National Geographic : 1925 Nov
HISTORY'S GREATEST TREK Tragedy Stalks Through the Near East as Greece and Turkey Exchange Two Million of Their People BY MELVILLE CHATER AUTHOR OF "REDISCOVERING THE RHINE," "THROUGH THE BACK DOORS OF BELGIUM," "THROUGH THE BACK DOORS OF FRANCE," "THE LAND OF THE STALKING DEATH," ETC., IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE EVER since the expulsion from Eden, man has been trekking, and folk wanderings are the roots of his history; but with 1922 began what may fairly be called history's greatest, most spectacular trek-the compulsory in termigration of two million Christians and Moslems across the _Egean Sea. Slowly gathering impetus through the centuries, of a sudden these human tidal waves reared and burst on its shores. This trek, brought about by the start ling recuperation of Turkey after her de feat in the World War and her subse quent triumph over the Greeks in Anato lia, eventually developed into a regulated Exchange of racial minorities, according to specific terms and under the super vision of the League of Nations. But the initial episodes of the Exchange drama were enacted to the accompaniment of the boom of cannon and the rattle of machine guns and with the settings painted by the flames of the Smyrna holocaust. THE FIRST DERELICTS OF THE TREK The first human derelicts of the Ex change were the Anatolian Greeks, who moved seaward in long files on their 500 mile trek from behind the Turkish Na tionalists' lines. Though most of them lived several weeks' walking distance from the war zone, it is conceivable that the Nationalists did not relish having in their rear the distant kinsfolk of their Greek antagonists. And so, through 1920-21, the flow of the deportees, leav ing uncounted dead among the snowy mountains and scorching plains of Asia Minor, went on. For more than two thousand years in ner Anatolia had mothered these descend ants of the adventurous spirits who had followed Alexander the Great into Asia. A thousand years still earlier its coasts had been Hellenized by pre-Greeks flee ing from their invaded homeland. Now, exiled from their vine-clad cottages and bazaar booths, the deportees huddled half naked in seacoast market places, hailing, like castaways, whatever chance vessels might rescue them from the ever-rising waters of refugeedom. And thus the first 100,000 in history's greatest trek slowly filtered into Greece. When, in the late summer of 1922, I steamed in between two far-flung prom ontories, while the sun spilled over Mount Pagos to illumine the vast sweep of red roofed houses clothing its flanks, I little realized that I was watching one of the last dawns to rise over ancient Smyrna. Once ashore, on the shipping-crammed quay, my companion and I threaded among camel trains and through narrow streets from whose overhanging balconies two neighbors might almost shake hands. A climb to the topmost arch of Mount Pagos' crumbled fortifications afforded a view of the outspread checkerboard of Smyrna's sedulously separated quarters the Turkish marked by minarets and cy presses; the Frankish, outstanding with fine residences, and the Greek and Ar menian, crammed with an amazing den sity of small shops-the whole red-roofed panorama girdled by an illimitable sweep of blue waters which stretched horizon ward within the gulf's embracing shores. A SIX MONTHS' CATACLYSM OF FLEEING PEOPLES "Let's make a last snapshot of Smyrna," we said, before descending from Mount Pagos. Indeed, it may have been the very "last," since a few weeks later that mag nificently outspread scene of peace and prosperity lay in ashes; for upon the Turkish offensive of August 26 the Greek army collapsed on a 150-mile front.