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

01 July 2009
A refugee's Story; Days of memories: 20 July 1974-2009
2009 saw the commemoration of 35 years since the Turkish invasion and continuing occupation. Memories of 1974 are still fresh for those who lived through those black days of war. Time has not yet faded the events.

“I was in Ayios Amvrosios in the best years of my life. At that young age you make dreams and you live them. But suddenly on the morning of 20 July, everything was stopped in its tracks. Only a few of my personal belongings remained after the war. In November 1974, amongst those items I brought with me when I came to England was my diary. I look through it every July because I do not want to leave these events to be forgotten as there was an invasion and the occupation continues. Here are some excerpts:

 

Saturday 20 July 1974  It never crossed my mind that how I woke up today could ever happen to me. Around 5.30am, I woke to the sound of bombs from Turkish warplanes. Turkey began a military attack on Cyprus. Turkish planes are ploughing through the blue sky. My brother came to my mind. He is in the army. My mum began to cry and wail. She is thinking only of her son. He has completed only six months of military service and is in the first front in Kyrenia.

 

Everybody in the village was panicking. Young children like me, ran to our high school as it was on a higher position and from there we could see what was happening in the sea off Kyrenia. We saw two Turkish warships and the fire and smoke coming from them. We run home, scared. All the fellow villagers are scared and running to hide in the valleys and caves. My father gathered all of us in the orchard with apricot trees. Beneath the leaf laden trees and irritated for the moment by the sounds of cicada insects, we couldn’t see anything but we could hear the terrifying noise of aircraft bombing. Feelings cannot be described. A look around says it all. Women were kneeling to pray and sing all the psalms they knew.

 

We stayed in the orchard to hide until the afternoon. My father went to the coffee shop to see what was happening. He came home and told us the village hospital needed volunteers and it was a good idea to go and help. So I went there and stayed for the whole night…

 

Monday 22 July 1974  The first refugees from Kyrenia arrived in the village. They stayed in the primary school. We cooked in the hospital all day to offer at least a little food to the first arrivals. Today some wounded soldiers from Kyrenia came to the hospital and we took care of them. On their faces you could see pain and suffering. They told us how much they had suffered in the last two days in battles in Kyrenia and we cried with them…

 

Wednesday 14 August 1974  The second stage of the war. I woke up at 4.45am with the first sounds of bombs from the warships on the eastern side of Kyrenia. Soon, Turkish military aircraft started bombing again for a second time. The mountain range of Pentadaktylos is burning again.

 

The village emptied. My father’s brother is the only one in the family who had a truck. He unloaded all the watermelons and gathers the family together. But he does not want to leave the village, it is in his blood. My father told me how my uncle once went to work in Lefkara and when it started to get dark, he insisted on going back to his village to sleep. He never likes to sleep away from his house. So now we went to the forest of Antifonitis, a few kilometres outside the village, and then into the woods of Ypati…

 

It is morning, 11.30 already and the warplanes never stopped bombing. I sit under an olive tree and from there I can see four ships at sea. The planes fly so low that I feel from minute to minute they are going to bomb us. I’m scared… Nobody knows whether they will survive to tonight…

 

Three o’clock this afternoon passed with the fear and terror growing because the planes have not stopped passing over us. We decided to go to the village to see what was happening. Nobody was there. Facing terror, they had all left. We went home and got some necessities. I ran to make my bed because in the morning with all the panic I left it unmade and I didn’t want to find it unmade when I come home later…

 

My younger sister, influenced by the story of the book Aioliki Gi which she was reading those days about the Asia Minor catastrophe, ran to the yard and took some soil. The middle sister ran to the cupboard and took all the family photographs. My mother, with tears in her eyes ran to get some gold jewellery and I heard her say “there is a war. We may need to sell them for a piece of bread.” We crossed the village from one end to the other in my uncle’s truck. Everyone had left the village. We started for the unknown with no hope. When you hear on one side the sound of ships and on the other aircraft, it does not leave you with any hope. From moment to moment you wait for your turn to die. I wasn’t worried about myself, I was thinking only of all those who are fighting, my uncles, my cousins, and many others, who I knew were in the army. We had already heard that my brother was a prisoner in a hospital in Turkey. Who knows if am going to survive. My mind stops here. I can write no more… We were travelling until sunset. Some people we saw advised us the best place to go was the English bases. Eventually, after some problems, we arrived in an orchard with orange trees in Avgorou. I couldn’t believe that we were to stay there for the night and sleep under the trees…

 

Thursday 15 August 1974  I woke early under the orange trees. Even though it was August, I was cold. I hope it is for a few days and we will soon return to our village. God knows. I cannot believe I am far from my home. We do not know if we are to survive and I am thinking about my home. They have nearly taken the north part of Cyprus. I heard they have taken Mia Milia, Kythrea, Lefkoniko and are now heading for Famagusta…

 

Friday 16 August 1974  One more day under the orange trees… In the afternoon the village authorities allowed us to go and stay in the school building. We’re supposed to stay in one classroom with other families. Here they took a register of refugees. At least they gave us a meal and some blankets.

 

I stayed in Avgorou until 21 August. Later I went with my family to Pentakomo, a small village in Limassol, which I never knew existed and stayed until 30 August, again in a school building. From there we went to Lefkara where we were allocated an empty house. We cleaned it and settled there. I was there until 16 November 1974 and left temporarily for London until the occupation ends in Cyprus…’
 

The memories are still painful as the occupation continues. My brother is still missing. His name is included in the list of missing persons and his name was whispered by my father when he passed away. Some of the soil my sister took from our village in 1974 was placed on my father’s grave. My mother still dresses in black and has a memorial for him every year. The agony to know what happened to her son is still there.

 

I visited my house in the village five years ago but wish I had not. It was better for me to keep the memories of it as I left it on 14 August 1974. Most important though, is that the land remains there waiting for us. Perhaps the house will be destroyed and the trees my father and grandfather planted may not survive, but our children and grandchildren will bring them back.”