Notes from the funeral of Giangos and Antonis Geropapas from Lyssi…
Tel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436
Together with Margarita and her sister Elli we travel to Meneou to Agiou Panteleimonos Church to attend the funeral of two `missing` persons from Lyssi, Giangos and Antonis Geropapas… They were found buried together with Costas and Chambis Attas, Xenis Rousos and Panayi Spirou outside Sinda, the six killed together and lying together in a mass grave. With the help of one of my Turkish Cypriot readers, Huseyin Latif, we had shown this burial site to the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee and when they had exhumed they had found the six `missing persons` from Lyssi…
There has been funerals of the Attas brothers, as well as Xenis Rousos and Panayi Spirou and today, on the 11th of July 2013 Thursday we go to the last funeral from this group – that of the Geropapas…
Margarita is the first cousin of Kikitsa, the wife of the `missing` Giangos Geropapas… Margarita's mother Maria and the mother of Kikitsa, Georgou were sisters… I met Margarita from Lyssi when the checkpoints opened – she is a policewoman serving at the Agios Domedios checkpoint… Margarita has a wonderful smile like the sun shining and she is different from some other Turkish Cypriots or Greek Cypriots working at the checkpoints – her smile comes from the heart, not like some others who would sulk and never offer a smile… There are only a few Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots serving at checkpoints who smile like Margarita and I feel lucky to know them… Once at the Ledra Palace checkpoint, I said to the young Turkish Cypriot girl at the booth, sulking while doing her job, `Vre! Why don't you smile! It is something free! You don't pay for it and it makes people good if you smile!` and she was shocked!
With Margarita immediately we had started speaking about Lyssi from where I have good friends… And when we found out when the funeral of Giangos and Antonis Geropapas would be she had offered to go together and today we go to the funeral together with her car…
So many people have come to the funeral and it is very difficult to find a parking place around the church… I carry my flowers to put next to the two small coffins containing the remains of Giangos and Antonis Geropapas.
Through our dear friend Kyriacos Andreou from Lyssi I had met George Geropapas, the brother of the two `missing` persons and had interviewed him in the office of Kyriacos in Larnaka. Later on we would go together with Kyriacos, George Geropapas, Huseyin Latif and myself to investigate about possible burial sites, look at the excavations going on in the area and hoping to find the burial sites of some `missing` from Lyssi… Kyriacos Andreou is one of the heros of Cyprus since he has always been helping to find the burial sites of both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot `missing persons` - he is very humble and very low profile and likes to keep it that way. He does not `boast` about how he puts so much effort voluntarily for closing the wounds of our motherland Cyprus. He is waiting for me outside the church and we go in to see that the church is packed. I go to meet the brothers and sisters of Giangos and Antonis, George I already know and Andreas and Shallis, Efgenu, Maria and Panayiota…
The wife of Giangos, Kikitsa with whom we had met in Sinda during exhumations hugs me and I meet her son Takis and her daughter Kiriaki… Takis has such striking eyes and it is as though Giangos is looking at me through his eyes – I have only seen Giangos from his photographs and I have a strange feeling that Takis must look like his father, at least his eyes… They are very intense perhaps because of the funeral – Takis was only four years old when his father Giangos became a `missing person` and his sister Kiriaki only two and a half years old… Kikitsa like all wives of `missing persons` had huge hardships since she was both a refugee, had lost her husband and had two small kids to raise alone… She would have to be both mother and father to her kids… Margarita tells me that Kikitsa was one of the most beautiful girls of Lyssi and you can still see that because her beauty comes from within – it is a light that shines no matter what the circumstances are – it is the light of humanity and we will see that in the speech of her son Takis at the funeral…
We stand to listen to the hymns of the priests and then speeches… But the most memorable speech is that of Takis Geropapas… I want to frame this speech and hang it on the walls… I want everyone to read it… I want to show how humanitarian this family of Geropapas is to the whole world…
Having lost his father at the age of four, the family having lost all their property in Lyssi, Takis and the Geropapas family could have chosen the road of hatred instead of wisdom… Takis could have spilled out words that would help hatred grow more and more… But no, he speaks with wisdom and touches our hearts with his words…
I want to share the speech of Takis Geropapas that he made at the funeral of his father Giangos and his uncle Antonis Geropapas because it is historical in its peaceful messages. Takis Geropapas said:
`Dear father Yiaggos and uncle Antonis,
We are here today at St. Panteleimona's Church to offer our respect and bid our last farewell even though 39 years have passed since the day you passed away.
This day was delayed for so long because the hardships of our country have not ended yet, even though 39 years have passed. But we want you to know that your martyrdom, your sacrifice, give us strength to continue fighting for the end of our country's suffering.
It is our duty to honour your heroic sacrifice with persistence and patience against the facts of the Turkish invasion. The murders, the raping, the destruction of the land and the people.
And you, our beloved ones, we know that you were murdered by a group of Turkish-Cypriot cowards. For those people, can only be called cowards since you were unarmed.
Based on this fact we would like to send a message. Time has taught us that pain and suffering know no borders, no religion, no political convictions. There is no ideology that can ease the suffering caused by the loss of a person's beloved ones. Before death, every person's pain is the same. Only unconditional love can relieve this pain. Hatred has no place next to pain. Because hatred can only bring more pain and sow more hatred perpetuating everyone's suffering.
We are now convinced that peace, on our island, can only exist through the peaceful co-existence of Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots. A co-existence which cannot be monitored by foreign powers or foreign armies.
It is our obligation to build this peace on the foundation of your heroic sacrifice so that we will never again be forced to witness the nightmare of war, conflict and hatred.
We are here today because of certain persons who spoke honestly and cooperated without prejudice or suspiciousness but with compassion and love.
And where there is love, peace and prosperity prevail. Where there is hatred, propaganda and fanaticism; conflict, war and death prevail.
On behalf of our family we would like to thank the State, the Church, all of you who are present here today and all those you stood on our side during our ordeal.
We would also like to thank Mr. Xenophontas Kalli and the members of his team, Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots, the journalist Mrs. Sevgul Uludag, Mr. Hussein Latif and our friend Kyriakos Andreou who all together built a bridge of communication and cooperation which had as a result the discovery of the remains of many missing Greek-Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Among those missing persons discovered, are eight of our fellow – villagers from Lysi.
Finally, we would like to thank from the bottom of our heart our grandparents, aunts and uncles for their unconditional love and continuous support. We especially want to thank our mother Aggeliki, who has been a mother and a father to us all these years.
Dear father and uncle Antonis,
With these words we bid you farewell till we meet again.
You will never be forgotten…`
Photo: Giangos and Antonis Geropapas
(*) Article published in POLITIS newspaper on the 21st of July 2013.