Tag Archives: Greek

10 Facts: Pontian Greek Genocide

The Genocide of Greeks living in the lands south of the Black Sea took place between 1914 and 1923. Here are ten facts you need to know about this atrocity.




SUMMARY: The Greek genocide, part of which is known as the Pontic genocide, was the systematic ethnic cleansing of the Christian Ottoman Greek population from its historic homeland. It was instigated by the government of the Ottoman Empire against the Greek population and it included massacres, forced deportations involving death marches (photo below), summary expulsions, arbitrary execution, and the destruction of Christian Orthodox cultural and religious monuments. By the end of the Greco-Turkish War most of the Greeks of Asia Minor had either fled or had been killed. Those remaining were transferred to Greece under the terms of a population exchange agreement, which formalized the exodus and barred the return of the refugees.





Pontian and Anatolian Greeks were victims of a broader Turkish genocidal project aimed at all Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire. A total of more than 3.5 million Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians were killed from roughly 1914 to 1923. Of this, as many as 1.5 million Greeks may have died either from massacre or exposure. About one million had migrated, some voluntarily but most under coercion. Presently, a miniscule Greek population remains in Turkey.




Ancient Historical Context: Pontus is what the Greeks have called the Black sea from times immemorial. The first Greek settlements appeared on its southern coast (modern Turkey and the Caucasus) as early as 800 BC. They were founded by Ionian Greeks, natives of Attica, Anatolia, and the islands of the Aegean. The first city, Sinop, was built in 785 BC. Very soon not only the southern, but also the northern Black sea coast was completely Hellenized. Many renowned Greek men of antiquity, such as Diogenes and Strabo, were born and raised in southern Pontus. In the 4th century BC, an independent Kingdom of Pontus was established on the southern coast of the Black Sea and since that time Pontus began to develop independently from other Greek lands.




Modern Historical Context: The Greeks successfully overthrew centuries of Ottoman rule during the War of Independence from 1821 to 1830, establishing the Modern Greek state as it is currently situated at the tip of the Balkan Peninsula. A “Young Turk” movement emerged aiming to turn the Ottoman Empire (which included Pontus) into a homogenous Turkish nation state. By the beginning of the 20th century, the Ottoman government seriously feared losing its power over Pontus, as it had already with Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria. “Drastic measures” of extermination of the Greek element were planned by the “Young Turks” whose slogan was “Turkey for the Turks”. In September 1911, the participants of the Young Turks conference in Thessalonica openly discussed the issue of extermination of the ethnic Christian minorities in Turkey, especially Greeks and Armenians.




Beginning in the spring of 1913, the Ottomans implemented a program of expulsions and forcible migrations, focusing in Greeks of the Aegean region and eastern Thrace, whose presence in these areas was deemed a threat to national security. Turkish military units attacked Greek villages forcing their inhabitants to abandon their homes for Greece, being replaced with Muslim refugees. Entering into talks for population exchanges, the Ottoman government adopted a “dual-track mechanism” allowing it to deny responsibility for and prior knowledge of this campaign of intimidation, emptying Christian villages.




In the summer of 1914 the Turkish military, assisted by government and army officials, conscripted Greek men of military age from Thrace and western Anatolia into Labour Battalions in which hundreds of thousands died.  Sent hundreds of miles into the interior of Anatolia, conscripts were employed in road-making, building, tunnel excavating and other field work, Their numbers were heavily reduced through either privations and ill-treatment or by outright massacre by their Ottoman guards. This policy of persecution and ethnic cleansing was expanded to other regions of the Ottoman including Pontus.




Pontian Greeks – women, children, and elderly people – were evicted from their houses in 24 hours, not being allowed to take with them almost anything of their property, and in long columns, under armed convoy, were marched far inland. The deserted villages were plundered and burnt – often before the very eyes of the evicted. On the deportation march, people were treated with utmost cruelty: they did not receive almost any food, were forced to march forward for hours and days on end without rest over the wilderness, under the rain and the snow, so that many of them, unable to endure the hardships, dropped dead from exhaustion and illnesses. The convoy men raped women and young girls, shot people for a slightest reason, and sometimes without a reason at all. Most of the deported died on the way; but even those who survived the deportation march, found themselves in a no better situation – the places of destination turned out to be real “white death” camps. In one of such places, the village of Pirk, the deported inhabitants of the city of Tripoli were kept. According to the reports of the survivals, out of 13,000 Pontians who had been sent to Pirk, only 800 survived.





