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The role of associations in the social and cultural integration of refugees in Nea Kokkinia (Nikea)

Le rôle des associations dans l’intégration sociale et culturelle des réfugiés à Néa Kokkinia (Nikea)
Ο ρόλος των συλλόγων στην κοινωνική και πολιτιστική ένταξη των προσφύγων στη Νέα Κοκκινιά (Νίκαια)
Kyriaki Papathanasopoulou
p. 129-145


Résumé : Néa Kokkinia, aujourd’hui Nikaia, est une ville située à environ cinq kilomètres du port du Pirée. Elle fut fondée en 1923 par des réfugiés d’Asie Mineure et constitua la plus grande implantation de réfugiés au Pirée, créée par la collaboration de la Commission d’établissement des réfugiés (SDN), de l’État grec et des organisations philanthropiques étrangères, mais aussi par la participation active des réfugiés eux‑mêmes dans le cadre des associations qu’ils ont formées. Ces associations sont nées en même temps que l’installation des réfugiés dans ce secteur. L’étude de l’intégration des réfugiés et des efforts qu’ils firent pour leur réinstallation et leur établissement dans la société constitue un aspect invisible de la question des réfugiés. Cependant, une approche « bottom-up » en fait des sujets actifs de l’histoire, co-formateurs de leur espace et de leur vie, puisqu’à l’intérieur des villes où ils vivaient, travaillaient, prenaient du plaisir, faisaient du sport, se socialisaient, ils ont formé leur identité, ont réclamé leurs droits et même, se sont organisés. Cet article présente ces aspects peu vus du processus complexe de la régénération urbaine et des associations.

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1The initial nucleus for refugee settlement began in 1916 with the arrival of Armenian refugees in the wider area of Kokkinia, which was sparsely populated by the working classes of Piraeus. After the Asia Minor Catastrophe and the compulsory exchange of populations in 1923, the State quickly expropriated a large area, which belonged to private individuals and remained uninhabited, for the construction of the new refugee settlement. Work began in 1923 from the Care Fund with small one‑story houses. In 1924, the Refugee Rehabilitation Committee (henceforth RRC) undertook the construction of the settlement, which was also the main urban planner of the new city. Although there were several shortcomings and problems, Nea Kokkinia was the largest organized settlement of Piraeus in which 33,201 refugees from various regions of Asia Minor, Pontus and South Thrace lived in 1928.

The first associations

2The refugees who settled in the settlement from 1923 onwards did not come from a specific province of the former multicultural Ottoman Empire. Differences were identified between the Cappadocians, the Smyrnians and the Pontians. Furthermore, differences existed even within the same province, such as the linguistic peculiarities between eastern and western Pontus as well as the social differences between the provincial and urban districts of Asia Minor. In addition, the refugees had a different experience in the very traumatic experience of uprooting and being a refugee. Under different conditions, the refugees from coastal areas arrived in the summer of 1922 compared to the rest who came to Greece after the exchange pact. Consequently, the refugee community was not at all unified and these particularities were decisive for their establishment and subsequent integration into the Greek society. People with different traits had to face the challenge of co-existence in a new and foreign environment (i.e., a nation-state), which was completely different from the diverse community environment that formed the former Ottoman Empire. An example of the diversity of the refugees and their multiple identities including the rivalries between the refugees themselves were the numerous associations, which were founded during their settlement.

  • 1 Avdela, Exertzoglou & Lyrintzis (ed.), 2015, p. 11‑38.
  • 2 Rozakou, Gara & Giannitsiotis, in Rozakou & Gara, 2013, p. 27.

3The associations of the refugee settlements are forms of voluntary aggregation and are examples of organization and collective action of individuals for the realization of defined goals under specific economic, social and political conditions of each historical period. They are the result of free choice and are built on democratic principles. An important element in the establishment of associations is the intentional action of individuals, which is based on the common goals, aspirations and needs of the members based on the current social conditions.1 Also, within these associations, identities are expressed and formed. Although they do not belong to the political system (like parties) nor do they participate in public life, they function as intervention and pressure groups, practicing politics in the broadest “political” sense: “The political aspect is not perceived only through state structures of power and governance, but also through the ways in which people position themselves vis-à-vis the state, but also among themselves, in their everyday life.”2

  • 3 Ministers of Justice, National Economy, Finance, Interior, Ecclesiastical and Educationn, 1914, Law (...)

