When a Friendship Goes beyond the Conflict of Two Nations
Ioannis Dokmetzoglou was born in the neighbourhood of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople in 1945. He started school in a four-class grammar school in Balata and then went on to finish the fifth and sixth classes. He finished junior and senior high school from the historic Great Nation School in 1963,an honorable distinction in and of itself.
During the same year he was given the chance to take exams in various schools at the University of Constantinople, but he decided to take exams only in the medical school because he always wanted to be a doctor.
He failed exams at the medical school and decided to work in a department store and then retake the exams . He retook the exams and passed the French literature exams. However, his ‘obsession’ and love iof medicine led him to Salonika.
At that time, Greeks of the Diaspora or those who had a Christian Orthodox name and a high school degree got into medical school without taking exams. Hence, he came to Salonika and started his wonderful adventure.
His family may have been destroyed financially during the disasters of 1955, he refused to give up. He struggled and naturally his father encouraged him to make his dreams come true, despite
financial problems. He studied medicine from 1964 to 1970 and became an eminent surgeon . He worked for forty years at the AHEPA Hospital. He completed his agricultural term at the hospital in Limnos. In 2012 he retired and devoted his time to spreading his knowledge of
medicine without pay. He also devotes time to the history of Greeks in Constantinople. He is professor emeritus in surgery at the Aristotle University of Salonika. He teaches both students in their sixth year of medical school and post-graduate students without pay. He also supervises theses.
“I emigrated at the age of nineteen because Greece was then a foreign country to me. I had no relatives here. However, it was worth it. I studied medicine and achieved my goal, and there is no feeling better than on in which a young person sets a goal and sees it materialize.’’ He also tells of a moving story. After forty-seven years he reunited with his best friend,Giourmbouz,who treated him better than a brother. When friendship bonds are based on a solid foundation, no nationality, religious perceptions, or mentality can destroy them.
‘’I have to tell you about a story of a friend of mine from Constantinople, Mr Giourmbouz, which means ’’ one who is well-built and robust.” We grew up together and we took exams together. He got into medical school in Turkey and I went to Greece. We lost touch from 1964 to 2011 when we met again. Forty-seven years had passed,’’ says Mr Dokmetzoglou movingly.
‘’Our houses were near each other. They were from families of the Pontos who came from Rizounta and perhaps from Moslem Greeks. We spent time together and with many other Greek children from the Ecumenical Patriarch.
‘’When I went to Constantinople in 2000 for a meeting of surgeons, I visited my neighbouhood and my house with my colleagues. While there, a woman recognized me from afar and shouted,’It is you,iannoulis. How is your mother Penelope and your sister Kiveli? ‘ She remembered everything and started to cry. I also felt moved and she said, ‘ Why did you leave? People from the East wearing baggy trousers and yashmaks came here and the neighbourhood lost its beauty. When I see a Greek bus I say to myself maybe I can meet Mrs Penelope and we can reminisce about the past.’ I asked her about my friend Giourmbouz and she said the family moved to the eastern part of the Bosporus to the suburb Kantiki. Then I gave her my professional card.
‘’Some years later, during February of 2011, while returning home, my son says, ‘Dad, your Turkish friend, Mr. Giourmbouz, from Constantinople called.’ When I heard this I felt a chill and then I remembered I had left my card at the Ecumenical Patriarch. I was confused as to how he found me. Afterwards, I phoned him on the same day and I felt moved. He said he was a retired ear , nose and throat doctor.
“He also told me he had my card, but because he did not understand Greek he went to the Ecumenical Patriarch to get and explanation. However, on the card was the old area code of Salonika and he could not communicate. He went to the Greek consulate and said angrily,’What does it matter if the two countries are in conflict? I grew up with the boy and I want to communicate with him. Why don’t you put me through?’ The girl there realized she had been dialing the wrong area code. Then we started talking and we remembered to most unbelievable things.’’