In a scene that many participants described as the most emotional of their lives, several hundred people gathered at the waterfront of the Turkish city of Izmir— known to millions of Greeks throughout the world as Smyrna and once a thriving metropolis of Greek life, to take part in the Greek Orthodox Epiphany services.
The Greek Orthodox priest of the Church of St. Fotini, Fr. Kyrilos, conducted the blessing– the first in 94 years.
The symbolism of the event was not lost on anyone as this very waterfront was the scene of massive bloodshed, death and despair in 1922 when Turkish soldiers forced tens of thousands of Greeks and other Christians to flee the city after they set it afire.
The events that took place in 1922 were described in great detail in Lou Ureneck’s recent book, The Great Fire.
An estimated 200 people attended the ceremony— members of the city’s permanent Orthodox community, as well as visitors from neighboring Greek islands.
“Today, we experienced the continuation of our history with this ceremony,” said Fr. Kyrilos, reminding those diving in the water to retrieve the cross “aren’t merely diving into the water to retrieve the sacred cross, but they are stirring up the sea so that our ancestors who are in there will know what is happening today.”
The service was captured live by Greece’s Skai News below: