned. A large proportion of the orphans who had been placed out in this part of Macedonia were Armenians, and required strict guidance in becoming good citizens of the country that had given them refuge. When ten or fifteen or more of these orphans were living in one village, as was often the case, they were organized into clubs and assisted in having wholesome recreation. The young Russian chap of the headquarters staff had charge of this side of the program.
And everywhere there were refugees, inhabitants of those new settlements I had seen on the way. I learned that close to one million, three hundred thousand of these people had fled from Asia Minor into Greece only six years before. Nearly three-quarters of this number had been directed into Macedonia which offered more room for resettlement. Many of these people were cultured and educated folk who had been quite well-to-do before tragic events sent them out from their ancestral homes. They included doctors and lawyers and teachers as well as merchants and farmers and fishermen. Greece had been overwhelmed by so vast a problem and had applied to the League of Nations for j assistance.
Back in Salonica, I went to the Near East office to look at a map of Macedonia, talk with some of the staff, and orient myself somewhat better concerning the country I had covered and its relation to this whole frontier region. I felt that I could now absorb such information with some degree of understanding. We spread out our papers on the desk of Apostolis Koskinides. This active chap, who had placed out hundreds of orphans in the far corners of Central and Western Macedonia, who had reunited whole families separated in the wild confusion of the Smyrna Disaster, knew every inch of this country by heart. He told me much that I needed to know.
Macedonia is one of the three northern provinces which form a part of so-called New Greece. Redeemed from the Turks with the aid of the Bulgarians in the first Balkan war of 1912 and then won by the Greeks in the second Balkan war of 1913 when the two rival countries fought over their spoils, Macedonia became once more Hellenic territory. Extending in a slight curve across the north of Greece, at the fortieth and forty-first latitudes, from the Ionian sea on the west to within one hundred miles of Istanbul on the east, are Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace. With the rest of the mainland of Greece and the Aegean sea to the south these three provinces are bounded on the north by Albania, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria.
Macedonia extends from the high Pindos mountains, which separated it from the province of Epirus, to the Nestos river which is the eastern boundary next to Thrace. This northern province or state is composed of nine counties called prefectures and constitutes with its thirteen thousand, six hundred square miles slightly more than one-fourth of the total area of Greece. It is slightly more than ten times the size of Rhode Island, and approximately the area of Maryland. Hardly more than two hundred and twenty miles long, the mountainous country and the difficult roads make this distance, for all practical purposes, much greater than this. Its greatest width, which lies at the west, is about eighty miles, while at the narrowest point it is only thirty miles wide.
With the single exception of parts of the Halkidiki, which are more nearly sub-tropical, the rest of the country is continental or temperate in climate because the fairly high mountains cut off the warm Mediterranean breezes from most of the interior. In the plains and on the lower hills the winter temperatures seldom drop much below freezing and snow is a rarity; but raw, damp, winds blowing down from the northwest through narrow mountain passes, leave one thoroughly chilled to the bone and fully convinced that degrees of temperature bear little relation to coldness. On the plateaus of Western Macedonia, and of course in the mountains, the winters are rigorous with low freezing temperatures and plenty of snow. The three summer months of June, July, and August can become everywhere exceedingly hot with the temperature often rising to 120° F. and even higher during the heat of the day.
I found that the situation with regard to rainfall is peculiar. Around Salonica it averages nineteen and one-fourth inches per year. In many sections it may rise to twenty-four or twenty-five inches, and in the plateau regions of Western Macedonia the annual precipitation may even go as high as thirty inches. But for most districts in central and eastern parts of the country these facts are misleading. Those ferocious, long-lasting winds which bring chill to the bones during winter, continue at frequent intervals in the spring and summer seasons. In this period, however, they are no longer damp and cooling (although a slight drop in temperature may occur after the wind); but, hot and dry, sometimes lasting for several days and blowing with terrific force, they bend down the poor struggling plants and suck out what little moisture still remains at this already dry time of the year. Each section has its term for such local winds. In the Salonica plain it is the Vardar, deriving its name from the mountain pass through which it comes with such speed and destruction.
