Sunday, November 24, 2013

A little church in the area of old Grammar School…

A little church in the area of old Grammar School…
Sevgul Uludag
Tel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436
Early one morning my phone rings: A Turkish Cypriot reader is calling. I do not know him but he has some very interesting information to tell me…
According to his information, there are four or five `missing persons` buried around the area of the old Grammar School, where there had been a fierce battle – this had been the area where ELDIK (The Greek Army stationed in Cyprus) and TURDIK (The Turkish Army stationed in Cyprus) had their camps next to each other…
`There is a little church there` he says…
`The entrance to the little church faces north… And if you would stand at the entrance, 15 steps from there are buried four or five soldiers…`
These soldiers were probably Greek soldiers since it was their camp…
Now it is not possible to go and see this church since this is a military area but perhaps there are some spots where we can see the little church? If we find such an area, would my reader be willing to come with us to show us this place?
`Sure` he says…
Immediately I inform the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot officials of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee, Murat Soysal and Xenophon Kallis about this new possible burial site.
We agree one day to go and check from an area in the southern part of Nicosia where this little church might be visible. I speak to my reader and we agree on a date and time…
We go together, my reader, myself, Murat Soysal and Kallis as well as Turgut Vehbi from the Committee to the southern part of Nicosia and we find a high spot around the Agios Dometios area where there is a magnificent view of the whole of Nicosia.
From this high spot, my reader points out the little church – it is the only church in that area and no one can miss it… He explains to us the exact location of the possible burial site.
Then we go back…
Kallis thanks my reader:
`What you have done is very humanitarian` he says.
Occasionally the military would give permission for excavations in the military zones in the northern part of Cyprus. If permission would be given to this spot that my reader has just shown us, perhaps we may find the four or five `missing persons` in the possible burial site he has described to us.
I had written a lot about this area years ago, about the fierce battle that took place and had investigated about what had happened to the people killed in this place. I had even found the medical civilian doctors who had served there and they had described to me what they had seen. According to one of the civilian doctors who had been sent to this area to treat the wounded, some Greek soldiers were lined up and they would be returned to the Greek Cypriot authorities at that time. He remembers quite clearly from their uniforms – he had explained to me that Greek soldiers or Turkish soldiers, therefore, if they were caught alive they would be returned to their respective side or if they were killed, the same would apply. That might have been some sort of principle. In fact, I have heard of stories of Turkish officers or Greek officers being returned alive to their respective sides but this was war and in war drastic things happen and things might happen out of control so all those captured were not returned – some Turkish officers were tortured by some Greek Cypriots and perhaps similar things might have happened to Greek officers
So the civilian doctor had seen bodies lined up, ready to be returned to the Greek Cypriot authorities. In fact some who had been killed had been returned and some of these ended up being buried in the Lakatamia cemetery – I think among those returned were also some Greek Cypriot `missing persons` but they were taken from a different area - their story would be discovered by our friend, journalist Andreas Paraschos in the 1990s who would go looking at the grave stones that said `unknown soldier` and discovering that these were among the `missing persons`…
These `missing persons` - Greek soldiers killed in this area - who would later be buried in the Lakatamia cemetery would be taken by Alekos Markides who had been an officer in the army at that time, according to one of my Greek Cypriot friends. And the Greek Cypriot `missing` who were returned who were killed in another area closer to this place were taken by the military music band soldiers and later buried in Lakatamia.
Was there any agreed principle about Greek and Turkish soldiers, about their return, dead or alive? After all, higher up, they belonged to the same military organization, that is NATO. In Izmir (Smyrni) or Brussels or Napoli or Germany, Turkish and Greek officers worked together in NATO military camps, together with officers from other nationalities. So was there an agreement for their return? I asked this question to the retired Staff Colonel Halil Sadrazam, a Turkish Cypriot writer who wrote four volumes of books entitled `The History of War in Cyprus` (three of them published recently, the fourth will be published soon) giving elaborate details about our recent history and the war of 1974. He said the following:
-          ELDIK and TURDIK were in Cyprus according to the 1960 Republic of Cyprus Constitution.
