Protestant Greeks in Ordu and the Family History of Maria Spyridopoulou

 spyridopoulou maria 600
Maria (Karapidou) Spyridopoulou (photograph by Angela Triandafillou 1995). 
By Sam Topalidis[ Pontic Historian and Greek Ethnologist. ] and Angela Triandafillou[ Granddaughter of Maria Spyridopoulou. ] (2022) 

This paper initially describes the Protestant American Missionary movement in Anatolia, especially the Pontic Greek Protestants from Ordu (Figure 1) on the south-eastern Black Sea coast. [ The Protestant doctrine believes in direct communication with God, basing their faith upon the authority of the Scriptures alone.  Protestants object to: the adoration of saints, the use of icons and other images, excessive rites and ceremonies, toleration of alcohol and a casual attitude towards respecting the Sabbath as a day of rest (McGrew 2015:217). ]  This is followed by a description of the family history of Maria (Karapidou) Spyridopoulou (1905–2000), a Pontic Greek Protestant from Ordu whose strong Christian belief sustained her as she was forced to leave for Greece, face the tribulations of the German invasion of Greece and then, much later in life, move to Australia. 

Stories about Protestant Pontic Greeks in the Ottoman empire are not common and this paper increases our knowledge of those believers who, in Anatolia and Greece were at times abused by their fellow Orthodox Greeks. 
black sea map  
Figure 1: Settlements from Sinope to Rize in north-eastern Anatolia (scale: 290 km from Samsun to Trabzon). 
Tanzimat Reforms 
The Tanzimat period of legislation and reform by the Ottoman sultans (1839–1871) included educational, economic and other law reforms.  Significantly during this period, the death penalty for renouncing Islam was abolished in the Ottoman empire in 1844[  Zürcher (2017). ] and then in 1856, a new reform charter, Hatt-i Hümayun, proclaimed the principle of freedom of religion.  As a consequence, from 1856, the building of new churches became much easier[  Bryer (1983). ] and it also made an important contribution in the dissemination of Protestantism in the Ottoman empire.[  Konstantinou (2020). ] 

In 1874, the Ottoman government prohibited the sale of Christian scriptures written in Ottoman Turkish [using the Perso-Arabic script] and put into law restrictions against the conversion of Muslims to Christianity.  The Ottoman Ministry of Education also began to restrict foreign schools, particularly those aspects of their curriculums that emphasised Christian superiority and anti-Muslim hatred.[  Shaw and Shaw (2002:158). ] 
American Missionaries in Anatolia 
19th century 
In the early 19th century, various missionary societies were established in the United States to spread their evangelical mission to the world.  This had much to do with the revised approach of the so-called religious revival, the ‘Second Great Awakening’, to an individual’s role in his or her own salvation and destiny and a new sense of social responsibility.[  The Evangelical church is any of the classical Protestant churches or their offshoots but especially, since the late 20th century, churches that stress the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, personal conversion experiences and active evangelism (the winning of personal commitments to Christ) ( ]  Thus, some men and women were inspired to travel to spread the Gospel to places like: Africa, China, Hawaii, India, Japan, Mexico, the Middle East, the Ottoman empire, Polynesia and Tibet.  In 1810, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) was constituted in Massachusetts and it developed into the most active missionary organisation in Anatolia.[  Erol (2018:337–338). ]

In 1819, American missionaries began working in the Ottoman empire.  In order to convert people to Protestantism, they used education to penetrate Ottoman society by opening more than 400 schools in Anatolia.  By 1860, the ABCFM opened mission posts in 55 locations in Anatolia.[ McGrew (2015:7).]  The missionaries were especially interested in converting Armenians and Greeks to Protestantism.  (They were more successful with Armenians.)  The first Greek Evangelical community was established in 1867 in the village of Demirtaş (near Bursa in north-west Anatolia).[ Göktϋrk (2015:217). ] 