Having thus oriented myself concerning this interesting section of New Greece I completed my study with brief visits to local institutions of note. While en route to some of these places, my guide pointed out several of the fine old Byzantine churches for which the city of Salonica is noted. I felt that I had learned as much as I could properly absorb at one time. So we took the day train back to Athens, there to confer for several days with officials of high and low rank.
Back in Constantinople, I had ample material for my remarks at the conference. Much more important was the conviction I gained that there was a wonderful opportunity in Greece to contribute something of value toward the education' of its rural people; and that Macedonia was obviously the place in which to make the attempt. The chief reason for this belief was the unsettled conditions that characterized, at that time, the whole population of Greece.
The new settlers I had seen throughout the country, and particularly in Macedonia, represented an influx of population of such magnitude and suddenness as to constitute the greatest refugee problem in the history of mankind up to that time. It must be remembered that the Nazi hordes had not yet demonstrated to a startled world their unparalleled achievements in the brutal uprooting of innocent peoples.
These Macedonian refugees were all Greeks who had poured precipitously into their own country. The little Greek nation, already quite sufficiently populated with four and one-half millions of people, had its numbers increased, within the space of a few weeks, to nearly six million, while losing, simultaneously, or rather immediately thereafter, twenty thousand square miles of its territory. Many books have been written on this subject and numerous comparisons drawn to make more vivid the numbers involved. Utilizing one of the more common of these illustrations, we find that Greece was faced with a problem such as would be presented by thirty-eight million people pouring (within the space of a few months) into the United States, with its population of one hundred and thirty million; or three and one-half million people coming into the State of New York; or, to mention one other case, two hundred and ten thousand people suddenly, and without warning, invading the State of Rhode Island to be sheltered, fed, and then absorbed into the social and economic framework of this one small area.
In order properly to comprehend this appalling event, as well as a few of the historical developments leading up to this period, there is need to trace briefly the origins and vicissitudes of the Greek people in two separate regions of the Near East—Macedonia, on the one hand, and Anatolia of Asia Minor just across the Aegean to the east.
The beginnings of Macedonia are hidden deep down in the dark shadows of prehistoric times, and no two historians would agree as to early events. Sufficient for our purpose are a few of the more commonly accepted theories which, with the beginning of recorded history, become well authenticated facts. The original indigenous inhabitants of this region are generally supposed to have been barbarians called Thracians. Into this region, to mix with these people, there came somewhere around 2000 b. c. the Achaeans and Ionians. Nine hundred years later the Dorians followed. These elements, supplemented profusely by other blood mixtures, produced, during those long early centuries, a people similar to those found in central and southern parts of the country and gave us the race known as Greeks.
In the sixth century b. c. there emerged, from this by then well established racial type, a strong tribe led by a family called Argeadae, who came down out of the Pindos mountains, conquered the plateaus of Western Macedonia, descended to the plains and extended their line to the Axios river. Within a few years they had welded this area into some semblance of national unity, forming the basis of the Macedonia which, with many shifts of fortune and changes in size, has come down to our time. Toward the end of the sixth century the Persians came in from the east, broke down all opposition before them, and finally reached the Axios river, the eastern boundary of the House of Argeadae. The Argeadae, perceiving the strength of the Persians, decided to save themselves from becoming completely subject by paying tribute and offering themselves as vassals. The plan worked and they were able to preserver a measure of integrity for their territory.