-          Some officials from TURDIK in those times were acting as commanders of TMT and they were moving quite freely after the inter-communal conflict of 1963, passing through Greek Cypriot areas – they were travelling freely and they knew that Greek Cypriots would not touch them and even if they were `caught` they would be returned to their own country.
-          For instance the Turkish military commander of Larnaka was kept as a prisoner of war together with Turkish Cypriots between 20th of July 1974 and 14th of August 1974 – Sometime between those dates a Greek officer went together with the UNFICYP and saluted him. They had been working in the same NATO camp so they knew each other. He took the Turkish commander with him and returned him to the Turkish side, accompanied by the UN. The Turkish Cypriot prisoners of war of course remained where they were. In a similar way, I know of Greeks being returned to the Greek Cypriot side. The Turkish soldiers being returned were not always from TURDIK. In summary, both prisoners of war (Turkish and Greek) as well as those Turkish or Greek soldiers killed in the war were being returned.
-          For instance after the war in September 1974, nine Turkish soldiers, among them officers were in a bus with their guns and lost their way around Mia Milia. Immediately the Turkish army in Cyprus asked for their return and in two days, they were returned. They were not touched.
-          I also read about 19 Turkish soldiers being returned on the 13th of August 1974, in the book of Kemal Yamak.
I asked one of my Greek Cypriot friends, why Turks and Greeks were being returned when Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots were being kept as prisoners of war. According to my friend, the reason behind the return of Turkish soldiers might have been fear of retaliation from Turkey. `They were being questioned but later returned. Of course, there were some Turkish or Greek soldiers who were never returned, killed, `missing`… The whole thing I believe was random, not according to set agreements but according to the initiatives of whoever was there on either side…`
The little church stands still, a witness to what had happened in the area of the old Grammar School… Grammar School had been bombed and it still stands there, like a reminder to all of us, like a landmark to show that there had been a fierce battle here…
While going to the anthropological laboratory of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee, some years ago, I had passed from this area in a car with the relative of a `missing person` - her relative's remains had been found and she had asked me to go with her to the viewing of the remains… We had passed through this area as though passing through old times – vast, empty spaces, some old buildings, lots of trees… Lots of empty fields… It had been winter so we could see the green and the flowers – crows would laugh at us while we were passing, laughing at the Cypriots for being such fools of turning their own country into a big mess… For the crows, there would be no borders, no passports, no checkpoints, no property, no identity… For the crows, life would be a struggle to survive, to feed, to sleep, to have baby crows, to feed and help them to learn to fly… For the crows, this was simply a geography where they survived and they would not kill for pleasure, they would not torture for pleasure, it would only be a struggle for survival… Contrary to the Cypriots whether they spoke Turkish or Greek – crows would speak a universal language of the earth, they would move with the earth, they would be connected with the earth, they would live together with so many other different species of animals and would not necessarily hurt each other… Crows would find the best of the dates, the best of the walnuts and would go on with their own life, without necessarily hurting anyone or anything. But us, humans of this land have inflicted so much pain on each other that it is difficult to patch it up… We have a short life on this earth – let's just think about the crows and the swallows and the cats and the dogs and the moufflons and all the other beautiful creatures of our earth – if they can survive together, why can't we?
Photo: According to one of my readers, there is a possible burial site near this little church...
(*) Article published in POLITIS newspaper on the 24th of November 2013, Sunday.