4The institutional framework in which they are included is necessary to understand the relationship of the official State with the unions as well as its attitude towards voluntary aggregation. Refugee unions were included in the category of the “mutual aid” unions Law 281/1914.3 On the borders of the pri­vate and the public sphere, the unions and the small groups build their own walls and erase their space of action within the city. The trauma of uprooting, the loss of their ancestral home and the traumatic experience of being a refugee created strong bonds of solidarity among the members of the association, strengthening the feeling of belonging to the community.

  • 4 Giota, 2005, p. 16.

5From the first year of their arrival in Greece, the refugees founded associations in order to fulfill practical needs and to collectively claim their rights from the State. They set up committees and unions (several of which evolved into secondary federations) in order to put forward various demands, organized refugee conferences and published newspapers and magazines to promote the refugee cause. Refugee associations had been founded even earlier by the Asia Minors who had settled before 1922. The oldest Asia Minor in Athens association was called “Anatoli”, was founded in 1891 and aimed at cultivating Greek education within the Greek Orthodox communities of Asia Minor. After the Treaty of Lausanne, the association redefined its goals and gave prominence to the social rehabilitation of refugees. In 1917, “The Community of the Redeemed” was founded in Athens and maintained branches in New York, London and Paris. After the Asia Minor Disaster, the association nominated Dr. Apostolos Doxiadis to the government as Minister of Welfare and Care.4 The oldest Asia Minor associations operating in Greece, after the Treaty of Lausanne and the permanence of the refugee issue, changed their statutes and oriented them towards the social rehabilitation of refugees, which was an immediate priority and formed the first core for networking the refugee world and its integration into the Greek society.

  • 5 Mamoni & Istikopoulou, 2006.
  • 6 Council of Ministers, 1923, N.D. 26/4/1923, “On the revision of the statutes (…) of Eastern Thrace”
  • 7 Salvanou, 2018, p. 118.

6When the refugees arrived in Greece, they made use of the community and collective experience from their places of origin. The Asia Minors knew of associations, as they had established various forms of aggregation in the Ottoman Empire.5 Of course, the associations they founded in Greece were in a completely different context from that of the nation-state, and they had other goals and aspirations. In 1923, a legislative decree allowed the revision of the statutes of the associations operating in Asia Minor and Upper Thrace and the designation of a new seat.6 After the violent uprooting from their former lands and the multi‑ethnic environment of the Ottoman Empire, the refugees lost the community framework within which they had learned to live and function. This sudden transition from community to nation‑state and citizenship was essentially an abrupt transition to modernity that decisively altered the identity of the refugees. This change decisively affected the way in which people defined themselves. It was therefore necessary to find a transitional stage for people to gradually learn to identify themselves from members of a community to citizens of the nation‑state.7 This role was assumed by the refugee associations, which replaced the dissolved refugee communities and mediated between the State and the refugee community. The associations interacted with state authorities in order to overcome basic problems faced by a large number of refugees such as illiteracy and Turkish speaking individuals, which made the bureaucratic procedures of rehabilitation even more difficult. Refugee associations had been actively involved in claiming settlement sites and rights from the State.

The associations are entrusted with various state functions

  • 8 Andriotis, 2020, p. 152.

7In order to serve and facilitate the rehabilitation process, the Greek state from its end cooperated with the refugee associations and entrusted them with various state functions. One of the main issues that the associations took on was the naturalization of refugees and the issuance of certificates of refugee status. According to the Treaty of Lausanne, the refugees immediately acquired Greek citizenship and were registered in the censuses as well as in the male registries of the municipalities and communities. Refugee associations played a key role in the naturalization of refugees as they participated in the committees set up in the municipalities and confirmed the identity of the refugees.8

  • 9 Προσφυγικός κόσμος [Refugee World], “Τα εκδοθέντα πιστοποιητικά” [The issued certificates].
  • 10 The care of refugees 1917-1920, 1920, Ministry of Care, p. 32.

8The State had authorized the refugee associations to issue certificates of refugee status (i.e., refugee IDs). These documents were necessary for any transaction with the State, banks and agencies, for the purpose of housing rehabilitation, the issuance of professional loans, pensions, allowances as well as indemnities. The certificate functioned as an identity card because it contained their personal information (i.e., name, surname, place of origin, residential address and, in some cases, occupation). The fee for the certificate was 10 drachmas.9 Refugee unions have had the right to issue certificates of refugee status under the Ministry of Health legislation since 1917.10 They issued them based on the knowledge they had of their community and the church book registers they kept from the Ottoman Empire for their community.

