Maria (Consolidated text )

Posted by: Maria Atalanti

Published on: 10/04/2022

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Here,  the text of the novel “Maria”, which was published in series of 21 Chapters, is consolidated, so that it is easy for you to read.

 

(Chapter 1)

(This story is the product of fiction and all the characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Larnaca – Summer 1872

Antonios Philippou sat in the harbour, looking towards the sea. Deep blue. The white waves ran on its surface and burst into the sand, only to be reborn far beyond and over again. The rhythm, the coolness from the breeze and the smell of the sea, which filled his existence, brought him peace.

He had returned, at the age of 32, to his family home in Larnaca, along with his wife Eleni and his five-year-old daughter Athena. He remembered 14 years ago, when his father brought him here to talk to him, before he left for the Great School of the Nation in Constantinople.

His father, Andreas, was one of the wealthiest Greek Cypriots of Larnaca. He worked for years in the French consulate and at the same time traded salt and silk, sometimes in collaboration with the French consuls, sometimes on his own. He kept every extra penny for the studies of his only son. Furthermore, he was a very smart man. Being so many years in the consulate, he had learned French and often followed the discussions that were taking place in there, and had understood many things about the ambitions of the French and other Europeans for his country.

On the other hand, he saw his compatriots degenerate and demoted under Ottoman rule, some of them even joining Islam in order not to pay taxes and at the same time secretly performing their Christian duties. They were called Linobambakoi, (linen and cotton) because of their dual religious status. After the revolution of 1821 in Greece and the creation of the small and unstable Greek State, the Greek-speaking inhabitants of Cyprus hoped that their turn would come. Whenever they saw Greek ships arriving at the port, they admired the Greek flag, dreamed, and waited for their own redemption.

But his father knew that this was not the case at all. On the chessboard of European interests, others were moving the pawns, and no one knew who would win the game.

So, he made sure that his son would get the best possible education and since they lived in Larnaca, the most Europeanized city of the island, he sent him early on to the school. Antonios was fortunate to have Athanasios Sakellariou as his teacher, from Ayios Petros Kynourias, writer of the book “Ta Kypriaca” (Cyprus customs and dialect).

When it was time for him to go and study, his father had brought him here, away from the curious looks and ears that stretched behind closed doors. Here, in the beauty of the nature, he spoke for the first time as a man who knew much more than he seemed to know.

-My son, he told him. Our country for 300 years has been under Ottoman rule and has lost its identity. Before them were other conquerors, Lusignans, Venetians and before them others. All we have left to remember who we are is our language and religion. The Turk today is like a dragon that has aged, but it can still devour you and wipe you out to prove his strength. Do not forget what happened with archbishop Kyprianos and the other bishops in 1821. Europeans know this, and sometimes they caress him, sometimes they threaten him. But they want to slowly weaken him and grab whatever they can. Among those, which they want to grab, is our land.

-In a few years’ time, the Suez Canal will be completed, and new prospects will be opened for the international trade. All the strong countries of Europe have understood the importance of Cyprus and are competing who will convince the Sultan to give it to him. I’ve heard a lot, my son, there, in the consulate. No one knows that I understand French fluently and follow all their conversations. I know that since 1831 the French counsellor Alphose Bottu sent reports to his government and urged them to take Cyprus in one way or the other. They claim that the old rule of the island by the Lusignans, makes them the natural descenders of the island’s ownership. What Cypriots dream of, has no significance for them. That is why we should be realistic. Greece will not save us, my son. It doesn’t have the power. We will be snatched from Europe. Who will he be? No one knows. Of course, the French are better than the Ottomans, but who knows what fate has the future for us!

-And it’s not just the French who want us. I know that the English, Belgians, and Germans desire our land. I’ve heard it in the consulate. Prince Leopold II of the Belgian throne visited Cyprus in 1855, and it was told that he wanted Cyprus for his country. For them, my son, we are indigenous, we have no value.

-You must be educated, my child. To be educated better than anyone of them. Only in this way we will be able to deal with them, on their own terms. You will first go to the Great School of the Nation in Constantinople. There you will make sure to learn Turkish. Not the Turkish we are talking about here among us. Turkish spoken by their educated people, so that you can read the sultan’s orders, first-hand. Then you will go to Paris. Be that as it may, this letter from the French ambassador will open many doors for you. You will also learn German. But above all, you will learn English. Great Britain is a huge force and knows how to play the game well. They are the ones that the French are most afraid of.

