In the ninth episode of my live-streamed show, I sat down for an interview with award-winning author Lou Ureneck for an hour-long discussion about the Great Fire of Smyrna in 1922 and the Asia Minor Catastrophe.
The burning of Smyrna (modern day Izmir) came as the culmination of Ottoman Turkey’s broader genocide which killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians and other non-Turkish minority groups between 1913 and 1922.
Fires began on September 13, 1922 and by the end of the events left 90-95% of the city destroyed, according to Ureneck.
Newspapers throughout the world including The New York Times published headlines about the Smyrna fires.
“Babies Dying From Exposure — Departing Refugees Stripped of Their Remaining Valuables,” read a New York Times headline from October 3, 1922.
Lou Ureneck masterfully recounts the catastrophe in his book titled “Smyrna, September 1922” which tells the story of an American methodist minister and a principled naval officer who helped rescue more than 250,000 refugees.
“They ran an operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Ureneck said during our interview. “By the end of September they had done the impossible. They evacuated women and children from Smyrna.”
Ureneck’s book uses eyewitness accounts, documents and survivor narratives to bring the events to life. “Smyrna, September 1922” is available in paperback via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The book is available in audiobook format via Amazon.
About Lou Ureneck
Lou Ureneck is a writer and retired professor from Boston University, where he taught courses including business and economics journalism. He has written three books and is working on his fourth. He has taught in professional settings as a writing coach for media and research organizations. Ureneck’s work as appeared in The New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, International Herald Tribune, Boston Globe and Harvard’s Nieman Reports. He has worked as a regular blogger for The Times, guest columnist for the Globe, editor for the Portland Press Herald and a senior editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He frequently serves as a source on the business side of journalism for news organizations.
Ureneck was a Nieman Fellow and editor-in-residence at Harvard University from 1994-95. His book “Backcast” won the National Outdoor Book Award for literary merit in 2007. He was a Fulbright Senior Specialist in 2011, teaching at the National University in Kiev, Ukraine. From 2015-16, Ureneck was the Eleftherios Venizelos Chair in Modern Greek Studies at the American College of Greece in Athens. He has been inducted into the Maine Journalism Hall of Fame and in 2015 he received the Hellenic Heritage Award. In October 2018, the New England Academy of Journalists named Ureneck a recipient of the Yankee Quill Award, New England’s highest individual award for journalism.
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