topalidis history culture 650
It was not until the reign of sultan Abdulhamid II (1876–1909) that the first Ottoman attempts to limit missionary activities began.  But the Ottoman administration had difficulty in closing missionary schools and most opened without a licence.  (It was very difficult to obtain a licence due to the obstacles placed by the Ottoman bureaucracy.[ In 1893, there were 413 foreign and 4,547 non-Muslim schools in the Ottoman empire (including the American and Protestant schools).  Of the 4,547 non-Muslim schools, 89% were unlicensed (Avaroğullari and Yildiz 2015:65). ])  Interference by foreign powers inhibited Ottoman efforts to limit missionary activities.  However, missionary schools raised the educational standards in the Ottoman empire.  These American institutions provided a modern education and, to their credit, prepared students for life after school.[ Avaroğullari and Yildiz (2015:59). ] 

The Greek Orthodox church and the Gregorian Armenian church [sometimes called the Armenian Orthodox church, but normally referred to as the Armenian Apostolic church] fiercely resisted Protestant attempts to convert their Greek and Armenian congregations respectively.  As a result, missionaries sometimes encountered violence from the established religious orders.[ McGrew (2015:17).] 

In the 1880s, their work targeting the Greek Orthodox in Smyrna (a commercial city on the west coast of Anatolia) prospered with the arrival of the ABCFM missionary George Constantine (1833–1891).  Constantine began to minister there and in 1883, under his leadership, the Evangelical Church of Smyrna united the Greek Evangelical churches of Anatolia (which included Pontos) founding the ‘Alliance of Evangelical Churches’.  The Alliance included the Evangelical churches of Smyrna, Istanbul, Manisa (near Smyrna), Akhisar (90 km north-east of Smyrna), Bayındır (80 km south-east of Smyrna), Ordu, Semen and Beyalan.[ Erol (2018:353). ] 

By the end of the 19th century, 10 Greek Evangelical churches were founded in Pontos and 11 in the rest of Anatolia.[ Konstantinou (2020). ] 
Protestant mission hospitals 
In Anatolia, missionaries were vulnerable to unfamiliar diseases and poor sanitary conditions.  In order to protect themselves and their families against epidemics they made health concerns an extension of their calling.[ McGrew (2015:92–93). ] 

Local Ottoman officials were generally positive towards Protestant mission hospitals.  At the beginning of the 1900s, many mission stations in Anatolia had mission hospitals.  These medical missionaries frequently organised medical tours to areas to meet the health needs of the Board's personnel.  Ordu did not have a missionary hospital.  From the 1870s until the 1930s, these mission hospitals engaged with a fairly large clientele, both non-Muslim and Muslim in central and eastern Anatolia.  Other mission organisations such as educational institutions, orphanages or religious institutions were not able to engage with as many Muslims as those achieved by mission hospitals.[ Yücel (2015:61, 64). ] 
Greeks and Armenians in Ordu 
Ordu consisted of three Greek, one Turkish and one Armenian quarter which were served by three Greek Orthodox churches, two mosques and one Apostolic Armenian church.[ Cuinet (1890–1895) in Hewsen (2009:61). ]  Towards the end of the 19th century it also included one Protestant Greek and one Protestant Armenian church. 

In 1853, the large Greek Orthodox [Hypapante] church had been built in the Tashbashi neighbourhood in Ordu near the sea.  It was abandoned during the exchange of populations in the early 1920s.[ Between 1937 and 1977, it was used as a prison.  In 2000, it became a cultural centre ( ]  Next to the church stood the two-storey Greek school built in 1877 which was subsidised by Konstantinos Psomiades.  St George, the name of one of the other Greek Orthodox churches, was founded in 1870.[ Hionides (1996). ]  In 1888, the town of Ordu had [a guesstimate of] 1,500 houses of which 1,000 were [optimistically] Greek, 300 Armenian and 200 Turkish.  Each of the three Greek Orthodox parishes had a church and a schoolhouse.[ The Missionary Herald (August 1888:353–354). ]  The majority of the people in Ordu were wretchedly poor.  Some of the houses on the hillside appeared to be well-to-do, but most of those on the lowlands were hovels.[ The Missionary Herald (October 1889:424). ] 