Monday, November 18, 2013

On the `Hill with Ears` in Pileri…

On the `Hill with Ears` in Pileri…
Sevgul Uludag
Tel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436
If it wasn't for the insistence of Michalis Giangou Savva, the five `missing` from Pileri, as well as others `missing` from the area would not have been found… Michalis Giangou Savva whose brother Costas had been `missing` from Pileri since the battle on the `Kulakli Tepe` (`The Hill With Ears` as the Turkish Cypriots call it) or `Kalampaki` as the Greek Cypriots call it since 1974… The brother of Michalis Giangou Savva, Costas had been stationed here together with four other Greek Cypriots… I had interviewed Michalis in 2007 and we had gone to the `Kalampaki` or `Kulakli Tepe` in 2009 together with the Turkish Cypriot mukhtar of Pileri (Bilelle – Gocheri village) on a tractor. The mukhtar, a kind hearted old man had told Michalis and me that we could not go there with our cars and he had taken us with a tractor to point out where he had seen up on top of the hill five `missing persons` and had told us that they had never been buried. We had shown this area to the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee and they had sent a team of archaeologists to go up the hill – there had been no road to go up the hill so they had had to climb like mountain climbers until they got permission from the villagers to build a road to go up the hill… So the bulldozer of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee, with the instructions of Okan Oktay, the Coordinator of Exhumations, had built a road to go up the `Kalampaki`… This had been four years ago…
Michalis and his `missing` brother was coming from a poor working class family. His father Giangos had come to Nicosia from Kinoussa from Paphos when he had lost his father at the age of eight, to work as a child worker with his two sisters and a brother. He had ended up as a shoe maker, joining PEO and having very good relations with Turkish Cypriot shoe makers. He had married Christalla from Giallousa who was also a working class woman who had come to Nicosia to work… They would live in Tahtakala and later on in Tanti's mahalla where the poorest Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot workers rented small houses from Tanti. Giangos and Christalla would have five kids, all boys…
`Poverty united people in those times` Michalis had told me, `They did not see each other as Turkish Cypriot or Greek Cypriot… They were telling us that poor people were good people. We were a family of the left; we were members of AKEL… For many years, my father would take me to the commemoration of Dervish Ali Kavazoghlou and Costas Mishaoulis in the village Dali. We would go on his bicycle. Imagine, he was going with his bicycle from Nicosia to Dali, to attend the commemoration ceremony of Kavazoghlou. When Kavazoghlou had been killed, I remember my father crying a lot… I finished elementary school and started the secondary school but when my father got sick, I had to leave school – we had no money to pay to the school so at the age of 13 I began working. I was working in a workshop repairing televisions and I had learnt to install antenna. I was working as a technician in the company Dikran Ouzounian-Barot Sultanian. And I was also crossing to the Turkish Cypriot area of Nicosia – there was this guy called Mouhyi who was selling Phillips TVs and I was going there to install the antenna until 1974.
After the checkpoints opened I took my mother to the Tanti mahalla and she would remember the house she lived in… When we knocked on the door an old woman opened the door and my mother and she looked at each other and started remembering, without speaking… They sat down and cried together… The last time they had seen each other was 46-47 years ago! This was the neighbourhood of poor people… In this mahalla, some Turkish Cypriots would kill some Greek Cypriots and some Greek Cypriots would kill some Turkish Cypriots so we would move away from here in 1958 to Agios Pavlos, building a small house there… After my brother went `missing` in 1974, my father got very sick and could not take what happened to my brother. He died in 1976… And my mother, while waiting for the remains of my brother to be returned, died in 2011 at the age of 89…
My mother waited for any news from my brother Costas. As soon as the news began every night on TV, she would be all ears, waiting for any news from her `missing` son… She died waiting for the remains to be returned to her…`
Once again we go on the 8th of October 2013 with Michalis and with the officials of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee – new excavations began on the `Kalampaki` hill – there had been some information that on the `Kalampaki` hill, there might be not five but six `missing` persons so Michalis would explain this and the archaeologists would continue to search the hill and the slopes and the area for any other remains…
After I write the story of `Kulakli Tepe` (`Kalampaki`) in YENIDUZEN, one of my Turkish Cypriot readers calls me to tell me that his father had been on that hill and had been arrested by Greek Cypriot soldiers in July 1974… He had escaped after some time and later on, when the battle was over, he had gone up that hill again. I ask him to convince his father to come with us and tell us what he saw, since new excavations are continuing.