  • 11 Council of Ministers, 1926, N.D. 13 November 1926, “On determining the identity and immobility of b (...)

9In 1926, when compensation began to be given to refugee beneficiaries, a necessary condition for the advance payment of the compensation by the National Bank was the presentation of the certificate of refugee status, which also functioned as a “certificate of urban rehabilitation”. This also legally determined which refugee citizens were eligible for compensation to prevent refugee malpractices.11 The certificate served as a confirmation that no agricultural rehabilitation had been received by the beneficiary. Local refugee associations, District Councils and the Police Authority had the right to extradite. Thus, the Associations of Exchange Beneficiaries were established to assert the financial demands of the refugees and their compensation. In Nea Kokkinia, several associations were founded based on the place of origin that demanded their properties through the mantra “what we had -what we lost- what we claim.”

10The Exchange Beneficiary Association of the 30 Communities of Nigdis was very active in seeking the compensation of the Turkish‑speaking refugees of the settlement. He, along with others, participated in pro-refugee conferences, pressing for compensation, while threatening to abstain from the elections if the demand for compensation was not met, which was directly linked to the acquisition of housing and the systematic action of the RRC in the settlement after 1926. Members of the management of the above association participated in the District Councils, appraised the property left by the refugees and claimed the coveted compensation in order to pay an amount to the RRC for the purchase of the residence or the lot.

  • 12 Η Αναγέννηση [Renaissance], “The new refugee rehabilitation law”.

11The role of the refugee associations for the compensation was decisive because in addition to issuing the necessary documents, they actively participated in the committees that confirmed the properties that the refugees had left in their places of origin. During the Metaxas dictatorship, it was forbidden to issue refugee status certificates for various refugee cases. This ban weakened the clubs and deprived them of a key source of income. Certificates were now issued by government officials, the municipality or community, in which they had settled.12

  • 13 Papathanasopoulou, 2022, p. 99.

12From the above, it can be deduced that the State had granted important functions to the refugee associations, which certified people and property, like today’s registries and public services. These responsibilities of the associations served and facilitated bureaucratic procedures. The associations kept the refugee registers in their offices and provided the necessary documents‑certificates in order for their members to join the social category of the refugee, with which the State granted them specific rights. Along with the decisive role of the clubs, the publishing activity brought money to the coffers and power to their administration. In Nea Kokkinia, most of the refugee associations issued certificates of refugee status. However, the most active association, the one that had issued the most certificates and contributed to the naturalization and compensation of refugees, was the Old and New Red Association (1925), which gained money and power from this activity in the settlement.13

  • 14 Christodoulou, 2014, p. 58‑59.

13The State recognized the refugee associations as official representative bodies of the refugees, who presented themselves to the ministries and the Greek parliament and demanded the settlement of their demands. In other words, they functioned as pressure groups and public advocates who militantly claimed the fulfillment of their demands. A first example of the self‑organization of the refugees was the establishment of the Central Committee of Collaborating Organizations of Kokkinia, Vyronos, Ionia, Kaisariani in 1925 which aimed at the cooperation of the first four settlements of the RRC to promote urban rehabilitation.14 Indicative of the militant attitude of the associations were the protest mobilizations of the appeals against the price imposed by the RRC for the houses and finally the resolution of the Central Committee to the government with which the refugees denounced the unfair tactics of the RRC and announced that they were not going to pay money to the RRC until the compensations owed to them under Lausanne began.

14Indicatively, the Commission launched the following complaint:

  • 15 Ibid., p. 632‑634.

It categorically and unequivocally opposes the acquisition of the buildings for any debt, before the first compensations are paid […] not to allow the eviction of any refugee from the settlements […] it complains about the attitude of the RRC, which erects a mansion for its employees in the neighborhood of Vyronos and gives them vast lots of land and demands that the buildings be given to homeless refugees and the lots be given to refugees in real need.15