According to the Greek Patriarchate in Constantinople, the Pontic Greek population (1910–1912) in the kaza[ A vilayet is an Ottoman province.  A sanjak is a provincial district.  A kaza is a county within a sanjak.  The kaza of Ordu stretched to over 70 km to the south of the town and was around 50 km wide. ] of Ordu was 18,930.[ Alexandris (1999:64). ] 

According to the Armenian Patriarchate, the Armenian population, (1913–14) for the kaza of Ordu was 13,565[ Hewsen (2009:53).  ] of whom 3,000 lived in the town of Ordu with the remainder scattered about 29 villages.[ Kévorkian (2011:483). ]  The Armenian population of the town, prior to the 1915 Armenian Genocide, was also estimated by another source to be about 5,000.  In Ordu, the Armenian sector (called Zeitun) was situated high up the western slopes, running into the Greek quarter below.  The Turkish quarters extended in an easterly direction down to the seaside flats and market place.  Adjacent to the Armenian [Apostolic] church, Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God, which was rebuilt in 1852[ Kertmenjian (2009). ]), was a large three-storey stone building housing a co-educational school for some 350 students.  This school was converted into an orphanage for some of the survivors of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.  At present it is used as a Turkish school.  The former Armenian church was replaced by a mosque.[ VK Hovannisian (2009:301–302). ] 
In 1882, the Protestant Armenians and Protestant Greeks in Ordu worshipped together using the Turkish language.  However, in 1887, with the Protestant Greeks (with a congregation of 200 people[ The Missionary Herald (May 1888:208). ]) out-numbering the Armenians, the Greeks decided to worship in their own rented building and use their own language.  The Armenians remained in their old house which they used as a chapel and schoolhouse.  In 1888, a Protestant Greek church was organised under Reverend Pantellis Philadelphets who remained as their pastor until at least 1917 (see later).  In 1891, Ordu had the largest Evangelical Greek community in Anatolia.[ Their school had 125 pupils.  For the annual expense of work, they received 80 Τurkish pounds from the American Board, 30 pounds from the Greek Alliance from Smyrna and the people themselves contribute 75 pounds (or $330) (The Missionary Herald, July 1891:293). ]  A permanent building was completed in 1892 and was to be used as a church and school but the opposition by the Orthodox Greeks was so fierce, the congregation suffered repeated stoning.[ The Missionary Herald (May 1899:195).  McGrew (2015). ]  In 1892, the Protestant Armenian and the Protestant Greek congregations in Ordu amounted up to 600 people.[ The Missionary Herald (April 1892:161). ] 

During the 18 months from late 1892, the Protestant Greek chapel at Ordu was closed due to the opposition of the Greek Orthodox community.  The British Ambassador at Constantinople complained against this closure which forced the Ottoman Grand Vizier to order that the Protestants could use the new chapel.  In May 1894, when the Protestants met in this church, a mob of Orthodox Greeks stoned the church.  The police had difficulty in getting the congregation of 300 people safely back to their homes.[ The Missionary Herald (July 1894:271).  The Missionary Herald (August 1894:313).  The Missionary Herald was carefully edited and did not want to offend the Ottoman authorities. ] 

The Orthodox Greeks paid 150 Turkish liras for their damage to the church.  In order to establish some calm, the Ottoman authority bought the building from the Protestant Greeks for 600 Turkish liras.  This sum did not reimburse the Protestant Greeks for its construction, nor did it meet the cost of the land at a different location near the seashore which had been bought to build a new church.[ The Missionary Herald (September 1895:366). ] 

In January 1896, the first-storey of the schoolhouse was completed and for three years it was used for both schools and worship.  In February 1899, the Protestant Greek church and school were officially opened.  At the first service the Armenian congregation was also present and the combined congregation consisted of up to 750 people.  The new church, with its gallery which could be opened into the main audience room, seated 800 and by crowding 1,000 could be accommodated.[ The Missionary Herald (May 1899:194–196). ] 

