Freedom… A sense which is inexplicable. Nevertheless, every person tries to describe it without comprehending it deeply. It is like fire, which may warm you or burn you depending on its use. It is like a fan, whose middle part only performs its air blowing function, but its two ends are useless.
Similarly with freedom, on its one end lies deprivation which causes frustration and on the other end lies its overuse, which is disastrous.
Plato says that “Too much freedom in a human being and the state turns into slavery.” By contrast, Epictetus rebels against his own God saying: “You can tether my legs, but not my faith. Not even Zeus can defeat me.” Thus, for thousands of years we come across the demand for freedom in oral and written speech, in history, poetry, philosophy, folk sayings and in the clatter of weapons.
For me, freedom is a Natural gift, the more of which you share with others, the more of which you enjoy yourself. When you deprive others of it, the more you are also deprived of it. Humanitarianism, friendship and solidarity could prevail only under the condition of freedom. Even if freedom is caught and chained, each child that is born will come to the world in liberty, regardless. Similarly, like all children, we were born in our village being free. In a wonderful community on a mountain. A community that belongs to the small town of Katohori in Trabzond and which is called Otsena. Our mother tongue was not Turkish. We had Pontiac Greek as our native language. We used to call it Romeika.
Romeika was for us a means of expression of our flirting, our solidarity and help, of our smile and our happiness. It was a path leading us to love and being in love. For the first time, while we were in primary school, we experienced the problem regarding our native tongue. Each teacher appointed to our school would ban our speaking in it. Sometimes they would scare us and beat us so that we would not employ it. He asked us to turn in the person who spoke Romeika, but we didn’t listen to him. We kept joking and playing, and making it up in our mother tongue. Little by little, we started wondering about our native language. We asked the grown-ups what language we were learning and speaking. We heard that the one that we were learning was called “Turktse” and the one we were speaking was called “Rumtze.” However, when we asked why we were learning a language other than the one we spoke, there was never a satisfactory answer. What was frequently recurring as an answer was, “You cannot become a human being with Romeika.” It is unknown if we were educated and became human beings or not, but finishing school, we got acquainted with Turkish.
Pretending Like Chameleons
As we were growing up, we started wondering about our mother tongue, and, generally our descend, more intensely. Why were we speaking Romeika in a country where everybody else spoke Turkish? More and more questions bothered us about what we were, who we were and who our forefathers were. Each of us was trying to say something. Some said what they had heard from parents and grandparents and some reached their own conclusions. But every time this chapter was opened and closed, we reached the conclusion that we must be related to Romioi (Greeks) and of course, Greece. The most unanswered question which concerned us was: were we the grandchildren of Greeks, later turned into Muslims or the grandchildren of Turks who learned Romeika by Greeks? Our childhood was immersed in these queries and their unsatisfactory answers.
We also experienced problems with our mother tongue when we went to foreign places. Every time we gathered and talked Romeika with our fellow villagers, the first question from those who realized we were speaking a foreign language was “What language are you speaking?” When we replied, “We are speaking Romeika,” we were stormed by other queries and various reactions. So, for the first time, we started feeling inferior due to the contact with foreigners. Every time Greeks were mentioned, the claim that “Greeks are cowards and our enemy” psychologically traumatized us. We got emotionally hurt at the thought that that claim might have been equally true for ourselves as well; for we spoke, if not the same, a dialect of the language that the Greeks spoke. By and by, we started hiding the truth and every time we were asked about our language, we said it was Lazika. For, when we claimed we came from the Black Sea, they got elated thinking we were Lazoi.
The problems we encountered due to our mother tongue were complemented by the films we watched on TV. When we saw a film containing wars between Byzantine people and the Turks, or between Greeks and Turks, we got hurt. For when we viewed the tragicomic situation in which Greeks were presented, our thoughts brought us into the dilemma, in which we were asked to take sides: were we with the righteous, honest, hero-Turks, or with the incompetent warriors, perfidious, liars or “giaourithes” Greeks, as they were being portrayed in the film? Our mother tongue didn’t let us opt. It blocked us from choosing between Turks and Greeks. In this dilemma, we experienced psychological states which humanity has probably not yet encountered in its entire history. Watching the film, we supported the hero Turks on the one hand, but on the other, we were tormented by an inexplicable sense of guilt. To cover our emotional state, we tried to exhibit more happiness at the heroism of the Turks, flexing our facial muscles differently from the signals that our brain was sending. For that brilliant performance of ours, we could have been envied even by chameleons.
As we have reached today, the Hellenic sounding population of Pontos, trapped between the love towards one’s mother tongue and a cursed identity, is unable to pull through. Several of our fellow citizens have started to teach Turkish to their children from the time the latter are born. Not to mention the racist words, slogans and nationalistic propagandas which have lately increased; those have nearly wiped out of history a whole people with a remarkably ancient civilization. Who will pay to history for this crime is unknown.