Yeraltý Notlarý, 3 Mayýs 2004

Sevgül Uludað

 

My heroes…(*)

Sevgul Uludag

My hero is Arto, who put up a `YES` sticker on his car - who has the ability to analyze what's been going on in Cyprus and as an Armenian Cypriot can go beyond the surface to look at the education, culture, the way people act, the way media acts, the way the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church acts… The way Papadopoulos acts…

My hero is Elena, who's been running in the streets for the YES campaign - she is swimming against the tide - she is an activist, a rare one for the Greek Cypriot community because she lives her cause - she does not go to meetings for the sake of going, she goes out into the streets and demonstrates for what she believes in…

My hero is Kyriakos, who's been thrown out of his job at RIK because he worked for reconciliation on this island, he worked for YES and he put his heart into what he was doing - because he believed in it… RIK can create all sorts of pretexts about why his job was taken from him but I am an activist and I know perfectly well the reason behind his punishment. I am proud of him and his work for peace on this island…

My hero is Spyros, who has the courage to speak to Greek TV and I think he is the first person with a missing father from 1974 who openly supports peace and reconciliation and says `YES`. He is young and you would think he has reasons to `hate` Turks, reasons not to feel `safe` since they kidnapped and killed his father - but he goes beyond the surface, beyond what the communities make us think, he goes beyond what is `appropriate` for his culture and what is `not` - he is courageous because he swims against the tide of chauvinism and nationalism. You must all meet him because he is one of the heroes whom you will not find a word about in official history books - he is a living example for other youngsters to take up as a role model and to follow…

My hero is Katie Clerides who swam against the tide of nationalist propaganda all these years, building structures for our common country, working within her political party, creating a reconciliation bureau when it was not `in fashion`, speaking against the fanatic bishops, telling them that they should only be concerned with religion not politics… Crossing the `border` to go to Karpas, trying to create relations with Turkish Cypriot civil society… Always working for peace and `paying` for it through attacks from nationalists…

My hero is Giorgos, a marine biologist from Cyprus… He lives in Athens and came back to Cyprus to vote YES… He could have said `Forget it! It's not worth going since the result will be NO!` But no, he goes beyond that - he's another one who lives according to his heart, not what other people would tell him to do… He's about 35 and has a lot of painful memories from Varosha - once, he wrote to me about his dreams:

`In 1993, I was 25 and found myself in France to finish my studies. One day I woke up very stressed and dizzy. I was dreaming, that I was somewhere in Varosi in a place I knew for real. Turkish soldiers where bombing us and I was walking in between bullets watching. I was dreaming many times of Famagusta both right outside the fenced area where my grandparents used to live and inside as well where we had a little wooden house near Derynia. The first house was bombed and the second was burned. That morning in my room in France it took me really a long time to understand that it was just a dream. I was crying like a kid being heartbroken and I could not help it. I was far from seeing Famagusta…

There were times before and after that dream that I had the same nightmare. In my mind I kept a picture of Famagusta (the only place I remembered relatively clear and had memories and photos as well), so the picture was too real to forget all these years. I was still far from seeing Ammohostos, the town buried in the sand, as its name says.

Last May, I visited Varosi as well as Karpasi. When my eyes reached Chelones Beach and Apostolos Andreas my heart was going to break and I felt that was happening was the most wrong thing in the whole world, the fact that I could be and could be not in my homeland free. You know Sevgul, the sea, our blue crystal clear sea in Cyprus means for me more than even myself can imagine, more and more and more….. Its endless, magic and She is exercising a tremendous power on me, so she can make me very happy and very sad.

When I visited Famagusta I tried to touch its golden and wounded seawater but I could not keep my feet into it. It hurt me so much. I hope that I will feel better if we go together elsewhere in the broader area of Karpas…`

I met him after the partial opening of the `borders` last year and each time we met, we tried to `reunite` our divided city Nicosia. We went to Palloryotissa, Famagusta Gate, Omorphita… We walked always near the border and tried to make out what was on `the other side`… We would try the same thing on both sides, trying to give meaning to a surrealist city where we grew up without knowing each other…

On Sunday we did the same in my `mahalle` - I live on the border and we walked through the border trying once again, despite the results of the referendums, to `reunite` our city, Nicosia…

