Monday, February 6, 2017

One more funeral: Rest in peace Londos…

One more funeral: Rest in peace Londos…

Sevgul Uludag

Tel: 99 966518

On the 7th of January 2017 Saturday morning, I go with my husband to Limassol, to Agios Athanasios refugee area for the funeral of the `missing` Christophoros Dionisis Kaimakamis or `Londos` as he had been known…
I meet his family, his daughters Maria, Yiola and Dionisia, his son Panagiotis, his wife Loria… We attend the funeral together with my dear friend Christina Pavlou Solomi Patsia and her husband…
The church is packed but no politicians and no soldiers – it was the family's preference to do the ceremony without politicians…
I had met Panagiotis and his lovely partner Eleni back in 2012 when they had called me and we had sat down and Panagiotis had told me all about him…
In May 2012 I had written the following about Londos:
"Christophoros Dionisis Kaimakamis or `Londos` as he was known had been very well known and very popular among both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots in the Kyrenia area... Because people thought that he looked like a wrestler called `Londos` famous in America back in the 40s, they had called him that and the nickname stuck... He was originally from Lapithos where his great grandfather had lots of land and Turkish Cypriots would call him `Kaimakamis` due to this richness, that's how they would get their surname. His wife Loria Fragala is from Karavas but after they would get married, they would settle in Kyrenia, having three girls and a boy, four children...
Since `Londos` was the main distributor of KEO drinks, all the restaurants in the Kyrenia area, including those of Turkish Cypriots' knew him well.
He had been a very generous, very helpful person but at the same time was one of the leaders of EOKA-B in the Kyrenia area. After he was arrested in a house in 1974 in the area of Karmi, he had gone `missing`.
One day I go to meet the son of `Londos`, Panayiotis and his partner Eleni – Eleni had called me and asked to meet so we meet in the cafeteria of AlfaMega Engomi... We would sit and talk about the sad story of `Londos` and his son Panayiotis...
Panayiotis was barely four years old when his father had gone `missing`. He would remember the last day he saw his father and for many years, he would grow up with anger – why had his father gone `missing`? The anger was also at the heritage the father had left behind: The fact that he had been involved with EOKA-B also made Panayiotis angry when he was growing up... But gradually, he would learn to face the truth and with the kind help of Eleni, the bitterness would go away, leaving behind only sadness... When he would meet people who knew his father, they would tell him good things about him... After meeting Panayiotis and Eleni, I would find some Turkish Cypriot restaurant owners and they would tell me, `Yes, he had been a nationalist and he never hid this fact but he was the most honest Greek Cypriot we ever knew among the Greek Cypriots of Kyrenia...`
`My father grew up with the ideas of ENOSIS` Panayiotis would tell me, `he was most generous with both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots... But he had grown up with the ideas of ENOSIS... He had been in EOKA-A, fighting against the British and had been sent to prison for four years by the British because of that. He had been against the London-Zurich Agreements at that time... He had also been against Makarios... He had some contacts with some people in Greece and finally had been one of the leaders of EOKA-B in the Kyrenia area... During the coup, some Cypriots were arrested and imprisoned in the Kyrenia castle. Some Greek Cypriots wanted to kill these persons but I found out that the day Turkish troops landed in Kyrenia, my father would go to the Kyrenia castle and set these prisoners free... That's how many people could survive... My father had been against the killing of these prisoners in the Kyrenia castle... He had shot at the locks and freed these people... I believe that finally he realized that all of these things, that is the invasion had been provoked by the actions of EOKA-B and did not leave to save his own life, he remained in the Kyrenia area. I think finally he realized that...`
While hiding in a house in Karmi, he would tell other Greek Cypriots who had been with him, not to be afraid:
`I have many Turkish Cypriot friends, they would help us, you don't need to be afraid...` he would tell them. He had sent his wife and kids to safety with an Egyptian neighbour who had been married to a Greek Cypriot woman and this neighbour had American citizenship but Londos would insist to stay behind...
`Actually my father had the opportunity to leave` Panayiotis says, `but he did not... He had preferred to stay... I think he realized that the actions of EOKA-B had provoked the situation so he thought it was his duty to stay, he did not run to save his life. Our eldest sister was 15, Maria... He would tell her, `Take care of your mother and siblings` and he had kissed each one of us and saw us leave...`
`While in Karmi, a jeep would come with two Turkish soldiers and a Turkish Cypriot... They were looking for my father by name... They knew he had been in that house and would arrest him... He had been staying at the house of Yakumis Gunnamas, a relative of my aunt... The Turkish Cypriot who had come to arrest him knew him because of KEO because he had been working with my father in KEO... They had written all those names staying in Karmi and had given it to the Red Cross or the United Nations – that's how they found out that my father was there... Although Yakumi and his wife came to the south safe and sound, no one ever saw my father again, he simply disappeared...`
Panayiotis remembers the face of his father, the times his father would take him to the Kyrenia harbour...
`My father liked to drink konyaki and he would also give me beer to drink!`
Panayiotis remembers the war, he remembers the bombing of the Turkish aeroplanes and also when they looked towards the sea, the sight of the Turkish war ships...`
After the war, his mother would remain with four kids...
`She is very strong, my mother... Her sister was rich and she had given us a flat in Nicosia to stay... We stayed for three years and did not pay any rent. Then we were given a refugee house in Strovolos and we lived there... My mother still lives there... For many years, my mother believed that my father was alive and waited for him to return. She had found a job in a factory and was working but her relatives also supported her... I also believed until I was 25 years old that my father would come back... Because all our politicians in the southern part of the island always told us that they were alive, that was their policy... In fact, no one ever came back, no one returned... Now I want to find out what happened to my father, I want his remains to be found and returned to us... Now I have no anger or hatred inside me... Even if I would meet the person who killed my father, I would not have hatred or anger inside me because I faced all of this inside me... What people do is brought about or forced by circumstances... Political parties, political ideas, the conditions of those days... If we put it simply, people just don't go out and do these things out of the blue, conditions push them towards the things they do... My father was branded as an EOKA-B leader but when we look at his character and listen to what people say, we see that he had been a very good human being... But he had been brainwashed with the ideas of Greece, ENOSIS and such... Finally I believe that my father realized that this had been a mistake and he had regretted it. That's why I think he went up to the Kyrenia castle to free those arrested... When I meet people who knew him, they tell me to be proud of him since he had been a good and generous person. So far, I heard nothing bad about him...`
After meeting Panayiotis, I go out to investigate the fate of `Londos` - apparently it is an `easier` case than most of the `missing` cases since `Londos` was quite well known and quite popular in the Kyrenia area. I find out that after being arrested from the Karmi area, he had been taken to Templos for questioning. Afterwards, he would be taken to Aghirda for execution and would be buried under a very old pine tree, in a field next to the road going towards the elementary school of the village. I find out names, details, who had killed him and how he had been buried. I find out who had been responsible in those days in Kyrenia and Boghazi... Next, I take the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot officials of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee to the possible burial site that had been described to me... We go with Xenophon Kallis, Murat Soysal, Okan Oktay and some Turkish Cypriot investigators to explore the area... We find the old pine tree just as it was described to me..."
But apparently the actual burial site is a bit further down under other big pine trees, not far from the first possible burial site… A relative of a Turkish Cypriot `missing` person would call me one day saying that he wants to show a place… We would go together with him and the CMP officials and the relative of `missing` would also bring with him a bulldozer operator who had seen some remains while building a swimming pool in Aghirdagh-Boghazi area. They would show us the place… This would be in 2014… When digging would begin there, I would follow up and remains would be found of a single person… Three years later, we would be certain that it had been Londos who had been buried there…
At the funeral the daughter of Londos, Yiola speaks and then his son Panagiotis reads a poem:

My Kyrenia

The stones of the castle
have your footsteps.
The wooden door, your touch.
Mute witnesses of a bygone era, father
etched in the memory of all of us
who love you.

I stand high on the castle stones
down below me the beautiful little harbour
same as then
further down Kyrenia,
with Pentadaktylos like a stone sky
covering her
beautiful, unique as always
even if she is changing.

I ask for your hand,
to come down.
I want us to sink together
in the deep blue
and when baptized
to dry beneath the shade
of a blooming fragrant lemon tree.
To embrace you in my arms my love
and to whisper in your ear
«My Kyrenia, you».

We say goodbye to Londos – may he rest in peace now…
I thank all my readers who helped to find out details about the fate of Londos and the relative of a `missing` Turkish Cypriot, Mr. Sozer Ozkaramehmet and the bulldozer operator who showed us the burial site…
May the humanity on this land never disappear to help others and ourselves to create an island without hatred, without suspicions, without bloodshed…


Photo: The small coffin of Londos...

(*) Article published in POLITIS newspaper on the 5th of February 2017, Sunday.

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