Greek singer/songwriter Stamatis Kraounakis created an uproar recently in an interview on a Greek tv morning show when he said the following:
“A friend from northern Greece came and told me, how many years have the northern Greeks spoken Greek? One hundred? They spoke Bulgarian before being liberated. They tell us they couldn’t understand Greek north of the city of Lamia.” (Link to the interview).
Politicians, celebrities and common folks alike came out in droves denouncing what Kraounakis said. They pressured him to do some serious back peddling and take back his claim, which he somewhat did through his Facebook page.
It came as no surprise to me that Mr. Kraounakis, who was born in Athens, casually said something that is not only historically inaccurate, but more importantly insensitive towards the Greeks of the north.
I don’t want to get into the history and the wars of Macedonia in recent history, nor am I an authority to discuss or question what nationality occupied northern Greece through the years, but I will say this:
Southern Greeks, through no fault of their own, are generally ignorant about the history of northern Greece. They are not sensitive to the struggles of those that migrated from Asia Minor and their scuffle to assimilate in a world that was completely new to them.
How do I know this? I know because I’m one of them. Growing up in southern Greece, I don’t recall ever being taught anything in history class about modern Greek history. I don’t remember being taught anything about the Pontians or the exchange of the populations between Greece and Turkey.
We southern Greeks don’t quite understand what it is to be questioned if you are Greek or not. We have never experienced such a thing, so we simply don’t get it. Yes, the south revolted against the Ottoman Turks, yes, the south had its villages burnt to the ground by the Germans in WWII, and yes, some of the worst fighting took place in southern Greece during the civil war, but in all of those hardships, not once were we told we were not Greek by anyone. Imagine living in Asia Minor where you weren’t allowed to speak your native tongue or allowed to practice your religion, and trying for generations to hold on to whatever you could in order preserve your heritage, only to return to the land of your ancestors and be told by the locals you are not a real Greek.
Common knowledge tells us that we Greeks are very individualistic and that only when we are threatened do we unite, but I wonder how true that is. I find it to be ironic that in these difficult economic times for Greece, our energy is being put into polarizing us by public figures, such as Kraounakis, instead of being directed toward getting us out of this economic mess. What a shame.