So we go up the `Kulakli Tepe` again, on the 25th of October, 2013 Friday – he comes with his father and the officials of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee, Murat Soysal, Okan Oktay, Xenophon Kallis also come with us.
The old man is emotional as we travel through Pileri… We stop to get some water for him and at some point he stops the car to tell us what he saw down below…
One of his friends had taken him on the main road of Pileri-Agios Ermolaos and had stopped the car and they had walked into a field.
His friend had said to him:
`Look at these two Greek Cypriots… Were they the ones who had arrested you?`
He had seen two Greek Cypriot soldiers whose uniforms had been taken and they were left there in the field in their underwear, with no boots or clothes…
Then they had gone up the hill and he had seen one Greek Cypriot on the `Kalampaki` and his friend had told him that there had been one more Greek Cypriot in a military position up the hill who had been heavily wounded. He did not see this second one but his friend had told him. He did not know whether they took him down to take him to a hospital or whether he died in the military position because of his wounds. He would tell us the name of his friend who had taken him there and while still there, I would start enquiring whether his friend is alive – I would find out that he is in fact alive but sick and not living in his own house but taken to his son's house because of his illness. We would go visit him to find out more details about `Kalampaki` and the whole area… I thank my reader and his father, the old man, who had come and climbed all the way up, just to help the investigations of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee. My reader has been helping us a lot from the heart – he has a human heart – he has helped us to find the remains of seven other `missing` Greek Cypriots in the area of Agios Demetios-Geunyeli where he had seen the remains of some `missing persons` when he was playing in the area as a child… And now through his father, he is helping us again to find out what exactly happened in the area of Pileri…
In the evening I call Michalis Giangou Savva to tell him about our day at Pileri… We have more work to do in this area in order to find the remains of all those `missing`, as well as searching for the `truth` of what actually happened… I am very grateful to the efforts of Michalis Giangou Savva, as well as my reader and his father and all the others from the area who have helped us… The Turkish Cypriot mukhtar passed away but he too had helped us… Another reader had shown us another burial site in Pileri up on another hill called `The Daughter of the King` (`Kral Kizi`) where the remains of one other `missing person` was found – he too had never been buried and just lay there in the military position where he had been shot on that hill… He had shown us another spot down that hill where some shoes were found dating from 1974… I am also grateful to the officials of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee for enabling us to show them these possible burial sites for further investigations… When all efforts come together, we can get more results in order to at least ease the pain of the relatives of `missing persons` from this area called Pileri…
Photo: Michalis Giangou Savva at Pileri with the officials of the Missing Persons' Committee...
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 17th of November 2013.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

`Cyprus is a broken mirror…`

`Cyprus is a broken mirror…`
Sevgul Uludag
Tel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436
Cyprus lost Vartan Malian, an Armenian Cypriot, an activist, a researcher, a humanist, someone who worked throughout his life for human rights… He had been in many continents and spoke many languages. Born in the Kokkinia refugee camp in Greece in 1925, he had emigrated to Cyprus with his family in 1931 and they had settled in Nicosia and lived until 1963 in the Victoria Street mixed with Turkish Cypriots. At home, his auntie Mariam only spoke Turkish so at home he learnt to speak Turkish – Vartan Malian was a man of languages – Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Italian but he was much more than that: He used the languages he spoke to solve conflicts, to bring people together and to struggle for human rights throughout his life.
I had known him since 2001 and had interviews with him twice – about Cyprus he had told me that `Cyprus is like a broken mirror, it is difficult to put it together…` He was part of the peace struggle in Cyprus, helping with his multi-lingual knowledge – many times he would try to build bridges among Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots… All of this was voluntary, from the heart, trying to bring together the broken pieces of the mirror called Cyprus.
When I first met him, he had an office behind the Ledra Street, later on he would move somewhere near Regina Street… He would always be there to help anyone who knocked on his door – Turkish Cypriots, asylum seekers, refugees from all over the world…
When Hrant Dink, an Armenian origin journalist from Turkey had been killed, I had asked Vartan Malian to come and make a speech, not only to commemorate Hrant Dink but also to talk about life in Victoria Street when Armenian Cypriots used to live there. We held the activity at the Arabahmet Cultural Centre that was once an Armenian Culture Club. Up on the stage he went to tell us stories of how Armenians lived together with Turkish Cypriots, what sort of theatre plays they put on the stage he was on now, showing photos from another era… Everyone was touched – everyone knew Vartan Malian, everyone was friends with Vartan Malian…
He died on the 16th of October 2013 at the age of 88… He was buried in Larnaka on the 19th of October 2013… Cyprus lost someone precious and the best words to describe him were said at the funeral by his daughter Sarah Malian… Sarah, at her speech in the funeral said:
`When I tried to write these few words about my father, it occurred to me that whatever I could say about him as my own father wasn't appropriate for an occasion such as this. Of course I have my own personal memories of him as do we all, and they are ours to keep. But really, my father, or 'O Malian' as he was affectionately known, seemed to belong to everyone.
On one occasion I came back from London for a visit and went to his office in Nicosia, the Armenian Research Centre, where he introduced me to a Kurdish asylum seeker who was sitting in a chair, using the words he would use whenever I met one of his friends or acquaintances 'Afti einai I kori mou – this is my daughter'. And the young Kurdish man said 'well that's not possible because Mr Malian is like a father to me and I've never seen you before.'
That wasn't uncommon. I would often hear 'Malian is like an uncle to me, Malian is like a father to me, Malian is more than my best friend, he's my koumbaro.'
But he was also our father. He wasn't your typical father, it's true. He didn't teach me to ride a bike or kick a ball or organise birthday parties. But he did teach me many, many other things. Things that I have carried with me into adulthood.
He taught me about history, about photography, about the Middle East, about Cyprus, about understanding there are always different sides to every story. He taught me about the thirst for truth, the respect for human rights, the struggle for recognition of the Armenian Genocide, that justice doesn't come before truth. He taught me about the need for compassion and mutual understanding, about the futility of conflict, the importance of bridging cultures.
My father had an innate ability to be comfortable among all sorts of people from all walks of life. He himself was born in a Red Cross refugee tent, and felt closest to those who had suffered in their lives, who had really lived. He wasn't interested in high society, and accumulating wealth or enjoying his retirement. In fact until just three years ago, he was still running his office in Nicosia, as dynamic, passionate, hardworking and stubbornly interested in making a difference as ever. Helping anyone suffering human rights abuses, without expecting anything in return. Purely because people had rights enshrined in law and those rights should be protected.
Anyone who knows him will know how much he loved writing letters – "bodji botha" he used to call it. If there was anything unjust or unfair he would write a lengthy letter. If authorities were not providing their services, if a woman was being trafficked and she'd come to his office for help, if a domestic worker was being abused or threatened with deportation on unfair grounds, if a refugee was being discriminated against. They all found a natural home at my dad's office. We have folders and folders of his correspondence, tirelessly seeking justice on behalf of others.
My father would often use one word to describe himself. Curious. He once told me the story of how he came to work in the British army. He had started out as a translator when an officer took him aside and said 'A person like you shouldn't just be translating what other people are saying. It's easy to find people who know languages. But it's not easy to find people who know things…'
And he did know things. A great deal of things. He was a great observer, who always tried to understand what was behind people's behaviour. Why they acted the way they did.
Who else do we know who was in Jerusalem when the King David Hotel was bombed in 1946, and in Kenya during its struggle for independence in the 1950s, who spent three years as a welfare officer for Cypriot labourers in the Suez Canal Zone in 1955, who was there for the drawing of the Green Line in Cyprus in 1964, who met Moshe Dayan and ate stuffed tomatoes with him, who helped in the camps in Cyprus for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. Who met Gaddafi in Bengazi, Libya when Gaddafi was in the British army. Who was in Swaziland in 1964, and in Belize, Gan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bahrain, and his beloved Yemen. He was also one of the first to initiate talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in Pyla in the early 1990s.
