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      We all have ideas about historical events from school days, books and movies. Earthquakes, wars, occupations, revolutions… But have you ever considered what were your ancestors doing during those special days in history? How did they survive the changes, how did they feel? Let us tell you in this article our family and the important historical days that they lived.  

1881 Chios Earthquake & Stavros Vafiadis

      As we investigated until now, we know that our great ancestor, the father of Stavros Vafiadis, Ioannis Vafiadis was born in Chios Island, in 1850s. His son Stavros Vafiadis, was born in 1871 and migrated to Istanbul in 1880s. But what was the reason behind that, leaving his birthplace in a small age and come to Istanbul alone. A war or a natural disaster?

      On 3 April 1881, an earthquake happened in Chios which had an estimated magnitude of 7.3. According to records, 25 of 64 villages destroyed and 17 badly damaged. After the earthquake many inhabitants left the island. This earthquake also affected Çeşme in Turkey.

chios earthquake.jpg

      Most probably after this earthquake, Stavros had to migrate to Istanbul. But why alone and not to İzmir? This part of the story is unclear. Maybe his family died in earthquake and he chose to migrate Istanbul as it was a huge capital.

chios earthquake gif.gif
1908-1909 Second Constitutional Era & 31 March Incident

      When Stavros Vafiadis migrated to Istanbul, here he started to work as a carpenter in a small atelier of Küçük Yeni Han. Here in Istanbul married with Frosinni, a Greek lady from Bursa, and they had 9 children. In 1896 Hurmuzios Vafiadis was born. This means Stavros Vafiadis and his children lived the reign of Abdulhamid II. In 1908 The Young Turk Revolution and a new period began : Second Constitutional Era. But one year after, The Ottoman countercoup happened which was an attempt to dismantle the Second Constitutional Era of the Ottoman Empire and replace it with an autocracy under Sultan Abdul Hamid II. This revolt lasted for 13 days in Istanbul and defeated by ‘Hareket Ordusu’. On those days Hurmuzios Vafiadis was 13 years old and they were living in Langa which is known as Aksaray, today. A revolt in the city must be scary for him and his family.

1912-1918 Balkan Wars, World War I & The Occupation of Istanbul

      Between the years 1912-1913, Balkan Wars began and four Balkan states – Bulgaria, Montenegro, Greece, Serbia – fought against Ottoman Empire, which is known as Balkan War I. But in 1913, Montenegro, Greece, Serbia, Romania fought against Bulgaria which is known as Balkan War II.

      In Balkan War I, Ottoman Empire lost its territory in Europe, and also one of the important and oldest capitals of Ottoman Empire -Edirne- felt and became a part of Bulgaria. But in Balkan War II, Ottoman Empire took Edirne back.

      Balkan Wars didn’t have an effect on Vafiadis Family as they were in Istanbul, but it has an effect on Sanzoni Family who was living in Edirne, Karaağaç. Liborio Sanzoni who was born in 1880s in Edirne and work as an officer in the train station of Karaağaç in early 1900s. Here he married with a Greek Lady Aspasia Stamatyadis and they had five children. They were not the only Italian family in Karaağaç. The place they lived was a small Italian village with schools and churches.


      There is not any known story in family that effected Sanzoni Family. But on governmental archives we find two documents which is related with Balkan Wars and Battle of Gallipoli. Unfortunately we can’t view them for the moment, but we are still searching. You can also check those two documents by name from the screenshot below.

  • The letter of Liborio Sanzoni in Italian. About the assault on our soldiers around Ishan and the telegraph about Gallipoli War that came from Consul of Ruse Celaleddin Bey.

  • Balkan War, Foreigners Office : Italian Giovanni Sanzoni's claim for damages to the land in Edirne

**Please check the end of the article for updates. 

Sanzoni Basbakanlik Arsivi.JPG

       After the Balkan Wars from 1914 to 1918, World War I began. Of course World War I had an important effect on Ottoman Empire, which led to Occupation of Istanbul, Greco-Turkish War and finally the Republic of Turkey.

       Gallipoli War (WWI - 1915) had an important effect on the daily life of Istanbul. Haydarpasa Train Station was a military camp, to send reinforcements to Çanakkale, and all the hospitals of Istanbul were full of injured soldiers. In addition, some British submarines crossing the Dardanelles came to the Sea of ​​Marmara and suddenly appeared and bombed Ottoman ships. Not only the military ships but also the ferries that used for public transportation. The people of Istanbul were in panic, as they didn’t know what happen on those days. Safety measures were taken on the ferries to Prince Islands, Kadıköy and Bosphorus. Vafiadis, Koskeri, Akasi and Cakiroglu families had to survive in those days as they lived very close to seaside of Istanbul.

1919 – 1922 Greco – Turkish War

       Greco-Turkish War had many effects on Greek people of Istanbul - better to call them Roum. It caused many dilemmas in Roum society. On one side, the people that they talk the same language, same religion and on the other side, the people that they lived together, their homeland. There is not any known story about the effects of Greco-Turkish War on Vafiadis family. But we have one story from Akasi Family. Kiryaki Akasi migrated to Istanbul from Chios Island in 1880s. Maybe she had the same reason with Stavros Vafiadis, the earthquake. But some of the relatives of Kiryaki stayed in Chios or migrated to Greece. Kiryaki’s brother, Theodoros was living in Greece. He was visiting his relatives in Istanbul very often. When Greco-Turkish War started, he has been called by Greek Army. It was a duty, he couldn’t regret or tell them ‘ please don’t call me, I have relatives in Ottoman Empire’. He had to go. Unfortunately, Theodoros Akasi (you can see his photo below ) died in Greco-Turkish War. His name was given to his nephew, Theodora Akasi who was the grandmother of Theodora Koulurgioti .