In his memoirs, the United States ambassador to the Ottoman Empire between 1913 and 1916 wrote “Everywhere the Greeks were gathered in groups and, under the so-called protection of Turkish gendarmes, they were transported, the larger part on foot, into the interior. Just how many were scattered in this fashion is not definitely known, the estimates varying anywhere from 200,000 up to 1,000,000.” German and Austro-Hungarian diplomats have provided evidence for series of systematic massacres and ethnic cleansing of the Greeks. The accounts describe systematic massacres, rapes and burnings of Greek villages, and attribute intent to senior Ottoman officials, including the Ottoman Prime Minister.




At present, the Pontian Genocide is officially recognized only by Greece, Cyprus, Armenia, Sweden, and the American State of New York. This is due to insufficient awareness and, sadly, insufficient interest of the international community. Led by the Greece, the 19th May has been established as Commemoration day of the Pontian Genocide.  Interestingly, in response the Turkish government officials claims that describing the events as genocide is “without any historical basis”.  A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement states: “Greece) in fact has to apologize to the Turkish people for the large-scale destruction and massacres Greece perpetrated in Anatolia, not only sustains the traditional Greek policy of distorting history, but it also displays that the expansionist Greek mentality is still alive.”




Toronto City Council recently passes a Pontian Genocide Motion: That City Council recognize the Pontian Genocide, to honour the memory of the men, women and children who died.  Councillor Jim Karygiannis, who moved the motion said, “It is important to remember these moments in our shared history. We must remember those who suffered and perished. We must teach our children the violence face by their ancestors and others. It is only by remembering and teaching the young that we can ensure that these atrocities never happen again.” (Note that the City of Toronto is the first City to pass such a motion and the Government of Canada has yet to recognize the Pontian Greek Genocide.


This May 19th may we commemorate the Pontian Greek Genocide.






Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.



Greek humour (applause for Ang!)

This past week By George had some fun in social media advancing Greek Comedy Night that headlined Angelo Tsarouchas “The Funny Greek.”

Not familiar with Big Ang? He is hilarious: http://www.tsarouchas.com

Here is Ang with one of his classic routines: It is all Greek

By George promoted the evening of comedy with a series of comic Greek memes on Twitter – @ByGeorgeJournal. Here are some of our favourite. Enjoy – or should we say, Opa!



BTW – Greek Comedy Night was a huge success – and largely due to the hour-and-a-half marathon performance of Ang!


Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a trusted executive assistant, a communications can-do guy, or a go-to-scribe? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

10 facts about the Halifax Donair – a Greek Wrapsody


It cannot be overstated: there is nothing as delectable as a donair – specifically, a Halifax donair.

In some quarters it has become legendary; in others’ it is simply “too much.” Finally, this delicious gastronomical mainstay of the Nova Scotia Capital is getting its due recognition and respect. The birthplace of the donair, Halifax, has declared it “the official food of the City.” In honour of this recent announcement, here are 10 facts about the Nova Scotian donair:


FACT 1:  Donair meat is made from a combination of ground beef and bread crumbs, and is spiced in various ways, depending on the restaurant. A sweet garlic sauce is typically made from evaporated milk, vinegar, garlic, and sugar. Similar to a gyro, donairs are served in pita flat bread and topped with slices of tomato and onion. RECIPE: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/71963/dashs-donair/ , http://www.food.com/recipe/dash-riprocks-real-halifax-donair-90387


