Since the Turkish occupation regime allowed limited freedom of movement through the occupation line in 2003, many Greek Cypriots have visited their occupied lands. The following is the personal account of a refugee who fled the Turkish invasion of 1974.
Photo: Desecrated crosses thrown into the looted and gutted church of Ayios (Saint) Mamas in Lapithos, occupied Cyprus
"When I first heard that the occupation regime would allow Greek Cypriots to cross the ‘green line’ I thought that I should not go as a visitor to my own land. Soon, it became apparent that people’s ‘visit’ to their homes was not merely a visit but a pilgrimage. For days I could not sleep or eat. The day approached when we set off for HOME with my mother and brother. Crossing over the ‘line’ was a weird experience to say the least. We had mixed feelings about it and it proved to be a bitter-sweet experience.
Entering Morphou – my home town – after 29 years was like living a dream. I felt so overwhelmed that a ‘defence mechanism’ kicked in and for some strange reason all my feelings and emotions were blocked. Scary. We walked the streets of Morphou in dismay. It has deteriorated so much… It was like watching a movie… The old cemetery has been turned into a car park, the new cemetery has been desecrated… all the crosses were broken… I cried for the mother of the dead soldier, who is longing to come back and look for the grave of her son, killed by Turkish soldiers in 1974. Did I say cried? Indeed I did… In a strange way I began feeling ‘normal’ again, as my feelings and emotions were coming back… in extreme contradictions. I felt so happy to be back and so sad and angry to see the destruction and the imposed changes. We visited our family property, the orange groves, the factory, the land and finally went to the two houses. Going back to our neighbourhood and knocking on the door of the family home to let us in, was so strange. We went in… it was in a bad condition. So many happy childhood memories hidden in a man made exterior.
We picked up oranges and flowers from our land… we collected soil from the beloved land to bring back to London and more importantly to take to the graves of our family members who worked hard on this land and are now buried away from home. As our tears reached the ground we promised that WE WILL BE BACK.
My second visit to the occupied areas was with my cousins to Lapithos, where my family originally comes from. Although I was somehow prepared for what to expect, I felt equally upset to see the destruction and the desecrated graves. We searched for the graves of our loved ones. At the first cemetery of Agios Mamas all that was left from our uncle was a broken cross, thrown with others inside the ruined small church. There was no grave to go to and lay some flowers. Sadly all we could do was to light a candle on the broken cross. Half of the cemetery was desecrated and of the other half taken over by luxury villas. We were determined to find the graves of our family members. The second cemetery of Archangelos is high on the hills with a breathtaking view! A view to die for!! We found the family grave of our great-grandmother and great-grandfather!! We cleaned the stone, laid some flowers and lit a candle… we were so sorry it has taken so long… Going around Lapithos I personally felt overwhelmed by the beauty of the place that I forgot everything else. How could we have left behind such a beautiful land? Once again we lovingly collected soil from the beloved land… making the same promise.. We will return.