It was not long, however, before these early Macedonians were able to turn this misfortune to their own ends. Sensing the waning power of their conquerors and realizing the degradation to which the native tribes in the east had fallen under the heel of the Persians, the armies of the Argeadae family suddenly crossed the Axios river, swept on east, drove out the invader and easily conquered the already impoverished barbarians. By this move they extended their lines to the Strymon river and even beyond, for they secured, we are told, the rich Pangaion mountains with their silver and gold. Turning now to the west and strengthening its possessions on this frontier, Macedonia began to approach the status of a great power, sometimes friendly with, sometimes opposing, the colonizing efforts of her Greek cousins from the south. In the fourth century the ancient Albanians, or Ilyrians, appeared out of the northwest and overran, with disastrous results, much of Western Macedonia. But, in the end, those that remained seem to have been largely assimilated by the strong and prepotent race that now considered this region theirs.
The period of Phillip the II and his son, Alexander the Great (359 to 323 b. c.), is fairly well-known, and so we may omit this most important epoch from our brief historical review. As frequently happens, this Golden Age of expansion was followed by tragic decadence. Kassandros, who had been a trusted General under Alexander, whose sister he married, took over the reins of government following a brief rule by his father, Antipatos. He tried to save the country by promoting a policy of "Back to the good old days of Phillip the II," but it was of no avail. Heavy emigration set in, the population fell, wealth decreased, and finally in 279 b. c. there was an invasion of the Gauls and the Celts. One important contribution of Kassandros, however, has come down to our time. He united twenty-six little settlements located at the head of the bay, not far from his father-in-law's former capital of Pella, and named the town after his wife, Thessaloniki.
After only two years of depression, Macedonia came back to its place in the sun. In 277 b. c. the Antigoni family rose to power, drove out the latest invaders and held the country together until the Romans took over in 168 b. c.
Under the Romans, Macedonia did not have a particularly pleasant time. The country was broken up into small administrative units in order to prevent revolutions. The natives were pressed into military service, and bad government, for the most part, prevailed.
The Byzantine Empire, of which Macedonia became an important part, began in 330 a. d. with the founding of Constantinople. The Romans, however, continued their control of this region, although with rapidly waning power, until about 450 a. d. Then Macedonia came once more into her own as a part of the Great Byzantine Empire. It is unnecessary, for the purpose of this story, to trace the vicissitudes of her fortunes during this long period of one thousand years. Two items only are of interest to us. Thessaloniki grew rapidly, gained in importance and became the center of active trade and commerce, reaching out to all parts of the Mediterranean. During this period, also, Slavs and Bulgarians from the north, noting the sparsely settled areas of Macedonia and desiring no doubt to settle closer to the sea, came into this region in fairly large numbers.
Once again the tide changed, and in 1453 Macedonia became a dependency of the far-flung Ottoman Empire. There was considerable immigration of Turkish citizens, and the Greek farmers became peons working on the large estates of the rich Moslem landlords. After four hundred and fifty years of this foreign rule Turkish power began to decline. Combining forces with the Bulgarians, and opposing an empire now rapidly weakening, the Greeks succeeded, in October, 1912, in driving out their oppressors. By a strange coincidence, the Macedonian capital was taken over on October 26, which is the day of Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. This holy day immediately acquired greatly increased significance and thereafter was celebrated as a national holiday. But the country was not yet secure for the Greeks. The Bulgarians had not contributed their armies for nothing. They cherished the hope that somehow, in the end, they might hold for themselves this rich territory with its fine outlets to the sea. And so the two comrades in arms now turned to fighting each other. Eventually Bulgaria lost, and thus with the Treaty of Bucharest on August 10, 1913, Macedonia became once again Greek soil. The Turkish inhabitants were permitted to continue their residence in this territory, but the scene had shifted, and now they were the subjects.
And what of the Greeks in Anatolia—that great section of the Asiatic Continent which juts west into the Aegean with the Mediterranean on the south and the Black Sea, the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmora, and the Dardanelles on the north? To these people this region did not represent foreign soil, since this had been their home for more than two thousand years, and during the largest portion of this time they had been subjects either of the ancient Greek nation or the later Byzantine Empire which to them was much the same. In fact, a high state of Hellenic civilization nourished in this Asiatic area centuries before the city-state of Athens in Greece proper became a great power.