15Refugee associations were established either by place of origin of its members or their place of settlement. Depending on their actions, they could be grouped mainly into mutual aid, professional, local improvement, recreational, sports and political associations. An attempt to divide them into categories could present difficulties while lumping them into one category cannot be absolute. All associations present elements of mutual aid and have complementary and overlapping actions as well as indirect and hidden purposes, which are not always clear in their bylaws. For example, while they presented elements of mutual aid and charity, they simultaneously served entertainment purposes, while in pre‑election contests they influenced the refugee vote. Specifically, in the settlement of Nea Kokkinia, the Union of Pisidia “The Rebirth” (1932), by its name alone, would be classified among the associations founded on the basis of common origin. However, in its bylaws it did not set the criterion of the members’ common origin. Therefore, based on the purposes of the bylaws, we grouped it under recreational associations, because, although its actions contained mutual aid, charity and the assertion of professional rights, recreational activities prevailed. Furthermore, the “Progressive Youth” (1925), while being a youth association and a sports union, functioned as a pressure group that claimed the restoration of its members and developed pro-educational activities. It was an example of a youth club with multiple facets.

16The role of the associations in locating the missing was particularly important. They ran ads in newspapers of missing people and urged readers to call them. The impossibility of settling in a common area and the constant wandering of the refugees, especially during the first period, led these associations to become reference centers for the “originators” from some settlement or area.

  • 16 Hirschon, 2006.

17The role of refugees in the housing rehabilitation of their members was important. Individuals from the associations were contractors, builders, workers and supervisors who interacted with the State and rehabilitation agencies. The management of the associations completed RRC questionnaires regarding the co‑configuration of the neighborhood and expressed their opinion on the usefulness of building shops and small crafts in order to find work for the refu­gees. In the settlement of Nea Kokkinia in 1924, the first association was founded under the name “Refugee Union of Nea Kokkinia” with Menandros Metaxas from Mylassa as president. The gathering of the refugees took place in front of the temporary church of St. Nicholas. They elected the board of directors of the association who would represent the refugees in the settlement to the Ministries and local authorities and would ensure their progress and welfare. Usually the refugees founded an association almost simultaneously with the expropriation of the estates and mediated the distribution of the lots and the construction of the houses. They also combined the building of the houses with the “sacred request” of revamping the temporary church that housed the icons and relics from the “lost homelands”. In Nea Kokkinia, we encounter the parish geography around which the districts of the city were organized with specific characteristics of the refugees and the living memory of their place of origin. This is how the neighborhood of St. George was created by refugees from Erenkoy and Dardanelles while the neighborhood of Osia Xeni was created mainly by refugees from Milas. The respective ethnic associations were also active in the specific neighborhoods. In the neighborhoods, the memory of the “lost homelands” was present, draped the new environment and turned it into a more welcoming and familiar place16 with the toponyms of the Asia Minor provinces that the associations gave.

18The associations also undertook the collection and repayment of housing installments and in some cases prevented an imminent eviction due to late payment. In a local press article of the area it stated that during Venizelos’ visit to the settlement, the president of the Refugee Welfare Association in the poor neighborhood with the German houses, pressured the government for lower prices regarding the concession of the houses under the threat of organized mobilization and protest of all the settlements who had German houses.

The refugee associations functioned as pressure groups

19Furthermore, the refugee associations functioned as pressure groups with conti­nuous representations in the local authorities lobbying for the improvement of their neighborhoods as well as their everyday life through state projects. They were politically involved in the broad sense of the term within the context of the small scale of the neighborhood; in the space where daily practices created strong ties of mutual aid and solidarity while dealing with daily problems from water supply and electricity to cleanliness. In addition to the place of origin and kinship networks, the criterion of physical proximity to the neighborhood was also identified in the registration of new members in the refugee associations. The neighborhood was the familiar space through daily eye contact, extroversion, but also common problems. The refugee association of St. John Chrysostomos in the neighborhood with the Little Asians from Kirkidze pressured the municipal authority for the installation of public fountains and the construction of earthworks in the neglected district. Accordingly, the refugee association of Cilicians also lobbied for the revamping of the poor district, which was called “Spinaloga” because of its uncleanness and abandonment.

  • 17 Council of Ministers, 1927, N.D. 5 July 1927, “On the establishment of building cooperatives”.
  • 18 Minister of Health and Welfare and Minister of Justice, 1929, Law 3875, “On the establishment of bu (...)
  • 19 Ibid.
  • 20 . National Bank Historical Archive, Α1Σ40Υ8Φ8328, “Statute of the Construction Cooperative of Urban (...)