This brief overview of the Protestant community in Ordu provides a glimpse of the world into which Maria Spyridopoulou was born and to whose life our attention is now drawn. 
Maria (Karapidou) Spyridopoulou
Life in Ordu 
Maria (also called Marika, Plate 1) was born in Ordu in Pontos in 1905 to Pontic Greek parents Sofia Hionides and Savvas Karapidis (Figure 2).  She attended the Protestant Greek school for several years in Ordu.  (She was known for her beautiful Demotic Greek hand writing.)  She married Savvas Spyridopoulos (who was also from Ordu) in 1933 in Veria, in northern Greece.  She died aged 95 years in 2000 in Sydney, Australia.  The family history of her daughter, Sofia Dimarhos (1934–2021) has already been written.[ Topalidis (2022).  This family history of Sofia Dimarhos was originally written in 2014 and updated in 2022. ] 
spyridopoulou maria 600
 Plate 1: Maria (Karapidou) Spyridopoulou (photograph by Angela Triandafillou 1995). 
 Maria …         –       …  Hionides 
  1848  –  1917             18?   – 1917<
  Ordu      Ordu   Turkey     Turkey
       Sofia Hionides    –    Savvas Karapidis
      1888<   –  1916       1888<   –   1918
      Ordu         Ordu       Ordu          Ordu   
            Maria Karapidou      –      Savvas Spyridopoulos
 1905   –  2000                 1905 – 1957
      Ordu      Canberra         Amasya   Katerini
      Turkey      Australia       Turkey    Greece
Figure 2: Maria (Karipidou) Spyridopoulou’s ancestors.  
Maria’s father, Savvas, was born in Ordu sometime before 1888.  His religion was Greek Orthodox.  His occupation was tin-plating copper utensils and his family lived in a two-storey house decorated with Persian carpets.  He also owned a house at Tsampasin, 50 km south of Ordu.  Savvas worked away from Ordu six months of the year and travelled as far as Bulgaria applying his skills.[ In the summer, Ordu was considered very unhealthy and families moved up into the mountains to their summer village [Parhar in Pontic Greek].  The lack of trade compelled a large number of the men to leave in early spring for Russia or Bulgaria to find work (The Missionary Herald, October 1889:428).  It was noted that the two Ordu Protestant pastors would normally be found in Tsampasin in summer.  On his tour south of Ordu, Reverend Dr Parmelee was able to perform much medical care (The Missionary Herald December 1890:517–518). ] 

In August 1917, a Russian flotilla bombarded Ordu.  (In 1916, during World War I, the Russians had occupied Trabzon to the east of Ordu.)  The Russians having cleared Ordu of Turkish soldiers, entered the town and destroyed ammunition depots.  Two thousand Greeks from Ordu’s shore scrambled aboard the Russian ships and were taken to Trabzon.[ The New York Times, 7 April 1918. ]  Pastor Pantellis Philadelphets and his wife found their Protestant Greek church and school torn down and their own home in flames [it is unknown who was responsible for this damage], so they joined the 2,000 Greeks on the Russian ships.[ The Missionary Herald (December 1917:570–571). ]  Maria’s family stayed in Ordu. 

After the Russians left Ordu, the Turks ordered the first Greek exodus (Genocide) out of Ordu in 1917.  The elderly and sick Greeks stayed behind in Ordu.  More than 3,000 Greeks were deported in groups into the Anatolian interior.  Many were deliberately murdered.  Maria’s mother’s mother, Maria Hionides (1848–1917, Figure 2) did not escape in 1917 on the Russian ships.  After the Greek exodus from Ordu, old and sick people (including Maria Hionides) were thrown into the Black Sea and drowned.[ Saltsis (1955).  Hionides (1996:275). ] 

Maria’s father, Savvas, was forced to join this first Greek exodus out of Ordu.  (His wife had died in 1916.)  He survived this death march and returned to Ordu which must have been after the end of World War I for the Ottomans (i.e. after 30 October 1918).  His children did not go on the exodus but they were evicted from their house and were fed and housed by neighbouring Turks.  However, literally two days after Savvas returned home in 1918 he died.  From late 1918 to late 1922, Maria and her orphaned siblings were again fed and housed by their caring Muslim neighbours.  When the Turkish authorities were searching for Greeks (see following) their careers were given prior notice and the children hid in wheat barrels. 

