Staunton, April 13 – Aleksandr Protsenko, a leader of the Federation of Greek Societies of Ukraine, called on Greece and Greek communities on the world not to let Kremlin propaganda win but instead call attention to the fact that Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine not only against Ukrainians but against ethnic Greeks as well.
She released her statement before fleeing from Mariupol, the longtime home of her community, and said that it is critical that people call things by their names rather than engage in Orwellian distortions (neoskosmos.com/en/2022/03/14/news/world/president-of-the-federation-of-greek-associations-of-ukraine-cries-for-help/).
Lily Hyde, a British journalist who has been working in Ukraine and the author of the now classic 2008 novel about the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, Dream Land (windowoneurasia.blogspot.com/2009/01/window-on-eurasia-crimean-tatars.html) provides background on what Protsenko is talking about (politico.eu/article/russia-ukraine-war-greece-roumeans-mairupol/).
She spoke with Afina Khadhynova, a Greek who has had to flee from her home in Mariupol because of Putin’s aggression and who has had to leave behind an archive she and others had gathered documenting the history of the Roumeans, Greeks who “have lived in southern Ukraine for generations.”
Hyde writes that “efforts to preserve the group’s cultural heritage had previously helped challenge the stereotype that Ukrainian Greeks were overly pro-Russian. Now, with the community scattered … Russia is taking advantage, pushing the narrative that Ukrainian Greeks blame Kyiv’s military for committing the atrocities that are, in reality, linked to Russian brutality.”
As the British journalist explains, “Roumeans are part of the North Azovian Greek community, which is descended from the Greeks that Russia moved in the 18th century from Crimea into what is now eastern Ukraine. The group, which includes about 70,000 people, is split into Roumeans, whose language is similar to modern Greek, and Urums, who speak a Turkic language close to modern Crimean Tatar.”
Athens initially denounced the Russian invasion, but as time has passed, it has done little; and Moscow has managed to place in the Greek media stories from Russian outlets that say that Athens was wrong and that Moscow is in fact protecting the Greeks in Ukraine, many of whom have been pro-Russian in the past from Ukrainians.
That has split the Greek community in Ukraine. Khadzynova says that she “always defended Greeks even if they were pro-Russians because people like to tar everyone with the same brush.” As for herself, “I was never discriminated against or repressed in Ukraine for being Greek. But there is a stereotype in Ukraine that all Greeks are separatists.”
She says she is deeply disappointed Athens has not done more to help, and she adds that she doesn’t want to be identified with those Greeks in Ukraine who have adopted a pro-Putin position.
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