To continue the story of crossing the 'green line', the border that
separates the occupied northern part of the island from the
Republic of Cyprus.
My second visit was an entirely different experience to the first.
This time I drove my own car. We had to queue for 5 hours at
the check point before we were able to cross. Unlike the first
occasion when we walked past the long lines of vehicles and crossed
on foot. The movement forward was so slow and the numbers of cars
even more than on our first visit. It was 4 p m before we finally
broke free of the queues. I drove on bumpy, one car wide country
roads towards the highway leading to Ammochostos (Famagusta).
As the driver I was much more aware of the poor quality of the road
surfaces. I feared for my car when we hit the 'impossible to avoid'
But it was great to have the freedom to go where we wished.
Ammochostos, was very busy, lots of traffic and the drivers
seemed to be careless of their own safety. Just had to go for
it and keep my nerve.
Our first intention on this trip was to gain access to the property
of two of my friends. In August 1974 they fled in a panic stricken
hurry, leaving their possessions behind in the hope and belief they
would soon return home.
On our first visit we had been unable to obtain permission to see
inside the building, but this time we were determined to find a way.
Eventually the key holder, a surly soldier, was found and the door
unlocked. Much of the furniture has been removed, but it was
shocking to see the bed of my friends with bullets still embedded in
the bed frame. 'What if?' was the silent question on every ones
lips. Tears of frustration were shed as we were asked to leave after
only 15 minutes, no time to see everything or to dredge up the
memories of what was missing. No idea of when we would be allowed
access again. The building was occupied by the military and it was
obvious they were unhappy with our presence.
We left with heavy hearts.
Our next mission was to find the burial place of close relatives. My
friends directed me to a tiny country church set among open fields,
with no other building in sight.
The sight before us totally shocked me. I was unprepared for the
desecration. I was mesmerised by the vandalised graves, every
cross that had marked a grave was smashed to small pieces.
I could not look at my 4 friends. If I felt so much pain how were
With great bravery they searched among the shattered wire and stone
pieces of the crosses. Like some macabre jig saw puzzle, they began
to fit the pieces together. They recognised some names and
remembered where their relatives lay. The stones were heavy, but
they restored some order and lit candles for their family
Later, when they were ready, we went into the church. It too
had been desecrated. With animal faeces covering the floor it had
obviously been used as a stable. Most of the roof was missing
and the interior was crumbling.
Silently we went back to the car and I drove my friends away from
this terrible scene.
We returned to the village of their birth where we had
received such a warm welcome a few days before. Again we were
greeted warmly. But the sadness of the past few hours stayed with us
and we found it difficult to respond.
We all needed time alone with our thoughts.
We continued on our way through the village and out the other side
to look at some land that belongs to the family. We were very aware
that, according to the current UN plan, this village and surrounding
land will not be returned to the pre 1974 residents.
The family land had been a productive farm. Sheep, citrus fruit,
olives, vegetables and much more had been produced, enabling the
family to be self sufficient and to have produce to sell or trade.
Today all of that land stands empty. If the UN plan is adopted the
family will not be permitted to return and use their own land again.
We travelled on to look at 2 family houses that had been newly built
single storey homes in 1974. The current residents have added
another storey and balconies. How to decide who owns that property?
Contrast this situation with another family member who returned to
her old home, again newly built in the early 1970's. She found only
one wall left standing. The whole house was destroyed and the
surrounding farm land left untended.
The more we looked and understood something of the current situation
the more problems we could foresee in the future.
So many difficult situations to resolve and still maintain peace.
Everybody I met remained as determined to work towards a peaceful
settlement as in the first heady days of the border opening.. But
how to achieve that?
Darkness closed in around us and we were glad of it.
Time to take my friends home? Or was I taking them away from their
homes? Now where do they feel their roots are?
In the days that followed this second visit all the family members
became ill. Nothing life threatening. Colds, coughs, gastric
problems. But were these illnesses the result of the stress they
experienced on their second visit to the lands of their birth?