By John Sanidopoulos
Since it is the feast of St. Nicholas today, I thought I would give a brief account of a miracle attributed to St. Nicholas that occurred in my family many years ago.
In 1922, during the massacre of Greeks by the Turks in Asia Minor, my paternal great grandparents suffered much. My father's mother, my grandmother, was from Nicomedia. My grandmother's family in Nicomedia was considered very wealthy, owning a large piece of land with many sheep and cattle. During the Asia Minor catastrophe however they lost it all. My great grandfather along with all but one of his sons were taken prisoner by the Turks and shot to death inside a church. The only survivors were my great grandmother Zoe, my young grandmother Anastasia and her last remaining brother. During the population exchange they were taken to the island of Chios, leaving all else behind, never to return again.
At around this time my great grandfather, who had been killed, had a brother named Kosta Karnalides (my father called him abja, which means "uncle" in Turkish) who was also taken prisoner. He was bound in chains and he was attached to another prisoner, forcing them to march side by side in a line of many other prisoners. This was done in order to prevent them from running away and escaping.
Knowing that his death was imminent, Kosta prayed to St. Nicholas: "St. Nicholas, please release me from these chains." Very soon thereafter his chains loosened and he was free. However, because he was surrounded by Turkish guards, he pretended he was still chained and continued to march.
As the sun set it became very dark. Kosta had told his fellow prisoner with whom he was chained that he was loose and that they should escape together into the darkness. As they continued to march and darkness set in, they came upon a small lake. When it seemed to be the right time, they let go of their chains and escaped into the lake. Apparently it was eventually noticed they were missing because Turkish officers at some point were searching for them. At this point Kosta and his companion took some reeds and went underwater, breathing through the reeds. This is how they lived for four days, breathing through a tube underwater and eating seaweed.
When things finally seemed clear and the Turks gave up their search, Kosta and his companion parted ways. Upon learning the rest of the survivors of his family were in Chios, he jumped on a boat and joined them, to the surprise of all, for they thought he had been killed like all the rest. It was then that he told them of his prayer to St. Nicholas and his amazing escape into the lake. He died many years later in his old age in Athens.
When my father told me this story as a young child, I remembered one interesting footnote he would add to it: "The Greeks before the population exchanged in Asia Minor were people of deep faith. These things were everyday occurrences to them. They walked among the Saints and the Saints walked among them."