Sunday, August 10, 2014
Hopes of a woman in a wheelchair till the last moment…
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`I was always dreaming of my father and when I woke up, I would be shocked and sad that it had only been a dream… I was only 14 when he went `missing` and all the years I was growing up, I was seeing him in my dreams and waking up and realizing that it was just a dream would make me so sad… But then God sent me a son who is the spitting image of my father! I am so happy just watching him… My father was exactly like my son – the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he looked… I thank God for sending me this gift… At least I can console myself like this…
I remember when my father would get out of the bath and getting dressed, I would go and play with his arms, he was a very strong person… My mother would say `Leave your father alone to get dressed peacefully` but my father would say `No, let him stay and let us play…` I remember those moments…
My father was such a kind person, he was helping everyone whether they were Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. You know this because you spoke to many Turkish Cypriots from our mixed village… And I wait and wait and wait – 40 years have passed and I still wait for his remains to be found…`
We drive on a dirt track climbing up a steep hill near Athienou as the son of a `missing` person tells me these things… There, up on the hill is a small church called Ayia Marina but the reason why we are here is not the church but the scenery from top of the hill – there is a mist so it is not very clear but despite this we can see the whole area at an angle of 360 degrees! We can see Larnaka and the Pentataktilos, we can see Athienou and Melousha and Archoz… There is no vegetation, no trees, only barren hills…
`I bring all my friends here to see the view` he explains…
The sun is setting and we must get back before it falls completely dark… We get in his car, my husband and I, to go back to his house – his wife has cooked and we sit down to eat as his friends arrive…
Earlier I was at a funeral, feeling sad and moved…
Now I am trying to unwind and relax under the stars as the breeze from the sea, not far away, comes to caress us and feel us a bit chilly…
At the funeral was a woman, the wife of a `missing` person, Maroula Plarkou who had been taken to the church in a wheelchair… She had waited and hoped till the last moment that her husband Andreas Plarkos would come back to her alive – the way he had gone from home… I have been speaking with her daughter Yiota for many years now and she had asked me not to publish anything in POLITIS but only in YENIDUZEN, the Turkish Cypriot newspaper because she feared for the health of her mother… We were searching for information about her father and I had found all the details about how he was kidnapped and taken to Assia to be killed there… I had written in YENIDUZEN and my readers had called to give details… I had gone to meet people from the area he had disappeared and had learnt more details and wrote it all up but only in Turkish, not in Greek, in case the woman in the wheelchair, Maroula would find out and would feel even more devastated… I
respected the decision of the family and had done all I could to trace the steps of those who had kidnapped him, finding out the names of the kidnappers and learning all the details…
His remains were found in an area one of my readers had shown us and now he was being returned to his family for burial…
The woman in the wheelchair is devastated and the church is fully packed. Nestoras Nestoros, the Greek Cypriot Member of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee delivers a speech, talking about Andreas Plarkos…
We hear the speech of Yiota speaking to her father, now laying in a coffin… Although I cannot understand Greek, I understand almost every word she utters: She is speaking to her father that she has been missing for 40 years – it comes from her heart… She says:
"Our beloved father,
Words are too poor to describe our feelings.
The memories we have of the few years that God made us worthy to live with you are few, but only good and valuable for us. You were an exceptional father and husband and you only offered us love and affection.
How much you liked to take us to trips in Cyprus, to the sea, for swimming, to the cinema and even with you to work, the "arapouthkia" (dark kids – arapcikları) as you affectionately called us and how much we were enjoying all of these!
But it did not last for long. Suddenly, one day in September, 40 years ago, everything changed for us. We were lost and this was destined to be forever. We were expecting you to come back as always to our home, to hear your footsteps, your voice, but in vain. In our children's soul there was hope and expectation that soon you would return and the nightmare would end. So slowly we were growing, with the hope nested in our soul.
How much we would have liked to have you beside us during our school years but you were not! How much we would have liked to have you beside us at our wedding, the birth of our children, our joys and sorrows, the easy and the difficult, all these years, but you were not!
Daddy, how many years it has been since we said that word! How many years we were deprived of you! How many things we have not lived together! How much strength was necessary all these years, for mother, our mother, who from one moment to the next she became both mother and father. She stood next to us and we brought us up with the always undying hope of your return.
You did not meet your six grandchildren, dad, but they know so much about you, because we were talking to them about you, because they also always asked, wanting to know about you.
We learned and still learn about you, how good a man you were, how patriotic you were, how you loved relatives and friends, what a sociable man you were. Through our research, all these years we were learning that we are helping our fellow citizens in need. Not even our mother knew because you were this man who helped quietly.
We, you children, were always making efforts to clarify your fate through various ways, without our mother knowing, who always wanted to hope and did not even want to hear nor to experience what we are experiencing today. At this point it is worth thanking the Commission and the Office of Missing Persons, CMP, and Mr. Nestor Nestoros, its representative, our friend Katy Mangerdjian, the Team of the Anthropology Lab for the very human way they approached us, the National Guard, the friend of the family MEP Eleni Theocharous for their valuable contribution to our efforts, as well as the T/Cy journalist Sevgul Uludag who helped us in our efforts and who is with us today with her husband. Finally, we thank the parliamentarians, mayors, Chairman Committee on Defence and Education of the Parliament and all of you.
In all the difficulties we went through, relatives, uncles, aunts, cousins, stood by our side, by our mother, supported us and embraced us and we thank them wholeheartedly for what they offered us.
They are all here today, in your hometown, Troulloi that you so loved, relatives, friends, your godchildren, your acquaintances even from abroad (Nottingham, London), and who we thank, who with their presence commemorate you.
Thanks also to the muhtar of Troulloi, the Community Council of Troulloi and the church of Agios Mamas. We also thank the community of Livadia for their support all these years.
As for the few, those who occasionally tried to tarnish your memory, let God forgive them.
We thank God who has listened to our prayers and made us worthy to have you today, even after 40 years, even for the ultimate farewell, to honour you and to give you a funeral as you deserve, like every missing person deserves.
Our beloved father and husband,
your soul can now rest.
Be sure that from today your candle will burn and will remain lit, like the hope which kept you alive in our memories these 40 years. We are so proud of you!
Blessed is the path you are traveling today, which we were all travelling for 40 years.
Have a good trip! Long live your memory.
May the soil which will now cover you be light.
Your wife, your children, your grandchildren and all the relatives."
I go to lay flowers under his coffin and hug his children. I take the hand of the woman in the wheelchair, his wife, and speak to her… I go out and people come to say hello, to ask about their own `missing` persons.
We all live, love, eat, sleep, wake up, work, laugh and cry… We all feel sad and happy in different moments of our lives… We are all human after all, even though we don't acknowledge our humanitarian side and focus more on our ethnicity… We need to move away from this mentality and realize that we are only on this earth for less than 100 years and we will all go under the soil, we will all be buried, dead, lying in a coffin or wrapped in a sheet… If we can't find our humanity while on earth, when shall we find it?
Photo: Maroulla Plarkhou at her husband's funeral...
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 10th of August, 2014 Sunday.