Then he took out a pug with gold coins and gave it to him.

-I have been gathering these for years. No one knows that I have them. Neither your mother. You will use them, my son, to educate yourself. If you can make it, go to England. I will be waiting for you to come back. Because you must come back. Only the educated can save our country!

-I promise you father that I will come back, Antonios replied.

-In the years that followed, Antonios finished the Great School of the Nation in Constantinople where he was taught not only Greek studies, but also psychology, anthropology and the French and Ottoman languages.

He then travelled to Paris and using the letter given to him by his father he was admitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Everything had been thought of and planned correctly by his father. All except that his son would fall in love. When he met Eleni in Paris, at a gathering of Greeks of the diaspora, he forgot everything. He hardly remembered Cyprus or his parents. He was enchanted by her beauty. For some time, he also stopped his studies – the main object of his life. He lived in a magic, a cloud enveloped him, and he certainly did not step on the earth. With difficulty, he persuaded her father, an influential Greek of Paris, to allow him to marry her. He also gave him a vague promise that they would live the rest of their lives in Paris. But deep down he knew…

Immediately after their marriage, they went to London for a few years and Antonios continued his studies in English law, while also learning the English language. But they returned to Paris, having already had their daughter, Athena.

He could have been perfectly happy. He had a wonderful family and worked in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as a translator. With the flat that his father-in-law had given them and his quite satisfactory salary, he had everything. But deep down he was depressed, and he always looked melancholic. Eleni noticed it and asked him constantly, until he was forced to talk to her about his homeland and the promise he had made to his father.

It was not easy for Eleni to encourage him to leave for Cyprus. But she did. Perhaps, the defeat of the French in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, also helped. The upheaval it had brought to the country, created a sense of escape.

On the one hand, he thanked Eleni for this, but on the other hand, he believed that her decision emanated from ignorance of what she would face. She had never seen the streets of Cyprus, which were without any substrate, muddy in the winter and dusty in the summer. His Parisian wife could not imagine a place where for 300 years no public work had been done! The only project that was done – and this on private initiative – was the aqueduct that was built in the years 1746-47 and which was paid entirely by the Turkish Bekir Pasha, himself. It cost 50,000 piastres and allowed the economically more comfortable residents of Larnaca and Nicosia to install water in their homes. Eleni did not know about the diseases that afflicted the population, especially malaria from mosquitoes that abounded in the swampy waters that existed everywhere, and no authority was ever interested in drying them out! She did not know about the lack of elementary justice and of a health system.

A sweet voice pulled him out of his thoughts.

-Daddy, daddy, where are you?

Little Athena ran and hugged his knee as he was sitting on the rock and hovered her head in his arms. Further, back Eleni came smiley and happy.

Oh my God, he thought, what a wonderful picture! What perfection! Athena in my arms and Eleni emitting light and serenity.

-You had told me a thousand evils about your country, she cried out to him. But you never told me about the beauty of the sea and the bright light that bathes everything. You didn’t tell me about the jasmine that smells in the courtyards and the many Europeans who circulate in the city. These are worth all the hardships! Don’t torture yourself any more. I’ll be happy here.

Antonios tried to hide the tears that filled his eyes. What a wonderful woman! He would do anything to keep her happy. Her and their daughter. And then to fulfil the great task assigned to him by his father: the education of the children of Cyprus.

At that moment a wind blew, and the sea moaned. Eleni’s dress rocked in the wind and her hair got loose. Athena perched in his arms.

He felt that fate was sending him a message. He had learned so much. But he had not learned to read the signs of fate. He squeezed Athena in his arms and wished that fate had no other plans for him.

Together, held hand in hand, all three of them set off for the house.

