Sunday, December 8, 2019
The story of a house in Lapithos and a house next to the Kourtoumbellis bakery… - 1 –
Tel: 99 966518
Four years ago. on the 9th of August 2015, under the title `Stories from Lapithos and Agios Georgios, Kyrenia" I had written about a possible burial site in Lapithos near a beautiful stone house, half demolished… And I had published the photo of this house… In the article I had written about the burial site near this house, I had said the following:
"I try to find the mother of my friend who lives in London who will show us another burial site in Lapithos…
My friend in London had told me this:
`When we moved to Lapithos after 1974, my father saw a Greek Cypriot soldier lying dead under one of the trees. He buried him where he had found him… But after some time, the garden was given to someone to do some sort of work there so my father got worried that this shallow grave might be disturbed. He opened the grave and took the remains out and buried him further up in a well…`
Her father is no longer alive so now I try to find her mother to tell us the story and perhaps show us the possible burial site.
I find her and she tells me that the one `missing` person had been buried in the back garden under some lemon trees but the dogs had dug out and the remains had come out… The `missing` Greek Cypriot had a hand grenade on him so they had taken that as well and had buried him in a well behind an old house.
We get in the car and we travel so she can show us this old house…
It is a big, beautiful house of stone and I find out that since 1974 no one ever used it… It just remains there, in Lapithos, crumbling, trying to withstand time, alone, desolate… Okan and Kallis try to go inside the house but 40 years of neglect has turned the garden into a thick bush… Inside the house they discover that there are many balls of children: According to Okan Oktay, when the ball went into this house, the children must have been afraid to go and get their balls so the balls remain there! `It is like a haunted house!` Okan says…
We take photos and coordinates and Kallis will try to find aerial photos of this house from the past so they can locate the well…
We thank her and take her back to her house…"
This year, the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee would dig the well that we were talking about and found the remains of one "missing" person in the well… I call my friend's mother to thank her and meanwhile, during the four years that passed from showing this area near the old house, the house has been completely demolished and a block of houses has been built in its stead…
So the house remains only in the photos I had taken that day and in the memories of people who remember this house…
In September this year, I get a message from John Metaxas and it is quite surprising to find out that when he read my article recently and he saw the photo of the old house, he recognized it because that house belonged to his family, to his grandmother Anastasia Aletrari…
John Metaxas who has been living in the USA since 1963, in his message, says:
"Hi Sevgul, the picture of this building in your article was my mother's ancestral home in Lapithos. I spent time there with my grandmother in the early 50s as a little boy. I stumbled upon it 2-3 years ago. I recognized it immediately from similar pictures I received from my uncle and his two sons from Australia when they visited Cyprus. My uncle wanted to show his two adult sons the place where he was born and grew up. What a great coincidence for you also to stumble upon this house to take a picture for your article. THANK YOU SO MUCH!"
I am so touched by this message that I ask him to tell me the story of this house, his grandmother, his family… And he writes back and tells me the story not only of the house in Lapithos that the family lost but also the house in Nicosia, in the Koshkluchiftlik area… He says:
"My grandmother's maiden name was Anastasia Aletrari. The Aletrari was a large prominent family from Karavas. She married my grandfather, Kyriakos Pavlides. My grandfather also came from a very well to do family from Lapithos. He and his parents (my great-grandparents) owned large farms in several locations rich in olive trees, citrus orchards, carob trees, almond trees, apricot trees, cactus fruit, grape vineyards, etc. Basically, my grandfather was a farmer.
My grandparents had nine children, four sons and five daughters. The oldest, a son, died at the age nine from an accident. My grandfather was very grieved at the loss of a very talented boy whom he was grooming to join him as a partner. The elder "was very versatile professional and acquired good experience as a policeman, construction worker (mason), carpenter, as well as a retailer merchant." The sudden death of his oldest son caused my grandfather to go into deep depression, which resulted in high blood pressure that eventually took his life at a young age.
My mother was three years old and she witnessed the sudden death of her beloved father. That scene with the many people from the village who rushed in to help save him, left her with lifelong emotional wounds.
My grandmother who was 35 at the passing of her husband had to take full responsibility of her household with eight children ages 6 months to 15 yrs. She began selling anything that was non-essential, including high priced clothing. From then on she would wear black dresses for long as she was still single as it was the custom and culture of the times. She never married again. She was a very strong and a courageous mother to raise eight orphans. Some of her children had to go and live with relatives or being in foster homes. In spite of all the difficult times the family went through, they never had to sell any of their fields.
Growing up as a little boy in the 1940s and 1950s, my grandmother favoured me. She said that I reminded her of my grandfather in looks. We never had any pictures of my grandfather to know what he looked like. However, every time I would walk by the Kyparissonas coffee shop between Karavas and Lapithos, there was this old-timer dressed in vraka. Every time he would see me, he would get so excited and would shout out to the other customers pointing at me and calling me by my grandfather's nickname. He would tell people that I looked just like my grandfather. He and my grandfather were very close friends. I was so flattered by his introduction, but I always wondered every time I would look into the mirror whether it was me or my grandfather whom I have never met and wished I did!
In the photo I send to you next to the house is my uncle Antonios (Tony) who was my mother's youngest brother. He migrated to Australia in the early 1950s and married an Australian English-speaking girl. He and my mother were very close growing up in Lapithos. They were left fatherless when my mother was 3 and he 1. There were 6 other older siblings. My grandmother never married again and managed, had a hard time financially, even though they had some olive orchards, almond trees, and some lemon trees. My mother and some of the younger siblings became foster kids in relatives' or friends' homes. Life was hard for the family.
In the 1990s, my uncle Tony made a trip around the world to visit many of his relatives living in the US, Canada, UK, and Cyprus. We also had him here in our home in Louisville, KY.
I knew that this house was demolished from Google maps imagery from space…
I spent two weeks with my grandmother in the summer of 1955. She died of a heart attack in mid-December of the same year. I will always cherish those days with her…`
Mrs. Anastasia from Lapithos
John's uncle Tony at the house in Lapithos
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 24th of November 2019, Sunday. Similar series of articles were published in Turkish in the YENİDÜZEN newspaper on the 16th and 17th of October 2019 and here are the links: