Tuesday was an exciting day as we travelled north of Athens to Nea Philadelphia, a refugee settlement set up in the 1920s after the Smyrna Catastrophe. While the town was named after the Asia Minor city of Philadelphia, located in proximity of modern Aydin, refugees also came there from other places including Proussa, Smyrna, Trapezounta, Bourla, and many other cities, towns, and villages.
While walking around the town, we were able to see original houses built for the refugees. While some had become dilapidated as they are now unused, some have been renovated and have families living in them. In this way, the history of the town has been preserved. We also had the opportunity to visit a museum devoted to refugee history established by Yiayia Filió. She spent her life collecting items from members of the refugee community and worked hard to display these items in a museum to ensure that Asia Minor would never be forgotten. The museum had many artifacts including traditional dresses, everyday items such as wallets and glasses, and other objects including wedding and dowry items, school records, and spools used for weaving. These spools represented how people’s memories have been wound and unwound, and also were integral for textile manufacturing.
We also visited the church of Dormition of the Virgin Mary in Nea Philadelphia which was built by the refugees after they arrived. In the church, there is an icon of the Virgin Mary and Jesus that is badly burned. This icon was brought by refugees from Bourla, near Smyrna. After visiting the church, we ate lunch at an Anatolian restaurant and tried many new foods.
In the evening, some of the group ventured to the church of Agios Panteleimon to celebrate Vespers. We witnessed the procession around the village of Halandri with the icon of the saint and ate dinner with the priest of the church afterwards.