 

 

Bibliography:

The Great Cyprus Encyclopedia

https://clioturbata.com/%CE%B1%CF%80%CF%8C%CF%88%CE%B5%CE%B9%CF%82/chasiotis_cyprus_colonial/

 

(Chapter 2)

(This story is the product of fiction and all the characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

London 1925

Lady Mary William Moore was sitting in the back of her car, leaving the family’s lawyer’s office in central London. She was a very elegant lady, around 50 – 55. Her grey hair was cut short, at the height of her ears, according to the fashion of the time. She wore a grey loose dress, with a wide belt, loosely tied under the waist. A long line of pearls, reaching under her chests, was the only ornament in her outfit. On her head she wore a small hat, fitted, with a small veil that covered her eyes slightly. It was at the same time very modern, but also aristocratical elegant. With her gloved hand, she nodded to the driver to proceed home.

She sighed with relief. At last, she had settled all the inheritances, after the death of her husband, Lord William Moore, from a heart attack, at the age of sixty. She had left it all to her daughter, the house, the cash, and the tower in the countryside. For herself, she kept only the property she had inherited from her parents. It was not at all much compared to that of her husband, but for her, it was enough to have an annual income and live a decent life. She did not need luxuries.

She was pleased that her husband managed to marry their daughter to James Macdonald, a noble young man of Scottish descent, highly educated, who was teaching medicine at the University of London. Her daughter met him during the war, when she was helping as a nurse, and he was a doctor. At first, her husband disagreed with this marriage. He wanted his daughter to marry an aristocrat with a title, as he was, but she convinced him that the educated people would be the country’s new elite, as it would be after the War. James was thankful to her for that, because he really loved Alexandra, her daughter.

Mary felt a lot of remorse as a mother. She gave birth to her daughter in June 1897. Her husband was appointed an officer in India in August 1898 and mother and daughter followed him. Until 1907 Mary took care of her daughter’s studies herself, since she was unusually educated and cultivated in relation to the other English women of her time. But then her husband decided that India was not the place to raise an English young lady and decided to send her to England, in a boarding school for girls. Although Mary disagreed with him, it was impossible to dissuade him. When she threatened him that she would return to England herself to be close to her daughter, he reminded her of her premarital pledge that she would stay with him wherever he was.

So, all she was able to do, was to accompany her daughter to The Cheltenham Ladies’ College and say goodbye to her. Fortunately, she convinced her mother to leave Cyprus and move to London to be close to Alexandra. She returned to India.

After that, her relationship with her husband had been cold and formal. She had kept the premarital promise she had given to him, but she moved away from him.

Now she was free. For the first time! It was a very strange feeling. None of those who ruled her life and chose for her which path to follow, lived any more. Her parents had long since died, and two years before she had also lost her husband. The only person that she had in the world was Alexandra. Alexandra was independent and dynamic. She looked like her mother, even though in the appearance she looked like her father.

She had decided to talk to Alexandra. It was too difficult. Alexandra had grown up as an English high-class girl, proud of her origins and the titles her family brought. She was a famous member of the British Empire and everything else, it, was somehow inferior.

Next week, she would visit her to inform her of the transfer of all her father’s property, in her name. She would also give her all the relevant titles. And then she would announce her decision to return to Cyprus. At any cost.

The car stopped outside her home in Notting Hill. She thanked the driver and got off.

While drinking her tea in her office, and looking out the window at the garden, she tried to prepare her words and put in order what she would say to her daughter. Regardless of Alexandra’s possible reaction, the biggest problem was that she did not remember much. Her memories were blurred and confusing.

For years her parents and especially her mother Evelyn McCain tried to make her forget. And if she would not forget, she would never, ever, be able to talk about it.

She closed her eyes and recalled the first images of her life. An old woman who spoke Turkish to protect her and not let that woman with small oblique eyes beat her with the stick. Who were these women? Am I a Turkish? She thought. But why I was called Maria? She would love to find the old lady! But how would that be possible? It is out of the question that she was alive.

Then she remembered the teacher. At his thought, she smiled. She remembered him well. She was seeing him almost daily before she left Cyprus. He taught her to write to read, taught her English, French, and studied the ancient Greek writers. He had even taught her Turkish. He was called Antonios Philippou. Did he live? Very unlikely.

She felt a quid in the heart. For her, he was her father. Although Michael McCain, the military commander of Nicosia, adored her and was less strict with her than her mother, she, deep in her heart, considered her teacher her father. He taught her almost everything she knew and opened the avenue of knowledge to her.

She tried again to remember. Apart from the confused memories in the Turkish house, the rest of her memories began in her parents’ house. When she went there, she must have been around seven to eight. She remembered that at first she was staying in a room and the teacher would come every day and teach her. Greek, English, French, ancient Greek writers and even Latin. When he found an opportunity, he also taught her Turkish. She learned easily; she did not forget anything.

Then her mother would come, taught her good manners, and corrected her pronunciation in English. But above all, she taught her to be confident. She did not remember how long this lasted. However, when they decided to take her out and present her to her parents’ friends, she was a perfect English young lady in fluent ways and cultivation. They had explained in their circle that their daughter had just returned from a school in Switzerland. Her mother had forbidden her from talking about her past life, and she herself had almost believed that this is how she was born and that she was the daughter of the McCain couple. Miss Mary McCain, who everyone admired.

But in her dreams and nightmares she often saw the Turkish house, that ugly woman with small eyes chasing her and the old woman protecting her. Sometimes she would wake up in the middle of the night and scream, but these times the nightmare was worse. She was seeing a man bending over her and caressing her with his thick hands while his eyes were shining. And in these cases, the old woman came to protect her. In the early years of her marriage, when she woke up in the night screaming, her husband tried to understand why. She never spoke to him, though. This was not an information for an English Lord to learn!

In fact, she had never spoken to anyone about her past. For everyone, she was Mary McCain, a well-bred English aristocrat. Anything else would expose her own position and that of her parents in English society. But now she had to talk to her daughter. And things were not easy at all, because her daughter was also a member of this society of aristocrats, and she had the temper of her father.

It was dark when she decided that there was no point in thinking any more. She had not come up with how she would explain to Alexandra the reasons she wanted to return to Cyprus.

Suddenly she remembered the document she found in her father’s office after his death, well hidden in the double bottom of a drawer. It was the document of her adoption. She searched and found it, where she had kept it. With that, she would begin the conversation with her daughter!

Lady Mary William Moore chose to visit her daughter on Wednesday. On this day, the servants had their day off and Alexandra’s husband would be at work. So, whatever her daughter’s reaction would be, there would be no one to listen to. Their conversation would be private.

She began by giving her all her father’s inheritance. Alexandra was amazed. This was not common. One would expect that her mother would still live the rich life with which she was accustomed, for many years to come. She was not an old lady! On the contrary, she was a particularly nice lady, who everyone envied. She could not understand her decision.

-I will leave London, her mother continued. I will return to Cyprus. The money my parents left me is enough to live there.

-And why would you do that? Alexandra asked in amazement. Now that I have been married and will have children, will you leave? When will you finally be by my side when I need you! What is the point of your decision? And where are you going to stay there? You don’t have anyone in Cyprus, and as far as I know it is a very underdeveloped place compared to London. It’s absurd what you’re telling me.

Mary did not respond; she simply gave her the adoption document. Alexandra read it many times until she understood what it was about. Her hands began to tremble. Now she was not talking any more. She shouted:

-Are you telling me that you are adopted? And now it’s time to find out where you’re coming from? What is the point of that? What will benefit you. You will just offend us and feed gossip. What am I going to say to my husband?

Before Mary could answer, a voice was heard from behind them. They both turned back, surprised, and saw James, Alexandra’s husband, standing at the door and listening to their conversation.

-Darling don’t talk like that to your mother, he told Alexandra. Mary has a right to know where she’s coming from, and we’ll help her find out.

-How did you find yourself here? Alexandra stammered.

-This is not important. I came to get something I forgot, and I listened to your conversation. Your mother Alexandra has always been sad, under her due behaviour, and now I understand why. I knew that your father was running her life – you told me it was his decision to send you to a boarding school in London, and she resisted vigorously, but she could not change his mind. It is a pity, my love, to discourage her, let’s listen to her and plan this journey together.

Mary, who was crying silently, during this conversation, now started crying with sobs and could not stop. For the first time in her life, her secret life, she had an ally, and the emotions that drowned her for more than fifty years began to rise to the surface like an unstoppable torrent.

Alexandra, who for the first time in her life had seen her mother crying, ran and hugged her and constantly apologized to her.

