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AHI Book Presentation Commemorates 93rd Anniversary of Smyrna Catastrophe
November 2, 2015—No. 53 (202) 785-8430

AHI Book Presentation Commemorates 93rd Anniversary of Smyrna Catastrophe

WASHINGTON, DC —The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted a noon book presentation to commemorate the 93rd anniversary of the Smyrna Catastrophe in Asia Minor that featured Professor Lou Ureneck of Boston University, Oct. 7, 2015, at Hellenic House. 

Professor Ureneck presented his new book, The Great Fire:  One American’s Mission to Rescue Victims of the 20th Century’s First Genocide, published earlier this year by Harper-Collins Publishers. AHI Board Member James Marketos, Esq., introduced him.

Professor Ureneck comes to history through journalism.  At Boston University he is a Professor of Journalism and directs the Business and Economics Journalism Program.  He was a Nieman fellow and editor-in-residence at Harvard University.  Before academia, he held positions at the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Portland Press Herald, the Maine Sunday Telegram, and the Providence Journal

“It is important to commemorate the Smyrna Catastrophe because it is a vivid reminder of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, and it gives us pause to think about similar atrocities and human rights abuses that occur today,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said.  “Professor Ureneck has done a great public service by re-telling the Smyrna story through sources never previously examined.  Professor Ureneck’s new book does much to correct the distortions of historical truth promoted by contemporary Turkish governments not just for Greek Americans, but for the world at large.”

Professor Ureneck explained that Smyrna was the final episode in the 20th century’s first genocide, the concerted extermination of Asia Minor’s native Christians by Turkish forces, which began with the Armenians and Assyrians and ended with the Greeks.  He highlighted the important roles played by three Americans:  Mark Bristol, Halsey Powell, and Asa Jennings.  Bristol, the U.S.’s High Commissioner for Turkey in addition to being highest-ranking naval officer in the region, made the tragedy worse than it needed to be by favoring commercial interests over humanitarian ones and stalling U.S. efforts to aid the refugees trapped in Smyrna before, during, and after the great fire.  Powell, a charismatic U.S. Navy Commander, defied orders to overcome Bristol’s foot-dragging.  Jennings, a humble Y.M.C.A. official, called on audacity and strong religious convictions to organize the flotilla of ships that eventually rescued the hundreds of thousands of survivors of the tragedy.

Following Professor Ureneck’s presentation, President Larigakis moderated a Q&A session and offered closing remarks. 

The American Hellenic Institute is an independent non-profit Greek American public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.



For additional information, please contact Georgea Polizos at (202) 785-8430 or at For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at and follow us on Twitter @TheAHIinDC.