Having seen and done so much, been to so many parts of the world and at critical historical moments, it's easy to see why people were drawn to him. He was a great storyteller, full of fantastic anecdotes and memories that he shared with us. He wasn't just an Armenian. He was equally comfortable with Turkish-speaking Cypriots, Greek-speaking Cypriots, Kurds, Sri Lankans, Maronites, Palestinians, Jewish people, Europeans, Lebanese, Egyptians.
He was an activist till the very end, an advocate for the oppressed, until the very end. Even in his ill health, his mind was constantly on his work, on the news, on developments in Cyprus, and yes, continuing to write letters, offering his unique perspective based on years of experience. He never gave up. He refused to give up hope that he would get back to work – that he would continue his dream of creating a Memorial Museum for the Armenian Genocide as a lasting legacy of the suffering of 1.5 million people.
It was very difficult for a man such as my father to be struck down by illness. To have to leave his work and his friends and life to spend endless hours, days in hospitals. A challenge he faced with great patience and dignity. And I, along with my brothers Arto and Hugo would like to acknowledge the incredible efforts my mother made to care for him and to ensure he was able to stay at home.
I could go on for hours about my father's life but today is not the right time. Perhaps later down the line with his close friends we can organise a proper memorial for him.
The best way to pay tribute to my father is to try to live our lives to the fullest, to take chances, to take risks, to not be afraid, to be stubborn about what's right. To always remember you can never understand someone until you've walked in their boots. To be tenacious. To have no regrets. And above all, to be free. And if there is any small comfort to be taken from this merciless time, it is that finally, my father, o Malian, is free.
When someone was departing, my father's common expression was 'güle güle', a phrase in Turkish used by the person staying behind, which literally means 'go with a smile, go laughing'. Today we are here, not to say goodbye, but to say 'güle güle' Papa. Go with a smile. Because now, after a long and difficult fight, you are at peace…`
Photo: Vartan Malian
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 10th of November 2013, Sunday.

Monday, November 4, 2013

An 11 year old boy called Giorgakis Englezou…

An 11 year old boy called Giorgakis Englezou…
Sevgul Uludag
Tel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436
With my husband we go to Limassol to take part in the funeral of little George Englezou, the 11 year old boy who had been `missing` from Assia, the child whose remains had been found in a mass grave in Aphania, behind the church…
The 11 year old boy George and his brother Christakis who was 14 went `missing` from Assia… Our friend Maria Kyriacou from Assia writes a note to me:
`This family has been named as the most tragic family in Assia. The two brothers on the arrival of the Turkish soldiers on August 14th, 74, were at their uncle's home next door to their home. When their parents were leaving Assia, they assumed that the boys got away with their uncle's family as they saw no one around as leaving. Unfortunately they didn't. The whole uncle's family could not get away. Christakis was shot on that same day he was 14. His body hasn't been found yet. Giorgakis was taken with his uncle's family and killed. He was 11. I know you know all this Sevgul mou. I only wrote it for your readers. You MUST find Christaki Sevgul. I am glad you went to the funeral of this boy. Do it for his mum Sevgul. Something tells me, you will find him….`
We meet my dear friend from Komi Kepir, Christina Pavlou Solomi Patsia whose father and brother are still `missing` from Galatia – her mother Panayiota too will come with us to go to the funeral. Old and fragile, Panayiota wants to go to the funeral of yet another `missing person` and altogether we go to Agios Stilianos Church in Linopetra to meet the family of little George Englezou – there in a small coffin lies his remains… His mother devastated, his brother Nicos and Andreas and their aunties accept condolences.
I meet Elenitsa, the mother of George and Christakis… She asks me to find Christakis… She also gives me a poem by Maria Marmara written in 2010…
THE NEWS (HABER) (by Maria Marmara, in 2010)
I had kept a chicken to cook it for you,
When you get back hungry,
to take good care of you,
                        but it jumped the fence out of the yard and foxes,
                        Got it, and ate it.
