Unlikely Protector: Turkish Shepherd Guards Historic Pontian Greek Church

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A 60-year-old Turkish shepherd is an unlikely guardian of a Greek Orthodox Church in northern Turkey, protecting the historic structure from would-be treasure hunters and looters.

Built in the mid 1800s in the Turkish province of Giresun, once known as Kerasounta and home to a thriving native population of Pontian Greeks, the church was left abandoned as the Greek Orthodox population of the region faced genocide and exile in the early 1900s.

Adnan Zıvalı, 60, who lives in the region, along with his elderly father, have been taking care of the church since the 1940s.

Adnan Zıvalı, a Turkish farmer and sheep herder and his family have guarded the church since the 1940s.

Adnan Zıvalı, a Turkish farmer and sheep herder and his family have guarded the church since the 1940s.

According to Kemal Gürgenci, the head of the provincial and culture directorate, the area surrounding the church was once a heavily populated area, with schools, a thriving market and other churches.

The church is adorned with iconography that has remained preserved and protected— thanks to Zıvalı and his family, who have been the unofficial protectors of the church.

The Pontian Greek Orthodox Church in the Turkish province of Giresun, once known as Kerasounta

The Pontian Greek Orthodox Church in the Turkish province of Giresun, once known as Kerasounta

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