From Lefkonico to Trikomo…
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We travel to Trikomo, me and the witness together with Xenophon Kallis, Murat Soysal and Okan Oktay from the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee, in order to show a possible burial site to them – there we will meet one of my Turkish Cypriot readers, another witness who had found some human remains back in 1980 and he will show us the exact location of these remains.
On our way to Trikomo, we stop at Lefkonico, my father's village, at the Greek Cypriot cemetery where one of my readers had shown us a while ago, a small well inside the cemetery where he had buried a human skull. Years ago, he had found this skull somewhere in Lefkonico and had taken it – he was just a kid of 15 and was playing with it when someone had told him that it's not good to do that, that he should go and bury it in the Greek Cypriot cemetery where there was a shallow well. So he had gone and put it in the well. One day he had called me to tell this story so we had gone, together with Kallis, Murat Sosyal and Okan, so that he could show us this small well.
Now, exhumation has been completed and just as my reader had told me, the exhumation team made up of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot archaeologists have found the human skull. We stop to say hello to them and look at the small well, not deeper than 1 meter… My reader had found the skull, years ago at a spot where years later the exhumation team had dug and had found the remains of two old persons, one of them without a skull. He has shown us where he had taken the skull from and this was in fact the spot where some exhumations were done some months ago. Therefore it's highly probable that this skull belongs to one of those two old persons, probably two old women – but only DNA will confirm this. I will call my reader when I go back home at night and thank him for kindly having shown us the spot in the cemetery for uncovering the human skull that belongs to a `missing person`.
We leave to go to Trikomo – it's sunny but cold and at the entrance of the village we stop. The witness shows us an empty plot where there used to be a house back in 1974 – the house has been demolished but we can see parts of the sunbrick walls… The trees have been cut and it's only green grass now, in this empty plot and ghosts roaming, waiting for us to discover the tragic story connected with this land… There used to be a mulberry tree, some fig and lemon trees here but all are gone… Perhaps someone had decided to build something here and demolished the old house and cut the trees but could not start the construction?
Greek Cypriots remained for quite some time in Trikomo after 1974… One of my Turkish Cypriot readers who had got married in Trikomo in 1980 told me that, in that year there had been 116 Greek Cypriots living in Trikomo.
`Some of them, when they died of old age, were buried in the Greek Cypriot cemetery. But some of them had relatives in the southern part of our island and their relatives would take the body to bury in the south…`
Here in this plot was a possible burial site of some Greek Cypriot `missing persons` from the village. We take coordinates and photos – I ask the group to come with me to the small church at the entrance of Trikomo when you are coming from Nicosia – this is now an icon museum. I wrote a lot about the yard of this church where some Greek Cypriot `missing` had been buried but later with a bulldozer, their remains were taken away. According to my readers from this area who had witnessed the `cleansing operation` at night, the bulldozer could not enter the church yard so it stayed outside, scooping up the remains from the yard and loading them on a truck. Together we investigate the yard, trying to see in which parts the cement is new and in which parts it's old. The wall surrounding the church is still intact – it is very old and the new cement they put in the yard has been cracked by the trees, we can see that.
While there, my Turkish Cypriot reader who had stayed for more than 15 years in this village comes to meet us. He no longer lives in Trikomo but has seen some human remains in another church yard and I have asked him to show this spot to us.
We go together to another church yard and my reader shows us the exact location where he had seen some human remains. They had been cleaning the yard when they came across the remains.
`We saw some shoes and some bones and we closed it` he says.
We thank him for showing us the exact location of this possible burial site and we go to have coffee in one of my friend's house. She is at work but her mother who helped me a lot with my investigations concerning the `missing` Turkish Cypriots of Larnaka is at home. She had helped me back in 2006 to find all the relatives of the 11 Turkish Cypriot `missing` with the bus – they were going to work from Larnaka to Dhekelia at the British Bases when the bus went `missing` - they were kidnapped and killed and buried in a well in Oroklini… She would help me to find the relatives of those `missing` from the bus and I would go and interview them…
Now she greets us and makes us coffee and we sit to chat about her life – her husband is at home as well and he too tells us his memories from Larnaka. His family was actually from Assia but because his grandfather had camels, they had moved to Larnaka and he grew up there. He is a great fisherman, always having a boat not for work but as a hobby… Sometimes he would have starfish or seahorses on his net and he would send these to me with my friend, his daughter. He now lives with a battery for his heart and he should not go alone on the sea but still he keeps his boat… Tall, blond with blue eyes, he spent 20 years of his life in Qatar, after he became a refugee in 1974 from Larnaka. He could not find a job and he needed to work so that his three children and his wife could survive on this island. So he would go to work in deserts and the shores and finally would come back to settle… We start talking about `missing` Turkish Cypriots from the Larnaka area who were killed by the Turkish Cypriot military authorities of the time – he knows them all, with their stories and he might perhaps help us to find out more details, leading us to their burial sites.
The best thing about my investigative journalism is this: The involvement of ordinary Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots in helping out to ease the pain and suffering of others… They do it out of their heart; they are genuinely interested in closing the wounds of this country and not having any such tragedies in the future. They are bold as humans and I greet them for who they are…
(*) After this article was written, exhumations began in Trikomo in the spot where my Greek Cypriot witness has shown and remains of four `missing` Greek Cypriots were exhumed… I thank him for coming with me and the officials of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee and showing us the possible burial site…
Photo: Archeologists at the exhumation site in Trikomo…
(*) Article published in POLITIS newspaper on the 3rd of February 2013, Sunday.