Personal stories

Refugees return to “a bygone age”
“As we crossed the Ayios Nicolaos point, coaches of Turkish Cypriots travelled in the opposite direction, cheering and welcoming us back. 

We could not help noticing the difference between the occupied and free areas. Years of decay and neglect had taken their toll. We reached Bogazi, through to Patriki, then Komi Kebir, all now signposted with false Turkish names, then on to Eptakomi. As we approached I saw the church through the trees then the village came into view. I witnessed a sight I thought I’d never see again. 

We stopped next to our church. Opposite was my wife’s family house, now demolished, with another built in its place. The main street was blocked with falling stones that covered the road. Children of Anatolian colonists followed us, begging for money. This was not the village we left behind. Attila has ripped out its soul. 

My grandparents’ house still stood, occupied by colonists, but only two exterior walls remained of my parents’ house. It stood for 300 years, passed down through generations, visited by historians as a fine example of old building techniques, but was no more. In 29 years of Turkish occupation it collapsed. Colonists stripped all wood from the structure, windows, doors and beams, to use as firewood. A colonist spoke with us in broken German, explaining they do not repair the houses they live in as “they are not ours – when we get told to leave we will go home” – home being Adana in the mountains of Kurdistan. He told us how he longed to return there. 

We visited Ayios Loukas church – now in a state of disrepair. It is being used as a mosque. All icons and benches have been removed, as has the exterior cross, now replaced with megaphones.

Ayios Georgios church fared worse, now full of straw, with pigeons nesting inside. To our disgust it is being used as a stable. We felt obliged to light a candle where the altar once was. 

From afar the village graveyard seemed like an overgrown wood. Passing through undergrowth we found a scene of utter horror. All crosses were smashed, graves opened and desecrated. We could not find my grandparents’ resting place as only a few graves were barely distinguishable. 

Driving along the Karpasia coastline we saw that many villages suffered the same desecration. Approaching Rizokarpaso, Cypriot registered cars lined the road, stopping to visit a coffee shop of the dwindling, enclaved Greeks. The owner cried, thanking all for coming and remembering them. These few people are the real heroes. 

We continued to Apostolos Andreas monastery, witnessing more decay. I wondered how the monastery still stood. Thousands seemed to be walking through the monastery, filling bottles by the rocks with holy spring water, natural to Apostolos Andreas. There was an eerie silence. I could not believe so many people could make so little noise. All were stunned by what they had seen – the atrocious conditions the enclaved lived through, the destruction to our cultural heritage and total lack of respect to thousands of years of Greek and European civilisation. 

We returned to the free areas via Famagusta. We felt as if we had been back in time to a bygone age.”