SARASOTA, Fla – Though academic and author Dr. Niki Karavasilis retired in 1995, she has continued to write about her Greek heritage. In her first book, Scattered Leaves, she wrote about Greek family life during World War II, the devastation of the Italian and German invasions, and the Greek Civil War that followed.
Her second book, The Abducted Greek Children of the Communists: Paidomazoma, recounts the story of thousands of abducted children during the Greek Civil War who spent thirty-three years living behind the Iron Curtain.
Karavasilis’ The Whispering Voices of Smyrna, focuses on the Greek genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire which began during World War I, culminating in the Asia Minor Catastrophe and the burning of Smyrna in 1922.
On Sunday, Feb. 26, she gave a lecture on the topic The Greek Genocide and the Catastrophe of Smyrna at St. Barbara’s Greek Orthodox Church, 7671 Lockwood Ridge Road in Sarasota, FL, following the Divine Liturgy at the church. The proceeds from the lecture and book sales were donated to Sarasota County’s summer hunger program.
Karavasilis said about the genocide, as reported in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, “It should be remembered, so it should not be repeated again. A lot of innocent people lost their lives for nothing.”
During the lecture, she shared the stories of Greeks who managed to flee Smyrna before it was too late. Early on in her research, Karavasilis unexpectedly ran into a survivor of the Catastrophe, while at a cafe near her home in a suburb of Athens.
She was approached by an elderly Greek man, Karavasilis said, as reported in the Herald-Tribune, “He lived in Smyrna and was from a very affluent family, the father was sent to the desert, and they never saw him again. And one of his sisters was very pretty; the Turkish soldiers took her away, and we don’t know what happened to her.”
Karavasilis soon became known in town as the American lady writing about the genocide, and people shared their stories of survival which along with her own research formed the basis of the book written in 2006.
A particularly poignant story that Karavasilis shared was of a father separated from his wife and children. Returning to Turkey in search of his family, he was sent to a young professor who turned out to be the man’s son and was in the Turkish army. As he begged for help, asking if he knew where his son Nick was, the young man said, “Dad, I am Nick,” as Karavasilis told the Herald-Tribune.
Father John Bociu of St. Barbara’s Church, told the Herald Tribune that Karavasilis is a “resource in the community” and shared the view about the importance of remembering history, especially difficult topics such as genocide- “We need to pay attention and hear these things. Ethnic cleansing and this kind of oppression that is ethnic-based or faith-based has not stopped — we do have to pay attention to what’s been going on around the world because history will repeat if we don’t pay attention.”
The Whispering Voices of Smyrna by Dr. Niki Karavasilis is available online at Amazon along with other titles by the author.