Sunday, November 30, 2014
`The diary of a child…`
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Dr. Dervish Ozer, whose stories we have published in these pages has written `The diary of a child from Epicho (Abohor)…` It's the story of 18 villagers who had fled the village in 1974 during the war and stayed outside the village in a place called `Boghazi with Olives`. Dr. Dervish spoke with many people in order to create the diary of a child from the group. In summary, here is what he has written:
It was Saturday. We heard the voice of Denktash on the radio and watched the planes passing. As always we played war games in the yard of our house. My grandma collected and wrapped some things in bundles. And my mother filled up a bag to the full with loaves of bread she had just cooked and put the bag near the door. We laughed because who would eat so many loaves of bread!
A little while later the war began and how it began! It was as though the sky was falling and wouldn't stop.
My uncle came running to the house – my uncle is only four years older than me. I was 11 and he was 15. He was carrying water to soldiers. He came in rage to the house: `The Greek Cypriots came near the Two Olives, the whole village has evacuated, why are you still here!` he said.
Me, my mother and my sisters and brother got out of the house and ran into the dry stream. When an elderly neighbour saw us running, he stopped us: `It's raining bullets, where will you go?` he said. We slowed down a bit but we did not return home.
We had taken with us the bread and bundles of clothes that my mom and grandma had prepared but we had forgotten to take the money at home. I returned with my mother to the house, took the money and went back to run following the dry stream but could not find neither my siblings, nor my grandmother. My mother was carrying the loaves of bread in the bag and a pot for cooking macaroni.
Even today she does not remember how she got hold of that pot.
We went all the way to Petra tou Digheni but couldn't enter the village. The Greek Cypriots had taken the village and we saw some civilians running towards us. The Greek Cypriots could see us and were calling us saying `Ela`. We slept on an olive tree near Petra tou Digheni when night fell.
In the morning there was no sound of guns or humans. We climbed down from the tree and around eight persons started towards Kalavach (Kalyvakia) but we encountered villagers coming from Kalyvakia on the way. It too had fallen to the Greek Cypriots and the only place left for us to go was the mountains. We walked towards the mountains and when we saw some more of our villagers we decided to stay at the `Boghazi with Olives` (`Zeytinli Boghaz`). I was still carrying the macaroni pot.
We had become 16 persons at the `Boghazi with Olives`. We punched a little hole in the water pipe to get some water. But there was no food. There was a guy who had come as a refugee to our village and he came to join us with his sheep. We thought we will not go hungry.
On the first day we shared the bread we had. And the bread finished. The old people said there was some wheat bundles down and hiding and crawling, they went and brought those bundles and put the wheat in the macaroni pot to cook. It was good to eat the wheat but there was no salt.
We put a red blanket one of the old women had taken with her in order to protect herself from bullets (!) up on the hill and on it made a crescent and a star with white stones. This would protect us from the bombing of the planes. Plus they would see us and save us! A soldier who had got away from the village with his wife and kids buried his gun so the Greek Cypriots would not find it. The sheep we milked. We drank this from the macaroni pot and from its lid.
Our breakfast was again milk from the sheep – the macaroni pot and its lid proved to be very useful. We would drink the milk from the lid. It was too hot and we were trying to get a place under the six olive trees in the shade. We would move with the shade during the day. We were weak from hunger and could not go far anyway.
We changed our route in order to get some bundles of wheat and found a tractor and a car that belonged to those from Beykeuy. We could now listen to news from the radio of the car. According to the Bayrak Radio, we had won the war! According to the Greek Cypriot radio, Turkish soldiers were about to be pushed to the sea. Now we had to listen to the radio as a daily task. It was the elderly soldier who listened to the radio most and from time to time he would shout at us to be silent.
Today must have been Thursday. Two sheep came and joined the other sheep. We were happy that we would at least have some meat. The group sat down and spoke whether to slaughter some sheep. The sheep did not belong to us, therefore it was not `helali` to slaughter or eat them. That was the decision of the `committee`. Again we ate boiled wheat without salt. We could hear the planes passing by but there was no sounds of bombing. We were too weak even to try to hide.
We found out that the shepherd who said that `it is not helali to cut the sheep` had in fact salt but would not share it with us. He would secretly lick the salt he kept in his bag. We asked for salt but he would not give it to us. He turned a deaf ear to my mom who begged him to give just a little bit of salt to us kids.