Maria’s mother, Sofia Hionides, was also born in Ordu before 1888 and died in 1916.  (Sofia probably converted to Protestantism.)  During the four warmest months of each year she took her children to their house at Tsampasin.  The family must have lived a relatively comfortable life. 

In 1915, the 10 year old Maria witnessed Armenians; most of whom were children, tied together being marched by Turks near her house in Ordu.  We know now these Armenians were being marched to their deaths in the Armenian Genocide.[ The 1915 Armenian Genocide, commenced in Ordu from July 1915 (Payaslian 2009). ] 

Later, in December 1920, the Turkish bandit, Topal Osman, entered Ordu and damaged buildings and murdered Christians in the town.[ Hionides (1996). ] 

In June 1921, the Kemalists decided to deport the Pontic Greeks from Ordu.  Approximately 800 men and children [probably boys] were taken south to Mesudiye (Figure 1).  By the end of August 1921 all the Greek men from the Ordu region had been deported.[ Shenk and Koktzoglou (2020). ]  During the deportation (Genocide), many were killed by armed bandits led by Topal Osman and Shaki Ali.  In September, an additional 4,900 Greeks from the Ordu area were forced into the interior.[ Korucu and Daglioglu (2019). ] 

Later, in February 1922, Topal Osman and his armed bandits rode into Ordu again and torched Greek houses.[ Morris and Ze’evi (2019). ]  Immediately after the defeat of the Greek army in western Anatolia (Greco-Turkish War) in August 1922, Greeks were pressured to leave Anatolia.  Some of the Greek women and children had not been exiled to the Anatolian interior but the men (who had survived) were still in exile.  Many Christian women and children from Ordu boarded the ships for Greece in late 1922. 

Orphaned Maria (aged 17 years) and her two younger brothers, Efthimios and Kostas and her older sister, Despina, were forced in late 1922, to leave Ordu by ship destined for Greece.  Sadly, there were many other orphaned children on board.[ Details on Savvas Karapidis, Maria’s future husband, who was Greek Orthodox and remained so and how he survived in Pontos can be found in Topalidis (2022). ] 

After the Lausanne Convention and the protocols about the exchange of Orthodox Greek and Turkish Muslim populations were signed in January 1923, those Orthodox Greeks who had not left Ottoman lands were forced to leave for Greece.  Although Protestant Greeks and Greek Catholics were technically excluded from the exchange of populations (because they were not of the Orthodox religion) they preferred leaving over remaining in Anatolia.[ Göktϋrk (2015:236–237).  Ladas (1932).]  Protestant Greeks were not excluded from the Genocide by the Ottoman Turks and then by the Kemalists. 
Maria arrives in Greece
Maria and her siblings arrived at Thessaloniki, Greece and were sent south-west to the inland town of Veria in northern Greece.  Where they lived in Veria is unknown.  While she was living in Veria, Maria would travel to Katerini to attend the Protestant Greek church where she became one of the Sunday School teachers.[ In Kalfas and Papageorgiou (2001:74) there is a photograph taken in 1928 of Maria with the other 11 Sunday School teachers from the Protestant church in Katerini. ]  (It appears that the Free Apostolic Pentecostal Church in Veria was established after Maria moved to Katerini.) 

Savvas Spyridopoulos, Maria’s future husband, had also arrived in Greece in 1922 and settled in Veria.  He married, but sadly his wife died in 1931.  They had a daughter Maria (Maro).  In 1933, Savvas married Maria Karapidou in Veria.  In 1934, the family moved to Katerini (in north-eastern Greece close to the coast), where he became a tobacco farmer, like many other Pontic Greeks. 

