Nicosia. The Divided City

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Although there were a great number of painted churches awaiting us in the mountains of Troodos, it is not every day that one can see an Orthodox christening, so we took our leave saying we would come back later, and went for a stroll along the valley. At eleven o’clock we went back into the church.

In the evening, I rang Diana and Kypros. We agreed to meet the following day in their workshop in Nicosia, next to the Byzantine Museum. They would take us to see the icons they had restored and in the afternoon they would show us the district next to Famagusta Gate, which is one of the “in” places of Nicosia. There, in Panagia Chrysaliniotissa Church, we would pick up her father and we would have supper at home. Elenitsa, Diana’s mother, was out of town visiting her sister, but was due to come back the following day.


The workshop occupied a house with a stone façade and had a cross on the lintel. In the hall, there was a life-size statue, made in fibreglass, which represented a young man in uniform, holding a Sten automatic rifle in his right hand while his left hand was indicating an undetermined point.
“I was born in Australia.” Diana told us, “I don’t know if I told you that, I’m the granddaughter of Cypriot emigrants. In 1989, my father sold off everything he had and decided to come back.

I was grown up by then, but the stories that my grandparents told me in Queensland about their youth in Cyprus had fed my fantasies as a little girl.”

“Who is that?” I asked.

Kypros’ expression became hard. His eyes searched mine and transmitted something special to me. Staring at the photograph, he answered:
“It’s my Uncle Andreas, who was born in Agios Minas, near Limassol. He was the first person to be hung by the British, together with his friend Michael Karaolis. The execution took place in the early hours of the 10th of May 1956. I accepted the assignment to restore the place of the gallows.”
On the table, there was a book. On the cover, there was the photograph of a cemetery crossed with barbed wire. In it, there were open tombs, empty graves and broken crosses.

“Just to try and find a ring or a gold tooth? What class of human being is capable of doing this?” Diana asked with a bitter voice. “Where are these photographs from?” I asked.

“From the area occupied by the Turks” She answered.
In the studio, the statue of another young warrior was lying on top of the table. It was weather beaten. I asked Diana for some rubber gloves and the two of us started to scrub it firmly with brushes. It was all I was able to do to express my solidarity.

We worked until somebody said that it was time to have something to eat. We washed our hands and went out for a kebab with pita bread, on the way to the Episcopal Museum. There, we stopped before the Paleochristian mosaics in Kankaria with particular interest. They had been plundered from the occupied zone and recovered after long legal battles and had been restored by our friends.

The four of us went for a stroll in the area near Famagusta Gate. At the end of each street, we found the inevitable cement and wooden barricades, reinforced with oil drums, with posters forbidding entry written in Greek and English. There were barriers made of sacks full of earth that left gaps for installing machine guns. Everything gave the impression that it was provisional, that it was clear that the barricades had been put up to staunch a wound and that later… one would see.

We decided not to talk about politics during supper, but as Christiana, a friend of the family, showed interest in talking to us, we agreed to meet her the following morning in the Folklore Museum, where she worked. Christiana was with Eleni, the person in charge, not much older than her.

“Why did you vote no in 2004?” I asked…

© JC Roca Sans 2009


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NICOSIA. The Divided City




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