The story of Kakoullou…
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After my article about the `missing` Kakoullou and her husband Giannis is published in POLITIS, I get a call from a friend of the grandson of Kakoullou's sister… He says he remembers her very well and will notify the grandson who lives in London… Some days later, I receive a wonderful e-mail from the grandson of Nestillou, the sister of Kakoullou, Takis Zachariou. He gives us details of the life of Kakoullou… He writes:
`Dear Ms. Uludag
I recently saw an article by you in the Politis newspaper about my grandmother's sister Kakoulou and uncle Yianni. I would like to thank you for this because although we knew that they were killed in 1963 we really did not have any other details about their death.
I would like to give you some more information about Kakoullou but firstly I would like to introduce myself. My name is Takis Zachariou from Yialousa but I have lived in London since July 1963. I am the grandson of Styliani (Nestillou) Panayi who you mention in your article. In other words Kakoullou was my grandmother's sister.
'Kakoullou's mother was Katerina who came to Cyprus from Turkey, I think from Adana. This would have been around 1860. She was married twice and had two children from her first husband, Panayis Panayi, one of them being Kakoullou. Kakoullou was about ten years older than my grandmother so I calculate that she was born between 1870 to 1880. The other child was a male and his relatives lived in Rizokarpaso in later years when I met them.
Katerina was married again and had two daughters one of them being my grandmother Styliani (Nestillou) born in the the late 1880's. The other daughter was Athinou.
They lived in the Turkish quarter of Nicosia until my grandmother was about twelve when they moved to Yialousa. Neither my grandmother nor her sister Athinou spoke Greek until then.
I have been told by my grandmother that Kakoullou was abducted when she was about twelve and sold to a harem in one of the Arabian countries. She managed to escape and made her way back to Cyprus when she was around fifteen. It is probable that she opened a brothel since her chances of settling down to a quiet family life were non-existent by then. At least those were the rumours and the whispers I heard as I was growing up but of course these are matters that old Cypriot families would not talk about openly as I am sure you appreciate. Later in life she ran the hotel that you mention in your article. Because of this Kakoullou apart from Greek and Turkish also spoke Arabic.
What is true is that she became extremely rich hence her involvement with the Bank of Cyprus and the many houses and land that she owned and eventually gave to her relatives. She was the first woman in Cyprus to own a car. I remember seeing a photograph my grandmother had of Kakoullou with uncle Yiannis standing next to a beautiful old car. My estimate is that this was taken around 1920. She was a strikingly beautiful woman. This photograph and others of her sadly were lost when my grandmother and her family left Yialousa in 1977.
My memories of her are from the mid 1950's. She was by then very old, ancient to a child like me.
She would come to Yialousa on many occasions for holidays. She particularly liked to go by the sea where she would ask my grandmother and aunties to bury her in hot sand up to her neck which gave her relief from the severe arthritic pain she suffered from in later life.
Her money gave her power and although on the one hand she was very generous on the other hand she could be very autocratic and very demanding of her relatives. She would send a message to my grandmother to go to Nicosia to look after her. My grandmother would take me with her to this magical world of Nicosia. I remember being woken up every morning by the Hodja's singing from the mosque near by. The whole thing looking back at it now seems like a dream of a bygone age that's left us never to return.
On one of these visits Kakoullou had a stroke and she nearly died. I remember the doctor and the priest going to her bedroom (the room with the balcony in your drawing) and where I was never allowed to enter. And of course later on the hodja paid her a visit since aunty Kakoullou believed in having an insurance policy.
I do remember her bursting into tears on many occasions saying that she would gladly give all her wealth away if she could get her youth back for a day. I certainly regret not being old enough then to be able to talk to her and hear her full life story.'
Once again thank you for your article. I hope to be in Cyprus this September and my wife and I would like to take you to lunch one day.
By the way Mr Yiannakis Papadopoullos is my god brother, his mother was my nounna. He may remember me but we have not met since 1960. If you happen to see him please him my regards.
My best regards
I thank his friend who got us in contact and I thank Takis Zachariou for sharing the life story of Kakoullou with us… With his permission I gave his contact details to Xenophon Kallis, Assistant to the Greek Cypriot Member of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee so that he can contact him and arrange to get a DNA sample… If we manage to find the remains of Kakoullou in this way there can be a match and she would not remain `unclaimed` in a box in a cold laboratory…
I am so happy that we managed to find more details about her life and managed to find her family…
But there is more good news: A few days ago, while waiting for a friend to cross from the Ledra Palace checkpoint, I run into Takis Hadjidemetriou who tells me that the husband of Kakoullou, the `missing` Giannis Ellinas is a close relative of him from his mother's side! He remembers his uncle Giannis, coming to their house on his shiny Raleigh bicycle on Sundays and bringing them sweets from the Turkish Cypriot quarter of Nicosia back in the 50s and 60s… While the father of Takis worked in the joint market (bandabuliya) of Nicosia, Takis would go there and would always visit Giannis and Kakoullou in the coffeeshop they owned just next to the Bandabuliya… Prior to the 1963 events, uncle Giannis would warn the Hadjidemetriou family not to come to the Turkish Cypriot quarter of Nicosia since there is too much tension. I find out that the sister of Takis is a writer and that she wrote a book where two chapters are devoted to Kakoullou. The following day we meet with Takis Hadjidemetriou so that he can give me more details of their lives… Perhaps I should get him in contact with the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee for giving a DNA sample as well since Giannis too, is `missing` together with his wife, killed on the same day and buried on the same day, together, probably at the Tekke Bahchesi according to some witnesses of that tragic day…
The tragic story of the `missing` Kakoullou and Giannis contains so much that it could be a movie like `Loksandra` if only we had movie makers in Cyprus who would be interested in such stories…Perhaps not now but maybe someone in the future would pick up our writings and try to show the story that is a real story from Cyprus…
Photo: The house of Kakoullou near Bandabuliya in Nicosia...
(*) Article published in POLITIS newspaper on the 27th of January 2013, Sunday.