It's heartbreaking and surrealist, isn't it - that no matter what the conditions, you try, you keep on trying, holding the hope and the dream that one day, there will be no barbed wire, that you would overcome this surrealistic `division` and go `back` to what could be considered a `normal` life…

My hero is Agni - she lives in the former `divided` city Berlin… You should see her house, she is a minimalist - she has so few furniture… But when it comes to Cyprus, she is not at all `minimalist`! She follows everything that's happening and tries to influence things from where she is…

She was working in Prague when there was the referendum - we were exchanging SMS messages and in the end I thought of calling her, instead of spending so much time writing messages. She could not enjoy beautiful Prague because her mind and her heart was in Cyprus… We spoke for almost an hour on the phone - exchanging information, planning, strategizing… And of course laughing from time to time… What are friends for if you can't cry or laugh together? It does not matter that she is Greek Cypriot and I am Turkish Cypriot. We can go beyond ethnicity to embrace each other and look into each other's hearts to see the pain or joy or worries as human beings… We are beyond the things people tend to identify us with…

Once I stayed with her in Berlin, to go into a deep, coma-like sleep… I do this when I go abroad because in Cyprus, I don't have time to sleep so much… In front of her apartment was a chestnut tree… She had a tiny kitchen - it was February and freezing in Berlin. It was the first time for many years that I actually walked when it was snowing! This was quite a different feeling for me since there is no snow in the northern part of Cyprus where I live… Her apartment was in East Berlin… We walked, together with our friend Nicos from Larnaca, to find a piece of the Berlin Wall at Postdam and take photographs and later to go to eat `black macaroni` made with the black ink of the sibya… At night we would speak for hours and hours and Nicos would make us laugh telling us stories from his life, from the classroom, his students, his kids…

Nicos is another hero, working all the time, bringing youngsters together from the two communities, trying to make a whole in the walls built over the years in the minds of the Cypriots… He's a teacher but I don't think that's important - he fell in love with a woman from Malaysia and went all the way there to get her because her father wouldn't allow her to leave the country… He writes his own history in peace, bringing co-villagers together, updating everyone about what's going on in the `bi-communal front`, making endless projects, helping everyone with a good cause in this, talking all the time, planning all the time, taking the blame when things go wrong but determined never to give up because the cause is too important to give up: it is to give a gift to our kids, a gift that no one was able to give to us, a gift of a lifetime: peace on this island so that there is no more heartbreak, no more painful memories, no more `missing` fathers, no more tears and paranoia…

I could make a big list with more names, more pictures for you: I could talk about Costis, Petros, Maria, Yiannis, Argyro and all the others in our `Conflict Resolution Trainers Group`… I could talk about Maia, Nana, Tina, Magda, Georgette and all the other friends from our women's group `Hands Across the Divide` - these are the people I am working for peace… Or Sophia with a big heart ready to embrace us for peace…

These are the people you would not find in `protocol` lists, they are not `high-profile`, you would rarely see them on interviews at TV programmes… They are `ordinary` people like you and me who get mad, sad and angry, who love and devote their hearts to the things they are doing… They are out of the `ordinary` because of that - they can stand in the fire without flinching, and I know that they would do everything to defend me even if I am not there and they know that I would do the same… They are the true Cypriots, the true human beings - the ones we can be proud of… They represent for me, the ones who have said YES to peace last Saturday… Their heartbeat is mine and we empower each other just by existing and doing what we are doing…

They might be in the `minority` but it does not matter - they are the ones who will change Cyprus as role models… It happened in the north before - we were exactly in the same position as they are now, that is in the `minority` until 3 years ago when things started changing and our ideas became `mainstream`… It took at least 25 years of hard work, lots of harassment, threats, punishment and even death… It took our whole lives, the best days of our youth, all our energy, all our dreams to bring our community to the point where it is now, taking a bold step for peace on this island… All these years we were playing `Russian roulette` with our lives - that's why I can understand and identify with them because it will take a lot of time, effort and energy to change things in the southern part of our island. Any positive change takes so much time and effort - sometimes you come to the edge, to the breaking point. But you continue because your cause is too important to give up…

I am proud of my `heroes` because if they did not exist, I would not either… Just by existing, they empower me to continue my struggle…

(*) Article published in ALITHIA newspaper on the 1st of May 2004.

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