20Of course, participation in associations and especially in their administration, paved the way for exploitation and preferential treatment in the difficult task of rehabilitation. In 1927, refugee urban building cooperatives were founded and undertook the construction of the houses.17 Thus, in 1929, the law 3875 (with amendments) regarding the establishment of Urban Refugee Building Cooperatives, which were under the supervision of the Ministry of Welfare, passed. Based on this law, the construction of houses or shops for the “personal use of the members of the cooperative or their families” was foreseen.18 According to the legislation, the cooperatives were granted interest-free loans on favorable terms by the National Bank, through the Ministry of Welfare. Also, various documents were found in the Judicial Archive of the National Bank regarding the financial relations between the Ministry of Welfare, the Refugee Building Cooperatives and the National Bank, which issued the interest‑free loans on behalf of the cooperatives under the responsibility of the Ministry of Welfare. In many cases the bonds received by the exchanged populations, which were used by the building cooperatives as capital to begin their business, also played an important role.19 In Nea Kokkinia, on July 29, 1928, the Construction Cooperative of Urban Refugees “Kronos” was founded. The cooperative’s offices were located on 65 Morgenthau Street.20 Its purpose was to build houses for themselves or their family members on lots granted by the State. A necessary condition for the establishment and operation of the cooperative was that no member up to the second degree of kinship had been financially secured. Members were required to reside at the registered office of the cooperative. Each partner’s share for the establishment of the cooperative was 3,000 drachmas. The board of directors approved the contribution of the members to cover the cost of road construction projects and public benefit institutions, which the cooperative was obliged to build at its own expense in addition to the construction of the houses. Thus, each partner paid a one‑time lump sum of 25 drachmas as a registration fee and 10 drachmas monthly.

  • 21 Ibid.
  • 22 National Bank Historical Archive, Α1Σ40Υ8Φ8328, “Minutes of the Board of Directors 7/12/1928”.
  • 23 National Bank Historical Archive, Α1Σ40Υ8Φ8328, “Minutes of the General Assembly 21/3/1930” and “Le (...)

21The cooperative delivered a relevant land survey diagram to the Department of Health, which included the common areas and the lots, which were allocated and distributed to the partners. The construction of the houses could be undertaken by a construction company or contractors. The houses were granted to the partners after the payment of all financial obligations of the cooperative. Furthermore, the resale of the house to another partner of the building cooperative was also foreseen.21 In order for the cooperative to buy the lots for the construction of their houses from RRC, not only requested the interest from the compensation bonds from the National Bank, but also 33 of the exchange bonds.22 In the following years, the relations between the members of the cooperative were disturbed due to exploitation and financial abuses. Eventually two members resigned and with­drew their share of bonds. Kronos’ financial relationship with the bank lasted at least until March 1930.23 Unfortunately, the exact location where Kronos was active within the settlement was not identified. However, according to the stages of expansion of the settlement from 1928, the Kronos cooperative had probably undertaken the construction of houses in the Karavas A΄ B΄ district, which were built through independent housing.

22All refugee associations developed charity and care, especially for their vul­nerable members, widows, orphans and at the same time tried to find employment for women. This is how the association from Egirdir, the island of Pisidia, operated, which ensured that women found work in the carpet weaving industry of the settlement. At the same time, the refugee associations of Pontia Kokkinia, Progressive Youth and the Association of Old and New Kokkinia ensured and financially supported the establishment of a Night School in the settlement in collaboration with the central Asia Minor association Anatoli. According to an official document of the time, several children, boys and girls, attended the Kokkinia Night School every year in order to learn the Greek language and receive formal education.

  • 24 Andriotis, 2020, p. 308‑309.
  • 25 Habermas, 1997, p. 284‑285.

