Social Relationships

A friendly meeting of I. Stantgas, G. Matthaiopoulos, G. Kalaitzoglou, G. Andreadis & S. Tagatidis. Kalaitzoglou Private Collection.

And whatever you may feel that is above all else, And that treasures it deserves, children of the decimation, And what you ask for, is untold, I know that; only a drop of love and a tender heart..

Kostis Palamas, Το τραγούδι των προσφύγων [The Song of the Refugees], 3.11.1922

The integration of the refugees into Greece was one of the greatest challenges encountered by the Greek society in the early 20th century. Christian Orthodox people from the coasts of Asia Minor, Pontus, and Eastern Thrace were forcibly expelled to Greece and scattered throughout the country. The longed-for union with motherland did not happen in the way the Greeks everywhere fervently desired and sought. People of the same nationality and religion, but ‘foreigners’ at the same time, the refugees strove to assimilate into the Greek society, which was cautious towards them and expressed its primitive reflexes.

The diversity of the refugees was initially expressed through the linguistic diversity of the dialects they spoke, such as the dialect of Pontus and Sille. Some of them, speaking Turkish, found the daily contact and communication more difficult, not only with the locals, but also with other refugees who spoke foreign languages. 

As a result, everyday dress, cuisine, ethics and customs, and the different culture, created a distance among populations and strengthened the “refugee” identity and the clear separation between “us and the others” for both sides.

Ιωάννης Παπαδόπουλος, Βόλος 15/02/2022, Αρχείο Αναγνωστικής Εταιρίας Κερκύρας.

Young refugee girl from M.Asia, d.1930, Corfu. The depicted girl appears to be wearing a white silk "kamis" (underskirt) that belonged to an older woman, as a dress, a traditional waistcoat and a bridal headdress, probably as a costume for the celebration of Halloween. The setting of the costume is reminiscent of a bridal, urban costume of the time. Private Archive of Spyros Gaoutsis.

The communities that hosted the refugees sometimes treated them with contempt and sometimes with compassion. The reactions of the natives varied from indifference and hostility to support and solidarity. The caution and fear of the early years, caused by the destabilisation of the country’s social cohesion and the economic instability, delayed the integration of the refuges into Greece.


In Corfu, as in all refugee hosting places, there were both expressions of fear and solidarity. The temporary installation of the refugees in monuments and landmarks of Corfu, such as the Old Fortress, Achilleion Palace, and the Municipal Theatre, caused discontent among some residents. At the same time, the economic burdens from taxation and the requisition of property did not favour coexistence, let alone acceptance and support of the persecuted refugees. Soon, reproachable behaviours were expressed, sometimes against the weaker, such as the orphans and widows that were the majority of the refugee population.

Newspaper Proskopos of the Ionian island, n.16 (23/11/1923). The Corfu Reading Society Archive.

Φίλιππος Λεπτοκαρύδης, Κέρκυρα 06/07/2022, Αρχείο Αναγνωστικής Εταιρίας Κερκύρας.

The rivalry between natives and refugees soon extended in the working relationships because of the conflict of economic interests, but also in the field of politics. The protests that began with the requisition of the industrial warehouses of the “Pallas Athena” and “Margariti” factories, as well as other small shops, escalated when the refugees claimed the space of the 10th Infantry Regiment square in Spilia to develop their occupational activity. Similar tensions occurred at the political level, especially in the early years with the refugees supporting Venizelos’ progressive party throughout Greece.

Results of the Elections of 25 September 1932, Corfu. Eleftherios Venizelos Archive 112-107-Benaki Museum, Digital Archive of the National Foundation for Research and Studies "Eleftherios K. Venizelos", Chania Crete.

The daily life of the refugee children did not differ much from that of their parents’ and grandparents’. Discontent and fear created stereotypes which the Greek society did not manage to discard for a long time. The memories of the refugees are full of characterisations and incidents of social exclusion. The school experience, as the main place of socialization for children, dominated the narratives of the refugees’ descendants.

The experience of the displacement and the difficulties encountered when the refugees settled in the hosting places, led some people to change the endings of their last names to protect their descendants and their families.

Certificate of identity of Dimitrios Vogiatzopoulos dated 14/04/1986. Erifili (Eris) Hytiri Private Collection.


Φίλιππος Λεπτοκαρύδης, Κέρκυρα 06/07/2022, Αρχείο Αναγνωστικής Εταιρίας Κερκύρας.

The refugee families rallied round and expressed their solidarity to the “like”, the “uprooted”, and gradually managed to raise their families in their new homeland.

