On the 20th of July 1974, Turkish militia flew over Cyprus, dropping bombs and spreading fear in all the citizens. Among those citizens were my grandparents.
A few days ago was the 44th-anniversary recognising the invasion of Cyprus. Many people in my family posted messages talking about how sad it was and still is, and many reposted videos of the invasion. Yet, their remembrance of this atrocity has hardly made a difference.
Before I begin, I would like to tell you a story.
In 1974 on Saturday the 20th of July, my grandparents and aunty were living in a small village called Assia [pronounced Ashia], a mere 22km from the capital city of Cyprus, Lefkosia/Nicosia.
All of a sudden, the sound of bombs surrounded them in the same way as the Turkish army. Soldiers ran into their home commanding them to leave or be killed by the large guns in their possession. My grandmother hid all of her jewellery behind the head of her bed, a sign of hope that she would return, before swaddling her 1-month-old daughter in a blanket and fleeing with her husband to the south of Cyprus.
Her husband was sent to war and she waited at home with two babies. One in her hands and the other in her stomach.
My grandfather, along with all men under a specific age, was asked to fight against the invaders. He left my grandmother at her sister’s home in Limassol while he was made to fight for his life and the life of his country. (That is a lot to put on the shoulders on a 25-year-old!)
After a lot of struggle to find a home and work in their home-country, my grandparents decided to move to Australia in hope of a better life. They were some of the lucky ones.
I have gone to visit Cyprus many times yet I have only stayed on the Greek-Cypriot side of the border.
Assia was a ghost town.
I have visited my grandmother’s birthplace and hometown, which is in the occupied side, yet it was completely different from what she had described. She spoke of a lively, cosmopolitan village with heaps of people roaming the streets and filling the shops at all hours of the day and night. Yet, all I saw were derelict buildings covered in dust and graffiti.
In addition to that, I learnt that the home that my mother was supposed to grow up had been housing members of the Turkish army. There was a large concrete fence surrounding the houses of the army, creating more distance between the people who lost their homes and those who had stolen them.
Now, enough about my family. Let’s speak about the country.
The division has brought a lot of development to a halt.
Cyprus was an up and coming country which had been newly released from the confines of England and the invasion had brought every hope for innovation to a standstill.
The growing excitement and energy of Cyprus can be seen through the eyes of the city of Famagusta (shown in the picture below). It was flourishing! Cyrpus was making a name for itself as it invited many foreigners to its borders.
Still, the invasion came and the lives of all Cypriots, both Greek and Turkish, were changed.
These people who lived together in harmony, despite their differences in language, religion, food and possibly other things, were made to hate one another. They were made to think that the other only wanted the worst and was out to get them.
And today, in two-thousand and eighteen, this divide continues to destroy lives. The students of the country are leaving and studying abroad yet when they return there is no hope of finding a job as there are not enough for all. The adults are sometimes struggling to make ends meet. While the pensioners are hoping that they can live out their last years with the money that their country promised them.
The division of the land has brought nothing positive for anyone involved as it has only increased the amount of hostility between the parties involved and brought a rift between the generations to come.
I am the next generation of the Greek-Cypriots and I would like to be able to walk up to a Turkish-Cypriot without any resentment and bitterness between us. We are neighbours as well as brothers and sisters in this world. Why don’t we start living as one?