Children of War
Collection: Neem Tree Press
Children of War
Hassanakis is a young Muslim boy of Turkish descent growing up on Crete during WWI. Fifteen generations of his family have lived on the island and until now he has never had any reason not to think he is a Cretan. But with the Great Powers tussling over the collapsing Ottoman Empire and the island’s Christians in rebellion, an outbreak of ethnic violence forces his family to flee to the Cretan City of Chania. He begins to lay down roots and his snappy dress earns him the nickname of Hassan ‘the mirror’. As WWI draws to a close and the Turkish War of Independence rages, he begins a heady romance with the elegant Hüsniye. There are rumours that the Cretan Muslims will be sent to Turkey but Hassanakis can’t believe he will be sent to a country whose language he barely knows and where he knows no-one.
This powerful novel drawn from the diary of a refugee family evokes the beauty, complexity and trauma of Crete’s past and weaves it into a moving tale of an ordinary man living through extraordinary times.
Based on 3 diaries left by a Cretan refugee in Ayvalik in Turkey, this novel by Ahmet Yorulmaz is the first of a trilogy. It is one of very few Turkish novels ever written about the population exchanges between Greece and Turkey in 1923, during which about 1.8 million people were ‘exchanged’ almost solely on the basis of their religion. This all but emptied the new Turkey of its Christian Greek population, which dated back to about 20 BC, and emptying Crete of its Muslim inhabitants. Most deportees did not speak the language of their new country and had no roots there whatsoever.