‘Why are you so hell-bent on becoming Greek?’

Left: 'I feel like I belong here. Especially since I come from a country that can cancel my passport at any moment, I don't want to live with the anxiety of what might happen if something goes wrong between Greece and Turkey,' explains Lale Alatli from Turkey, who has been living in Thessaloniki since 2010. Right: Dora Hisko from Albania passed the Greek citizenship exam with a score of 98%, but was ultimately rejected. For her, appeal is not an option. 'I make 450 [euros] a month. I cannot afford to set aside 50 euros for a year to cover the costs of a trial.'

Lale Alatli fell in love with Greece through rebetiko music. She listened to it with her Greek fellow students while they were studying in Italy. She copied CDs and tapes and by studying the lyrics she started to learn Greek. But in Turkey, where she comes from, she could not find anything Greek at that time. "It was like there was an invisible wall between the two countries," she recalls. In 1999 she returned to Istanbul with two self-learning books (from Italian to Greek) which she read every day for hours.

Her parents, though open-minded, were concerned. "What are you going to do with Greek, my girl?" they would ask her. But she had visited Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, for a holiday and already felt a strong familiarity with the place. "At first I was attracted by the language, its musicality. But I also liked the nature, the sea - there's no place like Halkidiki -...

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