When Mary managed to form herself and put an end to this intensely emotional moment, all three of them sat back and Mary began to tell them what she remembered from her childhood. She confided to them her thought that she might have been a Muslim, even though she was called Maria.

That moment, Alexandra ran to her room and returned holding a small box.

-It was given to me by Grandma Evelyn when I came to stay in London, and I was crying that my mother was not with me. One day she gave me this box and told me that it belonged to my mother, and I may always have it with me to remember her.

She opened the box and pulled out a golden cross. It was a simple cross, like those worn by the Christian Orthodox in Cyprus, as Mary explained. But she could not remember it. She probably wore it when she went to stay at her mother’s house, and she removed it from her so that she had nothing to connect Mary to her past life.

They stayed late that night and chatted quietly, so that the servants, who had meanwhile returned, would not hear. Mary agreed that all movements should be made discreetly, because there was no need to leak their secret and feed gossip.

They came up with the following facts and moves that Mary had to take, for the best possible result:

After so many years, it was very difficult to find the truth, but Mary would try.

Her presence in the Turkish house was a mystery, and perhaps this was the key to her origin.

The only person who probably knew anything, was the teacher Antonios Philippou, who was unlikely to be alive. Mary remembered, that when she left Cyprus he had been promised that he would look for her past. But then there was no correspondence between them. His letters never came, but it seemed that her letters never reached him. The correspondence was done through the British army, and surely her mother made sure that communication between them did not continue.

The golden cross was a testament to her Christian origins, but nothing more. It was a very ordinary cross, which simply implied that her family was wealthy enough to give it to her.

The act of adoption said nothing about her family. It simply said, “orphaned child, of unknown parents.”

The first move she would make was to write to the wife of the current military commander of Nicosia and explain to her that health problems were forcing her to leave London, and she would like to return to Cyprus for some time. She would ask her to find a home in Nicosia for her.

Before saying goodbye that night, her son-in-law took her hand and assured her.

-Don’t worry Mary. We will come to see you in Cyprus.

That night, she felt real security for the first time in her life. She felt that she was not alone and that she had people of her own who wanted to stand by her side. She cried out of happiness.

The journey into her foggy past had begun.

 

 

(Chapter 3)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all  characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Nicosia Summer 1877

The winds of fate blew loudly and swept through the life of Antonios Philippou, two years after his family had arrived in Cyprus. His wife Eleni, his daughter Athena and then his parents, perished from the disease that plagued the place. The malaria. He himself had ended up like a walking and suffering corpse. He could not see any future in his life. And at that moment, when the power of his fate took away everything and everybody would think that everything would be over for him, another wind blew and nested in his soul.

Suddenly he began to feel a power filling him up, and he saw in front of him a purpose that he had to fulfil. A strong man as he was, he knew that sorrow and self-pity lead nowhere. He evaluated the life and the blessing it was given to him, to have such a wonderful wife as Helen, such a cherished daughter as Athena and two wonderful and pioneering parents, that he decided to keep the beauty of their memory, not the sadness. He remembered again the words of his father, there on the seashore of Larnaca:

… I will be waiting for you to come back. Because you must come back. Only the educated can save our country!

He had been so much educated! He had to offer to his homeland, which was fraying under Ottoman rule, everything he could. The years he was in Europe, but also from some books sent to him by his friends from Paris, with sailors, gave him the opportunity to confirm his father’s words about the desire of many European countries to acquire Cyprus.

When he was in London he read the book by the British military and diplomat John Macdonald Kinneir, who visited Cyprus in 1814 and in which he advised his country to occupy Cyprus. Such a conquest would give it “hegemonic influence” in the Mediterranean and “tremendously crucial position” to control the tactics of the Sublime Gate and the “exceedances” of Russia, as he wrote.

From his father he knew that the French consul in Larnaca, Adolphe Laffon, in 1871, had proposed to his government a possible settlement of French refugees in Cyprus, after the Prussians occupied Alsace and Arch. Laffon’s proposals were repeated in 1874 by his successor, Pierre Dubreuil.

Recently, he had been informed by a book, sent to him from Paris by a friend of his, that the Belgian industrialist Edmond Paridant van der Cammen, had proposed to Sultan Abdul Aziz the colonization of Cyprus by Belgian immigrants, with the agreement of the Sublime Gate and at the same time ensuring Ottoman sovereignty on the island.

