Sunday, April 27, 2014
Tel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436
We gather at the Home for Cooperation in Nicosia, on the Green Line, across the Ledra Palace Hotel to commemorate for the first time the famous music master of Cyprus, Vahan Bedelian as Turkish Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Armenian Cypriots… The conference room is fully packed and we use the cafeteria section as well to seat people… The people who come are Armenian Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Greek Cypriots among them former students… It is the first commemoration together that comes half a century after Bedelian left his home in the Turkish Cypriot section of Nicosia back in 1963… It is half a century later that his `Magical Violin` that saved his life crosses back the checkpoint at Ledra Palace to the `Buffer Zone` to be exhibited during the night of 3rd April 2014 Thursday… After the welcoming speech of Alev Tughberk from the Association of Historical Dialogue and Research, I try to tell the reason why we are commemorating Bedelian:
`As a child, I grew up always hearing the name `Bedelian`… My mother was always mentioning his name, saying from a very early age my brother Alper was taking violin lessons from him. My brother had begun taking violin lessons from Vahan Bedelian long before I was born and there is even a photograph of him taken at the end of the 50s together with his violin... In those times taking lessons from a music master like Bedelian was a big issue and a trend in our community. My sister was playing the accordion and my brother the violin… Many children of his generation were taking either piano or violin lessons…
It was years later when I started asking questions about Bedelian that I found out the details of his life and the striking story of the Magical Violin… The Magical Violin, now 100 years old, had saved his life as well as the lives of his family… The Magical Violin would provide his livelihood and he would work until the age of 93, giving lessons, teaching music, composing music and persisting since music was a key to life…
Great tragedies produce great people and Bedelian was one of them… I cannot even imagine what sort of traumas he had gone through when he was forced to flee Adana, his hometown, not only once but twice, I cannot imagine what sort of fears went through his heart – I cannot even conceptualize what he saw that he decided not to waste even a single second of his life… He believed that music brought people closer, music made people more humane, that even if people did not speak each other's language, they would understand each other through music… So all his life he tried to `turn` people to music, as many as possible and he proved to us not with words but with his deeds what a music master he was and how humane he had been… If he saw talent and the youngster was poor, he would never take any money from that youngster for private lessons… He carried the tragedy of his own people in his heart but was not bitter, he simply devoted his whole life
to music… Some of his students, among them his son Haroutune became world famous violinists and I can see that most of his students from the days of his teachings embraced music even if they stopped playing themselves… I know how connected to music my brother has been throughout his life and I have observed this in some of his other students…
When Bedelian was forced to leave his home in 1963 as well as all the other Armenian Cypriots from the Turkish Cypriot section of Nicosia, this became a blow not only to the relations of the Turkish Cypriots and Armenian Cypriots who lived together peacefully until then but it was also a blow to music… There was no more Bedelian to give violin lessons… Sure there were others but the trend he began for learning music would get a heavy blow…
The Cyprus conflict of the past 50 years have not only damaged the peaceful relations among ordinary Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots but it affected all citizens of this land. It affected the relations between Turkish Cypriots and Armenian Cypriots, it affected the relations among Maronite Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots… Our communities paid a heavy price due to this long expired conflict.
What was dramatic was that all memory about Armenian Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots living together particularly in Victoria or Tanzimat Street or in Koskluciftlik was wiped out… Such memories had been turned into a `taboo` and no one even mentioned the good neighbourly relations they had had with each other. The good memories of living together were stolen from us and I tried as an investigative journalist to retrieve at least part of those memories, speaking to Cypriots from different ethnicities, different backgrounds and learning and sharing these with my readers on both sides of our island. I did series of interviews not only with Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots but also with Maronite Cypriots, Latin Cypriots and Armenian Cypriots… When I began writing about Armenian Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots began remembering things that had been long forgotten and sharing their own memories… Recently I tried to trace the Turkish Cypriot students of
Bedelian, publishing what they remembered of him because we owe him at least this remembrance and acknowledgement of his contribution as a music master to all our communities of the island, particularly the Turkish Cypriot community.
