This is the backdrop to 'Oh my Smyrna, my beautiful Izmir', the play by the Turkish director, writer and writer, Nesrin Kazankaya, premiered at the Istanbul International Theatre Festival, which ends tomorrow. The play begins with the Vlastos family, an affluent Turkish-Greek family rooted in Anatolia, as they prepare to emigrate to Greece from their mansion in Bournabat (Bornova), Izmir. The Turkish housekeepers, who have lived with the Vlastos like a family, are sad witness of this ''forced emigration''. Traumatic traces of war and the obligatory exchange causes tension between the Turkish and Greek families. As they turn against each other, living together becomes impossibile. ''The catastrophic fire of Izmir'' not only ruins the city but also the centuries long tradition of diverse ethnic and religious communities living together peacefully and destroys their past and future, their hopes and dreams.
''It is a fictional story, of course, but it reflects the experiences of the time, as it was traumatic for both Greeks and Turks,'' the director, whose family has his origins in Izmir, Albania and Thessaloniki, tells ANSAmed. ''There are no sides to be taken in this story and I have tried to recount it without taking any stance. I was more concerned with conveying the fact that both communities lived together in a multicultural society until 1923,'' she adds. ''The political context is not the main issue, the play is based on people's feelings and the trauma that has been suffered''. The Turkish-Greek issue has been the subject of many films and television series, the director explains, but this is the first play to examine the issue. Kazankaya based the story on research and documents that she sifted through herself before starting to write. The play, which contains parts in both Greek and Turkish, has a bitter ending. ''Because this could be an example to other communities,'' she explains. Kazankaya, former director of the Istanbul's theatre festival, has spent much of her career writing and directing works that look at different cultures and religions. Among these, she directed ''Where in Dobrinja?'' (set in an area of Sarajevo), and brought to the stage an adaptation of ''The Merchant of Venice''. ''For me, the culture of the theatre is important, it is not based on political ideas,'' she says, pointing the finger at threats by the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to privatise local and national theatres. ''We are experiencing a bad time, with the AKP trying to push us towards fundamentalism, but this country will not allow this to happen. We will overcome this phase''. (ANSAmed).