All this worried him greatly. He knew, of course, that whichever European country came to Cyprus would bring something better than the absolute quagmire of Ottoman rule. But at the same time, he knew that it would be another foreign occupation, very different from the vision of his compatriots who were expecting liberation and union with the Greek state.

He tried many times to convey these messages, at least to those who could understand them, but the response was lukewarm.

He decided to leave Larnaca and the bitter memories that were chasing him. He chose Nicosia because it was the capital of the island and had some schools in which he could work.

The city of Nicosia was very different from Larnaca. It was in the centre of the island, away from the sea, in the plain of Mesaoria. It was fortified with walls built in 1567 by the Venetians to protect it from a possible Ottoman attack. Unfortunately, they did not manage to save it and in 1570/1 it fell into the hands of the Turks. The walls were built of stone and had eleven bastions. Around the walls there was a moat, that when Antonios saw it, flocks of sheep grazed it. Nicosia’s former glory, with the palaces of the Lusignans that adorned it, was lost, and ended up in a poor and dirty city. All its inhabitants, most of whom were Muslims, lived within the walls.

People entered the city from the three gates that opened only during the day. After sunset, the gates were closed and a special permission from the Turkish commander was needed to pass. The three gates were called, Gate of Famagusta (which was the largest and most imposing), Gate of Pafos and Gate of Kyrenia. The gates got their name, depending on where the roads that started from them, led.

Apart from the Muslims, Greek Orthodox, some Catholics, the remains of the Lusignans and Venetians, and Armenians lived in the city. Armenians were engaged in trade and some of them had a prominent place in society. In addition to the poor houses, there were many orchards, with palm trees, citrus trees, pomegranate trees and many vegetables, such as carrots, onions, and cabbages. There were also handicrafts that dealt with the processing of cotton and the manufacture of cotton and silk fabrics. In Nicosia, people also possessed the art of dyeing leather with sumac, (a kind of plant), as well as cotton fabrics of very high quality.

Antonios had no difficulty in finding a position as a teacher at the Pancyprian Gymnasium. Near the children, he found a target and a purpose that gave him strength to continue. At the same time, whenever he found fertile ground and an inclination for knowledge, he taught any child or adult he met. His time was filled with offer and creativity. The best antidote to grief.

He found a small house, next to a Turkish mansion on Yeni Mosque Street. This mansion was an old palace of the Lusignans and specifically the residence of Princess Agnes de Lusignan*. The courtyard of his house was adjacent to the garden of the mansion. They were simply separated by the wall of the fence. He could see the trees of the garden and feel their coolness on the hot days of summer. In the evening, when a cool breeze was always blowing in Nicosia, he would sit outside and think of his life and of the fate of his homeland.

In his own small courtyard, there was only one fig tree. Its branches had grown and descended to the ground, creating a kind of natural hut. One afternoon when he went to cut figs, he dropped a juicy fig on the ground and bent down to pick it up. He then noticed, for the first time, a hole in the fence wall of the next house from which projected the face of a girl. She smiled shyly at him, and he asked her in Turkish:

-What is your name?

-My name is Maria replied, also in Turkish

-Maria, do you speak Greek? He asked her again in Greek, this time.

The little girl did not seem to have understood and repeated?

-Maria

-Are you a Christian? He asked her again in Turkish.

-I do not know what Christian is, she replied in Turkish again.

The whole situation aroused his curiosity, and he told the little girl.

-Do you want to come here? I ‘ll give you a fig. They are very sweet.

-If they see me, I will be punished, replied Maria

-No one will see you. We will hide under the branches of the tree. See how dense they are! No one will see us.

Maria passed through the hole of the fence and was found under the fig tree. Anthony was amazed by her beauty. He had never seen a more beautiful girl before. Despite the dirty clothes she wore, her face shone. She had curly pitch-black hair, black eyes with huge eyelashes, red fleshy lips, and white skin. All the features of her face were harmonious, but what stood out was the strength of her gaze. She is so brilliant, he thought.