Maria and Savvas had three children, Sofia (1934–2021), Elias and then George.  Elias moved to Australia and died in 2015 in Canberra.  George moved to the USA and lives in Boston. 

Maria’s daughter Sofia immigrated to Australia in 1961.  Up until the time she left Greece in 1971, Maria continued as a Sunday School teacher at this Protestant church in Katerini.  Maria was a very religious woman who would visit the church more than weekly.  Maria could speak Turkish and Demotic Greek but was more comfortable in speaking Pontic Greek at home. 
 The Evangelicals of Katerini, Greece 
When the Greeks from Anatolia settled in Greece, they found that some Greek Evangelical churches had already been established.  The first churches were established in Athens (1871), Thessaloniki (1875), Volos (1879) and Piraeus (1890).  The founder of the Greek Evangelical church was Mihail Kalapothakis (1825–1911).[ Konstantinou (2020:304–305). ] 

Before the settlement of Christian refugees from Anatolia, Katerini was a small town of about 5,000 inhabitants.  The Evangelical Church in Katerini was built in 1925, but in 1930, the church was destroyed by fire [the Orthodox Greeks were implicated].  The reconstruction of the church began in 1931 (Plates 2, 3).  By 1927, the number of inhabitants of the Evangelical Settlement at Katerini had grown to 220 families.  In the 1950s, the Evangelical inhabitants amounted to 400–500 families.  Today, the Evangelical Community of Katerini numbers about 1,100 people.[  The date relating to this number of people in the Katerini community is unknown. ] 

Maria’s gaoling by the Germans in World War II 
In April 1941, during World War II, the Germans entered Katerini in north-eastern Greece.[ During World War II, the allied forces were greatly outnumbered and outgunned by the Germans.  What resulted was a fierce campaign where the allied troops evacuated Greece ( ]  In Katerini, Maria was asked by a friend to hide two New Zealand army soldiers.  One July evening, the New Zealanders dared to walk outside of Maria’s house.  They met a young man and not knowing that he was a spy, they told him they lived in Maria’s house.  A few days later, the same man, accompanied by a young woman in a Red Cross uniform, knocked on Maria’s door.  These spies asked for details of the two men who were staying with her.  A few days later, German soldiers searched nearby houses for Allied soldiers.  In order to escape, the New Zealand soldiers rushed out into the adjacent orchard where they were caught.  A month later (August), Maria was arrested by the Germans and transferred to Pavlos Melas military camp in Stavroupoli in Thessaloniki.[ The second major concentration camp in Greece was Pavlos Melas in Thessaloniki.  Thousands of people who had been arrested by the Germans were interned there ( ]  
katerini church 
Plate 2: The Greek Evangelical Church in Katerini, Greece, 2007 ( 
katerini church inside
 Plate 3: Inside the Greek Evangelical Church in Katerini (photograph by Angela Triandafillou, 2019)
Five people were crammed into each cell.  There were no windows and no light in Maria’s cell.  Prisoners were taken outside for fresh air for only 15 minutes each day.  Food in the morning and evening consisted of only a piece of hard black bread with a little tea.  At noon there was little food.  At times her husband and relatives of the other prisoners sent them food—but most of the food was confiscated. 

Two months later, Maria was interrogated at the central offices of the Gestapo near Thessaloniki harbour to determine if she had any collaborators that assisted her in hiding the New Zealand soldiers.  The Germans kept her incarcerated for two days and nights.  They wanted her to sign a paper which she could not understand, so she refused.  Maria was taken to another prison near Pavlos Melas.  Three days later, the Germans took the other female prisoners in her cell to Eptapyrgiou Yedi Kule,[ Yedi Kule was a Byzantine (i.e. Eastern Roman empire) then an Ottoman Turk fortress. ] leaving only Maria in the cell.  She was desperate to receive food.  The Germans continued to interrogate Maria and threatened her with death.  Again, Maria refused to provide any information. 