There had been considerable progress on the mainland of Greece for some years prior to the twelfth century, B. C. Then invaders came in, spread over the country and large numbers of the population fled across the sea into Asia. The homeland went into decline for a time, but the civilization that had been already achieved was preserved, and in fact carried to still higher planes by these people who crossed over to the new frontiers. When Alexander the Great passed through this region around 335 b. c., on his famed expedition to the East, he found there a flourishing and progressive colony of his own people. His chief contribution to his brothers in this part of the world was to carry their banner still farther inland, and to extend their coast towns eastward along the Black Sea.
The subsequent political history of this region followed cycles quite similar to those we have already recorded for Macedonia: Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and finally Ottoman Turkish. Thus the Greeks of Asia Minor suddenly found themselves, toward the end of the fifteenth century, subject people of a new and rapidly growing empire. But, for them, this last regime never changed. For, although the homeland broke away from the Ottoman yoke in 1830, and Macedonia became in 1913 a province of Greece, not to mention the eventual disintegration of the whole Ottoman Empire, Anatolia still remained as the last permanent stronghold of this nation— and this in spite of the loud protestations and extravagant threats of the Allies immediately after the World War.
But conditions proved to be not altogether bad during the greater part of these many years. The Ottoman Turks were essentially soldiers, were never renowned for their ability as administrators, and sought the easiest way of governing the people whom they had taken over. Partly for this reason, and partly, perhaps, as a sound method of winning support, the rulers permitted these Greek subjects to retain their national and racial identity. They even allowed them freedom of worship. Each community was considered an entity, with the village priest, supported by a local committee, made responsible to the government for this unit. The head of the Orthodox church, the Patriarch, still located in Constantinople since Byzantine days, was the direct liaison between the Turkish government and its Orthodox subjects. All civic activities had to be financed very largely by the communities themselves, but this taught them independence and gradually each came to vie with the other in its schools and other improvements. Greeks were not required, or permitted, to serve in the army as soldiers, but instead were assigned to labor battalions. In normal times, however, even the substitute labor requirement was not always insisted upon, or, at the most, a small payment would be exacted in lieu of such service. Thus, while Turkish young men were devoting their early years to military training, Greek youngsters were securing a good education, or becoming well established in business with their fathers, or, perhaps, starting out on their own independent careers. It is not surprising, therefore, that Turkish industry, commerce, and banking, were, to a large extent, in the hands of the Greeks and that other aggressive minority, the Armenians.
This favorable situation prevailed, with only a few disturbing exceptions, up to the twentieth century. Once, early in the seventeenth century, Selim the Third seriously considered the idea of driving out all "foreigners," but the plan which he proposed was never carried out. Again in the nineteenth century when Russia began to cast eager eyes in the direction of Turkey, a wave of nationalism swept over the country and great antagonism developed toward those foreign minorities who were said to be enjoying certain privileges and who seemed to be controlling the economic life of the nation. For a time there were difficulties and serious danger of worse trouble, but this darkening shadow also passed over, though less quickly.
In 1908, however, with the so-called Revolution of Young Turks and the granting of a constitution, the situation definitely changed. There was considerable agitation for a strong Turkish state, and the privileges formerly enjoyed by the Greek (and Armenian) minority were greatly restricted. The two Balkan wars soon followed. It is hardly necessary to describe the predicament of Greeks residing in Turkey while their own country was at war with this nation. After the fighting, with the Greeks victorious and Macedonia now lost to the Turks, the situation became even more precarious. It was unsafe for a Greek to be out after dark. There were frequent assassinations and panic reigned among large portions of these people. The government naively claimed that all of this was the work of irresponsible individuals. Villagers located far inland were urged to move to the coast where the authorities could provide more adequate "protection." A number did this, leaving valuable property behind, making of themselves easy objects of ambush on the way, and materially assisting the Ottoman government in concentrating a good portion of this population where they could be more conveniently watched. Many succeeded in leaving the country.