That day was the beginning of a relationship that would change Maria’s life forever. Slowly – slowly, Anthony learned various information about Maria. She was about six years old – about as much as his daughter would be – he often thought. She did not know how she found herself in this house, she did not remember anything about her past life. They always had her in the garden to take care of their hens, rabbits, goats, and the cow. She was not often allowed to enter the house, and she was never allowed out of the house.

Her Master was called Suleiman and his wife Fatma. She was very afraid of both. Fatma hated her and as soon as she saw her, for no apparent reason, she could beat her. She did not see her master very often, and generally he used to talk to her well, but his gaze frightened her. One time he tried to caress her and began to pass his fingers over her body. She started trembling and crying, and then came the big mother, his mother, Ayşe, and drove him away angrily. The master was very much afraid of his mother, not to curse him. Ayşe was the only one defending Maria. After the incident with her master, Ayşe would have her sleep in her room, on the floor, so as not to be in danger from her son. When she was ill-treated, Mother Ayşe used to take her in her arms and comforted her. Maria loved her very much.

The whole situation raised many questions to him. More questions were raised by the discovery that Maria was wearing a golden cross, under her rags. It was obvious that she was a Christian. But wherever they found her and picked her up, why they did not change her name to Turkish and why they did not take away her cross? It was certain, they wanted to hide her and did not want anyone to see her, but why did they keep the evidence that she was a Christian?

All this intrigued him, and he began to watch his neighbours, in secret, looking through the hole in the wall, near the fig tree. Suleiman was a typical Turk, around 35, a brunette with Mongolian characteristics, a moustache, and a large stomach. When he was at home, he was ordering everyone. Only in front of his mother did he seem to be completely subjugated. Whenever he saw her, he bowed his head and kissed her hand.

His wife, Fatma, was a dark-skinned Turkish woman, with strong Mongolian features, slender, with small slit eyes and thin lips. You could call her ugly. She was around 30 and had not been able to have children. This was perhaps what caused the crises of hysteria that gripped her, and she often became violent. She was afraid that her husband would take another wife, and so she was jealous of all women. Maria, even though she was a child, was a candidate opponent for her. Muslims could marry a girl of 12 or 13 years, and Maria would not be long in reaching this age.

But mother Ayşe had a different appearance. She was clearly separate. She was relatively tall, with whiter skin and normal features. Everyone respected her at home, even her daughter-in-law. Deep down, she knew that one of the reasons her husband had not yet brought another wife home, was the influence of his mother.

The meetings of Antonios and Maria, under the fig tree, took place on a daily basis. On the side of the garden, Maria closed the hole with dry branches and from Antonios’ yard they were fully covered by the branches of the fig tree. From the very first days Anthony began to teach her Greek, reading and writing. At first, he used to write the alphabet with his finger on the soil, and later he brought her books. The speed with which Maria learned had impressed him. Despite all his experience with children, he had never seen anything like this before. In a year she was fluent in Greek, reading and writing. The little girl was a phenomenon!

Her presence in that house tormented him in the evenings. He wanted to get her away and raise her like the daughter he had lost. But he was afraid. If they were discovered, the fate of both would be tragic.

On the other hand, his information was showing that the time was approaching for Cyprus to change hands and master. Although he himself would prefer a French dominance, everything seemed to show that the British would win the game. The defeat of the French by the Prussians in the recent war and the purchase by Great Britain, in 1875, of a large part of the shares of the company that had undertaken the work of the Suez Canal, weakened French influence.

Anthony smelled the wind that began to blow and did not hesitate for a moment. He began to teach English and French to Maria, with an emphasis on English. The little girl should be ready when things would change in Cyprus. Ready, like no other child, all over the island.

 

*This mansion exists until today. It is in occupied Nicosia, and it has been renovated. I express my thanks to the Architect, Mrs. Agni Petridou for the relevant information.

Bibliography:

The Great Cyprus Encyclopedia

https://clioturbata.com/%CE%B1%CF%80%CF%8C%CF%88%CE%B5%CE%B9%CF%82/chasiotis_cyprus_colonial/

Lefkosia  –  Luding Salvator of Austria

 

(Chapter 4)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Ship Otranto – Summer 1926

Lady Mary William Moore was sitting in the living room of the ship, gazing at the sea from the opposite window, drinking her tea. Her journey to Cyprus had begun.