I raised a lamb with love for you to celebrate,
When you come back with a wild look,
Hoping to calm you,
                        But thieves got in the paddock,
                        Got it, and it is gone missing.
I wove a woolen sheet, for you to sleep and rest in there,
If you come in the middle of winter,
So that you don't get cold,
                        But a long time passed, and moths,
                        Ate it, it was thrown away.
I raised a Daphne (bay leaf)* to put in the water, (the water for bath)
When you come unwashed and dirty,
To send Charos* away.
I planted basil, I bought perfume bottle,
Hoping that in your bedroom,
I will change the air.
                        But today they knocked on my door with news (haber),
                        And instead of you, they brought me,
                        In a box, some bones.
                        Dull, rumpled.
                        I uprooted the basil, the Daphne (bay leaf)*, my heart,
                        So that I put them in your company,
                        And I buried with your bones,
                        A bridegroom's suit.
* bay leaf - they used the leafs in the water for bathing to bring good smell and is used for antiseptic properties
* Charos - Death – it is believed that it takes souls
In his speech the mayor of Agios Athanasios, Mr. Hadjitofi reminds us all of what actually happened not only in Assia but in Cyprus back in 1974… In the name of the family, their close friend Lakis Grafias speaks with words coming from his heart… His speech touches everyone's heart – Christina translates for me in tears… I would get his speech later on to translate and to publish so everyone can read so that in future we would not have such funerals of 11 year old boys, innocent victims of war…
In his speech Lakis Grafias says:
"Honoured mother of our young martyr. Honoured relatives of Giorgos: Son, of Elenitsa, of Assia, Son of Cyprus.
My Giorgo: You reigned my star, the whole creation reigned, and the sun, black roll, lost its shine. Now they dressed you in flags. My child, you, sleep, and I will go to your brothers and take your voice.
Tough times in the fire and you twelve years and they pounced upon you the quiet crows and drank your blood my Giorgo, they closed your lips. Truth in your tender youth, what did you know about fascists and coup d'états? From traitors and bandits of Democracy? Oh my Giorgo those that butchered you, to find their children and their parents butchered, to drown in blood.
My Giorgo, today is a fateful day that they executed you in cold blood. It is the day of the Declaring of the Republic of Cyprus. This one, that we did NOT enjoy. The other day, the 4 of our family. Your uncles and your cousins. Today You. And the pain has no end. We are waiting for news of our other missing brother, Christakis. Our father did not stand the wait. He started for the big trip… may be he will find you. Day and night he was thinking about you. Father was dedicated to God and the Saints. And how strange. Father worked for the creation of this Church, of Agios Stylianos, which is hosting you today.
Our Giorgo. You our blond, blue eyed angel, you knew only kindness. Love. Progress, the letters that you so much loved and EXCELLED. And the dream was close: to study at the English School where with pride you passed the required exams. You were questioning everything. You were asking with every detail about the amorphous, highs, ideals. Your manners were so fine.
Yet my Giorgo when the evil came, the responsible-irresponsible dissolvers of the Democracy did not notify the villagers for the coming of the Turks to Assia. Despite that, they took even the trivial things from their houses and their families, loaded them on cars and fled secretly.
The upcoming rulers entered Assia and took us the villagers in groups and since 1974, we find them now with DNA tests and the atrocious plight of the conquerors was seen when they called us in the relevant office at Nicosia airport. There we saw the fury, the hatred and the mania of the uncivilized conquerors. They took Giorgos, 11 ½ years old, bent him down and shot him at the back of the skull and the bullet came out from the forehead. Our village became Turkish and from Assia it became Pasa Koy.
Our Giorgos. Your family, proud, did not harm anyone. Our father, he was the only one who collaborated in the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus. And under adverse conditions he stood and worked in the construction of the dam of Goneli and Kanlikoyu when the inter-communal troubles of 1963 took place. Later on he was hunted deviously from our people.
The crime in the whole of our family, is a crime against humanity. And I ask. Will someone be punished? Or will everything be swept under the carpet?