23Gradually, towards the end of the 1920’s and the beginning of the 1930’s, the refugees founded professional and labor associations. The Association of Merchants and Shopkeepers (1928) brought together all small tradesmen in the area, promoted professional rehabilitation and supported the local economy. At the same time, they founded a Night Commercial School for the practical training of young people. The president of the association was St. Korais who had begun his social activity through the Progressive Youth in the 1920’s. And later in 1934, having secured recognition through his activities in these clubs, he chose to be actively involved in the local government, when the district was separated from Piraeus and he himself was elected the first mayor of the city. Through the asso­ciations and his networking with Venizelos party, St. Korais had secured a more favorable environment for himself and his family, having obtained a better lot in the settlement and a loan for the operation of the small distillery that operated in the area. In fact, some of his political opponents accused him of enri­chment and selfishness through his activities in the associations. More people from the administration of the local associations developed political activity by running with Venizelos’ party in the local elections, such as the President from the Old and New Red Association, V. Axarlis, who was a candidate with the Liberals. Even if they were not elected, they maintained contacts with the local deputies of the Venizelian faction and tried to influence the refugee vote in the elections. Despite the Venizelian preference of the refugees of the settlement, the Refugee Union of Nea Kokkinia, the Republic, had been founded since 1928, in which G. Nikolaidis from Caesarea, who was a candidate for mayor of the KKE in 1934, was the general secretary. Immediately after their arrival, the refugees acquired civil rights and were registered in the electoral rolls. They were a considerable electoral force and tried to join political life mainly through Venizelos party not only as voters, but also as statesmen, parliamentarians and ministers. In 1923, 56 refugee deputies were elected, most of them with Alexander Papanastasiou and the others with the Liberals.24 More generally, members of the associations’ managements became politicised by participating in the national elections, mainly through Venizelos’ party. Even when they were not elected, they maintained contacts with the local deputies of the Venizelos party and tried to influence the refugee vote. In the 1930s, people from the associations’ administrations took up positions in the local government as they had secured the necessary conditions for their political careers. Their tenure in aggregations that dealt with refugee rehabilitation gave them the necessary experience and legibility to ensure their personal pursuits.25

24However, beyond serving the practical needs, the co-shaping of the settlement and the political action of the refugees, within the refugee associations the refugees also made use of their free time. Very early on, sports, music and later various entertainment and mountaineering clubs were founded that organized excursions, theater and musical performances, following the collective activities of the interwar period, nature worship and tourism. The Arion music club was founded in the settlement, which had a band with musical instruments and played on Sundays in the central square of St. Nicholas; thus, proving some of the urban origins of a portion of the refugees. Also, the dance parties of the youth and football clubs were the secular event of the area with the participation of many residents and officials of the local society where they used to organize beauty pageants as well.

25Finally, the role of refugee associations in preserving Asia Minor memory and culture was important. They transported sacred relics, built churches, organized memorial services and established days of remembrance. According to the local press, after the memorial service of the Union of Sinopites of Pontus, a ritual followed with a parade led by the members with the banner while the priests made official speeches as the crowd of people headed to the Union offices where a reception was held. Through these physical ceremonies, on the one hand, the bond among the members was strengthened, while on the other hand the memory was passed on to the next generations as a legacy as the identity and cultural memory of the Pontic collective was formed.

26The Bithynian Union from its end established a separate anniversary day commemorating the June 1920 Bithynian hostilities according to the oral tra­di­tion archive of the Center for Asia Minor Studies. At the same time, the publication of the “Historical archive of Bithynia from the most ancient times to the present” was found in the association’s activities, according to the tactics of the central Asia Minor associations of the time. Also, the association in question had an important role in the renaming of the neighborhood, to Nikaia, as the proposal of the President of Ioannis Melas was adopted. The proposal was supported by professors of Byzantine studies, highlighting the Byzantine origins of Nicaea of Bithynia. The association therefore functioned as a custodian and co-shaper of the Asia Minor memory through the above actions. On a symbolic level, the renaming was the recognized integration of a refugee city into the national narrative.

27Interwar refugee associations were founded by people belonging to the middle and upper social classes. They were literate and had the necessary knowledge and social background to mediate between the refugee community and the State. Usually in the administrations of the refugee associations we find people who had community or union experience in the bodies of the former Ottoman Empire who enjoyed the confidence of their members. The members of the clubs came from the lower social strata and some of them were illiterate. The integration of interwar refugees appears to be mainly a male affair; however, women’s refugee associations were also established in the settlements as part of charity. In the settlement of Nea Kokkinia, the total number of organizations (refugees and non-refugees) identified in the file of the Piraeus District Court regarding the recognized unions and others (drawn mainly from the local press during the interwar period) is 150 unions. Of these, 17 refer to the refugees’ places of origin.

