New & now
Meet the Cilias: 100 years ago, this family fled to Malta in search of a better life
The Greco-Turkish War was probably one of the reasons the Cilias came to Malta.

Benjamin Abela

In commemoration of World Refugee Day, celebrated globally on 20th June, The National Archives of Malta dug up an interesting piece of Maltese history…

As it turns out, foreigners were turning to the Maltese islands for help as early as 1922 – and this historic photo is proof of just that.

Illum il-Jum Dinji għar-refuġjati. Niftakru fil-furnar John Cilia, martu Kirioki u uliedhom Liberata, Marcos, Mary u...

Posted by The National Archives of Malta on Sunday, June 19, 2022

“Today is World Refugee Day. We recall baker John Cilia, his wife Kirioki, and their children Liberata, Marcos, Mary, and Francis,” the National Archives of Malta wrote on social media.

“100 years ago, on 18th September 1922, they arrived in Malta from Smyrna as refugees, together with many others. John, like many of the other refugees, was of Maltese ancestry,” it continued.

Smyrna was ruled over by Greece between 1919 and 1922, until it was taken over by Turkey at the end of the Greco-Turkish War. Shortly after this, a fire broke out in the Greek and Armenian quarters of Smyrna – an event known as the Great Fire of Smyrna – claiming tens of thousands of lives.

These factors most probably contributed to the Cilias’ decision to come to Malta.

Smyrna is nowadays a part of Turkey and known as İzmir.

“Two years [after 1922], the [Cilia] family settled in Greece. In 1932 they were facing hardships and asked for assistance from Malta. Their request was denied,” The National Archives of Malta concluded.

İzmir has come a long way since its rocky past, nowadays being known as the third most populous city in Turkey, after Istanbul and Ankara, and the second largest urban agglomeration on the Aegean Sea after Athens.

The National Archives of Malta / Facebook

20th June 2022


Benjamin  Abela
Written by
Benjamin Abela
Benjamin is a Writer at Content House Group. With his background in journalism, marketing, and the arts, Benjamin enjoys finding the human aspect to any story he gets a hold of. When he's not too busy writing his next article, you could probably find him playing with his cats or performing on a stage.

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