Sunday, October 19, 2014

Story of `missing` Christos Antoni Koutalistra from Morphou…

Story of `missing` Christos Antoni Koutalistra from Morphou…

Sevgul Uludag

Tel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436

`Dear Ms Uludag,
I have been reading your articles and articles written by others about you, for quite some time, so I am aware of all your efforts, battles and research in finding missing persons of both communities, and also your commitment to peace journalism. Giving to others seems to come naturally to you and you do not hesitate to go the extra mile, take the extra time, give the extra thought because the light within seems to guide your actions. You truly are a wonderful example to us all.
Today, I have made the decision to write to you, seeking assistance in finding the remains of a relative who has gone missing in August 1974. This person was the youngest brother of my deceased grandfather, so I am writing on behalf of his daughter Maroula who is at her early 70's.
The missing person's name is Christos Antoni Koutalistra, born in 1918 (56 years old in 1974), from Morphou. He was a civilian and he did not leave his home with the rest of his family in 15 August 1974 because he decided to stay in order to take care of his cattle. His house was situated outside Morphou, about 5 kilometres away, in a north-western direction. The house was somewhere between the village of Sirianohori and the area called Mnasi or Pnasi, a couple of kilometres away from the chapel of Panagia tou Mnasi.
His children visited the area 3-4 years ago and they said that they saw no evidence that there had been houses in the area in the past. Two of his married daughters (Maroula and Pantelou) had houses in the same area. Near the houses there was a borehole for the irrigation of the orange groves but when they visited they found it filled with dirt. The family suspects that somebody might had tried to steal his cattle and Christo's was killed attempting to stop them and then probably he was buried in the borehole.
So far, there hasn't been a trustworthy testimonial about Christo's whereabouts after August 15.
A Greek Cypriot, who had been enclaved for a short period, told Christo's family that he saw him going to Sirianohori coffee shop, at least a couple of times, riding a bike.
His daughter Maroula told me that the family had many Greek and Turkish Cypriot friends in Ayia Irini (Akdeniz) village. Their father and his mother often visited the village to sell or to buy different products. Christo's mother, a very assertive and energetic widow was known by the nickname "Makria" (the tall one). Her real name was Eleni or Elou. She died in 1972 and she was 92 years old.
These is all the information I managed to gather.
Any information on what really happened to Christos and/or where his remains are would be greatly appreciated.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Maria Gavriel`
This was the first e-mail I received from Maria Gavriel in August this year… For me Maria Gavriel is a miracle person who is precise in detail and as we began investigating together – without ever meeting face to face even once, communicating only over the e-mail and the phone – she continued to put her energy and her heart to help find more details:
`Yesterday I visited Christos's daughters and wife in Episkopi village. His wife, Elengou, is 98 years old. She lives with one of her daughters who is a widow. Elengou suffered a minor stroke a couple of weeks ago but she recovered. She spends her awake hours sitting on an armchair. She cannot move around but she has a very good memory… Christos and his wife Elengou had 6 daughters and 2 sons. They all have families. One of the daughters died in an accident 25 years ago. The oldest daughter lives in Paralimni. A son and three daughters live in Episkopi. Another son lives in Kantou and there's a daughter living in Greece. I asked Victoria, the youngest daughter, to tell me how many grandchildren and great grandchildren there are in the family but she couldn't give me a number. "I have to think about it first", she said. Victoria was 13 years old in 1974. She said that for ten years she was waiting for her father to show up. She needed to believe that
he was somewhere alive. But the problem was not only emotional, she said. The family suffered a significant financial hardship because there were so many underage children in the family and only one parent to take care of them all. Victoria sent me a message this morning with the number of grandchildren (23), great grandchildren (36) and great-great grandchildren (5)…`
I would call one of my very good readers helping me in investigations about `missing persons` from the area of Morphou and Ayia Irini passing on all the information that Maria Gavriel had sent me and he would start investigating the fate of the `missing` relative of Maria, Christos Antoni Koutalistra… In a few days we would speak – he found people who had remembered Christos and he would tell me the whole story:
`Christos was the victim of looting` he would say, `Although he was innocent and had nothing to do with looting, he himself became a victim of looting and I will tell you how… You know, when the war began in 1974 on the 20th of July, a lot of Turkish Cypriots from Ayia Irini left the village. Some Greek Cypriots from Morphou, Diorios, Livera, Syrianachori came to Ayia Irini and started looting the property and animals of Turkish Cypriots. They stole goats and sheep and whatever they liked to steal… They even shot and killed two Turkish Cypriot shepherds, Mustafa Huseyin Saghir (`Moustafali`) and Huseyin Mustafa Arap (`Taraboulous`) in order to steal their animals. When the Turkish Cypriots of Ayia Irini came back to the village after the `second round` of the war in mid-August 1974, they found out that their animals and property had been looted. So `in retaliation` they went out to `loot` themselves, the stolen animals from them… One Turkish
Cypriot from Ayia Irini went to the house where Christos was – there were orange groves next to this house and from among the bamboos where this Turkish Cypriot was hiding, he saw Christos with a gun standing there. This was a special gun with a single barrel… We call this type of gun `Monari`… This Turkish Cypriot got afraid when he saw the gun and shot at Christos with his handgun and killed him. He got so afraid he ran back to the village, forgetting that he had gone there for looting… As he told his story in the village, next day one of his close relatives went back and took the watch from the arm of Christos, searched his pockets and found 30 Cypriot Pounds on him and took it and went away. The following day, another Turkish Cypriot went to where Christos was laying down, killed… He took his gun, the `Monari` and came back to Ayia Irini… As he showed the gun in the village, the villagers told him, `Vre, you will be in trouble! Go and
give the gun to the police!` so he went to the police in Myrtou and gave the gun to the Turkish Cypriot policemen in Myrtou… The person who gave the gun to the police is no longer alive but the one who killed him and the one who took his watch and money are alive…`
I would write this story in YENIDUZEN newspaper and would also call Maria Gavriel and tell her details… She would get back to me immediately:
`I asked Christo's daughters whether their father had a hunting gun and they verified it. His son-in-law gave me a detailed description of the gun but since I am not familiar with guns, I am not able to reproduce that in English. He did verified though that Christos had a single barrel hunting gun. He also said that it was a very unique gun. It had a longer and bigger barrel than the usual hunting guns. I don't know if my messages gave you the impression that Christos was a chobani. He wasn't. He had 3 cows, 6-7 goats, hens and rabbits. As you said, the house was surrounded by orange groves (pervolia). They had no neighbours (at least not nearby) except for a Turkish Cypriot guy they used to call Feizis who used to work for a Greek Cypriot from Morphou (Aniftos). Feizis lived nearby, in the middle of his boss' pervolia and he often visited Christos. He is probably dead by now.
Christos' daughters have found the gun's registration number and barrel's number.
Reg. Number: Ν448
Barrel number: 68883`
This was such valuable information coming from Maria Gavriel. Surely if the Turkish Cypriot investigators want, they can find out very easily who the policemen were serving in Myrtou police station back in 1974 and they would have records of this gun being given to the police. It was and is a very important lead to the fate of `missing` Christos… Since the police took this gun from someone from Ayia Irini, surely they must have had more details about what had happened. These are very small villages we are talking about and everyone heard everything in such villages.
I call Maria to tell her the things I found out and also speak with the Turkish Cypriot officials of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee – about a year ago, the daughters of Christos had gone to the area and had shown the borehole for irrigation that had been filled to the Committee, the Committee had excavations in this irrigation borehole but found nothing. We decide to go and explore the area once again and I will continue my investigations with my readers from the area who are helping voluntarily to see if we can find out where Christos has been buried… Meanwhile I thank Maria Gavriel and my reader from the Morphou-Ayia Irini area for their valuable information and investigation…


Photo: Christos Antoni Koutalistra with his wife Elengou...

(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 19th of October, 2014 Sunday.

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