Turkey’s leading mobile phone operator Turkcell has renovated the technological infrastructure of a Greek high school on Turkey’s northwestern island of Gökçeada and held an opening ceremony for it on May 17.
Turkcell established a technology class, an open-air sports hall, an amphitheater, as well as a recreational facility including a botanical garden for the Gökçeada Private High School and Secondary School, which was reopened in 2015 after a 40-year closure.
The ceremony was attended by Turkcell CEO Kaan Terzioğlu, GreekOrthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, Imroz Education and Culture Association chair Laki Vingas, Turkcell board members, Gökçeada Governor Muhittin Gürel, Gökçeada Mayor Ünal Çetin, the school’s principal İoakim Makis Kamburopulos and former students of the school.
Speaking at the ceremony, Terzioğlu said that he himself was a member of a family that came to Turkey following a population agreement between Greece and Turkey after World War I.
“I really feel this. They [the Greek community’s children] are luckier than their grandfathers and mothers, just like I am, compared to my grandmother and grandfather. As a member of a family that came to Turkey with a population agreement after World War I, and at a time when the world is scared of migration, it is hopeful and inspiring to watch people’s stories going back home,” Terzioğlu said.
Patriarch Bartholomew, who was born in Gökçeada, also delivered a speech at the ceremony. “So blessed that our state institutions and Gökçeada residents are giving support to our efforts, and a big company like Turkcell established a facility in this far away village for a school under the management of the İmroz Education and Culture Association that’s striving for education,” he said.
Stating that Gökçeada was an exemplary model where people lived in peace with one another, Patriarch Bartholomew said the island should give inspiration.
“Besides its history of existence between Greece and Anatolia for thousands of years, let Gökçeada inspire our societies as the island of peace and tranquility,” he said.
Vingas said there are currently 33 students in the school and their families were mostly from Thessaloniki, Crete, Istanbul and Athens.
Saying that the island regained its multicultural environment like in the past, Vingas noted that the event marked great significance.
“In this geography, where people are suffering so much, when people are trapped in the midst of wars and are being kicked out of their homelands, their homes; the sentimental pleasure and pride of seeing people going back to their lands, to Gökçeada, regaining their schools and going back to the culture they belong to, is really enormous,” Vingas said.
Meanwhile, Kamburopulos addressed the school’s students and expressed his joy in seeing them in the school. “Dear students, when you were not here, this place was quiet and sad; but last year you came and enlivened us. And now, the excitement in the school’s garden will enliven our village, enlarge our hopes and raise our expectations,” he said.