Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Greek Born in Kazakstan, Living in Germany


Dmitri and Bruder Timotheus at the Memorial/Museum Marking the former border between East and West Germany.  Br. Timotheus was Cliff Almes when we served together in Wiesbaden in the late 70s. He switched to a new uniform when his enlistment ended. Since 1979 he has been a Brother at Kanaan in Darmstadt, Germany. I spent the last week of June at Kanaan. Cliff and Dmitri and I visited Fulda together. More on that later.

During my stay in the Guest House at Kanaan, the man in the room  next door was on a long-term visit. Although he was born in 1967, his story wove together several threads of the politics of refugees and genocide in the 20th Century.

Dmitri was born in Kazakstan in the Soviet Union in a Greek community that came to what was then Russia in the midst of revolution in 1918. His grandfather and many other Greeks had been living in Ottoman Turkey for several generations. As the Ottoman Turks retreated at the end of World War I, the slaughtered more than a million Armenians in one of the first documented genocides. The Turks were allied with the Germans and losing the war.

As they withdrew from the Balkans, they began persecuting and killing Greeks within their borders. Dmitri's grandfather managed to escape to Kazakstan. They managed to survive the rule of Stalin. By the time Dmitri was ten years old in 1977, the Greek government worked out a deal to repatriate Greeks living in the Soviet Union.
During the first years of his life Dmitri spoke Russian and Greek, but to the his Russian classmates, he was a Greek. In school in Greece, he was a Russian. In fact, the returning Greek community was under some suspicion of being Soviet agents until the Soviet Union collapsed. He now lives both in Athens and comes for long stays at Kanaan, helping with the work of the ministry there.

In addition to Greek and Russian, Dmitri speaks English well. I had either breakfast or dinner with im several of the days I stayed at Kanaan. He also joined Cliff and I on our visit to Fulda. He never served in the military, but his life was affected by both the World Wars and the Cold War much more directly than mine. His family survived the murder of Greeks by the Turks at the end of World War I, the murder of anyone under Stalin's reign of national terror. He was rejected by Russian nationalists where he was born and under suspicion by Greek nationalists when he returned home.

Family Black Sheep Flies a MEDEVAC Blackhawk

Brooklyn-born Amira Talifi, (not her real name) is a helicopter pilot I served with in the Army National Guard. She is one of seven ch...