I was curious about where my roots originated from, so I came to Cyprus for a holiday in 1985. My father, was born in Strovolos, Nicosia in 1939. He left his country before the war and at that time it had been twenty five years since he’d left. I was lucky, because my uncle Yannis, my father‘s brother, who lived in Nicosia was visiting England that year and so, I was able to go back with him for two weeks.
I remember arriving at Larnaca airport on 20th August 1985 at the age of 17 years. It had been a night flight. I remember how shocked I was when I emerged from the aeroplane and felt an over whelming gust of heat hit me. I was nervous and excited in meeting my Aunt Lea and cousin Marino, who was only about 6 or 7 years old at the time.
We arrived at their flat in Nicosia, which was small. My Aunt Lea was very hospitable and had laid out a feast of food on their dining table, but I wasn’t that hungry and I had only eaten a little, as it was the middle of night. All I had wanted was to go to sleep, but to them food came first.
Eventually, a bed was made up for me in Marino’s room where I was to sleep. I didn’t mind, as I’d been excited just to be there. The only problem was the heat. It was the middle of August and without air conditioning I was beginning to suffocate. All their windows were wide open, but there wasn’t a breeze coming through them. My uncle had told me that it was always this hot in August and more so in Nicosia. I was shocked, as I had never been anywhere as humid as this.
I slept for a few hours and awoke to the sound of ringing bells on a Sunday morning. I was told that it came from a church nearby. I was accustomed to the Greek Orthodox church, as my father loved it and we went regularly in England. He was always joining in with the Priests and sang the mass with them, so I’d heard it many times before.
On my first morning, my Aunt came out from the kitchen and again lay a feast of food onto the table. I wasn’t accustomed to eating large amounts of food in the morning, but I ate more than I should have from what I remember. There was pita bread, dips, eggs, salad, hallumi, bread, Greek Hamburgers named ‘cufftatoes’ in Greek, melon and more. I was stuffed.
Later that afternoon we visited my aunt’s sister’s house. We had Greek coffee and a syrup desert, which I thought was delicious. Her bungalow had marble floors throughout and I remember how shiny they had looked. After that, my uncle took me to their clothes shop, which they owned in Strovolos. My uncle was, also, a teacher at the College in Nicosia and he was off work, because of the summer holidays. My aunt was a dress maker and she was very good at it. She made a lot of her own clothes and sold them in her shop.
As the days went on and nearing the end of my two weeks in Cyprus, I went on walks around Strovolos shops and in Nicosia. I remember seeing the line that cut the country in half. I walked through the market of shops that lead me towards the line. I can remember how sad I felt at seeing this, but everyone here seemed to be used to it. It was a shame, I thought.
They took me to Governors Beach in Limassol one evening where we had a meze meal and watched the sea roll in and out. At midnight, my uncle said we would all go in for a swim. I thought this odd, but followed them anyway. We walked into the sea. It was warm. At first it was hard getting in as there were stones at the bottom, but then all I could feel some sand. I remember how fun it had been and I hadn’t realized until afterwards how much I had enjoyed myself.
It was a wonderful experience to be in Cyprus for the first time, as I had seen a different way of life and how my uncle and his family lived. I realized I loved my father’s country so much that I would try to get him to return for a visit as soon as possible.