Yeraltý Notlarý, 12 Eylül 2004

Sevgül Uludað

 

The gift of life…(*)

Sevgul Uludag

Even though we’re in September, the long, hot summer continues… Our jasmine trees are full of flowers and on the vine trees, the grapes are ripening, changing color from green to a reddish pink. It is the season of figs: this week I go to Vouno (Tashkent) for an interview and Cemaliye Shoforel has a bag full of figs for me… You must remember her story from Dochni village… She lives in Vouno and when winter comes, clouds come to surround the village and when you open the window, the clouds come in, together with the rain and lightning and you think you are somewhere up in the sky… This time, I go to her house to say hello, I have another interview from this village with Suat Kafadar… We go together with my friend Panicos Chrisantou, the film director from Kythrea…

Suat is stunning: he comes from somewhere we’ve never been to… He comes from a mass grave and has learnt to appreciate life through the most inhuman experience a person can go through…

He was barely 19 in August 1974 when Cyprus was turning into a bloodbath… He was from Dochni together with all the men of the village, all the kids of 14-15… There were also people from the neighbouring village Terazi… They were gathered at the school and later two buses took them away… Suat was in the first bus, with five armed Greek Cypriot men… They were supposed to be taken to Limassol as prisoners of war but this never happened because the buses never reached Limassol. Instead, driving somewhere else, all those on board were taken down, asked to take off their watches and give everything that might identify them… Everyone gave their wallets, rings, watches to the armed men… Then they were shot and killed… Under the dead bodies, Suat was wounded but discovered that he was alive!

`I did not think of anything, I did not stop! As soon as they went to bring a bulldozer to bury the dead bodies, I ran… I ran without thinking… I found a tree and climbed over it… I was wounded, bleeding, bullets had touched me but I wasn’t killed… I spent days on a mountain, on a tree… Then I walked to Muttayaga to find shelter and hide… They took me to the bases and later, to the north with a helicopter… Every single day I have lived since then is like a bonus, is like extra… 30 years have passed since then and it’s like a gift of life for me…`

He’s a warm, smiling person… He comes from a mass grave, therefore has learnt to appreciate life and not care about trivial things… He’s married with three kids and is expecting two angoni soon! Neither him, nor kids were ever given things by the regime that others got: I can understand that… `I was not given a house` he says, `This house was given to me by my mother and I repaired it…` He has some cows and tries to survive in Cyprus…

If you come from somewhere where you’ve known death in its ugliest form, you don’t go and beg for a job, for a house or something… You don’t follow politicians in order to get something out of them… You are beyond such things and of course such an attitude would annoy politicians – they only want followers… Loyal followers without question marks…

But Suat is not like that – he couldn’t care less about such things… He says what he thinks and pays the price. He knows something deeper than others, something he will never forget…

I have another interview in Nicosia with Yiannos Demetriou from the village of Assa… He was barely 11 in August 1974 when he had to look into the ugly face of war and see the horrors, see the humiliation, the degrading of human beings… When the Turkish army came to the village they hid, together with 26 other people in a room for three days, being afraid even to breathe… An unbearable three days, the waiting, the uncertainty, the fears… The men of the village were kept in the coffeeshops and later taken by buses to Nicosia to the Pavlides garage… But the garage were full of Greek Cypriot prisoners of war, so they were sent back to the village… But then it is rumored that the commander of the village sent them back one more time to Pavlides garage and the police there, wouldn’t take them… On the way back to their village one more time, they disappeared and are still considered `missing` to this day… 83 persons from the village Assa…

Yiannos tells me of his experience of war that he has never told, speaks of things that he’s never spoken of before… We sit in the office of Christoforos Skarparis, who was 14 in August 1974, from the same village… He also tells his story…

On the way back from Vouno, Panicos tells me how he was one of the last to see Assa on those days… They had left Kythrea and stopped in Assa when the Turkish tanks came to the village…

`I remember women crying, children crying in the streets… In that moment, you turn into an animal… You need to survive and you can’t stop but continue… Some people tried to get into our car but there was no room… The car was full...`

I collect these stories, publish them and perhaps will put them together in a book… So that we can appreciate the gift of life… So that we can uncover what really happened on this island because `history` as is taught on both sides is like a puzzle with lots of missing parts… Only together we can fill the gaps and see the whole picture… Because if we don’t fully understand what happened in the past, how shall we build a future?

(*) Article published in the ALITHIA newspaper on the 12th of September, 2004.

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