Greek Cypriots commemorated Bedelian, Armenian Cypriots commemorated Bedelian but not the Turkish Cypriots. Tonight for the first time this great master of music is commemorated together with Turkish Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Armenian Cypriots… What we are doing is something he would have liked: Bringing our communities together, remembering how he wanted people to be together and how he thought music was the key to make them feel closer and more humane…
Bedelian wanted a world with peace, harmony and friendship rather than conflict. Bedelian worked with all the communities of the island and gave his whole life as an example of humanity despite his own and his people's great tragedy… We commemorate him with all our respect and gratitude for what he has achieved throughout his life…`
Vahan Aynedjian then tells the story of the `Magical Violin` and speaks about the life of his grandfather Bedelian… After that we hear a video message from Haroutune Bedelian, his son who is a famous musician living in the USA and listen to his performance of the first movement (Adagio) of the Bach Sonata No. 1 in G minor… Then we move on to memories of his students: Dr. Bekir Azgin, Nouritsa Nadjarian and Andreas Iacovides talk of their memories of Bedelian… We give the microphone to other former students of Bedelian – among his students is one `missing` Greek Cypriot and his brother and wife also came tonight to listen and to share… Through the memories of his students, we realize that he has touched the lives of many and made a great mark on them… My brother Alper still continues with his music… One of his students, Arto Tavitian says that he had been a very good child educator… And finally we give the microphone to Nilgun Guney whose
mother and uncles and cousins had been his students. Nilgun Guney has an Art Studio and there some of the painters, as well as Nilgun, taking inspiration from the `Magical Violin` of Bedelian and the story of his life have painted works of art that we exhibit at the Home for Cooperation… Finally we honour Nouritsa Nadjarian for her continuous friendship with all communities of Cyprus…
Bedelian is part of our shared history in Cyprus and the story of his life could be taught at schools so that children can learn about the `Magical Violin` and the once multiculturalism of Cyprus…
Afterwards during the reception one Greek Cypriot friend comes to talk to me:
`I never knew that Turkish Cypriots and Armenian Cypriots had anything to do with each other… I never knew that they used to live in the Turkish Cypriot part of Nicosia… I always thought that Armenian Cypriots hated Turkish Cypriots because of what had happened to them in Turkey…`
Another friend is quite impressed by the power point show that Vahan Aynedjian has prepared, particularly with a photo he showed of a concert with Bedelian at the Papadopoulos Theatre in 1927 – in the photo is the English governor Sir Ronald Storrs, next to him a Jordanian exiled prince, the Turkish Cypriot Mufti (religious leader) as well as Greek Cypriot priests and Armenian priests… A multicultural crowd listening to the concert… This friend says, `You showed us what sort of life that existed in Cyprus before 50 years, such a multicultural life…`
Perhaps this is the zest of the evening: If we had it before, why not have it now? What stops us except ourselves?
Bedelian believed in peace because he had seen the horrors of war – he believed in people coming together and even if they could not speak each other's languages that music could bring them together… On that night of commemoration I think we have achieved that bringing together after so many years, Turkish Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Armenian Cypriots…
Photo: Nilgun Guney with her paintings of Bedelian at the mini-exhibition commemorating Vahan Bedelian and his `Magical Violin`.
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 27th of April 2014, Sunday.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Tel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436
Days and weeks fly by with calls from readers known and unknown to me, new information flowing in, information kept hidden in their hearts and minds for so many years…
One reader has just tried to acquire some land outside Kyrenia and was warned by some villagers that there might be a burial site where he was trying to buy… He wants to show me this place…
Another reader calls telling me of a possible burial site in Gerolakkos… His mother-in-law, while chatting started talking about this place he says… His mother-in-law, a refugee from the southern part of our island had come to the northern part of our island after the war and `population exchange` in 1974. She had been settled in a house at the edge of the football field, he describes to me… Perhaps the football field did not exist then but was built afterwards or perhaps it was there… I need to check on that. When they moved to this house in Gerolakkos, the house was on columns and nothing underneath… At the back garden, there had been a place that looked like it had been dug recently… A hole opened up and then covered… That had been the impression of his mother-in-law…
`The place has changed` he explains to me… `Now that house is not what it looked like back in 1974… And my mother-in-law does not live there any longer… I can take her to Gerolakkos and we can show you this place that had created suspicion in her mind… And you can check whether this is actually a possible burial site…`
I thank him and tell him I will call him when I arrange with the officials of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee to visit together…
Another reader calls to tell me that people had been talking about Aghirdagh…
`They saw a piece of news in the newspaper saying that five had been found in Aghirdagh…`
`Yes, I know, I saw that – it was not accurate this piece of news – I think it was from Fileleftheros newspaper – the place was Boghaz, not Aghirdagh… It was the `gamini` where the remains of five `missing` Greek Cypriots had been found… Somehow the Greek Cypriot newspaper wrote instead of Kyrenia Boghazi, Aghirdagh…The information about this `gamini` had come from a map that one of my readers had drawn…`
But maybe if Fileleftheros did not confuse the burial site, there would not be talk about Aghirdagh in the coffee shops of Aghirdagh! And we would not be able to find out another possible burial site there…
`Remember the place I had shown you in Komurdju (a place next to Aghirdagh) where remains of five `missing` Greek Cypriots were found?` he asks…
`Yes… I remember…`
`Well, when this piece of news supposedly about Aghirdagh came out, some people from Aghirdagh remembered Komurdju and told me of another area that you need to check… Please come whenever you want and I will show you this new possible burial site…`
`You know, the `gaminis` in Komurdju that you had told me about, I heard that the owner did not allow the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee to dig in these `gaminis`… Let's hope that he will give his permission to dig in the future…`
`You should check all the `gaminis` in the area of Boghaz, Aghirdagh and Komurdju` my reader tells me… `There are a lot of people buried in the `gaminis`…`
`I know… I hope we can do that… I will call and visit you… Thanks so much…`
Another reader comes to my house to visit and he tells me another story about Kyrenia Boghaz.
