How Russia’s war has harmed Ukraine’s ethnic Greek minority

by | Jul 19, 2022 | World

Kyiv, Ukraine – Natalia Harakoz died in early May, in the basement of her apartment building in the besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol.The 86-year-old writer had relocated to the subterranean shelter after Russian shelling destroyed her apartment and large library, where the shelves included books she had written in her native Greek, describing the life of Ukraine’s Greek diaspora.
The first was published in 1989, when perestroika reforms abolished Communist-era censorship and gave Ukraine’s ethnic Greeks a voice and a chance to rediscover their collective Odyssey.
Her final book was released in 2013, a year before Russia annexed Crimea, the homeland of her community’s forefathers.
“Crimea” and “Russia” are key words in the history of the Mariupol Greeks, whose diaspora was the former Soviet Union’s largest – 80,000 strong says official data, or at least three times larger, according to community leaders.
They were the third-largest ethnic group in the southeastern Donetsk region after Ukrainians and Russians, but the war destroyed and uprooted their community.
An ethnic Greek woman sells dried fish at a market in Mariupol, Ukraine, in 2019 [Mansur Mirovalev/Al Jazeera]
“Many died, many were forced to leave,” Mykola Akhbash, an ethnic Greek police officer told Al Jazeera.
He compared the war-inflicted damage with the Stalinist-era “Greek operation” to purge the community’s intellectual elite and force others into shame and silence about their heritage and ethnicity. …

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