GLENDALE–Over 100 people gathered at the Glendale City Hall on Monday to hear renown British journalist and author Giles Milton speak about this newest book "Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922" The audience which was made up of Greeks, Armenia’s and numerous others Los Angeles area residents was attending Milton’s only Southern California appearance during his United States book tour.
Milton’s book is the most recent to attract international attention and acclaim for chronicling the horrendous tragedy of the burning of the Aegean port city of Smyrna in 1922 in the waning days of the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Smyrna was the most affluent city and the only one in Asia Minor with an overwhelming Christian majority population comprised of Greeks, Armenia’s and Levantine Europeans (European nationals who had lived in the Ottoman Empire for over 200 years). As the Greek army retreated from the Anatolian peninsula in the face of General Mustafa Kemal’s advancing nationalist Turkish forces, the city of wealthy Christian civilians was left to the mercy of the notoriously brutal Turkish forces. Soon after the Turkish forces entered the city, they laid it to waste and burnt it to the ground. The destruction of Smyrna was one of the greatest atrocities of the post World War I period and one of the last well documented massacres of the Armenian Genocide.
Glendale City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian had organized the event in collaboration with the American Hellenic Council, the Glendale ANC Chapter and the Friends of the Glendale Public Library (FOGPL). Kassakhian, a board member of the FOGPL, opened the event by recounting his own family history as it related to the events that transpired in Smyrna explaining how his mother’s family had fled the burning city seeking refuge in Athens, Greece. Kassakhian moderated the question and answer session with the author which included commen’s from both Greek and Armenian descendants of survivors of the massacre.
Milton stated that his research and interviews with eyewitnesses led him to the indisputable conclusion that the city was set fire by Turkish military forces and that the fire began in the Armenian quarter of the city.
"Smyrna resembled Dresden after the Second World War or Hiroshima after the bomb; complete destruction, nothing was left," explained Milton.
Also attending the event was the Consul General of Greece in Los Angeles, Dimitris Caramitsos-Tziras who thanked the author for his important work in telling an important story that is not known to many Americans and Europeans. Milton was presented by certificates of appreciation by the Mayor of Glendale and California State Assemblyman Paul Krekorian.
Milton’s book has received positive reviews from both the New Yorker and the Economist Magazines, the latter of which described the work as "a timely reminder of the appalling cost of expansionist political ambitions." It is available for purchase at major bookstores everywhere.