Μαρία – Ελένη Ανδρεαδάκη, Αθήνα (Κυνοπιάστες Κέρκυρας) 19/04/2022, Αρχείο Αναγνωστικής Εταιρίας Κερκύρας.

The contact between the refugee families resulted in establishing friendly and working relationships, which sometimes led to marriages and kinship through Christening. According to the Administrative records and the Civil registry of the Municipality of Corfu, 89 marriages were performed between refugees and 127 more between natives and refugees, in 1922-1932, which indicates the integration, especially of the women refugees into the Corfiot society.

Traditional Wedding Costumes of Ikonio in Asia Minor, 1928. Left: Marika Kouyoumtzoglou, Evangelia Tangatidou, Sophia Halvatzidou. Erianna Argyrou Private Collection.

Their homecoming journey was constantly postponed, and they gradually learned to love their new homeland, as they created memories in Corfu. Through the daily struggle for survival, they overcame death, fear, and the tragic memories of destruction and persecution, and they learned to laugh, to love, and to enjoy life. Family gatherings in celebrations, brought people together creating links between the refugees and the natives, creating new friendships, and expanding family networks. The feasts of the refugees acted as vehicles of tradition and culture, preserving the memories of birthplaces and passing them down to the next generations.

Απόστολος Παντελίδης, Κέρκυρα 21/01/2022, Αρχείο Αναγνωστικής Εταιρίας Κερκύρας.

Easter at Anemomylos-Garitsa Bay Corfu 1956. Katsounos Family Private Collection.
"And it was the carnival season. (...) Grandma had dressed up, dressed herself in grandfather's trousers and jackets, took a bag and pretended to be from the tax office and knocked on our door. We laughed so much and my poor dad he just saw her and said "What are you doing, mother". "Hey, it's carnival, can't we have fun?" Because back home carnivals were a lot of fun and we ate and drank and she liked it and she liked watching us dress up. Then we celebrated, we made whole costumes, things. And so she dressed up and then she took off her costume and went and started cooking for us to eat..."
Sophia Linardou - Karagiannopoulou, second generation descendant (Chanakkale, Asia Minor), Corfu 2022, The Corfu Reading Society Archive.
Refugee soldiers at the Old Fortress of Corfu, 1933. Left: Raftopoulos Elias, Mouratidis Charalambos. Spyridon Mouratidis Private Collection.
"In 1933, at Easter, when I was a conscript, together with Charikos and George Souvatzis, our platoon leader, Kitsis, saw us, a rough but a good man. -Come here, you! Aren't you from Istanbul? How old are you? Twenty-two? You've had twenty-two Easters at home, you'll have one Easter in the army! And so it happened. Charikos, danced so much that he broke the dance floor."
Elias Raftopoulos, refugee from Kaymakli, Corfu 1992
[Source: Spyridon Mouratidis, [Oral testimonies of refugees of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 in Corfu], Vanias 2022]

The integration of the refugees into their host societies was a long and complex procedure. In the first stage, they focused on creating committees, delegations and clubs aiming to demand better living conditions and the protection of their interests. These clubs sought to work closely with the local communities and their mechanisms.

The participation of the refugees in the religious life and the adoption of local customs, in combination with the massive participation of the young refugees in the cultural and sporting life of the island, their participation in clubs and their subsequent contact with more Corfiot families, created the appropriate conditions for the integration of the refugees and the full assimilation of the next generations into the Corfiot society.

​​"I remember my father going to the Corfu Reading Society, regularly."
Adamantia Makri, second generation descendant (Sille, Konya),
Corfu 2022, The Corfu Reading Society Archive
Vogiatzopoulos Athanasios 1913-2002. Philharmonic Society "Mantzaros" Archive.