Arguments started in the group.
Two more persons joined us. They had been prisoners of Greek Cypriots and had escaped. We learned from them how bad things were. We would never see our village again…
We woke up to the wailing of the shepherd who had hidden the salt. He not only had salt but also dry katimeri in his bag and would wet and eat it – he was remembering his wife who had baked this katimeri and missing her and crying out her name… Still he would not give us his salt or katimeri.
Again we woke up to the crying of the shepherd and two elderly men tried to push him away from us. His wailing could be heard from afar and women were afraid that he would compromise our position. They threw some stones at him and pushed him away from the group but he continued crying. The elderly later on went looking for him but when his crying stopped they came back.
Nothing significant happened.
Today's menu was again milk from the lid and for lunch, cold golifa without salt. This golifa cooked above a wood fire, Abohor (Epicho) style was something the elderly could eat but they still complained. There was comments like, it could have been done better, it should have been cooked less…
Some of us went to the well of a villager to bring back a bucket.
We all started thinking of winter. We could not live like this and we needed to search for a place to stay.
The old soldier who was listening to the radio once a day and the crying shepherd had an argument. The old soldier threw a stone that hit the head of the chobani who had been hiding the salt. They were swearing at each other. The elderly intervened and blamed the loud noise of the crickets for driving them crazy. The news was not commented on, they were not worth it. As always it said Ecevit, Sisco, Junta, Sampson, Makarios but no one could see our situation. The head of the shepherd was wrapped with a cloth, the blood stopped. Some of us liked that since our revenge was taken. How strange that we were 18 persons hiding among the hills from the enemy, trying to survive, and we were bursting each other's heads!
Groupings began in our commune and some were coming together secretly and whispering to each other. Under fire, on the edge of death, people could not stand each other!
We had lost a lot of weight and could not even go to toilet anymore.
We had learned to use our hands quickly in order to get the golifa from the macaroni pot – if not, we would go hungry.
We were arguing about our place in our houses built of straw. The elders were trying to provoke the younger to go back to the village but nobody cared about that.
A sheep was chosen from the flock and said that each person had to pay ten shillings. They would cut and cook the old sheep but each had to pay so it would not be `harami`. Those who had money paid, those who did not borrowed it or promised to pay. The sheep was cut and we waited like hungry wolves next to the fire for the sheep to cook. After many hours we ate it. It was not cooked. The elders and those without teeth could not eat. They used the stock to put some wheat and eat.
It was the worst day. We all had diarrhoea. It was the sheep we ate…
The elders could not move because of diarrhoea. The younger ones started talking about who knew how to pray and what to do if someone dies, how to bury them.
We were losing hope. This war would never end. First the elders and then we will die here. No-one was talking now. Only the elderly soldier was listening to the radio and not commenting anymore. All his comments had proven to be wrong.
Two persons were chosen to go and check what was going on in the village. At night time they set out to go.
They came back and brought potatoes and dry bread from the village. They told us that animals died in the streets and a lot of houses were burned down. They did not see anything else. In the evening we ate potatoes. They had brought salt from the village and we licked that salt. The elders' eyes started shining with the salt. Their creases started going away. We were happy, we had eaten something with salt.
We woke up to the sound of bombs and planes. We opened the radio. The second war had begun. The elders were like owls, they all said bad things. `Whether we win or lose, we will all lose` one of them was saying. Five or six Greek Cypriot soldiers came and found us. They asked for water and we gave them water and they climbed towards Halevga. An hour later other Greek Cypriot soldiers came and asked for water.
We learned from the radio that we were free. Denktash was speaking nonstop. We took our macaroni pot and returned to the village. The elders who could not walk stayed one more day to be picked up by a car later. We paid for the sheep that was cut so it could be `helali`. We also paid for the wheat we had eaten.
We came to our houses even if they were burned or destroyed. No place to sleep at night, everything was a mess. Still it was big happiness to sleep under a roof and to be able to eat salt.
Nowadays we joke about these 26 days we spent… It looks like a game… A game was being played and the whole island was in this game. The deaths and the hunger, the wounded and the missing, the mothers waiting for their sons and the refugees, all a big game… Even today, all of these seem like a big game to me…`
(Dr. Dervish OZER – November 2014).
Photo: Dr. Dervish Ozer at the `Boghazi with Olives`, investigating the area...
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 30th of November 2014, Sunday.