Fire and Sky

A young adult manuscript, complete at 70,000 words

It’s 1922 in the Ottoman Empire. Greek teen Elisavet and her Turkish best friend Sevi live in the Mediterranean city of Smyrna and support each other’s dreams, even if their parents don’t. Elisavet—Veta—wants to be an astronomer, which is unheard of for a young woman. Sevi, who’s a genius with her Singer sewing machine, imagines living in Paris, designing the latest fashions.

But the girls’ dreams are cut short when the Greek-Turkish War comes to their city. With the Greek army in defeat and the Ottoman Empire collapsing, a new Turkish government takes over with the goal of ridding Smyrna of every last ethnic Greek.

Although Veta and Sevi cling to their friendship at first, complications arise. When Veta’s Greek boyfriend, Andreas, says that Turks “are not even human,” Veta doesn’t push back. Sevi, too, seems to be partisan on the side of the Turkish army.

As the violence in Turkey becomes genocide, 250,000 Greek and Armenian refugees become trapped on Smyrna’s quay, Veta among them. Will her Turkish best friend save her? Even if Sevi does, what will become of everyone else?

When Veta is swept up in a real-life rescue plan that saves the lives of 250,000 people, she learns that even one person can make a difference.

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My Personal Connection to Fire and Sky

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My grandfather, Petros Perimenis, circa 1919 in the Greek-Turkish War.

Fire and Sky is based on true events and relates to my own family’s Ottoman Empire past. In 1919, the Greek army, which included my grandfather, occupied the Turkish city of Smyrna (present day Izmir) in a bid to create a modern “Greek Empire.” In retaliation, in 1922 the Turkish army destroyed the glistening city, where my ethnically Greek grandmother was born and grew up.

Although both Veta and Sevi are fictional, Mr. Asa Jennings is a real historical figure (along with others in the novel), who saved the lives of 250,000 people, as the city of Smyrna burned. Every scene in my book that deals with Mr. Jennings, the rescue, and what actually took place in the city at the time is based on detailed research by other writers, as well as first-hand accounts. Of particular use to me in crafting this novel was journalist and scholar Lou Ureneck’s amazing book, Smyrna 1922.

In the aftermath of the Greek and Turkish War of 1919 to 1922, there was a forced population exchange. One and a half million Christians from Turkey (ethnic Greeks and Armenians) were sent to Greece, while half a million Muslims from Greece were resettled in Turkey. The Treaty of Lausanne became a notorious model for future ethno-religious “purification” treaties (such as that between Pakistan and India in 1947) for the rest of the 20th century.