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A “Mini” Greek-British History

The British Press (Independent, May 7 & Daily Telegraph, May 12) reports on the life of the Greek-British car designer of the legendary Mini model.  Sir Alexander Issigonis, (1906-1988) is now remembered chiefly for the groundbreaking and influential development of the Mini, launched by the British Motor Corporation in May 8 1959.  Issigonis was born into the Greek community of Smyrna (now İzmir) in the Ottoman Empire. Because Alec and his family were British subjects, they managed to escape the Turkish re-possession of Smyrna in 1922.  Alec studied engineering in London. In 1955, Issigonis was recruited by British Motor Corporation. A year later, following the Suez Crisis, Issigonis was asked to bring to production a small car as quickly as possible.  By early 1957, prototypes were running, and in August 1959 the car was launched as the Morris Mini Minor and the Austin Mini Seven or just Austin Mini. In later years, the car would become known simply as the Mini.

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Book: Paradise Lost / Smyrna, 1922

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)    Smyrna was the richest and most cosmopolitan city in the Ottoman Empire, where Levantine dynasties, Greeks, Armenians, Turks, and Jews, had created together a majority Christian community that was unique in the Islamic world. In his book “Paradise Lost: Smyrna, 1922,” author Giles Milton describes how two million innocent civilians were caught up in the conflict as victorious Turkish troops entered Smyrna. The port was ransacked and looted for days and hundreds of thousands were deported or killed. Milton actually met survivors of the massacre, who he says are haunted by the destruction of their city “every day of their lives.” 

Secretariat General for Information: Greece in the World- Books on Modern Greek History-“Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922“; Foundation of the Hellenic World: From the 1920 elections until the Asia Minor Catastrophe

The Jews of Greece

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   The presence of Jews in Greece traces back to ancient times. These Greek Jews, known as Romaniotes, spoke Greek (Judeo-Greek) and had developed their own culture and customs within the confines of the Byzantine Empire, living on the mainland as well as on some islands, like Rhodes, Chios and Samos. That Jewish population of Greece increased dramatically in 1492, after the Catholic monarchs of Spain – Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand – at the instigation of the Inquisition, issued the decree of Granada, according to which all Jews who refused to convert to Catholicism were to be expelled within 6 months; it is estimated that more than 200.000 Jews were expelled from that “cursed land.”     Continue reading