28The large number of refugee associations reveals the high degree of aggregation and self-organization of the refugees and highlights the difficulties they faced. But at the same time, it emphasizes the antagonisms that appeared between them during the restoration process. The fragmentation of the refugee organizations into individual unions throughout the various settlements did not always serve the refugee cause. On the contrary, it can be seen as a sign of a lack of cooperation and coordination, while it reveals the selfishness of either individual persons or groups that rallied around a person, but also the exploitation by the “refugee fathers” MPs and their client networks. Articles of the time spoke of the ease of founding clubs that mainly satisfied the vanity of some:

  • 26 Προσφυγικός κόσμος [Refugee World], “The politics of refugee emancipation”.

Presidents and vice-presidents keep the seal of a union, presenting themselves before Prime Ministers, Ministers, Prefects and Public Authorities to defend refugee issues, failing or reducing themselves to a pitiful position.26

  • 27 Ο Ριζοσπάστης [Radical], “Poverty campaigners denounce thugs”.
  • 28 Προσφυγικός κόσμος [Refugee World], “Refugees and refugee organizations”; Προσφυγικός κόσμος [Refug (...)

29This tactic did not serve the refugee case. Others founded associations for their personal prestige, power and influence in the settlement’s refugee society, resulting in more favorable resettlement conditions, such as the purchase of better lots in the center of the settlement, faster compensation or vocational rehabilitation.27 The refugee press was calling for unions to merge and asking them to organize into refugee federations, just like the Syros unions.28

30Refugee clubs may have been accused of factorialism, clientelism and lack of cooperation. But their importance and the role they played cannot be ignored. Their organized action addressed issues and demands arising from everyday life, memories of the past and expectations for the future. At the boundaries of the private and the public, the unions erased their space of action in the city. The trauma of uprooting, the loss of the ancestral home and the traumatic experience of being a refugee created strong bonds of solidarity among the members of each association and, on a psychological level, healed the feeling of inadequacy and loss of social prestige created by the sudden “refugeeization” and downward social mobility. The support and solidarity within the associations empowered the refugees and fueled them with courage and determination to overcome the belittling and hostile attitude of the natives and collectively claim their rights from the State.

31The refugees organized themselves in the associations, and through their collective representation, they showed that they did not simply and passively accept state decisions. Through conflicts, objections and consents, they managed to claim better conditions for the restoration, but also their social and cultural integration in Greece. The study of Nea Kokkinia and the refugee associations shows that ultimately the refugee settlements were co-shaped by the State, international agencies and the refugees themselves who vigorously claimed their inclusion as equal citizens in their new place of settlement.

Books and thesis

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Article and contibutions to books

Belavilas Nikos, 2020, “The Germanic, a modernist experiment in conditions of extreme need”, in Giakoumakatos Andreas Γιακουμακάτος Ανδρέας & Georgiadis Sokratis Γεωργιάδης Σωκράτης (eds.), Το Μπάουχαους και η Ελλάδα [The Bauhaus and Greece], Καπόν [Capon], Αθήνα [Athens], 488 p.

Rozakou Katerina Ροζάκου Κατερίνα, Gara Eleni Γκαρά Ελένη & Giannitsiotis Yiannis Γιαννιτσιώτης Γιάννης, 2013, “Political places: Public sociality and violence in Greece”, in Rozakou Katerina Ροζάκου Κατερίνα & Gara Eleni Γκαρά Ελένη (eds.), Ελληνικά παράδοξα, πατρωνία, κοινωνία πολιτών και βία [Greek paradoxes, patronage, civil society and violence], Αλεξάνδρεια [Alexandria], Αθήνα [Athens], p. 25-70.

Venturas Lina, 2022, “Multi-actor Synergies, Sovereignty, and Refugee Resettlement in Interwar Greece”, in Journal of Modern Greek Studies 40 (2), p. 299‑317.


Η Αναγέννηση [Renaissance], 19 December 1937, “Ο νέος νόμος για την αποκατάσταση των προσφύγων” [The new refugee rehabilitation law].

Ο Ριζοσπάστης [Radical], 9 February 1934, “Οι αγωνιστές της φτώχειας καταγγέλλουν τους κακοποιούς” [Poverty campaigners denounce thugs].

Προσφυγικός κόσμος [Refugee World], 9 October 1927, “Τα εκδοθέντα πιστοποιητικά” [The issued certificates].

Προσφυγικός κόσμος [Refugee World], 13 November 1927, “Πρόσφυγες και οργανώσεις προσφύγων” [Refugees and refugee organizations].

Προσφυγικός κόσμος [Refugee World], 5 February 1928, “Η πολιτική της χειραφέτησης των προσφύγων” [The politics of refugee emancipation].

