Konstantinos Gavriilidis & Despoina Megalomatidi in front of a refugee house at I. Theotoki street, 1959. Eleonora Gavriilidou Private Collection.
“The city that was burned down Was reborn on the opposite coast”
Κ. Ch. Myris, Η στάχτη που ταξίδευε [The Ash that Travelled], 1992
The rehabilitation of the refugees was a priority for the Greek state, as it was necessary to ensure permanent accommodation and occupation.
The Refugee Healthcare Fund (Legislative Decree 3/11/1923) was initially responsible for finding accommodation for the refugees, until its abolishment in the spring of 1925. Its responsibilities were successively transferred to various organisations and institutions, such as the Directorate for the Refugee Welfare and Rehabilitation, the Council of Refugee Welfare and Accommodation, the Directorate for the Refugee Urban Settlement, and the four-membered Committee for the Refugee Urban Rehabilitation, always under the supervision of the Ministry for Hygiene, Welfare and Perception. The requirements of this enormous work soon exceeded the capabilities of the Greek government and led to the cooperation with international institutions and organisations, to securing donations, and to the granting of loans to serve the thousands of refugees that were staying in temporary accommodation throughout the Greek territory.
On the initiative of the Council of the League of Nations, on 29 September 1923, the Committee for the Refugee Rehabilitation (CRR) was established, which undertook the task of refugee rehabilitation. The primary concern of the RCC was, upon the permanent settlement of the refugees, to ensure the coexistence of people with common place of origin and the creation of settlements in places where the natural environment would be similar to the refugees’ homeland, so as to preserve the memory of their birthplace and to ensure their occupation. Thus, the rehabilitation of the refugees was divided into two categories: urban and rural.
The broader effort to develop, modernise, and transform the Greek agricultural sector and rural education in the early 20th century, resulted in favouring rural over urban rehabilitation for the refugees. To this end, they were given farms, houses, land from distribution (according to the family members and the type of land), but also tools, animals, seeds, and fertilisers for their cultivation, while loans were also granted to purchase equipment and other agricultural supplies.
There was no such agricultural land available in the Ionian Islands, therefore many temporarily settled refugees left.
Σπυρίδων Μουρατίδης, Κέρκυρα 22/07/2022, Αρχείο Αναγνωστικής Εταιρίας Κερκύρας.
Data on the number of refugees in the Ionian Islands (Corfu, Lefkada, Kefalonia) from a) Ministry of Health, Welfare and Antibiotics - Department of Statistics, Census of Refugees carried out in April 1923 (Athens 1923), b) General Statistical Service of Greece, Statistical results of the census of of the population of Greece of 15-16 May 1928, (Athens 1933).
The solution that was chosen for the remaining refugees in Corfu was urban settlement. They had expressed their intention to settle permanently and to work on the island as early as in 1923, with the establishment of the Association of Refugees from Asia Minor and Thrace of Corfu “the Welfare”.
The refugees who arrived in Corfu had been registered in catalogs. The catalog had information about the gender, the age, the profession and the place of origin. At first the recording had been taken over by the Prefecture and Municipality of Corfu, with the assistance of presidents of municipal communities, but also with the assistance of Committees for the Refugee Rehabilitation. The issuance of The Legislative Decree “About Naturalisation of Refugees“ (10/1922) create the circumstances in order to record the refugees population. In Corfu, the naturalisation recording delayed, due to unpreparedness of state system, as a result the Article 7 of The Treaty of Lausanne (30/1/1923) take into force, according of which the refugees receive the citizenship of the place they arrived, just they arrived, and the homeland-citizenship cancelled. Since August 1923 the refugees are registered in the Male Birth Records, the Civil Register and the Election Lists of each municipal community they were settled. In Corfu, the proper documents, which they confirm refugee status of the appliance are issued, at first, by relevant commission, since 1924, then the documents are issued by the Association of Refugees from Asia Minor and Thrace of Corfu. The politicization lasted four years (1923-1926) because of the welfare issues the refugees have to manage, these issues made the permanent establishment uncertain.
The issue of permanent accommodation would be a major concern for the Corfiot Society. In the summer of 1926, the refugee association in a letter to the Municipality of Corfu, requested to be granted space in Avramiou Hill, in order to build 300-400 refugee housing units. The following year, delegates from the Committee for the Refugee Rehabilitation visited Corfu in order to register the urban refugees and find a suitable site for the creation of a refugee settlement. During their investigation, they discovered the extremely poor hygiene and living conditions of the refugees. According to the instructions of the Committee for the Refugee Rehabilitation, the urban refugees were classified into four categories: a) adequately housed (residing in permanent settlements, exchangeable or privately owned houses), b) moderately housed (residing in temporary shacks, refugee housing units), c) poorly housed (residing in warehouses, churches, requisitioned, dilapidated, unsuitable houses, etc.), and d) residing in rented houses.
A.A.Pallis (Member of the Council of the H.A.P.), Collection of the main statistics concerning the exchange of populations and refugee rehabilitation after analysis and explanations, Athens, 1929, Benaki Museum - Eleftherios Venizelos Archives-File 212-17-18, The National Research Foundation “Eleftherios K. Venizelos”, Chania Greece.
"And because my grandfather had money it seems, he didn't leave the family in the Fortress, where everyone else was. He bought a plot of land on the prison hill, where the prison is now ... The courts. ... He bought the land and then he wanted to do the work he did in Turkey, pottery... Now it's a ruin ... from the prison you can see a ruin, that's not gone, that's where the kiln was where they made the clay pots, pottery. That was public land, they had bought an area to make the pottery. There was nothing, no other families up there... then [mother's] family was given a house at a refugee settlement, which the state had constructed in Corfu. They gave each family a house according to the number of the family members."