FACT 2:  Here is the best way to eat a donair (and let’s preface these instructional remarks by first stating that the best donairs are served with “extra sauce” so they are runnier and messier). Peal back the tin foil wrapping to expose only one-eighth to one-quarter of the donair. Bite through the pita bread into meat – each mouthful should have a mixture of both. Try and hold the donair as horizontal as possible without losing any contents – and as you eat, turn the donair ever-so-slowly. This maneuver ensures the sauce does not settle to the bottom. As you chomp away, peal back the foil to only reveal half inch of the donair at a time. Every so often, tilt your hand forward and allow for the juice to be re-applied throughout your wrap. Be sure, at all times, to lean forward so as not to have any juices drip onto your clothes. If the donair is dripping, eat faster. It is not good to put it down while eating as you will lose juice and perhaps some of the contents. It is absolutely fine to have sauce dribble on your chin, between your fingers or down your arm (there is plenty of time to lick and hose down after you have finished your meal).


FACT 3: Just recently Halifax named the donair its official food. After a 43-page staff report, a sponsoring councillor’s report, and a heated debate at two City Hall council meetings, the Mayor broke a tie vote making it official – the donair will be forever known as Halifax’s Official Food. (News stories here and here.) Interesting side-note is that it is now added to Nova Scotia’s list of official things:

  • Official tree: red spruce
  • Official fossil: a 312-million-year-old reptile known as Hylonomus lyelli
  • Official horse: the Sable Island horse
  • Official dog: the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever


FACT 4:  Donair meat is not only served in a pita wrap, but can also adorn other delicious dishes. For example, throughout Nova Scotia you can now enjoy donair pizza – with a special dipping sauce for its crust. There’s donair eggrolls to munch on as a party appetizer. Or, the latest addition the menu of a Dartmouth eatery is donair soup. And, believe it or not, the creator of donair soup is actually known as a “Soup Whisperer”.


FACT 5:  Right, here is a shortlist of notable donairs to be discovered in Nova Scotia!! First stop should be a pilgrimage to KOD on Quinpool Road. For the most delicious donair outside of Halifax, travel to Truro and order a large donair from Sam’s. If you have a real large hankering, you must visit Stewiacke and order what is known as the largest donair in Canada at Frank’s. You may like to try donair soup at Souper Duper Soup in Dartmouth – but check out what their serving up that day on Souper Duper Soup Twitter so you are not disappointed. Finally, no social gathering would be complete without a big plate of heavenly donair eggrolls – buy them by the dozen! – at Papa Mario’s in the Halifax Mall Annex.


FACT 6:  Peter Gamoulakos tried to introduce Greek-style gyros to Haligonians in the late 1960s. It was in a small restaurant in Bedford, Nova Scotia – Velos Pizza – that Peter altered the gyro recipe of sliced lamb served with tzatziki sauce. Instead, he produced a meal of sliced, spiced ground beef and crafted a distinctive sweet sauce. So, the birthplace of the donair: Velos Pizza


FACT 7:  Peter popularized the donair in the mid-1970’s when he opened his King of Donairs restaurant on the busy Quinpool Road. In the 1980’s, after Peter sold his KOD restaurant, KODs were franchised and popped up throughout Halifax – most notable in the lore of the City’s donair haunts were the two KODs that stood on the City’s infamous Pizza Corner (corner of Blower and Grafton Streets).


FACT 8:  The history of the donair would not be complete without mentioned the great family feud with the Gamoulakos brothers. Peter’s brother John claims he was also part of this early history. In fact, today, there is a restaurant Johnny K’s Authentic Donairs (located on Pizza corner) which has a wall plaque that credits “Peter and John Kamoulakos” with creating the donair – spelling the Greek surname with a K as John does. However, John was not part of Peter’s efforts to popularize the donair until the 1980s, when Peter had sold his KOD and opened Mr. Donair, a north-end manufacturing outpost of donair-making products.


FACT 9:  Differences between a Nova Scotia donair and a central Canada donair lay primarily with the sauce. Like the gyro, donairs in Quebec and Ontario have a garlic-tzatziki sauce. Some add lettuce and taboli to accompany the meat. In some cases, there may be combinations of pork and lamb mixed with the beef. You will find, donairs bought in the Maritimes to be true to Peter Gamoulakos creation, while those bought further west in Canada will vary greatly in presentation, contents and taste.


