Sunday, May 19, 2013

Turkey to New York, now and 100 years ago.

We normally go to the states once a year for doctors and family. We go direct from Athens non-stop.
This year there were no direct flights from Athens to NY during the winter, evidently they will start again in June.

The decision was where do we connect?
France was out, I hate Charles De Gaulle airport, did not want to do Germany nor the UK.
Turkish Airlines keeps getting great reviews so we decided on Istanbul as a connection to the States. It is a city we love and my Parents were Greeks from Asia Minor…it also occurred to me that Pop made the same trip more than a 100 years ago, more about that later.

The flight from Athens to Istanbul was good, on time, great food even on the short hop, new plane and good service, so far so good.
We arrive and realize it is a huge crazy airport.

Turkish airline personnel speak English…but nobody at the airport seems to, I asked somebody in a uniform if he spoke English and he said, “yes I do” and walked away. I guess he realized I was Greek. We eventually found our gate…even though it changed twice.

A word of warning, if you are flying from Athens and it is a Greek flight your destination is called Constantinople but fly Turkish airways and it is Istanbul.
By the way, Istanbul is Greek as well, it comes from the Greeks saying, “ Is tin Poly” (to the city), the Turks took to calling Constantinople, Istanbul.

It seems to me it would be OK to call it Istanbul at the Greek airport, although I like the idea that we are going to Constantinople.

Flight to the States was great…crowded but not a problem, good food, good drinks, good entertainment, movies, internet…more drinks, more food and we arrive in NY right on time.

I suddenly started thinking about my Father making the trip about 1913 more or less.
My grandfather would send his sons abroad so they would not have to serve in the Turkish army.
Pop made the trip before the Catastrophe in 1922.

I have just a few hints about his trip as well as a bit of research.

The village, Michaniona, is on the Sea of Marmara…at least 6 hours away from Constantinople by ship.
Pop spoke about having been to the “Poli” when he was a kid. Perhaps he went there and took a ship to Smyrna and then took a ship to England.

He once told us, when I was transferred to London, that perhaps he should have stayed there,
a hint that he was there at some point. After all, his older brother Theo Stefanos went to England before, avoiding the Turkish draft as well. When he returned to Greece after the Catastrophe he was called “O Englesos”, I wonder if I have any English cousins, Theo Stefano was the family rascal after all.

It is possible Pop went to the States via England.
He must have worked for some relative when he got to the States and became a candy maker. They usually went to be with a relative and were apprenticed to whatever that relative did.

I do not know what his trip was exactly, but it had to be complicated and long and difficult.

I bitch about delays at airports with a drink in my hand in the first class lounge. Pop took a month at least to make the trip, maybe more. A kid with no knowledge of where he was going exactly, I feel for what he must have suffered.

1 comment:

  1. Beginning in 1908 The Ottomans began to force Orthodox Christians into the army....Being conscripted into the Turkish Army as a Christian meant you were not trusted to bear arms and you were sent to forced labor camps where the back breaking work was most often fatal which is why my father-in-law and his brothers left Turkey for better horizons, new opportunities, yes, new life, yes, but most important it saved your life! One of Greg's maternal uncles, the oldest of 4 brothers died in such a labor camp. ...Lesson learned!