Tel: 00 357 99 966518
0090 542 853 8436
She turns her back to the lake, facing the multicultural group, catching her breath first, mingling on the edge of pain and then starting to speak, slowly reciting the horrible days of August 1974 and what had happened here... It is a multicultural group – some young artists from the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities, a Syrian Cypriot artist Adi Atassi who has been in Cyprus for the last quarter of a century, an Armenian Cypriot, Nouritsa Nadjarian, whose mother was expelled from Anatolia to come to Cyprus back in 1921, settling in Nicosia and herself being born in Cyprus... She is 81 years old, with a cane but she comes with us wherever we go, she walks with us and she stands with us to open her heart to hear what's been passing from the hearts of the others... And there is our Italian Cypriot artist, Gaia, as well – it's the first time she comes with us to a mass grave here in Galatia, taking photos and hearing the story about this burial site of 11 `missing` Greek Cypriots whose remains were uncovered during exhumations... No, this is not a `bi-communal` group, it's a `multi-communal`, multicultural group...
Christina of Komikebir was only 13 years old when she had to go through the horrors of war... She has lost her father and brother and the last place they were seen was in the Turkish Cypriot
at the beginning of Karpasia. village of Galatia
Christina is part of the Bi-Communal Initiative of Relatives of Missing Persons and Victims of Massacres and War, `Together we can` association that has been running a workshop on `missing persons` together with Nilgun Guney Art Studio since last June... We have been taking the young Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot artists, as well as our Syrian Cypriot artist and our Armenian Cypriot friend around the island, showing them the mass graves, getting them together with relatives of `missing persons` to speak and to tell what sort of turmoil they have been going through... We have been giving them material as they need, photos of `missing persons`, their stories as I wrote, trying to help them to feel, to understand and to paint...
It is very difficult for Christina to be here since it refreshes all her bad memories but she makes the effort because she knows that with the knowledge will come strength... If she speaks and if people hear with their hearts what she's saying, truth will set them free and truth will make them stronger. Truth is the only medicine we should drink in this country in shambles, divided, torn apart with memories of trauma and pain... Truth is the only thing that will save us so we must all speak and tell what we know and we must all listen and hear what is being told by people like Christina... People like Christina are in this group of relatives of `missing persons` and victims of massacres and war and they work humbly, quietly with a very low profile, like saints in this geography of pretence...
You will not find them in posh cocktail parties, you will not see them wearing expensive jewellery and driving luxurious cars... They will not be invited to receptions given by the United Nations or other `important` international organizations... You will rarely see them on TV or hear them on radio – they are ordinary people like you and me, going around very quietly, doing what needs to be done, sacrificing themselves so that the truth be known although the truth might not be `popular` on either side of the island.
You will find Christina planting trees in her garden, one in the name of her father, one for her brother...Or with garden scissors she would be trimming plants and trees in my garden, showing me which one is sick and what I should do to heal it, creating space to branches and leaves so they can breathe... She would be speaking to me the language of understanding nature and she would know each plant and each tree and what they need and what they don't need. She would be teaching me how to take care of nature because she has learnt this from her childhood in Komikebir where her family had vast amounts of fields and gardens, always producing, always working, always taking care of nature and humans around them... Or you will find her visiting old people, speaking quietly and trying to find out this or that detail about what might have happened in the past, where there might be some burial sites or how things unfolded in this country torn apart by war.
No, you will not find her or anyone from this NGO called `Together we can` invited when important figures like the European Commission's Vice President visits
or when there is the UN Day at the Ledra Palace Hotel or the opening ceremony of the EU Presidency of Cyprus. No, this group will not be invited to any of the activities of the EU Presidency of Cyprus because they are not `important` people, they are ordinary people like you and me and they don't speak the language of power or Cypriot politics. They speak the language of ordinary people, of life, of real problems, of real issues, of real trauma and pain, of real suffering because they come from there... You will find Christina in possible burial sites or with witnesses trying to show or describe those sites. You will find the members of this NGO working insistently and consistently, without stop, without complaint, without showing off, investigating, arranging, encouraging the people to speak up so that our children and our grandchildren can have a better life since if we don't speak the language of truth, our children and grandchildren will always be led by lies... Mountain of lies created by both sides, mountains of hatred, mountains of pressure forcing you to `choose` the one side or the other. No, members of this group will not choose one side or the other, they will choose both because they come from both – Huseyin Rustem Akansoy comes from Maratha, Sherif Mehmet Ali comes from Tremethousa, Petros Souppouris comes from Palekythro, Christos Efthymiou comes from Dali, Andreas Sizinos comes from Gypsou... They would embrace all and allow their hearts to open up to hear the truth of the other, the pain of the other, the suffering and the agony and the trauma of the other and feel it as their own... Cyprus
Among all the `mainstream` politicians and `mainstream` politics, only Takis Hadjigeorgiou, the Euro MP of AKEL really heard their voice with his heart and he proposed Huseyin and Petros who have lost all their families in the massacres of Maratha-Sandallaris-Aloa and Palekythro, to the European Citizen Award... This week Huseyin and Petros went to
to meet with others who have received the European Citizen Award of the European Parliament. But Takis is rare because he has a very human heart and is not blinded by ambition or position or power and he uses his power to help the voice of this group, `Together we can` to be heard in Brussels Europe... What Takis has done is very symbolic for Cyprus, showing Europe that people like Huseyin and Petros, despite their enormous loss and trauma, have managed to overcome their own pain, turning it into a struggle for a common peaceful future on this island, becoming role models for all countries in conflict, as well as our torn island... Takis has shown Europe that the Bi-Communal Relatives of Missing Persons and Victims of Massacres and War from Cyprus has said `Yes!`, `Together we can!`
`Yes, together we can work, we can share, we can build a better life on this island! Yes, together we can face the traumas of the past, we can look into each other's eyes and see the truth because only the truth will set us free and make us stronger! Yes, together we can do it and we are doing it and we will continue to do it...`
People like Christina, Huseyin, Petros, Spiros, Sherif, Andreas, Ali, Christos and all the others in this group are showing the way to the future, even if some try to make them `invisible`... Thanks to Takis Hadjigeorgiou, at least their voice is heard in
Brussels, if not among the ruling elites of the international community and the `locals` in ... Nicosia
(*) Article published in POLITIS newspaper on the 2nd of December, 2012.
Photo: Some of the young artists at the