FACT 10:  If you do not live in Nova Scotia and wish to order-out your donairs, there are restaurants that will ship the spiced beef and sweet sauce fixings to your door. A favourite supplier at our Upper Canada dinner table is Domascus Pizza in Truro. We have also had wonderful meals prepared by Elmsdale Pizzeria; however these donair packages were lovingly transported by family members. An Internet search on this subject reveals that the major chains will all accommodate your shipping needs: Tony’s, KOD and Johnny K’s Authentic Donairs. There’s nothing like ordering in – the official food of Halifax direct from Halifax!!


Should you wish to read more, as an aficionado of all-things-donair, I would like to share a few personal comments on this heavenly dish.



(ed. – The pun “Greek Wrapsody” is to be credited to headline writers at the Toronto Star, where we first saw this clever moniker.)

On the Order of AHEPA

In my father’s footsteps, this past month I have entered the fraternity of AHEPA. For future articles where AHEPA and its good works will be mentioned, here is a brief description of this wonderful organization. Visit AHEPA Canada to learn more – and for Canadians of Greek heritage, I encourage you to join with us. – Chris George


The AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) mission is to promote the ancient Greek ideals of education, philanthropy, civic responsibility, and family and individual excellence through community service and volunteerism. AHEPA is the largest and oldest grassroots association of citizens of Greek heritage with over 400 chapters across the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.

The organization was founded in the Atlanta, Georgia in 1922 following growing attacks on Greek Americans and Greek American businesses by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and others. Its initial mission was to promote the image of Greeks in America, as­sist them with citizenship and to fight against KKK at­tacks.

On October 28, 1928, the first Canadian Chapter of AHEPA was founded in Toronto.  (The anti-Greek riots of Toronto in 1918 had paved the way for AHEPA in Canada.) In the 1930’s AHEPA was coast to coast in Canada and serving the members and the public. AHEPA was leaving an incredible impression in each community in which we were engaged:  Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Belleville, Windsor, Kitchener, London, Hamilton, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Vancouver, Burnaby, and Victoria.

The AHEPA Ottawa Chapter is active in its philanthropic and educational activities and has a history of donating to local causes, most recently to Ottawa Heart Institute and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). It also raises money for children organizations and hospitals in Greece. Each year the Chapter provides scholarships for post-secondary pursuits to students of Greek heritage as well as financial support to scholastic and cultural activities within Ottawa’s Greek community.

An important component of AHEPA’s mission is to create an awareness of the principles of Hellenism to society. The word “Hellenism” is derived from the Greek word “Ellinismos” which is used to describe the people of Greek lineage and also to describe a set of values for living that were invented by the ancient Greeks. These values became the basis of today’s Western civilization and include a commitment to humanity, liberty, and democracy. AHEPA strives to preserve and promote these ideals and educates the public on these matters through symposia, forums, and conferences in their Chapters’ communities.

For more information visit the website of AHEPA Canada and the website of the International Order of AHEPA, headquartered in the United States in Washington D.C.

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com




Sage Counsel from Ancient Greece

The Seven Sages of Greece (c. 620 BC–550 BC) is the title given to seven ancient Greek philosophers, statesmen and law-makers who were internationally renowned in the following centuries for their wisdom.  Traditionally, each of the seven sages represents an aspect of worldly wisdom which is summarized by an aphorism.


Here are the wise men and their timeless counsel:

  • Ruler Cleobulus of Lindos:  “Moderation is the best thing.”
  • Lawmaker Solon of Athens:  “Keep everything with moderation.”
  • Politician Chilon of Sparta: “You should not desire the impossible.”
  • Legislator Bias of Priene:  “Most men are bad.”
  • Philosopher Thales of Miletus:  “Know Thyself” (engraved on the front façade of the Oracle of Apollo in Delphi.
  • Ruler Pittacus of Mytilene:  “You should know which opportunities to choose.”
  • Ruler Periander of Corinth:  “Be farsighted with everything.”