1910s A Farewell to Brother _ The mother

      Greco-Turkish War was sad for Roum people as they lived in Ottoman Empire and had relatives in Greece. There are a lot of other stories in Roum families, as brothers, relatives had to fight on opposite sides.

1923 Turkish Republic & Greek-Turkish Population Exchange

       On 29th October 1923 Turkish Republic has been founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Now it was time for modern Turkey, with new reforms from clothing to alphabet. Ottoman alphabet has been changed to Latin alphabet, wearing fez was prohibited, the role of women became much more important…etc. But before 29th October, there was one important thing : Treaty of Lausanne & The Population Exchange between Greece & Turkey. With the population exchange 1.200.000 Roums had to migrate from Anatolia to Greece, and 500.000 Turkish people had to migrate to Turkey from Greece. It must be hard for those people, that they had to leave their hometown because of an agreement. They migrated to new lands, which they have never been lived before. Even some of them didn’t know the language. Within this population exchange, Greeks of Istanbul, Imbros and Tenedos were out of this agreement and West Thracian Turks as well. So our family, Vafiadis, Koskeri, Cakiroglu, Koulurgioti, Akasi members stayed in their homeland.

1939-1945 World War II, Twenty Conscription Classes & The Wealth Tax

       After Turkish Republic has been founded, everything was fine for our family. They lived in Istanbul, had their own businesses, their own life. But the things were not OK in Europe. In 1939, a new cloud of chaos was on Europe, and the World War II has begun. Luckily Turkey was not in war. But of course the effects had to be survived. In 1941, Nazis occupied all Greece and they were very close to the borders of Turkey. Turkish government had question marks with the next steps of Nazis, so in case of any problem they called men back to army. According to records; 12.000 non-muslim men between the ages 25-42 have been called. Of course Turkish men also called back to army, as we’ve heard many stories from other Turkish families. But it effected the lives of non-muslim people. The grandfather, Hurmuzios Vafiadis was one of the soldiers who called back to military service. You can read his story in ‘The Vafiadis : We Were Soldiers…

1940s We Were Soldiers _ Hurmuzios & The

        Three months after the soldiers turned back to their home in 1942 they had to face with a new problem : The Wealth Tax. The reason behind this legislation was to tax high profitability caused by extraordinary war conditions. Actually every citizen had to pay this tax but it effected non-muslims, as the ratio of tax was too high for them and payment period was only 15 days. According to records, the amount of taxes to be paid for Armenians 232%, Jews 179%, Roums 156% and muslims 4.94%...


         Vafiadis Family was too rich on those years, and they paid this tax by selling some of their wealth and with the help of their relatives. The brother in law of Ashen known as Cakir, helped Hurmuzios Vafiadis to pay this tax on those years. Here is a photo of Cakir, which has been taken in Nicolas Andriomenos Studio. 


1910s Ashen, Artin & Cakir
Fotini Akasi
Fotini Akasi

         Also World War II, effected the lives of some relatives in Greece. Fotini Akasi, the mother of Theodora Akasi, was living in Salamina during WWII and she tried to survive under the occupation of Greece by Nazis. You can see the only photograph of Fotini Akasi in our family archive.


         Sanzoni Family in Edirne also effected by WWII, as their older son Vincentzo fought against Germans. You can read his story on 'Vincentzo Sanzoni : An internee in WWII'

1955 6-7 September Events

         Years passed after World War II, and the agenda of Turkey was the problems in Cyprus against Turkish people. Everyday on newspapers, the news were about Cyprus. On 6th September 1955, the breaking news on radio was terrifying : The Greeks bombed the house of Ataturk in Thessaloniki. After a few hours, the things were not good for non-muslims especially for Roums. Hundreds of people attacked to the stores, houses, churches of Roums and looted. Even some stores of Turkish people has been attacked by mistake. It could be one of the darkest days in Istanbul. Many people wounded during those events. 


         Of course, 6-7 September Events effected our family. The house in Ortaköy and Kefeliköy has been looted. Vafiadis Family spent that night in one of their neighbours house. The antique collection of Hurmuzios Vafiadis has been looted and some of them broke. You can see one of those antiques in Family Relics under the name of ‘The Survivor’. 6-7 September 1955 was a time to understand who was the friend and who was the enemy. According to informations of Koulurgioti Family and many other people, in the center of Sariyer, Turkish people protected Roums against the angry crowd and they didn’t let them inside the center. But Buyukdere, Beyoğlu, Kumkapı, Yedikule were not lucky as Sariyer…But even on those places, there are many stories that Turkish people protected their neighbours.

         After 6-7 September Events, many of the members of our family migrated to Greece. Brothers and sisters couldn’t see each other for a long time and they built a new life for themselves. Today there are many cousins, that don’t know each other but could find each other by the help of social media.

Written according to sources below and the memories of family members. 

Written by : 2mi3, August 2019

** Updates:


Two documents that were not opened in the archives system in 2019 were opened for reading in 2020. You can find the details on the articles below: 


The Sanzoni: A Balkan Wars Memory

The Letter of Liborio Sanzoni

Sources : 

1-) 24 Nisan 1915 İstanbul, Çankırı, Ayaş, Ankara - Nesim Ovadya İzrail, İletişim Yayıncılık, 2013




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