Is a small city of just over 11,000 people that shares its name with the province in the western Macedonia region of Greece where it is located 13 km. from the Macedonian border. With Karaferye and Vodina, Florina came under the domination of Ottoman Empire. The city was a district in the Manastır district (Sanjak) in the Ottoman period. Evliya Çelebi (in the mid to late 17 th century) traveled to Florina and wrote the description below: “The city is built in a wide valley and is not greatly developed. It has six districts: with Tekke, Kara Ahmed Agha and the Sheikh districts being the most famous. There are five thousand stonework houses with tiled roofs surrounded by vineyards and orchards. Kara Ahmed Agha, Bostancı Mehmed Agha and Sheikh Effendi Palaces are the most prosperous ones. There are seventeen mihraps. The central mosque has got an abundant community. The mosque found on the way to Kara Ahmed Agha’s house is very spacious. It contains three madrasahs and one Halveti Dervish lodge. There are seven Primary Schools. The school sponsored by the charitable Kara Ahmed was the largest but there are not any organized charitable foundations. There are two Turkish Baths and it is said that the Bath in the downtown area is very old. Although there are two khans, about one hundred shops and all types of tradesman there isn’t a Bedestan. It is famous for its roasted meat “kebab”. The shirt cloth known as “Öknarlı” is known far and wide” (V, 1966, p.395 - 396). The French voyager François Pouqueville visited Florina in 1815 and wrote that there were 700 houses which belonged to Turks and an affluent bazaar (Pouqueville, 1826). In the late 19 th century, Florina was said to contain seven mosques, one Dervish lodge, one madrasah, one Ottoman Secondary school, one Primary school, five Muslim schools, two Greek schools, one Bulgarian school, two churches, 300 shops, nineteen khans and one Turkish Bath as mentioned in Kamusu’l-a’lam (V, 314). Nâzım (Nâzım Özgünay) who was from Florina and known as “The King of Turkish Poetry” by Peyami Safa, was born in 1883 in Florina (He died in Üsküdar, in 1939), (Ayvazoğlu, 1998). The city’s population was then 60,025 and consisted of 27% Muslims. In the early 1900’s, Tahsin Uzer, who was District Governor for just over 2 years (from 17 February 1321 [March 2, 1906] until 4 March, 1324 [March 17, 1908]) succeeded in overseeing the building of: a military hospital, a government office, gendarmerie, a penitentiary, a Post and Telegraph office, a 700 mt. dock, two stables and three schools. Two funicular dams were constructed along the Florina River to control the flow and to offer protection to the town’s buildings. The architect Gorgi Effendi was paid 850,000 piasters for the government office, the dock and the two bridges; the architect Koço Effendi was paid 485,000 piasters for the gendarmerie, the penitentiary and the three schools; and the architect Andon Effendi was paid 35,000 piasters for the Post and Telegraph office. All of these developments were completed within a year with the help of the inhabitants (Uzer, 1999, p.208-210). Florina turned into a completely different city with these reconstruction developments. The poet Fahri who was from Florina wrote a poem commemorating the contributions of Tahsin Bey. The poem reads as follows; “Florina rejoiced at his arrival Take as a witness there; the enemy One can hear from the city’s gossip The bandits were no longer It’s impossible to deny his achievements The government was founded with the district governor’s works He arrived when he was just twenty-six How can’t the sun of justice shine bright? Famous writers still applaud His speech in support of the hospital Tahsin Bey is cheered And Fahri put this in to words for a valid reason” (Uzer, 1999, p.212). As city governor, Tahsin Bey gave the following instructions about the Turks there: “I saw that the Florina inhabitants are very honest, respectful and devoted. Landowners; Pıtırak İsmail and Haşim, Halit Effendi, Yeşil Hasan, Hadji Cafer, Yusuf Bey and Vasfi Bey were really hardworking and important people. My successes in Florina occurred with the help of these people. I loved them like brothers, those poor men!” (Uzer, 1999, p.206). Florina was conquered by the Serbian Army in the First Balkan War (November 21, 1912). Hence, after a short while, the Serbians left the city to the Greeks in exchange for the Gevgeli Train Station. The Turkish inhabitants who had been earning a living with tobacco farming during the Balkan Wars and the First World War left the region, most of them immigrating to Turkey. The author Necati Cumalı, who was born in Florina, narrated the story about leaving the town in his book ‘Macedonia 1900’: “I understood my father not in the years that we were together but after growing up and when I was the same age as he. He listened to the news during the War for Independence; he read the Quran and prayed. He never spoke of his expectations about winning the war. Hence; it wasn’t long before the Muslim Macedonian country which contained all of those mosques and houses in Florina and Selânik (Thessaloniki), was no longer a part of the Ottoman Empire. It was a story of only ten years. Although it became the possession of Greece, the Ottoman Empire still regarded Florina as its village. He was absolutely one of the Rumelians, headstrong and stubborn, never accepting defeat. He didn’t want to believe when he heard that the ‘Treaty of Lausanne’ was concluded and we, the Western Thracian Turks, would exchange places with the Western Anatolian Rumelians. “No way!” he said. When this news was confirmed, he was defiant, saying “I won’t leave Florina”. After we set forth my father did not utter a word until we arrived at Selânik. He just looked out of the train window, watching Macedonia, the mountains, everywhere. He had a sofa made of oak. On the day when we were to get on the boat in Selânik, we made him sit down on his sofa to rest at the top of the stairs that go down to the Customs dock, while we dealt with the processes of our voyage. He was staring around thoughtfully, without uttering a single word. While we were getting on the boat, he suddenly grasped the banisters of the docks’ stairs. He was ninety-three years old, still strong and powerful. I, sergeant Fehim, Salih Bey; couldn’t take him from the banisters. “My home is Florina. I can’t leave behind my dead! I can’t leave my country! You go, put me on the train, let me go back to Florina, let me die in Florina…” The boat was about to leave, but he wouldn’t understand. We, three men, could hardly pry his fingers from the banister, so we lifted him along with his chair. He was put on the boat in a limp and helpless state. After boarding he regained control and he began to talk easily. We settled in Urla as immigrants. In Urla, he lived in his bed for three years with the thoughts of his homeland. He often stared at a specific point and got lost in thought. When he couldn’t contain himself from talking, he would say “Oh, I shouldn’t have left Florina; I should have died in Florina!” At the times when he uttered these words, his eyes reflected the brightness of the Macedonian sky and his face became bright, as if it appeared through the clouds” (Cumalı, 1976, pp.33-34). After the Treaty of Lausanne was concluded, lots of Greeks who had come from Anatolia moved into the houses that were left behind by the Turkish people. Nowadays, most of the Greeks who are living in Florina are descendants of those who were sent the population exchange from Anatolia. The Muslim immigrants from Florina settled in İzmir, Balıkesir, Manisa, Samsun, Sivas, Nevşehir and Adana in Turkey. After the population exchange, the Ottoman buildings were demolished through the course of time and the Muslims cemeteries were destroyed. Today, the only historical artifacts that remain in Florina are; the minaret of the mosque which was constructed by Yakub Bey, who was the son of the war hero, Ghazi Evrenos Bey, in M 878 (June 1473), a Turkish Bath, a government office, a likely a tomb and a few old houses. Generally, the Turkish houses in Florina had two stories. The lower floors were used as tobacco storage and the families lived upstairs. Today, the remaining houses, most of which are about to collapse, are located in the former Ghazi neighborhood (Ghazi Yakub), currently known as the Yazi district. Some of the houses became the property of the Municipality in 1977 and have been restored while others are still waiting for restoration.
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