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Media Watch 2003

15 May 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Sofia Kannas
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 15 May 2003
A tale of buried treasure with a happy ending

DEMETRA Christodoulou never dared imagine she would see her village, Palekythro, again after the Turkish invasion; nor did she ever dream she would be reunited with some of her most treasured possessions, hastily buried in carrier bags under a fig tree in her garden almost 30 years ago.

Yet, on Sunday, the impossible happened: Demetra, her husband Andreas and their three children, Kyriakos, Christakis and Katerina, found themselves standing outside the house they were forced to abandon in 1974.

It all started on Sunday, just after 65-year-old Demetra and her family had cleared away the lunch table at their refugee house in Strovolos, where they have lived since 1977.

“We decided on the spur of the moment that we would go to the north and see our village. My siblings had already been back but I didn’t want to go up until then: ‘I’m not ready yet,’ I told them. But then we went on Sunday, just like that.”

After queuing for two hours in the hot afternoon sun at the Ayios Dometios checkpoint, Demetra, Andreas, their sons, daughter and three grandchildren, crossed the Green Line and set off to find the house that even 29 years on, they call home.

On arrival at Palekythro, it did not take long for Demetra to lead the family towards the house she and her husband had built by hand in 1957. And to her great relief, the house was standing strong, just as they had left it, lovingly maintained over the years by a Turkish Cypriot couple, Yuksel, Emine and their two daughters.

Stepping inside the house with its familiar rooms, Demetra could not believe her eyes – it was just as she remembered it. “The house was very well kept, it was so clean and tidy – it moved me to see that the people living in it were worthy of being there,” says Demetra.

As they entered the back garden, Demetra saw the fig tree where she had buried the family’s valuables nearly three decades ago, and wondered if she dared hope the treasure could still be there. And, as though she was telepathic, Yuksel and Emine’s daughter, Simge, turned to the Christodoulous and asked: “ Are you looking for something. Did you leave something in the garden?”

To Demetra’s amazement, the two Turkish Cypriot girls ran inside the house and brought out three bags: and there was the treasure after all these years, just as she and her family had left it.

“You can’t imagine my emotion as I saw our bags of treasure. The girls’ father (Yuksel) had come across it while digging in the garden last October and they kept it safe.”

Still stunned, Demetra opened the three bags. It was all there: her dowry; a set of silver spoons and forks; the 200-year-old earrings and cross handed down to Katerina by her grandmother; and last but not least, her precious pendant of the Virgin Mary.

She wept as she recalled the moment: “As soon as I saw the Virgin Mary, my knees started trembling. I could hardly stand up, and they (the Turkish Cypriot family) brought me water and held me up,” she says. “We all cried. And they cried with us – they felt my pain too.”

The experience has also shown Demetra that the two communities can still live together: “There is still humanity and love out there,” she says.

She feels no bitterness towards the Turkish Cypriot family who are living in her house: “What can you say to them – get out of our house? Their children were born there too,” she said.

In fact, now that she has been home once, Demetra wants to go back.

“I want to go back and thank them when I’m calmer – it was like a dream the other day. I want to say thank you for looking after our things. They could have sold them -- there were some valuable things there -- but they didn’t. It was all there, just as we left it…”

“We were lucky.”"