Giorgo. Bloom of our wilderness. How did they turn you soul of my soul, such a small beauty, in a case full of bones. Bones of fire given by human hatred, violence, intolerance, anticipation and the fist of the strong one? Such silence. And yet you talk. Such absence and yet you are present, to show the way of duty. Of loneliness and love my precious tear, talk to me. Why such a quick sunset at your 12 candles?
Instead of silence, I make my speech a cry, bringing out from the mind's drawer, your countless photos. Those that showed how you philosophized life in the black and white print, how you were full of and longed for life.
In the orchards, in the blooming gardens, if I TAKE YOU DEATH TO THE WINE, if I take you to the DANCING AND SINGING THEN give to our Giorgos one night of life.
Giorgo, our precious smile. Your smile is not for sale, because it does not have a price, yet you gave it to us. Who did not stretch their hand to fill up with a truth? A caress? A happiness? For you my brother, they cut it all. You weaved the flowers. Yet the world became narrower. Handicapped dreams, merciless cruelty. The weakness is screaming in front of a 12 year old child.
Twelve seasons of spring, that was all. And in your big blue eyes, I look at sky roads. Angels' fluttering with their laughter. And now you go up with sounds and colours, with a flower heart to live with them. There invisible shadows, fear, knives, guns will not scare you. You fought against the darkness and you won. Your kites will remind you of the wind of the mental power that you hide. You were looking in case it was light, often from the window and you were in a hurry as if you were going to a fare (panayiri).
You will always have inside you the WHY? "Who agreed for you? Who match-made your body with death?" Who closed your years inside the gardens of cries? Who made smoke out of your youth? And you follow, dead, and the knot of our cry gets tied as a knot in the rope for the neck of our enemy. You were going around laughing and saying "see you mum" and far away the bells of the evening mass could be heard.
My Giorgo. If sometime vindication finds vindication, if sometime the stone finds voice, as bereaved relatives then we will learn who is at fault for all these.
And you ANGELS who in a little while will meet with Giorgos, obtain wings, to saw on the little angel that we are sending you. Keep him one handful of sky, one drop of holy water to put on your partner. At this time, even the sun could be jealous of you.
Our Giorgo, at the time you were going, you were not playing like the children of your age. You were not laughing. You were not reading. Despite having THE HUMAN RIGHT of life, the barbarians with violence put you on your knees and your fresh head accepted the ferocity of the bullet, the curse of war.
Our Giorgo. More innocent that the innocent, you did not fit your years. As if you moulded in clay your dreams, sad rose of dawn. Red poppy of Stratos Myrivilis. The sky threw you a net because it yearned for you like a dove, like a swallow, like a baby eagle. Chaos this sky devoured the harmony of nature, that you were for us, its centre. For our family, the future. You left despite your 12 years, with all these moral values and principles. The blessings of your parents, the LOVE OF EVERYONE.
My Giorgo, whatever someone says for you, it has no end. Oh my Giorgo. If I had the immortal water, if I had a new soul, to give to you, to wake up for just one moment. To see, to say. To enjoy, in full your dream, to stand full of life next to you. However our sweet one you did not get lost. You are inside our veins. Our son, in everyone's veins, go in deep and live. AND YOU WILL BE SHOUTING: PEACE – FREEDOM – DEMOCRACY – HUMAN RIGHTS – JUSTICE – TRUTH – FRIENDSHIP – RECONCILIATION despite the fact that you barely learnt their meaning. And what a shame!! What irony that you lost everything at once. And the sun looked at the earth, from your golden cart. And it said, when it saw the unjust, to change its road. The dawn darkened, the sunset took fire, the north's clouds run, the whole nature was ravaged.
And you were leading the dance, like a carefree doe and to collect hugs, smiles and lilies.
NOTE: I thank all those who contributed, all who participated and lived with us Cyprus' drama, in this modest service, the last salute to the 12 year old hero of life. Our sweet brother."
Photo: The little coffin of Giorgakis Englezou
(*) Article published in POLITIS newspaper on the 3rd of November 2013, Sunday.