Smyrna Refugees in Ermioni

On Sunday 5th October 1922, Autumn dawned and the local weather was cloudy.  At the entrance of the Ermioni port, opposite the Bisti, the ocean liner IOANNIS ANDROU was anchored.  The ship had set off from the port of Antalya with 5,000 women, children and old people looking for refuge from their pain and misery.  Seeing Ermioni, they sing the Hellenic National Anthem with emotion as they feel they have found a safe haven, on safe ground and free.  On land, the local inhabitants are taken by surprise.  They know about the uprooted Smyrna refugees seeking salvation as a horrible but distant event.  Seeing these refugees so close to home, they are initially overcome by fear of the unknown.  But soon hesitation and insecurity are cast aside and feelings of compassion and solidarity emerge. 

The 2,000 inhabitants of Ermioni, in this historic challenge, listen to their Community leader and respected family members, begin a gigantic reception operation.  A fleet of caiques and boats sail back and forth until dusk, bringing thousands of sick mothers with barefoot and hungry children over to the mainland, blocking the port.  With enviable willingness and organisation, within a few hours the refugees are distributed in houses, shops, churches and school, in fact wherever a person could sleep.  Without exception, the local families hosted all the refugees, not one was left in the street.  Everyone found a warm meal and a blanket to cover themselves.  In the church of Agios Athanasios, amongst the women and children is a pregrant young woman.  She had boarded the ship, gritted her teeth, and now under the protection of the Virgin Mary, she gave birth to a baby girl.  Her first cry of joy and rebirth, was a ray of hope for the beraggled Smyrna refugees from Asia Minor.  As a token of gratitude, the baby girl was named Hermione. 

Many refugees later described with warmth and fondness of their stay in Ermioni, especially the children, with the love they felt at school from their teachers and classmates.  The inhabitants of Ermioni during the refugee period of 1922, without wealth and infrastructure, with feelings of hospitality and solidarity, with principles, values and real culture, embraced the Asia Minors, honoring their origins and the long history of their lost city.