«Ανέβηκα επάνω. -Πες μου, τι θέλεις εσύ; μου λέει κάποιος. Για να σου πω την αλήθεια, ήμουνα ξυπόλυτος. Παπούτσια δεν φορούσα. -Θέλεις να γραφτείς στη Μουσική; Σου αρέσει; -Ναι! Και γράφτηκα στη Μουσική! Και μου ΄δωσε και ο Μαυρομμάτης ένα ζεύγαρι παπούτσια και με άφηνε και ερχόμουνα στη Μουσική τακτικά. Εβγήκα μουσικός, το 1927. Μου άρεσε τόσο πολύ η μουσική και είχα και τον αθλητισμό που μου άρεσε. Τον “Ελλήσποντο”. Έπαιζα κορνέτα, λικόρνο, παρόμοιο με την κόρνετα. Πριμαντόνα είναι η κορνέτα, το λικόρνο είναι κοντράλτο. Λοιπόν, σ’αυτό το όργανο είχα αποκτήσει πολλή πείρα. Το 1927, βγήκα μπάντα. Ήταν των Βαΐων. Όπως ερχόμουνα στη Μουσική, πήγα στον Άγιο Βασίλη και κοινώνησα. Μόλις βγήκα από την εκκλησία, λιποθύμησα. Τότε πέρασε ο δάσκαλός μου, ο Κρητικός, μου ΄δωσε δυο-τρία χαστούκια και συνήλθα. Φορούσα και το παντελόνι με τη ρίγα. Μου λέει: -Έμεινες νηστικός και πώς θα κάνεις αυτό τον “γύρο”; Έκατσα κάμποσα χρόνια στη Μουσική και στον στρατό ήμουνα στη Μουσική, καλά πέρασα. Το 1976, έγινα αρχιμουσικός. (…) Στη Μουσική ήταν τέσσερις-πέντε πρόσφυγες.»
Athanasios Vogiatzopoulos, refugee from Dardanelles, Corfu 1992.
[Source: Spyridon Mouratidis, Προφορικές μαρτυρίες προσφύγων της Μικρασιατικής Καταστροφής στην Κέρκυρα [Oral testimonies of refugees of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 in Corfu], Vanias 2022]
"Ellespontos", Corfu Fans' Association, was founded by refugees from Dardanelles in 1923. The colours of the team were yellow and black. Ellipsontos was active until the 1970s, when it merged with other clubs to form A.O. Corfu. Spyros Gaoutsis Private Collection.
I remember several players from the "Ellispondos" team in 1923-1924. Fotios Vogiatzopoulos, who had a bicycle rental shop. Rigos Chatzirigos, a policeman, Sotirios Sabatagis, who was a shoemaker and a builder, Georgios Xanthopoulos was a tailor, Antonios Matakias worked at Aspiotis' factory, Demetrios Kastanias was a baker, Angelos Makaratzis was a carpenter, Eleftherios Zarifis was a shoemaker, Konstantinos Paschalidis was an army officer, Nikolaos Kiloglou was at the army non-commissioned officers' school, Takis Kafkaloudis at the offices of the Desyllas factory, Georgios Laskaridis at the army non-commissioned officers' school, Georgios Andreadis was a policeman and Elias Michaelides was a merchant. "
Athanasios Vogiatzopoulos, refugee from Dardanelles, Corfu 1992.
[Source: Spyridon Mouratidis, [Oral testimonies of refugees of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 in Corfu], Vanias 2022]
«Η Κέρκυρα είναι πολύ ισχυρή πολιτισμική ταυτότητα, να μεγαλώσεις στην Κέρκυρα δηλαδή, σε χαράζει. Δεν είναι σαν μια συνηθισμένη πόλη, είναι πολύ συγκεκριμένη. Και στους προσκόπους πήγα και στην Παλαιά Φιλαρμονική, άρχισα να μαθαίνω όργανα- και τέτοια. Όπως καταλαβαίνεις είναι πολύ έντονη, η Κέρκυρα έχει πολύ έντονο πολιτισμό, που σε απορροφάει πάρα πολύ εύκολα.
Δημήτρης Χατζηνικολάου, απόγονος γ΄ γενιάς (Ικόνιο & Σμύρνη),
Αθήνα 2022, Αρχείο Αναγνωστικής Εταιρίας Κερκύρας

Over the years, the differences were softened and gradually natives and refugees had more things in common than differences separating them. The descendants of refugees narrate that several Corfiots assisted the refugee families, offering work or any other form of economic assistance, but also supporting them in the challenges of everyday life.

The refugees managed to adapt to their new homelands, shaping their identity, at a personal and collective level, based on their national consciousness and their cultural particularity. Apart from dealing with the trauma of being uprooted, losing beloved people and being homesick, they were confronted with the insensitivity of the Greek host communities, and they finally decided to incorporate their refugee attribute as a structural element of their identity. “Minor Asians”, “Pontians”, “Foreigners”, “Refugees”, “Turkish offspring”, “Baptised in yoghourt”, emotionally charged words that were bequeathed along with the customs, the views, the traditions to the next generations, which in turn carry the cultural trauma until today. Despite the initial rivalry between natives and refugees, the latter inevitably contributed to the shaping of modern Greek identity, and the development of modern Greek culture.

“Thus, Gigantaras remained with us. 

He kept his own soul, blended with

that of the island; calm and playful.” 


Χυτήρης Γεράσιμος, Το Μέγα Δρυ, εκδ.Κατάρτι, Αθήνα, 2003

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