Maria was then transferred to another prison in the upper part of Thessaloniki where she was tried by a military court.  She declared that the New Zealanders came to her house and asked for help.  Since she was a Christian woman of the Protestant faith, she saw this as her duty.  After the court session, Maria was somehow acquitted, given her discharge papers and allowed to return to Katerini. 

In early December 1941, two policemen arrested Maria in Katerini and took her back to the prison in Thessaloniki.  She was moved to Eptapyrgiou Yedi Kule for two months where she became very ill.  On 2 February 1942, when Maria had recovered somewhat, she was physically carried into a military court where they questioned her again about the two Allied soldiers.  The Germans released her again and she returned to Katerini.  Maria stated, only God had sustained her during her ordeals in prison.  She responded to threats by the Germans that they would kill her, by saying she was not frightened as she would go and meet Jesus.  Back home in Katerini, Maria was so ill she was bed-ridden for four years.  Maria received formal recognition for protecting two New Zealand soldiers by England’s Admiral Alexander and the British Government.  [We wonder if this was actually Harold Alexander, British Field Marshall in World War II.]  She was also supposed to receive some financial compensation, but this never reached her.[ Maria’s experiences in prison were sourced from Spyridopoulos (2016), written by Maria’s son, George Spyridopoulos and Anonymous (1977). ] 

Life became difficult after World War II and the Greek Civil War (which ended in 1949) and even more so from 1957 when Maria’s husband died.  Maria had to labour working with tobacco and by making textiles in order to survive.  Providing food for the table was a struggle.  We have limited details on her life after World War II and prior to 1971 in Greece, other than she was heavily involved with the local Protestant Greek church in Katerini.  
Arrival in Australia 
In 1971, Maria moved to Sydney, Australia to live with her daughter Sofia Dimarhos’ family.  (In 1970, her step-daughter, Maro and her family had also moved to Sydney Australia.)  Maria was a small woman who weighed only around 40 kg.  She attended church more than weekly and was heavily involved in the Lutheran church in Enmore, Sydney.  Again, she was involved in Bible classes with other Greeks.  Some Protestant Pontic Greeks also attended this church.  The church priest was also Greek. 

While in Sydney, Maria would often take her great-grandchildren and her grandchildren to nearby Arncliffe Park where she would sing to them.[ A favourite song she would sing in English and in Greek was, ‘Jesus loves me this I know’.  Other children, including Lebanese Muslim children at the park would gather around her because she would also sing to them. ] 

In 1977, Maria and her daughter’s family moved to Canberra.  Maria continued her religious convictions at home with her daily prayers and Bible readings.  Years later, Maria travelled between Canberra and Sydney living with relatives.  She found that the cold Canberra winters were not to her liking in her old age.  Even though Maria was in poor health for periods of her life, she lived to the ripe old age of 95 years.  She died in Sydney in 2000.  Even though during her life she had suffered greatly at the hands of the Turks and then the Germans, Maria held no malice against them.  This attitude is admirable. 

Christianity in Anatolia came in many forms.  In addition to Orthodoxy and Catholicism; Protestantism was spread primarily due to the American missionaries in the 19th century.  Greeks who adopted Protestantism, were greatly outnumbered and at times abused by their fellow Orthodox Greeks.  These Protestant Greeks were indeed resilient.  Maria Spyridopoulou’s life began in Pontos and she was indeed the very epitome of a resilient Protestant Pontic Greek.  Maria experienced many tribulations in her 95 years.  She was born at a time of political and religious upheaval.  Indeed, her life in Pontos and Greece resonates with a series of challenges that tragically many could not endure.  She was a kind and very religious woman whose faith sustained her during hard times.  Her story adds to the rich knowledge of Pontic Greeks who struggled in order to survive after being forcibly expelled from their Anatolian homeland. 

‘Την πατρίδαμ’ έχασα, έκλαψα και πόνεσα.  Λύουμαι κι αροθυμώ, όι όι, όι όι, ν’ ανασπάλω κι επορώ’ (a verse from a Pontic Greek song). 

We wish to warmly thank Michael Bennett and Russell McCaskie for their comments on an earlier draft. 
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