On September 11, 2001, fundamentalist Muslim terrorists launched attacks that immediately killed nearly 3,000 people, including at least 36 Greek-Americans. The planes that were crashed into New York City’s World Trade Center also caused the destruction of the only house of worship lost that day, the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. After a 21-year wait, the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine is expected to soon open to the public, a few feet from the original church.
Also on this day, September 11, 1946, visits of U.S. warships to a Greek port and the continued stay of British troops in the country were termed an “insult to Greek people” by Andrei Gromyko, Soviet delegate to the U.N. Security council, an early sign of the coming Cold War.
On this day in 1922, the burning of Smyrna, also known as the Smyrna Catastrophe, beganm, four days after the Turkish military captured the city on September 9, more than three years after the landing of Greek troops at Smyrna. The fire was eventually extinguished on September 22. An estimated 125,000 Greek and Armenian deaths resulted from the fire, though the exact number is unknown. Approximately 80,000 to 400,000 Greek and Armenian refugees crammed the waterfront to escape from the fire but were forced to remain there under harsh conditions for nearly two weeks. Turkish troops and irregulars committed massacres and atrocities against the Greek and Armenian population in the city before the outbreak of the fire. Tens of thousands of Greek and Armenian men were subsequently deported into the interior of Anatolia, where most of them died in harsh conditions. Testimonies from Western eyewitnesses were printed in many Western newspapers. George Horton (1859-1942), the noted American philhellene, classicist, author, diplomat, ethnographer, and humanitarian activist is perhaps best known in the Greek community for saving innumerable lives in Asia Minor and especially from the Smyrna Catastrophe. The Blight of Asia, his 1926 book, detailed Turkey’s atrocities against its non-Muslim minorities leading up to and including the Smyrna Catastrophe.
On this day in 2001, Stelios Kazantzidis, the greatest singer of Greek popular music in the 20th century, passed away from a brain tumor. His death was an emotional event for Greece. Kazantzidis was given a state funeral through the streets of Elefsina which was broadcast live on Greek television. His music was also beloved by the Greek diaspora, capturing their feelings in the difficult post-war period. He was commemorated on a Greek postage stamp in 2010.
Kazantzidis was born in Nea Ionia, near Athens, to Haralambos Kazantzidis (of Pontian roots from Ordu) and Gesthimani Kazantzidis, (who came from the town of Alanya – Greek Korakesion in southern Asia Minor. He was orphaned at the age of 13 when his father, a member of the Greek Resistance, was beat to death by right-wing guerillas during the Greek Civil War. This forced Kazantzidis to get menial jobs, but his life changed when the owner of a factory gave him a guitar. He spent long hours playing music and made his first public appearance at a Kifissia night club in the early 1950s. He recorded Giannis Papaioannou’s ‘The suitcases – Οι βαλίτσες’, which became the first of many hits. Kazantzidis collaborated with some of the biggest names in Greek music, among them Manolis Chiotis, Manos Hadjidakis, Mikis Theodorakis, and Stavros Xarhakos.