Sunday 20 July 2008


Hard to believe it, but today, July 20th, is the 34th anniversary of the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus. 34 years sounds such a long time but I still remember clearly the Greek Cypriot coup, which started on Monday 15th July, and the Turkish Invasion on the following Saturday.

I shall never forget the absolute horror of that shrill air-raid siren early on that Saturday morning that shattered our already fragile peace and my life has never been the same since.

I had married into a Greek Cypriot family and we had a thriving business - The White Horse Pub in Famagusta - a comfortable home, a fabulous lifestyle, lots of friends, several dogs and a baby on the way. The only thing to survive was the baby, now a successful young woman who is a pleasure to know, and I'm very grateful for that.

I also lost my faith in government, my respect for politicians and my belief that everything said on The World Service was true.

What I gained, was a sickening realization that human life means squat all to politicians, that you're just as likely to be killed by friendly fire and that the best place to be during an air-attack is either tucked away outside your house or hidden under some solid piece of furniture e.g. a bed or a table.

But since that day, I've counted each day as a blessing and marvel that I've lasted so long.

I have never been back to Famagusta but the desire to do so is growing within me and I long to stand in front of my old home and the pub and walk along the beach.

And I do feel that I am so lucky that not only did I survive, but also that I have been able to build a new life.

I harboured a lot of anger about the Invasion and being refugeed for a long time until, just before the Iraq Invasion, when I was so chewed up with all the talk of war that I had a long chat with my vicar who said: 'You have every right to be angry.' And I thought:' Yes, I do! But I choose not to be angry any more.'He was the first person that had not tried to brush what had happened under the carpet and that acknowledgment released me.

Returning to Cyprus a few years ago to visit all my relatives and see some of my old haunts in the unoccupied part of the island, plus a lovely afternoon in Kyrenia (still occupied) helped put to bed a lot of ghosts and writing the novel was my way of using the experience for good.

One thing still puzzles me, though, and that is why the rest of the world don't seem to give a toss about Cyprus, including the UK. We have such strong links with Cyprus with lots of expats living there, army/RAF bases, and loads of tourists each year, you'd think that writers and dramatists would have been falling over themselves to write about the conflict.

There's plenty of literature about Africa, India, Parkistan etc all having been part of the British Empire, as was Cyprus, but hardly a dicky bird about Cyprus. I searched Google today to find literature set in Cyprus and there's only about half a dozen novels, and none of them set during the period of the Invasion. I seem to be the only person who has done so and I'M HAVING GREAT TROUBLE GETTING PUBLISHED!!! Of course, it could be that my novel isn't very good but personally, I think it's a cracker AND would make an excellent film.

But it's almost as if there's a secret embargo on anything coming out of Cyprus/written about Cyprus.


And, if anybody thinks they know me from Cyprus - my name was Maggie Charalambous then - then please leave a comment so we can get in touch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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NIKOLAOS TANERIS, Cyprus Action Network of America (CANA)