Tuesday 12 August 2014

Article - We need to start telling the beautiful stories (Published in Greek in 24h on 20 July 2014)

We need to start telling the beautiful stories

There are terrible stories that can be told about 20 July 1974. Stories of war, bloodshed and fear. But today, I choose to tell you a beautiful story. A beautiful, true story I wrote in May 2003 when I was a 23-year-old journalist working for the Associated Press. The crossing points had just opened and we had gone to Limassol, together with my father and late mother to find Antonis, who had risked his life to help my family in July 1974.

May 2003

"Özel, I knew you would come," shouted Antonis as he warmly hugged my father, who still couldn't believe he had found the man who saved him almost 30 years ago.

"You lost your hair," my father said, examining Antonis with curious eyes. "You got fat, Özel," he replied, tapping my father's big belly. They had last seen each other in September 1974, when my parents fled their house in Limassol to come to Kyrenia.

My father had told me about Antonis the night before we went to Limassol. As Turkish troops landed in Cyprus on Saturday, July 20, 1974, the Turkish Cypriots in Limassol, including my parents and then 9-year-old brother, were detained by Greek Cypriot soldiers. My brother was sick, very scared and terribly weak.

"We had no idea what was going to happen to us," said my mother. "People were crying and begging the soldiers to let them free." My parents spent the night under detention at Yousoufidis’ clinic along with a large group of Turkish Cypriots living in Limassol. The next morning, Antonis, a young Greek Cypriot soldier recognized my father as the physical therapist, who had treated him some years before. "He rushed us into his jeep. Before taking us home, he drove to a doctor’s clinic, where he had your brother examined. He bought the medicines prescribed by the doctor and took us to our home," my father told me. "And he told us not to leave the house for a couple of days before things got calmer. He was back at night with a basket with bread, cheese and a bottle of milk." …

On arriving at Limassol that day, almost 30 years after my parents had fled the city, we stopped at a coffee shop to ask if any of the customers knew Antonis. My father could only remember his first name - and that his family had owned a grocery store. An elderly man recognised who we were talking about and offered to take us to his house.

It is unbelievable, but Antonis had been waiting for us. "I saw in my dream that you would be back," he shouted from his balcony after we rang the doorbell. "I had the same dream four times. This is a dream come true."

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