`In 1974, did you know that they had buried some `missing` Greek Cypriots to the right side of the military cemetery?` he asks me.
`Actually we had gone to a close by coffee shop and a witness came to talk to me and to the officials of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee. He had been serving there in the 80s I think and one night after heavy rains, he had fallen into a big hole with some remains… He described and showed us the area to the right of the military cemetery…`
`Yes maybe this could be the edge… I heard from someone who served there for many years that above the burial site they had built a helicopter pad that is not actually used…`
`Thanks… We will investigate…`
Days go by like this, readers calling, readers helping, readers wanting to share things that have been kept locked up for decades…
In Kormakitis at the `Yorgo Kasap Restaurant`, another reader finds me, someone I don't know…
`I had been meaning to call you but since you are here` he says, `I want to tell you a story about the 50s… It's about the killing of someone whom the Greek Cypriots thought that the Turkish Cypriots had killed. It happened in Karabuba Street in the walled city. Actually it was some Greek Cypriots who had killed that Greek Cypriot… I want to tell you about the witness to this…`
`Please give me your number so I can call you and we can arrange to meet` I tell him.
In Kormakitis, the owner of the restaurant Christina, a wonderful Maronite Cypriot who is also a butcher takes me by the arm and says, `Come and I will show you something…`
She makes the best yogurt, the best talari cheese and the best anari in Cyprus… She had explained to me that she uses wood to cook the old way, that's why there's a smoky smell to anari and yogurt when you eat – nothing is `industrialized` here but home cooked with lots of love and care… Kormakitis itself had been thriving as the leader of the whole area – it always had rain, had good soil, good products and people from surrounding villages used to come here to trade… After 1974, Kormakitis had become a sort of a `hostage`, gradually dying, losing its population but those who remained did everything to survive on their own land and not to leave… After the EU membership of Cyprus, Kormakitis became a better place to live – in the past the Turkish Cypriot authorities did not even allow a single telephone in the village but now people are coming back, renovating their houses in this very pretty and unique village…
Christina is one of those who had remained and survived in Kormakitis… She takes a long iron, used for the fireplace and with it, points to a photo hanging on the wall and explains to me:
`See that? That was my mother… She was pregnant and she had brain cancer and she was taken to Greece for treatment. She died there… The baby also died… She was buried in Greece… We searched for her grave, could not find it… I was merely a 13 year old girl back then, when my mother died at the age of 35… I had two younger brothers, one 11 and one 8… I had an elder brother, 15… We were four kids… Now 49 years later, we found out that her bones were removed and buried elsewhere and we got some soil from the place she had been buried… Three weeks ago we had a ceremony to bury that soil in a grave… For 49 years, I did not say `mother` but when I was burying her, I cried and cried and said `mother` maybe a thousand times… I swear to you, I was thinking of you and what you are doing and how you are trying to give back the remains of the `missing persons` to their relatives… I was thinking of the good things you are doing… May God
give you strength to carry on…`
She has made yoghurt for me and some anari (cheese) and we sit down with my friend Christina Pavlou Solomi Patsia and her husband and my husband and my son to eat the tender meat cut and prepared and cooked in the traditional Cypriot oven by the owner of the restaurant Christina… The restaurant is packed and her daughter Maria is serving the customers with a big smile… Christina too, has a smile for everyone… Whoever comes here, goes away happy and always with a smile… They have very good food but it is not that, that makes people happy… It is the humanity and warmth of Christina and her daughter Maria that makes this place boom with happiness… The crowd is always multicultural: Turkish Cypriots, Greek Cypriots, Maronites, Turks from Turkey, Greeks from Greece, tourists from all over the place come to eat in this restaurant and to look at the only `thriving` village of the Maronites, that is Kormakitis…
We show Christina's husband Vassos the area and explain to him the story of the Maronites – the story of Agia Marina, Asomatos, Kormakitis… We take him to Livera to show him the makeshift `lighthouse` - we stand at the Cape Kormakitis and take photos by the `lighthouse` where there is graffiti saying `The End`… And then we go to Agia Irini to show him the beach – there is a strong wind and the sea is rough… The sea is a dark blue with white froth from the waves – they come and go and the wind whispering eternally to us, stories from these shores… We pass through Kondemenos and tell him the stories from there… Vassos had never been in this area so we show him so he can take back the greenery, the flowers, the rough sea and the tender and heart-breaking stories of Maronites in his heart back to Limassol… We end the week on this note, sharing our country, our beauty and our tragedy…
Photo: Christina from Kormakitis...
