Myrto Papadopoulos

PHOTOGRAPHY: KALE 2006 /Present

KALE

Looking at the map of Greece and the distance I had to cover to reach my destination, which was the small town of Didimoticho, I realized how long and tiring my journey would be. I didn’t know much about this small town. I only knew its geographical position some history to it and the stories I had heard about some ‘Troglodytes’ that lived there.

Didimoticho is a small town located in the eastern part of the Prefecture of Evros. The Evros Prefecture is the northernmost of the prefectures of Greece. It is located in the northeastern part of the region of Thrace, and borders with Bulgaria and Turkey at the Evros River, an historical and natural border between Europe and the east.

The town was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire and in the year 1361 it became the first capital of Europe sporting the first mosque in the Balkans. Today, Didimoticho has roughly nine thousand inhabitants out of which approximately two thousand are Greek Muslim and another even smaller minority, are the immigrants of Greek origin from the former Soviet Republics.

Didimoticho, today, finds itself right on the expanding edge of Europe. For example, some years ago, Bulgaria entered the European Community as a full European member state, while Turkey is a candidate.

This geographical crossroad, where different cultural identities meet is the subject of my project.

I would like to approach this subject by exploring, understanding and photographing a very particular microcosm composed of just a few families, those of Muslim background.

A large number of these Greek Muslims live in racially segregated ghettos, which stand in severe contrast to the surrounding area. These inhabitants speak both the Greek and the Turkish language.For most of them, life is a daily struggle. Many families live in the caves (kalé) just below the ruins of the Byzantine castle hill walls, which encircle the town. “Kalé” is an isolated cluster of dwellings dense with colorful rugs, animals and satellite dishes; a micro-world suspended in time and space.

Being segregated and without any formal education they are unable to voice their grievances and are destined to struggle in order to procure their basic needs. Less than half of the children go to school. Yet, in this unfavorable context, some families have managed to preserve a positive environment; a tiny, self-sufficient island of tight social interconnections.

Today, only five families remain in the Kalé caves, compare to the 52 families that lived there until 1993.

Most of the families from the Kalé hill, have gradually moved to new houses and within the next year this minority group, which represents the last survivors of a larger ancient world, is also waiting to be relocated to new houses on the outskirts of the town.

As of March 2006 when I started my journey to Didimoticho, my intention has been to get to know these families and the problems which have arisen from their geographical and religious isolation.

My goal is to use photography in order to capture their multifaceted cultural identity and to witness its transformation on the moving border between the western and the eastern world.

Greece, Didimoticho, September 2009A family heading to the annual bazaar in the town of Didimoticho. This bazaar attracts people from all parts of Northern Greece and the Balkans.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, September 2009A woman selling cd's and movies in the annual bazaar which takes place every September, in the town of Didimoticho.A bazaar where people from all over Northern Greece and the Balkans meet and enjoy a three day fest.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, August 2008Two boys standing and washing their clothes at dusk, on the bridge that connects the high way with the small town of Didimoticho.
     
  
Greece, Didimoticho, July 2007Atie playing inside her aunts house at the area of the Kale. She likes being with her aunt most of the time.
  
  
Greece, Didimoticho, July 2007Emne a 45 year old Greek Muslim, sitting outside of her house, on a summer afternoon. Emne is depressed and many within the comunity are under mental medications.
     
  
Greece, Didimoticho, December 2007A cave which is used as a kitchen and a storage room. It is a cool place on summer for the family to storage their food products.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, July 2007Taking a siesta on a summer afternoon. .Summer can be really hot and unbearable in Didimoticho, therefore people like to stay in their houses until  dusk.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, July 2008 Ate and Atie hugging on the floor. Ate and Atie's family are one of the few who still remain at the area of the Kale inside the caves. Most of the families have been already relocated into the news houses at the outskirts of the town.
     
  
Greece, Didimoticho, July 2007Ate, a 50 year old widow, sitting in her house with a neighbour. She has been living her hole life in the Kale- Caves.
  
  
Greece, Didimoticho, July 2007Memet a 40 year old man, sitting in his house watching television. He is unemployed for the past 3 years and he is thinking of moving with his family to Germany. He has three children, Ahmet, Atie and Moustafa.
     
  
Greece, Didimoticho, July 2007Painting the cave. The Kale- Caves are usually very small but full of color. Every summer each family paints their house to clean it but also to redecorate it.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, July 2007Inside a kale-cave. Ate has been living in this cave more than 30 years now. She has never slpet inside the living room and thats because she was always afraid of the rock falling on her.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, December 2007Kale is an isolated cluster of dwellings, dense with colorful rugs, animals and satellite dishes..53 famillies leaved in the Kale- caves in 1993 compare to the five that remain today.
     
  
Greece, Didimoticho, May 2009Kazim resting inside the kithcen after a few bottles of beer. Kazim is unemployed for the past 3 years. He has three children, Moustafa, Fatme and Marina.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, March 2006This portrait was taken in 2006 inside Emnes house. Emne is 45 years old and she is suffering from depression.
  
Greece, Didimotiho, May 2009At a wedding at dusk. Ingeneral, most of the marriages are set and they dont last in time.
     
  
Greece, Didimoticho, March 2006A mother and her daughter cleaning their cave at the area of the Kale. This family was moved to the new houses in 2007. Now they are living in their new house at the outskirts of the town.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, May 2009Cleaning and buying fish in the main market in Didimoticho..Inside the local market someone can find all sorts of goods from clothes to food in very low prices.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, May 2009Preparing the food outside from the house.Only five families remain today at the area of the Kale inside the caves and being segregated and without any formal education they are unable to voice their grievances and are destined to struggle in order to procure their basic needs.
     
  
Greece, Didimoticho, August 2008
  
Greece, Didimoticho, December 2007Rosa a 35 year old Armenian woman, sitting in her house with Ate. She is 6 months pregnant here and she has also a son. She has been living in the caves since 2006 and she is one of the few that still remain in the Kale.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, August 2008Rosas daugter, Marina, resting in her bed on a hot summer day. Marina is now 2 years old. Her family is really hoping to be moved soon from the Kale and go into a better house and raise their daughter.
     
  
  
Turkey,Edirne, August 2008Kazim a 40 year old man on a day trip in Turkey, Edirne. The town of Didimoticho is only 12 km from Turkey and most of the Greek Muslim go there on daily excursions.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, August 2008In the town of Alexandroupoli, Rosa and Kazim taking a swim.
     
  
Greece, Didimoticho, August 2008Rosa, Kazim and Marina, standing next to the natural border between Greece and Turkey, the Evros river.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, July 2007A summer afternoon in the new houses.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, August 2008A summer afternoon in the new house with friends. A big part of the Muslim community has been moved to the new houses and everyday friends and family all meet all together in one house until dusk.
     
  
Greece, Didimoticho, July 2007Omer and his family sitting at the new houses in the outskirts of the town. Omer is the father of six children. He has been unemployed for the past five years now.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, July 2007Omer's older daughter is showing off her wedding picture. She is now remarried to her second husband and is living in an other city in Greece.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, August 2008A boy standing on his bike in the area of new housing.
     
  
  
Greece, Didimoticho, January 2008Ate, leaving from the area of the new housing developments. Ate has been living alone for the past 20 years at the Kale caves since the death of her husband and most of her relatives have already moved to the new houses at the outskirts of the town.
  
Greece, Didimotiho, May 2009A family leaving from a local wedding.
     
  
Greece Didimoticho, December 2007The Kale- cave on a very cold christmas night.
  
Greece, Didimoticho, May 2009A Muslim graveyard at the outskirts of the town in Didimoticho.