Προσφυγικός κόσμος [Refugee World], 17 March 1929, “Oι ατομικοί αγώνες των προσφύγων πάντα αποτυγχάνουν - ανάγκη για μια ισχυρή ένωση” [Individual refugee struggles always fail - need for a strong union].


Ministers of Justice, National Economy, Finance, Interior, Ecclesiastical and Education, 1914, Law 281/18-6-1914, “On Unions”, Official Gazette 171 A΄/25-6-1914.

Council of Ministers, 1923, N.D. 26/4/1923, “On the revision of the statutes (…) of Eastern Thrace”, Official Gazette 118/7-5-1923.

Council of Ministers, 1926, N.D. 13/11/1926, “On determining the identity and immobility of beneficiaries…”, Official Gazette 403/13-11-1926.

Council of Ministers, 1927, N.D. 5/7/1927, “On the establishment of building cooperatives”, Official Gazette 142/14-7-1927, vol. A. B.

Minister of Health and Welfare and Minister of Justice, 1929, Law 3875, “On the establishment of building cooperatives of urban refugees”, Official Gazette 47/11-2-1929, vol. A.


National Bank Historical Archive, Judicial Department, Α1Σ40Υ8Φ8328.

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1 Avdela, Exertzoglou & Lyrintzis (ed.), 2015, p. 11‑38.

2 Rozakou, Gara & Giannitsiotis, in Rozakou & Gara, 2013, p. 27.

3 Ministers of Justice, National Economy, Finance, Interior, Ecclesiastical and Educationn, 1914, Law 281/18-6-1914, “On Unions”.

4 Giota, 2005, p. 16.

5 Mamoni & Istikopoulou, 2006.

6 Council of Ministers, 1923, N.D. 26/4/1923, “On the revision of the statutes (…) of Eastern Thrace”.

7 Salvanou, 2018, p. 118.

8 Andriotis, 2020, p. 152.

9 Προσφυγικός κόσμος [Refugee World], “Τα εκδοθέντα πιστοποιητικά” [The issued certificates].

10 The care of refugees 1917-1920, 1920, Ministry of Care, p. 32.

11 Council of Ministers, 1926, N.D. 13 November 1926, “On determining the identity and immobility of beneficiaries…”.

12 Η Αναγέννηση [Renaissance], “The new refugee rehabilitation law”.

13 Papathanasopoulou, 2022, p. 99.

14 Christodoulou, 2014, p. 58‑59.

15 Ibid., p. 632‑634.

16 Hirschon, 2006.

17 Council of Ministers, 1927, N.D. 5 July 1927, “On the establishment of building cooperatives”.

18 Minister of Health and Welfare and Minister of Justice, 1929, Law 3875, “On the establishment of building cooperatives of urban refugees”.

19 Ibid.

20 . National Bank Historical Archive, Α1Σ40Υ8Φ8328, “Statute of the Construction Cooperative of Urban Refugees ‘Kronos’ Kokkinia Prefecture”.

21 Ibid.

22 National Bank Historical Archive, Α1Σ40Υ8Φ8328, “Minutes of the Board of Directors 7/12/1928”.

23 National Bank Historical Archive, Α1Σ40Υ8Φ8328, “Minutes of the General Assembly 21/3/1930” and “Letter from the judicial department of the National Bank 28-3-1930”.

24 Andriotis, 2020, p. 308‑309.

25 Habermas, 1997, p. 284‑285.

26 Προσφυγικός κόσμος [Refugee World], “The politics of refugee emancipation”.

27 Ο Ριζοσπάστης [Radical], “Poverty campaigners denounce thugs”.

28 Προσφυγικός κόσμος [Refugee World], “Refugees and refugee organizations”; Προσφυγικός κόσμος [Refugee World], “Individual refugee struggles always fail - need for a strong union”.

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Kyriaki Papathanasopoulou, « The role of associations in the social and cultural integration of refugees in Nea Kokkinia (Nikea) »Cahiers balkaniques, 50 | -1, 129-145.

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Kyriaki Papathanasopoulou, « The role of associations in the social and cultural integration of refugees in Nea Kokkinia (Nikea) »Cahiers balkaniques [En ligne], 50 | 2024, mis en ligne le 02 mai 2024, consulté le 20 juillet 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Kyriaki Papathanasopoulou

PhD in History, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences

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