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 13th of April, 2014 Sunday.攀
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Tel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436
We go to Famagusta to the funeral of six `missing` Turkish Cypriots from Zygi… Our dear friend Leyla Kiralp will bury today the remains of her `missing` husband Ahmet Mustafa who had been taken from his home in Zygi on the 15th of August 1974 by EOKA-B members from Tochni and some Greek Cypriot policemen… Leyla had been told that `He will be questioned and tomorrow we will take him back to you` but that would be the last time she would ever see her husband. Ahmet Mustafa together with 13 others from Zygi would be taken to Tochni and with other Turkish Cypriots from Tochni, would be put on two buses… Ahmet would be on the first bus – they would be taken to the Palodia military camp and all 45 Turkish Cypriots on that first bus would be executed in cold blood and buried there… One person only, Suat Kafadar, would escape with wounds and would manage to survive the massacre. When Suat would inform the Turkish Cypriot authorities about what
happened, UN would be sent to the Palodia military camp where the Greek Cypriot military authorities of the camp would convince the UN `To go today and come back tomorrow so they can investigate together…` During that evening they would open the mass grave, take out the 45 dead bodies, put them on some trucks and carry them to rebury them at a mine in Gerasa, Limassol. Sometime later when the mine would be expanded, this second burial site would be again reopened, the remains taken out and thrown down the hill and reburied, passing with a bulldozer over them to hide the third burial site… Remains of Ahmet Mustafa, together with five others from Zygi would be found in this mass grave. The exhumation at Gerasa by the archaeologists of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee would take a total of 18 months starting in 2007 and ending in 2008. The archaeologists led by our friend as team leader, Demet Karshili, would all stay in Limassol during this
time in order to concentrate on the exhumation – they would practically dig a whole mountain… I would go and see with my own eyes, this eerie place where 45 `missing` Turkish Cypriots had been buried.
The second bus with some `missing` Turkish Cypriots from Zygi and Tochni would be taken to Pareklisia to another mine and executed and buried there… Nowadays, the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee is carrying out an exhumation there and so far when I am writing this article, remains of 25 `missing` persons have been found – it is assumed that there had been 38 or 39 Turkish Cypriots on this second bus but until the exhumation is completed we would not be sure of the exact number.
