Sixteen years ago, the then 16 year old George Eid, recieved a postcard from his grandfather, who was close to the “end” of his life.
The postcard had an indication of Samos Island as point of origin, Beirut as the destination and 1957 as the year that it was sent.
It was signed by the sister of his great grandmother, Mary, and her husband, Michael, and became the reason for unraveling the tangle of history of the Greeks of Lebanon, a story as old as the destruction of Smyrna … a story that George Eid made into a documentary.
The young (then) George gave an oath to his grandfather to find the roots of his family and through history to reconstruct the mosaic of Hellenism in Lebanon. And that’s what happened with a delay of …a few decades.
With the postcard and an old photograph at hand, George Eid visited Samos and got through a search that looked like a maze, because of the physical deterioration of the protagonists from the relentless passage of time.
George Eid, a journalist in an Arab network, described the story of his family in the Athenian-Macedonian News Agency, and through that the story of Lebanese Greeks, which he recorded in the documentary (KalimeraMenBeirut / Good morning from Beirut), which is in the final stage of preparation, before it is ready to be viewed on the big screen:
“My grandfather, along with his father Joseph and his mother Galatea, who was from Samos, arrived at the port of Beirut in 1922, when they were forced to leave in a hurry from Smyrna, onboard on a small boat, and seek a new home in Lebanon.
The cost of uprooting was severe to them, not only because they left behind all their belongings and a large part of their lives, but mainly because their family” broke “in three pieces- others went to Samos, others in America and a few, like grandfather George, in Lebanon.
The story (the search of our family roots, but also of the documentary itself) began 16 years ago when my grandfather died.
He had me told me how he arrived in Lebanon and by growing up beside him I learned some Greek and always listened to his stories.
Before television, it was fun listening to the stories of our grandparents.
The timelessness of the refugee situation …
In the documentary, filmed partly in Greece and partly in Lebanon, the life of Greeks in Lebanon is being recorded, showing their pains and their joys.
Today, according to the author, Greeks in Lebanon are about 10,000. But the descendants of those first refugees, who arrived there in 1922, are becoming fewer and fewer.
Although their number is not large, they have a story to tell and that’s the story George Eid himself wanted to capture in his documentary, in which, he says, there are some remarks about the current refugee crisis. “In 1922, some Greeks came to Lebanon, some Christians from Turkey came to Lebanon trying to save themselves from war. Today some Syrians arrive as refugees in Greece … “.
We are few, but we are still here”
The film name is «KalimeraMenBeirut» (Good morning from Beirut). “I decided to give this name mixed (half in Greek and half in Arabic) in the documentary because of my own mixed roots.
So I used Kalimera, which is a word known to almost everyone in Lebanon, “he says and adds:” I used this title and to send a message, say “hello, we Greeks in Beirut, Lebanon, we are still here ”.
He may not have Greek nationality, but his heart, he says, is Greek. “I have great respect towards the Greek culture and will continue to work for the fulfillment of this purpose. I will never forget that in 1922 many people were forced to leave by force from their homes. Forced to uproot. The Greeks who arrived here did not come for vacation … “says George Eid.
In the documentary, which is in Arabic with Greek subtitles, with songs from Sotiria Bellou and many more rebetika Greek songs. The documentary is not commercially available because as he said … “I want to reach as much people as possible. I dont want this story, the history of Greeks in Lebanon to die “