I’ve been in Cyprus this week staying with my Godparents (my aunt (my ‘Nouna’) and uncle (my Dada) on my mother’s side). This is my fifth/sixth visit and on such a small island (and in March) the ‘things to do’ list has inevitably shrunk.
Today was quite poignant, however, when my Godparents, mother and I travelled over to the North side of the island. Cyprus is divided following a Turkish invasion in 1973. It’s a bit of a quagmire – and unnecessary – to try and apportion blame or spat about who did what. The legacy of what became a vicious battle thankfully hasn’t been passed down the generations.
Residents, including many of my family members over here, were immediately displaced and lost their homes and land. It’s been a short ten years since the border between North and South was lifted. My Nouna told me that on the day queues from the South caused congestion on the motorway even a significant way from the border.
What these Greek Cypriots found was bitter; their homes were still there, and so was their furniture and ornaments. Only now other people were living lives there: sitting on the same sofas, seeing their reflection in the same mirrors.
Today we crossed over to the Famagusta region and visited my Dada’s childhood village, Salamis. When he first stepped back over to the North side, he discovered a tableau similar to the one described above. He managed to haggle a painting back. Now the land has been flattened.
Cyprus remains a beautiful island and becomes even more so when this division and past conflict becomes apparent.
There a vast swathes of the Famagusta area controlled by militia, where no member of the public – Greek or Turkish – can tread. Hotels are still the way they were in 1974 when the bombs started falling. And nature begins to reclaim the land.