Aristides Apostolidis, second generation descendant (Permata, Konya & Agios Konstantinos, Caesarea), Corfu 2021, The Corfu Reading Society Archive.
The reactions of the residents in Kotsela district, who opposed to the expropriation of their lands, led the Municipality of Corfu to submit a new request “for the Committee of Refugee Rehabilitation to cease occupying private land” (23/2/1928) to the Ministry for Welfare and Perception, suggesting alternative spaces for the settlement of the refugees. The suggested areas included Avramiou Hill, land in the Old Fortress (Gritsis), Platytera, Karteria and a sports field in the suburb of Garitsa. The Ministry, in September 1928, decided on the seven most suitable areas for the construction of the refugee settlements: Alikes in Garitsa, Garitsa beyond Avlakas, Platytera, New Fortress, Poor House, Avramiou Hill, Karteria.
The refugee settlements had to be created in areas that were near Corfu Town to ensure the successful settlement and vocational rehabilitation of the urban refugees. Few refugees settled in the Corfiot countryside, some of which managed to survive and make a living from the land.
Various factors contributed to the delay in the delivery of the refugee settlements. The Committee for the Refugee Rehabilitation received the settlements in November 1930. Shortly afterwards, the property and the responsibilities of the Committee were transferred to the Greek state, whereas the debts of the refugees from their settlement adventure were to be collected by the Agricultural Bank of Greece. The ambitious and laborious work of the Committee was considered effective, despite the adverse conditions under which it operated during its seven years of operation.
Γεώργιος Καγκουρίδης, Κέρκυρα 18/01/2022, Αρχείο Αναγνωστικής Εταιρίας Κερκύρας.
According to the data of the Committee for the Assessment of the Urban Settlements of the CRR, the cost for the expropriation of the lands for the construction of the refugee settlements amounted to 1,645,219 drachmas, while 154 refugee house units were built at a cost of 5,858,083.30 drachmas. The total amount spent on the creation of the refugee settlements in Corfu was 7,503,302.30 drachmas. The refugees had to pay the amount that corresponded to each house in installments. The price was based on the sector in which the building was located.
Valuation Tables of the Refugee Settlements of Corfu (1931). G.S.A.-Central Service, Ministry of Health, ABE 2001, BOX 125/7, Valuation Tables Corfu 1931.
The area of the plots on which the buildings were built ranged from 145 to 272 square metres, depending on their location. The houses comprised a green area and a small courtyard. Most of the buildings had two rooms and a W.C. and were appropriate for multi-membered families. Only four houses had one room and a W.C., while eleven had three rooms and a W.C. The ratio for the accommodation of the refugees was one room per two family members.
Γεώργιος Καγκουρίδης, Κέρκυρα 18/01/2022, Αρχείο Αναγνωστικής Εταιρίας Κερκύρας.
Νικόλαος Ταγκατίδης, Leeds UK 19/01/2022, Αρχείο Αναγνωστικής Εταιρίας Κερκύρας.
The houses were alloted to the refugees through a lottery, in which the families that remained in temporary accommodation, according to the records of the Committee for the Refugee Rehabilitation in 1927, and especially in the Old Fortress of Corfu, participated. The ‘adequately housed’ and those ‘renting houses’ were excluded from the lottery. Securing permanent accommodation and vocational rehabilitation created the suitable conditions for the permanent settlement of the refugees in Corfu.
The housing issue concerned the refugee families until the 1970s. The Central Accommodation Council enabled some of the refugees that rented houses to acquire plots of land on a co-ownership basis in Karteria, in the suburb of Mandouki. The selection of the beneficiaries would again be by lottery (10/1972), but this time, the descendants of the refugees would be able to declare with which refugee family they preferred to live in one of the 18 plots of land allocated. Loans were granted again for the construction of the houses.
Refugee loans and compensation were the cause of tensions between the refugees and the Greek state for many years. A problem that occurred, after the signing of the Convention for the Exchange of Populations of Lausanne, concerned the valuation and the liquidation of the property of the exchanged populations, undertaken at first by the Mixed Committee of Exchange. The refugees had to be compensated for the property they were compelled to leave behind in their homelands. Despite the extensive network of committees and collaborating institutions and agencies, the work progressed slowly. In 1926, the Bank of Greece paid a temporary compensation as an advance (20% in cash and the remaining in bonds) to the non-permanently settled urban refugees, after pressure from the refugees to abstain from the national elections. The total number of the beneficiaries reached 482,818 refugees (150,000 farmers and 332,818 urban refugees). On average, 20,135 drachmas were given to the farmers and 23,155 drachmas to the urban refugees, while along the way, care was taken to offset the debts to the CRR and the Greek state. Of course, the valuation of the exchangeable property was in Turkish gold lira, the refugee loans were granted in British pounds and American dollars, whereas for the settlement of the refugees, the CRR and the Greek state charged in drachmas. Full compensation of the refugees was never achieved.
Αναστασία Παπάζογλου, Νεοκαισάρεια Ιωαννίνων 17/05/2022, Αρχείο Αναγνωστικής Εταιρίας Κερκύρας.
The soils of the land you loved
from the new homeland you look,
like a hope that is not lost
and shines in the heart: a ray of sunshine
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