Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Sano Halo and her daughter Theo Halo meet President Kostis Stephanopoulos
(Source: Not Even My Name- Thea Halo)
Yesterday, 19 May 2009, as Greece and all Pontian Greeks around the world commemorated the anniversary of the Pontian Genocide, the Greek Parliament dedicated it's commemoration to a wonderful heroic lady Sano(Themia) Halo, and her daughter, writer and poet, Thea Halo, and granted them both the Greek citizenship they had been deprived of for so long. The best and most deserved 100th birthday gift for such a tremendous lady!
For those of you that don't know, Sano Halo is a Greek born survivor of the Pontian Greek massacre in Turkey, those terrible 'events' that will never be forgotten by Greeks wherever they may be, and Thea, of course, is her daughter. By writing down her mother's memories, Thea has given us all a unique opportunity to read this poignant, unforgettable, tragic yet somehow optimistic chronicle of the horrifying experiences as she lived them.
Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts!
Last Saturday, Sano Halo, the Grandmother of Pontos as she is called, celebrated her 100th birthday at a special event hosted in her honour by the Pan-Pontian Federation and the Holy Foundation of the Pontians in America . She had arrived in the United States in 1925, a teen-age bride, with nothing left of her Greek heritage, not even the name that her parents had given her.
Not Even My Name is the incredibly moving story of Sano Halo's survival of the death march that annihilated her family, as told to her daughter Thea, and the poignant pilgrimage to Turkey that mother and daughter undertook in search of Sano's home, seventy years after her exile. She was just nine years old when Turkish soldiers came to her village to shout Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk’s) decree.
"You are to leave this place. You are to take only what you can carry. Be ready to leave in three days time."
As Thea writes " When I wrote Not Even My Name I decided to include anything and everything my mother remembered of her life. I decided early on that if she remembered something for eighty years, no matter how insignificant it might seem at the moment, it must have profound significance in the totality of her life. The result I’m told is a record of how the Pontic Greeks lived tucked away in the Pontic Mountains along the Black Sea in the early part of the Twentieth Century… how the Assyrians in rural areas of the south of Turkey lived, and Armenians lived as town dwellers in Diyarbekir. And of course it is a record of the long death march to exile."
"What is memory?" she says ..."Why do people remember for eighty years and more, things that seem no more than everyday occurrences, rather unremarkable in themselves, like my mother remembering her mother crossing herself and then bending to touch the ground with the tripod her first three fingers made, then repeating the crossing and touching of the ground three times. She was no more than nine when she last saw her mother and other villagers make this Christian gesture typical of the Pontic Greeks. She remembers a young couple in her village who were in love, who tricked the girl’s obstinate parents into consenting to their marriage by running away and hiding overnight. Though a charming story, it’s difficult to imagine what such an incident could have added to her life that she would remember it and their subsequent wedding with such clarity. Difficult that is until one puts all these memories together and finds a mosaic rich in historical reference, and a gold mine of tradition that might have faded into oblivion if not for these everyday historians, such as my mother. It’s easier to understand why and how she would remember the long death march to exile; the dying one by one of her family and villagers in that Spring of 1920, although so many of those survivors chose to forget… or at least chose to bury those memories deep inside and refused to resurrect them. "
In 2002, Thea Halo was honoured with the AHEPA Homer Award first and foremost, for vividly capturing the harrowing and haunting firsthand account of Sano Themia Halo's survival of the Turkish death marches following World War I in the memoir 'Not Even My Name' and for creating awareness of and documenting a catastrophic event in our Hellenic history.
"Not Even my Name- an Extraordinary Story of Genocide and Survival" by Thea Halo
From the Ceremony in Parliament ( in Greek)
Buy the book from Amazon