Then, less than a year later, came the First World War. Again, after but a brief period of delay during which the Greek nation eliminated its pro-German king, these Hellenes of Anatolia found themselves inside the lines of the enemy with their homeland fighting bravely on the other side of the war. Their sufferings cannot be described. Many, accepting their fate, received fairly reasonable and not too intolerable civil assignments in the execution of the war and did their work quite conscientiously. But on the whole, the story is tragic.
No longer were they exempted from military duty, although as dangerous foreigners they were not permitted to carry a gun. They cracked stone and built roads and became beasts of burden. Continually overworked, they were beaten and starved and hunted down when they fled. Many, of course, escaped from the country. After four years the war stopped with the Allies victorious and Ottoman Turkey thoroughly subdued. Moreover, it was agreed that appropriate justice would be meted out to this "criminal" nation. New hope sprang up in the hearts of the Greeks. Many of those who had fled from the country now returned to their homes. With Turkey groveling in the dust and the Allies all powerful, the future looked bright.
In fact, it seemed that soon Greeks might be living once more in strictly Greek territory, for were not the Allies encouraging Greece to invade Asia Minor and take back the Aegean coast sections as traditional Hellenic soil? With Allied promises of support and a weakened Turkey to face, it appeared to be the logical moment to strike. Therefore in 1919, less than a year after the Armistice was signed, the Greek army crossed over to Anatolia and optimistically undertook this new campaign. Gradually the lines were extended. Each new success enhanced the ambition of the Greeks for a still larger slice of this country. Ultimately the army reached Ankara, over three hundred miles inland from the point where it entered.
Meanwhile, Mustafa Kemal, who was just emerging as the able and respected leader of Modern Turkey with his back to the wall and a people united by defeat, quietly waited his chance. Suddenly in late 1921, and again with renewed ferocity in early 1922, he turned on the Greeks. Their line was long drawn out. They were far from their source of supplies. Moreover, the soldiers were tired and their leaders had become involved in serious political differences. The Allies had forgotten their promises. In fact, it was an open secret that France and Italy were now supporting Kemal. After all, so these two countries apparently reasoned, why should they favor this little Greek nation when they might secure rich concessions for themselves? And so the tide turned, first slowly, and then with mounting speed, until the whole army broke up and the soldiers ran for their lives; and not only the fighters but the indigenous Greek population along with them. Hastily they fled from their homes, picking up whatever they might easily carry and starting on a long, quick retreat for the seacoast with the Turkish army close at their heels. In late August and the early part of September of 1922 they reached the coast line, at least those who had not died or been killed on the way.
The world soon heard the sad news. Mediterranean ships of several nations were ordered to change their courses and to move with all speed in the direction of Smyrna, where most of these luckless hordes had concentrated. Small fishing boats were pressed into service. The United States Navy sent two or three of its battleships to the scene of disaster. As this mass of human flesh pressed on from the interior it overflowed from the docks to the boats. Not a few were pushed into the sea to be drowned. The moment a ship received its quota, it quickly pulled anchor and drew out. Husbands were separated from wives, and parents from children. But there was no time to wait. Many arrived only to be herded together by the oncoming Turks and driven back toward the interior to be beaten, starved, or murdered. A few managed to escape to the mountains to be hunted down, to die there or to return months later to civilization as human wrecks. Most of such cases were men. The Turkish authorities did not seriously mind women and children escaping, but they hoped to create a serious racial problem for the Greeks by eliminating all males between fifteen and fifty. In the midst of this chaos, the city of Smyrna was burned.
No one knows exactly how many fled from the country; or is it known how many were forced back toward the interior, how many were killed, or how many escaped. Roughly it is estimated that one million, three hundred thousand succeeded in getting to Greece, about seventy-five per cent of whom were eventually settled in Macedonia. Ultimately a certain amount of much needed additional space was afforded for these people by the transfer back to Turkey of the Moslem population of Greece.
The largest portion of this number came out of Macedonia, but the total for the whole country was barely three hundred thousand.
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