Many in the UK were perplexed at why Greek Cypriots rejected the Annan Plan so decisively. The reasoning is that whilst admittedly over 100,000 Greek Cypriot refugees would be unable to return to their homes they would at least be compensated for this loss or even given equivalent property owned by Turkish Cypriots.
What’s so special about a ramshackle old house in some dusty village or a piece of ‘abandoned’ land they ask? The answer is that the we Greek Cypriots still consider this property as our home and we are not going to be bought off by thirty pieces of silver simply because it suits western interests to do so. The following true story recounted by a Lobby member may help explain the mindset of the displaced Greek Cypriot.
“There were two items in my parent’s chest of drawers that used to fascinate me when I was young – one was the long, coppery red plaits belonging to my mother, which she had chopped off as soon as she arrived in the UK in 1937 and the other was a little bag containing crumbly, dusty earth. This was a handful of soil that Dad had picked up in his beloved Akanthou (“homa tis Akanthous” he used to say proudly). Dad had come to the UK in 1934 and his dream was to work here for a few years and then go back to his village for good which, of course, never happened because of the barbaric Turkish invasion and occupation of Cyprus in 1974.
He kept the earth for the eventuality that he might one day have to be buried in the UK rather than Akanthou, and we could then at least scatter this soil from Akanthou over his coffin. When he died in 1989 he was in fact buried in Larnaca instead where we dutifully scattered this earth over him. Mum followed him in 1992. After the military forces occupying the north of Cyprus chose to permit us to travel to Akanthou in 2003 we decided to visit the cemetery where my parents wished to be buried. Had they both seen the devastation and desecration in the cemetery of Ayia Photou in Akanthou (see photographs below), their hearts would have broken. We just couldn’t believe the venom and hatred with which the invaders had smashed everything in the graveyard, their lack of respect for our religion, their gut-churning arrogance and ignorance! But we were on a mission. Before we put Mum’s plaits in her coffin (at her request), we cut off the ends so as to hold on to something physical of hers. We also had some shavings from Dad’s moustache and so when we went to Ayia Photou we made a hole in the ground by our grandparents and uncle’s shattered gravestones and tearfully buried them there! It was a very moving moment for us all, but it made us feel much better to know that a tiny part of them was finally resting in their beloved village!”
Faced with dedication of this kind to retain the connection with home, those that believe that Greek Cypriots will sell off their heritage and their ancestral lands in the north of the island are sadly deluded.