The ‘Salonika’ newspaper published a telegram sent by Metropolitan Joachim of Kozani on July 9, 1936 regarding the Greek POWs detained in Turkey. This article’s content includes the following: 1) A short biography of Joachim; 2) An English translation of his telegram; and 3) Comments about the telegram.
Metropolitan Joachim (Apostolos Apostolidis), was born in Nicomedia (Ortakioi) in Bithynia (Asia Minor) in 1883 and died in 1962. Ortakioi had 7,000 Greek and 3, 000 Armenian inhabitants when the city was completely destroyed in 1920 by the hordes of Kemal Atatürk, who slaughtered the Christian population. He was the nephew of the Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim III and studied at the theological school of Halki, from which he graduated with honors. He continued his studies at the School of Political Science in Paris. Returning from Paris, he moved to Kydonies (Aivali) and collaborated with Metropolitan Gregorio Orologa.
He entered the service of the Patriarchate as a deacon and ended up as ‘secondary’ of the Patriarchal deacons. During his term of office, he communicated via letters with Emilianos, the Metropolitan of Grevena. Joachim was appointed as a representative of the Patriarchate. He wrote articles, represented the Patriarchate in various missions, and participated in the investigation committee for the massacres of the Greeks in Eastern Thrace.
On April 26,1914 he was elected by the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as metropolitan of Metra and Athira in Eastern Thrace, some sixty kilometres west of Constantinople. Joachim fought for the cessation of the anti-Greek persecutions unleashed by the Young Turks against the local population, trying to keep the Greek population in their homes.
He actively participated in the election of Meletios Metaxakis as Patriarch, who was considered a traitor by the Kemalists. For his patriotic activity, Joachim was sentenced to death by the Kemalists in 1923. He escaped to Piraeus and was elected metropolitan of Kozani on March 27, 1923 as served until 1945.
He was exiled for six months by the dictator Ioannis Metaxas to Mount Athos in 1936, because on August 1st he sent a sharp letter to King George II and the government, on behalf of the people of Western Macedonia, protesting their neglect of the region
During the Nazi occupation in Kozani, he became an undisputed leader. He managed to elicit the cooperation of the Greek resistance groups EAM and ELAS. The Germans had evidence of his activity and he joined ELAS, where despite his initial reservations he remained to the end. Later, the Greek Church demoted him as Metropolitan but in 2000 at an official ceremony the Church reinstated all his titles.
The Newspaper Makedonia – July 9, 1936
“There are still other captives of Asia Minor.
Touching Telegram of the ‘Saint’ of Kozani to Macedonia
The Metropolitan of Kozani sent us yesterday the telegram below regarding the published ‘Makedonia’ investigation for our brothers who are still prisoners in the depths of Asia Minor.
‘I read with tears what you wrote about our prisoners in Turkey. I also have a mother, nephews, and other relatives, survivors of the massacres in the Nikomedia region and prisoners. Often times we have appealed to our Embassy in Constantinople and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, receiving the answer that the Turks deny the existence of such prisoners.
Alas, if our services are waiting for the confession of the Turks and the surrender of captives. If there was even a grain of national honor left in this nation, all relations must be stopped [with Turkey] until our many brothers detained in Anatolia are returned to Greece, and whoever [does not] feel pain and shame after [learning of] such disgraces is not worthy of living.
Metropolitan of Kozani
Joachim was prepared to run the gauntlet with the Greek government regarding the issue of Greek prisoners detained in Asia Minor as late as 1936. He was highly critical of the silence of Greek authorities of not even raising this matter with Turkey. He didn’t trust the word of the Turks and Greece should sever its diplomatic ties with Turkey until all Greek prisoners returned home. It was very sad that the Greek government was prepared to sacrifice her prisoners at the expense of maintaining good relations with Turkey. Joachim possibly considered the overall actions of Greece dishonourable and ignoring the pain of families who still didn’t know the fate of their loved ones.
He mentions his mother and other relatives perished in the Nikomedia district. The Ecumenical Patriarchate published The Black Book of the suffering of the Greek people in Turkey (1920) detailing the persecution and massacres of Greeks in Asia Minor. For the purposes of this article, the focus will be on the atrocities that occurred in Joachim’s birthplace, Ortakeuy which belonged to the Diocese of Nicaea.
The Turks attacked Ortakeuy on three separate occasions from March-July 1920. In the first assault, the Turks surrounded the town “and opened fire against the bourg.” The assailants forcibly extracted taxes from the notables and priests. After 3 days of pillaging and the departure of the Turkish army, the villagers “continued to sack for another ten days carrying away 300 horses, 700 oxen, and 1300 sheep.” The Turkish army took with them “38 notables and the two priests of Ortakeuy, who were later taken to court-martial in Eskishehr.”
In the second attack in June, Edem Bey’s cutthroats burned 1000 houses to the ground and the church of St George. “During the second attack, 270 were killed and 70 disappeared. After the burning and destruction of the town, the inhabitants ran away to the woods and hills, and for days together the brigands and Turkish crowd were carrying off spoils to their village.”
In the final attack in July, “Ghiavour Ali’s band of 200 arrested over 70 Greeks and Armenians living in the railway station of Gheive shot them all dead and threw their bodies in the river Sangarius.” Ali’s brigands robbed the citizens of everything and “slaughtered them all” by casting their bodies into the Gallus, “a tributary of the river Sangarius.” They then proceeded to burn the remaining 150 houses of Ortakeuy. Some women were raped, tortured, and massacred while others ended up in “Turkish Harems.”
In conclusion, Joachim was an outspoken cleric who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. He distrusted the Turks since he had lost relatives in Nicomedia in 1920.