The “Serenity” of a new homeland

In 1922, the events in Asia Minor that finally led to the great fire in Smyrna was the beginning of the Phocians’ uprooting. Attica would now be their new homeland. The fact that determined the refugees’ course throughout history was the employment of their compatriot Christos Karapiperis as a master craftsman at the salt lake of Anavyssos in late 1922.

He was the first refugee from Asia Minor to settle in Anavyssos with his family. In 1923, on his own initiative, about 30-40 Phocians arrived from the settlement of Drapetsona, who used to work at the salt lake of Palaia Phocaea in Asia Minor, and helped him modernize and develop the salt lake facilities. In 1925 the Phocians started taking organized and collective action in the area; the church (of Saint Irene, 1932) and the school were the first centers of intellectual coexistence. Using timber from old houses, that were now stone-made, and with help from neighboring communities and foreigners, they managed to heal the wounds of time.

This uprooting was the reason behind one of the most important Greek novels: “Serenity” (1939), by Elias Venezis. Including narrations and pictures that Venezis himself heard and saw while writing, this book is a point of reference for Phocians worldwide. Besides, his words (which we quote) strongly reflect the feeling of losing a homeland and building a new one from scratch… “To gain the favor of Gods, to make them sympathize with their sorrows and pain, the ancient inhabitants of this place brought their Gods from heaven down to earth and placed them on mount Olympos.

Because they were wise enough to know that pain is an abstract concept if you have not experienced it, that you can truly understand and feel inside you only what you have touched with your own hands and heart, what you have bled for.”