Leyla who had been recently married with Ahmet Mustafa had never dreamt that she would lose her husband like this… She had been a very young woman at that time who had sewn her own wedding dress and just got married… She would write an autobiography entitled `The Wet and White Handkerchief That We Shared` and the book would be printed in Turkish and Greek… She would go round the villages in the last few years introducing her book, talking to Greek Cypriots from all over Cyprus, telling her story and giving messages of peace and reunification of the island. Despite her own tragedy, Leyla would not hesitate to struggle for peace on the island. Today we are by her side to share her pain when she buries her husband…
She has invited her Greek Cypriot friends to the funeral and they come with their flowers to share the pain, to cry together, to be with Leyla and to symbolically give a message of peace in this funeral. Around 50 Greek Cypriots, some of them who had also been persecuted and victimized by EOKA-B are here… Orestis Agisilaou, a young peace-loving Greek Cypriot is next to Leyla, just like her own son Shevki Kiralp during the funeral… Leyla introduces the young Orestis as `my second son` to the leader of CTP, Ozkan Yorgancioglu as he comes to greet her… Our beautiful Andri from PEO with her white flowers are here, so is Takis Hadjidemetriou, our dear friends Cleopatra and Jus Payada… Our friend Andreas Soudjis came all the way from Limassol and Andreas Maras too has white flowers he carries for the funeral… This is a record number of Greek Cypriots at a funeral of a `missing` Turkish Cypriot – we had Greek Cypriot friends in other `missing`
Turkish Cypriot funerals but not so many because Turkish Cypriot relatives of `missing persons` have always been `discouraged` by Turkish Cypriot civilian and military authorities, `not to have Greek Cypriots at these funerals…` Even our dear Greek Cypriot friends and readers who had helped to locate the burial sites of some `missing` Turkish Cypriots in many cases could not come to these funerals because there had been so much pressure on the relatives in order not to invite them… Today, Leyla has broken a taboo… The Greek Cypriots who come to the funeral have been struggling for peace and reunification of our island for many years – they come here to be with Leyla and later on will write on Facebook about the reason why they are here: They come here also in order to show that they do not approve such massacres and that we should be struggling together for peace, sharing our joys as well as our sorrows, making sure never for such tragedies to
happen again on this island…
The relatives of the six `missing` from Zygi have asked for a `military funeral` and when I go to the funeral, I see many soldiers in uniform… Families are under the trees crying, some of them fainting, one relative having a heart attack and taken to hospital… I find Leyla by the door of the mosque and we hug each other…
Leyla is the only speaker at the funeral, in the name of the relatives of six `missing persons` from Zygi. She says:
"Today we are here to carry out our last duty towards our loved ones and our relatives. By doing this, unfortunately, we need to face one of the biggest and most terrible traumas of our country. We are all going through a difficult day. Such days we need more understanding compared to other days.
On August 15th 1974, our relatives that were taken prisoners by members of EOKA B who came from Tochni, were killed near Limassol by unknown persons. Our missing relatives were 11, 6 of them were found. Today we are here for their funeral.
And if it is difficult for me to make this speech, I see it as my duty to do it, because of the respect I have for our missing. With my ex-husband, my relatives and co-villagers, we have gathered today, after 40 years. We shall bury them in a while, for their soul to rest. I hope that we will not relive similar pain in Cyprus, and I consider it a duty towards humanity for all of us to do what needs to be done so that people don't live again similar traumas. Condolences to all.
Now, both we and our dead will rest. Because for too many years we did not know where they were, and our wounds remained open for too many years.
Now at lease they have a grave to visit them and bring them flowers. This will lessen our pain.
All the missing are the common sorrow of Cyprus. 40 years is a very long time. Especially when it passes with such sorrow. Only those who have lived it know this sorry. Either they are Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot. I hope that all the missing are found as soon as possible.
I thank the Missing Persons' Committee, who is carrying out investigations on both sides, my dear friends Sevgul Uludag who is making great efforts for the missing to be found, the soldiers who carried out this ceremony, the authorities of interior and foreign affairs for their help, the Mayor of Famagusta Mr. Oktay Kayalp, the District Officer of Famagusta Mr. Sifa Tsolakoglu and all of you who came here.
To conclude my speech I express great respect for our missing and our dead. I wish that the soul of our loved ones that we will bury today, rests in peace. Thank you."
After her speech, the six `missing` Turkish Cypriots are buried…
After the funeral Leyla Kiralp invites our Greek Cypriot friends to a folk museum that she has created together with her husband Mustafa Kiralp near the Salamis Bay Hotel called `The Melandra House`. The Melandra House in fact is a replica of Mustafa Kiralp's family house in the Melandra village and the house has been decorated with old furniture like a folk museum. Here I see the Greek Cypriot friends sitting down to eat a few bites after the funeral, chatting with Leyla and being with her on this very difficult day in her life…
Our dear friend Alexandra Papanastasiou Katsou who attends the funeral would later on write:
`About 40 Greek-Cypriots including myself were in Famagusta today at the burial of six "missing" persons from Zygi. We were there to relieve the pain of our friend Leyla and the other families who lost their beloved in the massacre of Tochni, 40 years ago. We were there to show that all Cypriots have been suffering all these years in the same way and that human pain has no ethnicity, language or religion. We were there to give a joint promise that we will all turn this common pain into a celebration of peace, love and reconciliation. Our children deserve a better future. Thank you Leyla for your speech and your hospitality at Melandra house.`
Photo: From the funeral...
(*) Article published in POLITIS newspaper on the 6th of April 2014, Sunday.