Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
Print this page Print Bookmark and Share
Media Watch 2003

12 May 2003
Source: Times
Author: Michael Theodoulou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Times of London on 12 May 2003
Returning Cypriot families treasure deeds of kindness

[photo caption] A visitor searches for graves of relatives in a Greek Cypriot cemetary

TWENTY-NINE years ago, Ellada Kyriacou hurriedly buried in her back garden the jewellery that she had worn on her engagement day. Invading Turkish troops were approaching and she was preparing to flee her home in northern Cyprus.

She expected to be back in a few days, when the fighting subsided. By the time that she returned last week to the village of Kalopsida, Mrs Kyriacou had long given up hope of retrieving her heirlooms.

Yet, to her amazement, they were waiting for her.

Children of Zerin Doam, the Turkish Cypriot woman now living in the house, had found the jewellery ten years ago while playing in the garden. The items included Mrs Kyriacou’s wedding rings, crosses and bracelets belonging to her and her children, and gold sovereigns bearing the head of Archbishop Makarios, the first president of Cyprus after independence from Britain. Mrs Doam stored them all safely, hoping that one day she would have the chance to return them to the Greek Cypriot stranger to whom clearly they had such sentimental value.

“Today, a great weight was lifted from me and I feel better for this action,” Mrs Doam said after giving the jewellery to an emotional Mrs Kyriacou.

Similar stories of decency and goodwill have emerged daily since Turkish Cypriot authorities began to allow limited access across the island’s dividing “green line” three weeks ago. Cyprus has been partitioned since 1974, when Turkey invaded the north after a short-lived Greek-inspired coup in Nicosia.

One elderly Greek Cypriot couple returned on a day trip to the house that they had fled to find their wedding photographs still on the wall.

A woman aged 45 found that the elderly Turkish Cypriot couple living in the house where she was brought up had hardly changed the furniture. They were using her grandmother’s bed, a set of Greek encyclopaedias still adorned the bookshelves and the swing that she used to play on with her sister was still in the garden.

“When I saw the furniture, I just dropped on my knees,” Roulla Savvidou told the English-language Cyprus Mail.

The Turkish Cypriot couple, who had been displaced from southern Cyprus, had also looked after items of great sentimental value, which at last they were able to return. Among them was an engagement photograph of Mrs Savvidou’s mother and late father.

Not all returning refugees have been so pleasantly surprised, however. Maria Pavlou, 35, said: “My grandmother’s house was in a terrible state and the people in it weren’t Cypriots, but settlers from Turkey who were very unfriendly. The village church had also been turned into a mosque.”

One Greek Cypriot woman had waited 29 years to thank a Turkish Cypriot youth for saving the rest of her family after her 15-year-old son was shot dead by Turkish troops. When she managed to return to the village, his mother told her that he had been killed in action a few days later, aged 18."