Despina Kallinikou (standing left), circa 1924-1926.
Despina Kallinikou (1907-1991) was born at Kadıköy, near Samsun in Turkey. Her paternal family name was Hatzileontis and her maternal family name was Hionidis. The following testimony was submitted by her grandson via our online questionnaire.
1. From which region of the Ottoman Empire were your ancestors from?:
My grandmother Despina Kallinikou was born in Upper Samsun (Kadıköy) in 1907. She died in Kavala, Greece in 1991. My grandfather Phillipos Kallinikos was also from Samsun and was born in 1904.
2. How did their life change when the Neo-Turks and/or the Kemalists came to power? :
Their life was good before the Neo-Turks came to power. My grandmother's village had its own community center and a fire-brigade. Students were taught French in primary school. My grandmother remembered the alphabet right until she died. Kadıköy had around 3,000 residents and as she quite characteristically told me: "Turks did not step foot there" (meaning: No Turks lived there).
3. Were they deported during the genocide? If so, when, where to, and describe their experience:
They were deported to the interior in 1916 on the eve of Christmas with little food and were treated inhumanely by the gendarmes (police guards).
4. Were they held in a concentration camp or labor camp? If so, where was it located and describe the conditions :
My grandmother's brother died from gastroenteritis while serving in a labor battalion.
Phillipos Kallinikou (seated left), circa 1924-1926.
5. Did they lose family and friends? If so, how did they cope?:
From my mother's family; her 15 year old sister died from hunger and from the cold conditions during the deportation. Her mother also died from an illness she suffered during the deportation. Her brother died of gastroenteritis while serving in a labor battalion.
6. Did anyone within Turkey including Turks try to help them during the genocide? :
Yes, Turks who felt sorry for them helped them.
7. How did they cope emotionally with their genocide experience? Did it affect the remainder of their life? :
What I can say with quite some certainty is that whenever my grandmother reminisced about the time she was deported, she cried and sang songs of lamentation for her family.
8. Did the denial of the genocide by the perpetrator (the successor state of Turkey) affect their ability to form closure?:
I don't know.
9. How did they feel about Turkey after the genocide? :