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"Twice a stranger" - the story of the 20th century through the eyes of the displaced

20 September 2012 / 19:09:23  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezrova

To be born in one place, to grow older in another one and feel a stranger in both places. This is the main idea of ​​the exhibition entitled "Twice a stranger" organized by Anemon Productions in the main building of Benaki Museum.
The visitor who wishes to examine archive photographs is pleasantly surprised by the interactive journey the organizers have organized. In the surprisingly dark room, the visitor suddenly faces screens, each of which is showing archive footage, photographs and mainly testimonies of survivors: The people who were forced to leave their homes because their new "home" had to be cleansed from the others, the different ones.

"Whether we like it or not, those of us who live in Europe or in places influenced by European ideas remain the children of Lausanne, that is to say, of the convention signed on a Swiss lakeside after the First World War which decreed a massive, forced population movement between Turkey and Greece. As a working journalist with a special interest in southeastern Europe, I am continually reminded of the treaty’s baleful legacy," journalist Bruce Clarke wrote in the preface of his book "Twice a stranger."
The exhibition presents the personal testimonies of people who have survived the forced movement and exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey, Germany and Poland, India and Pakistan and Cyprus.
As the director and one of the curators of the exhibition Yuri Averof from Anemon Productions told GRReporter, the book has inspired its organizers and Bruce Clark himself was involved in the process as an adviser.

Mr. Averof, the exhibition is quite different from conventional ones. In fact, the visitors will be watching films, rather than looking at photos. Tell us about them.

What visitors will see are the testimonies of people who have survived these events. We are talking about living and personal stories coming from the countries where exchanges and movements of populations took place in the 20th century. Archive films and photographs from that time accompany the stories.

The project began with a series of documentaries we made for the public television ERT. In fact, the exhibition is in a way a continuation of this series. We focused on the personal stories of the people because we think that the real lessons to be learned from "the age of migration," as we call the last century, are precisely there.

How easy is it to conduct this kind of historical research? Most of the stories happened in the first half of the 20th century and many of the contemporaries of the events are probably not alive.

No, we did not have any problems because we have been working on this issue for many years and we were able to film a large number of representatives of that generation. In cases like Cyprus, things were much easier, because the events are relatively recent. We also shot conversations with representatives of the second and third generations. They show how the experience and trauma due to the movement of populations pass from one generation to another. We addressed this issue especially in the "Twice a stranger"project.

What is the message of the exhibition, especially at this time when we see that large groups of people throughout the world are forced to leave their countries for various reasons?

I do not know if the exhibition has a message. It is rather a review of the 20th century, which was marked by the movement of populations in order to create new homogeneous countries in terms of ethnicity, religion and other factors. The politics of that time tried to divide populations.
On the other hand, the message could be the fact that the relations between neighbours are so strong that even when they are separated they remain alive even in the second and third generation of displaced.

Was this experiment successful in your opinion?

The original idea was that in this way, states would be able to resolve their differences and avoid starting new wars. The conclusion, however, is that despite the initial feeling that some of the problems were solved for a short time in this way, in the long term, this policy leaves deep wounds and creates new problems in the current populations and the already formed neighbouring countries. The most typical example is India and Pakistan. They exchanged their populations in the most violent manner, and the wounds there have not yet healed. Both countries possess nuclear weapons and they continue to be in constant conflict. So, we see that a policy of migration is not the most successful action even in terms of international diplomacy.
The other thing we see in the exhibition is how we have changed. How mentality and the way of thinking have changed. We could not accept today the exchange of populations because of the religion of the people of Greece and Turkey, which was accepted in 1923. Our sensitivity today would not allow us to accept something like that to happen. It would rather shock us. This is also a very interesting conclusion.

Tell us about the personal stories that impressed you the most.

Tags: HistoryCinemaExhibitionDisplacedExchange of populationLausanne Peace TreatyBenaki Museum
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