Yiannis Tsilimos

Yannis Tsilimos, the Pasha of Pityos

Yannis Tsilimos holds a special place in the list of well known people from Pityos. He was a young boy when he and his sister were sold as slaves in the slave-bazaar of Izmir, during the Chios massacre in 1822. From then on he followed a unique path.

Yannis Tsilimos in the oral history of the village

His memory was preserved by word of mouth in the popular tradition of Pityos and his story was recorded by Georgios Heilas, as it was told by Giorgis Chloros (1902-1991) who had heard it from his father-in-law, Giannis Giannomoros (1865 -1960). Giannomoros was the owner of the traditional olive mill of Pityos and had met Yiannis Tsilimos during his lifetime.

The children of the Tsilimos family, a boy called Giannis and his sister, Kyriaki, 5 -6 years old, were taken by the Turks after the massacre and sold as slaves in Asia Minor. There is no information about the fate of their parents but they were surely killed by the Turks.

Kyriaki lived with a Turkish family that bought her. The housewife of this family was Christian and her name was Fotini, Fatme in Turkish, and was a very beautiful woman. When Kyriaki Tsilimos grew up, she got married to Fotini’s son, Soukri, (it means Socrates in Turkish), who was named after Fotini’s father.

The father of Soukri, the husband of Fotini, was a partner of her father, Socrates, a Christian as well. Socrates was very fond of Kyriaki (daughter of Tsilimos) who was a beautiful and spirited girl.

Sοukri bought one of the young Greek men captured by the Turks, in order for his wife Kyriaki to have help at the household and other errands. The young slave was in a bad condition, raggedy and tortured. When her husband informed Kyriaki about the young man and brought him to the house, as expected, she asked him about his previous life, where he is from and how he got there. The young man replied that the Turks kidnapped him from Pytios in the island of Chios as a child and that he had a sister, but he knew nothing about his parents.

From his story and all the details Kyriaki realized that the young man was her brother. She was shocked, overwhelmed and became very emotional with emotion as it was likely to happen and revealed all this to her husband. Soukri received this revelation very compassionately and, from then on, they took care of Yiannis Tsilimos and treated him as brother. 

They protected him in every way and educated him and despite Soukri’s early death Kyriaki did not stop caring and helping her brother. Yiannis Tsilimos with his abilities, entered the Turkish hierarchy and managed to become “Pasha”. (that is a very important high officer statesman)

When he got retired, he came and settled in Pityos in his house, in the place of ‘Tsilimos’, which the old men of the past generation remember being decorated with carpets and the special care of his interior.” (Heilas, pp. 29-30)

The Pityans of that time remembered that old Tsilimos, as he had remained unmarried, and with no children, he used to buy from poor fellow Christians, properties and fields which he did not intend to use and later he bequeathed them to the community or to other villagers. It was an indirect way of helping his ancestral village that had suffered so much during the massacre. Moreover, in 2001, the new church of Agios Georgios Hiopolitis (St. George Hiopolitis) was built on the piece of land where Yannis’ residence was, at the entrance of the village. The ruins of the house were well-kept until the 70s.

Similar famous stories of young Chians at the massacre of Chios

The story of the “Pasha of Pityos” who did helped his village with his donations and contributions is perhaps one of the less-known stories of the young Chians who were captured as slaves in 1822 and converted to Islam.

A well-known story is the story of Giorgos Chalkias Stravelakis (1817-1878) from the neighboring village of Kardamyla, who was baptized Mustapha Kazhnadar and became the Grand Vizier and reformer of Ottoman Tunisia, between 1855-1873.

Or the story of Ibrahim Edhem Pasha (1819-1893) which is also known; he was born in a poor Christian family in a village of Chios and went on to become ambassador, minister and, for a short time (1877-1878,) Grand Vizier in Constantinople (a title equivalent to that of a Prime Minister).

There’ s also Hekim Ismail Pasha born in Chios to a Greek family (1807-1880) and, after the massacre, was sold to a distinguished Ottoman doctor in Izmir who trained him and helped him become outstanding surgeon, and, later, Pasha in charge of the Vilayet (Prefecture) of Aydin (1868-1869).

Yiannis Tsilimos did not become so famous. Even his Ottoman name did not survive in order to help us find his status within the Ottoman hierarchy. However, he holds a special and touching part of the Pityos history of the 19th century.

Source: Georgos Heilas, Pityos: the History of my Village, Athens 1989