Virtual Museum of the Princes' Islands

I am not native-born islander. I was born in Beyoğlu, İstanbul. At Kumbaracı Street... I consider myself as islander, although I am one of summer house vacationists who were called as “migrant” by the the local people of Büyükada. Anyway, I always think myself as an islander from my childhood days. Speaking of the reasons, it's a long story... We need to go back in time for a century. If I start, it doesn't fit a single page.

Year 1908. It was a fall evening with heavy rain, in a southwestern storm... On that day even the navigations of the steamers were cancelled. That same day, my grandmother and grandfather have promised each other at Ladas Street, near to Çınar Square. Then, they were married. My mother has been born on 1912. She was used to spend summer vacations on Büyükada. Probably, my mother and father have met in the Island. And they got engaged. “Jeanne Paskalides (and) Constantin Millas (are) fiances. Prinkipo, 10 July 1931.”

I was born in 1934. I was brought to the Island when I was a few months old, laying on my mother's lap. I took my first tiny steps there. My childhood and youth years passed in Hristos Quarter, at the Kopsidas House: Yeni Yol or Yaverbey Street, no: 16. Living in the same house for almost 27 years. The unpaved road named “Yeni Yol” has been opened 3 years ago from the day I was born. Our home was a modest island house; the first floor made up of brick masonry and the second floor made up of wooden material. Up to me, it is as beautiful as a palace. When the time there was no electricity, we used to light oil lamps.

The power generator behind the Dellagramatika was inadequate to satisfy the needs of the area. All the upper quarters were out of electricity. Years passed... I can say that me and my wife became close in the island. We got married in 1963. That same day, we arrived to the island with the last steamer. Splendid Hotel, room number: 59. From that day on we stay in the same hotel and the same room, every two weeks of the spring and fall. In this case, how come I don't consider the Island to be my home?

They are insistently asking if the Island has changed too much? How was the city in my memories? They are asking about the daily life, old time people and the neighbourhood. That is to mean they are wondering about the island in “the time of “Rum people”. As they ask me about the old days, I feel as if one of the last survivors of an endangered societies. It makes me feel like a remnant of something that's past. Well, it is certain that the island of my childhood no longer exists. There is no such an island aynmore. So many things changed. All those years passed by. We can't get the time back. However, I remember that my grandmother who has thinking about the past all the time was used to reproach the changes in the Island saying that: “we have had the happiest and liveliest moments of the island” and adding: “those days won't come back”. She was talking about the Yatch Club’ kids' proms, Regates, dance soirees of Imperial Hotel. She was telling: “the island was very peaceful. It was like a small village.Everyone used to know each other back in the day. Those were the days.”

Well, certainly this is not that old island. But, I think we are the ones disappearing. Everytime we look at the past, we are searching for our memories, childhood and youth. And all the years vanished... Those who are really missed a lot and not found are ourselves in the past. Indeed, we don't exist. That dark skinned boy running in the Kopsidas' garden at Hristos Quarter, pursuing a butterfly amid the rosebuds, playing with tin soldiers doesn't exist anymore... And he won't come back...

It is a fact that I am looking for island where my childhood and youth was passed in that. Well, it has gone forever. All the dirt roads were paved and most of the simple tiny wooden houses changed into concrete blocks. It was no longer a village tranquil and peaceful. Original residents of the island migrated to Tepeköy or Ayios Nikolaos one by one. And they were all forgotten. Today's island that I still love so much and will be keeping is not the same with the island of my memories. The island is still there with all its beauties.

How happy I will be if I could revive the Island that was in the old postcards and faded photos, but still living in my memories, through my illustrations and books.

AKILLAS MILLAS
May 2013, Athens.

Published in I Still Remember

I Still Remember, Büyükada - Akillas Millas

Filmed by: Zehra Derya Koç
Cinematographer: Berker Ersoy
Editing: Murat Sercan Subaşı

Published in I Still Remember
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