The last few months have been full of preparations. She handed over the house in Notting Hill to her daughter and husband, packed all her personal belongings in two trunks and booked this trip to Cyprus. She arranged for some furniture to be sent to her parents’ house in Essex and some of them were sent to the house, rented for her by the wife of the new military commander, in Nicosia. When she boarded on the ship and the two trunks were transferred to her first-class cabin, she realized for the first time that the account of her life was really these two trunks, and she was terrified. Lady’s title, towers and grandeurs were sidelined and evaporated. Everything is in vain, she thought. Will I find out what does really worth in life?

The ship Otranto made the trip, Great Britain – Australia. She transported immigrants to this distant country, a colony of the British. She would stop in Famagusta to pick up migrants from Cyprus and continue her journey through the Suez Canal. In Famagusta, Lady Mary William Moore, would disembark.

In recent months, despite the preparations and the hustle and bustle, she let her mind free and tried to remember. She began to remember some scenes and some events, perhaps because now the pressure was gone from her life, maybe because she knew it was time for her to learn the truth. The first thing she remembered was her meeting with the teacher, Antonios Philippou, under the foliage of the fig tree. When he began to teach her the alphabet and bring her books, she thought this was paradise. She could not imagine greater happiness. She did not care that she was ill-treated at home, a wonderful thing had entered her life, called knowledge. The magical world that had opened in front of her was beyond any possibility she could imagine, in the orchard where she was living with the hens and rabbits.

Suddenly, she heard a voice next to her.

-Excuse me, lady, could I sit with you? My name is Kristian Hubertus, and I am a Swedish Archaeologist.

Mary was surprised. She lifted her eyes and saw a tall, blond, sturdy man, about her age, looking at her with his blue eyes. What impressed her was the glow in his gaze. She was accustomed to seeing a listlessness in the light-coloured eyes of most people she knew, and felt magnetized by the appearance of the charming gentleman. She replied politely:

-Please do sit down. I am Lady Mary William Moore and I travel to Cyprus

-What a coincidence, Mr. Hubertus continued, I travel to Cyprus too. I am sent by the Prince of Sweden, Gustav Adolf, to prepare the archaeological mission that we will send next year to Cyprus. I started from England because I teach history and archaeology at the University of Oxford.

-Wonderful! I would love to know about your mission to Cyprus. It sounds very interesting, Mary replied. You know I have lived many years in India, with my late husband and a few years in Egypt and I have studied a lot in relation to the history of these peoples. I have grown up in Cyprus, but unfortunately I do not know anything about its history. I’m all ears.

-First, allow me to offer you a drink, my Lady, and I will tell you what I know about Cyprus and the mission we are preparing as a country. I see you drink tea. Would you like something else?

-Yes, thanks. I’d have a liqueur.

After ordering their drinks, Mr. Hubertus began to tell Lady Mary William Moore, the history of the upcoming Swedish expedition to Cyprus.

-The initial invitation was made by the Swedish consul in Cyprus Loukis Z. Pierides, a very important and educated Cypriot. The first Swedish archaeologist to visit Cyprus was Einar Gjerstad in 1924. Gjerstad made his first trial excavations in Kalopsida, while at the same time he deepened in the study of the island’s prehistory. This year, he published in Uppsala his remarkable book Studies on Prehistoric Cyprus. You know, my dear Lady, Cyprus is a very interesting case for any archaeologist. Due to its location, all the peoples of antiquity passed from here and left their traces. Phoenicians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Lusignans, Venetians and even yours, Richard the Lionheart. Of course, we should not forget the most recent history with the conquest of Cyprus by the Ottomans in 1571, and you British who, if I am not mistaken, in 1923, with the Treaty of Lozane, you have annexed the island.  Its position makes it very interesting for any power that has or wants to have interests in the region. Unfortunately, it has been devoured by looters and illegal excavations. That is why Mr Pierides has asked for our help.

-You know, even though I grew up in Cyprus I haven’t travelled much, and I don’t know enough about its history. I had a great teacher in Cyprus, Antonios Philippou, who taught me to speak Greek – I speak and read fluent Greek, ancient and modern – Turkish and French. I have studied the ancient Greek writers and, as I told you, I have studied the history and philosophy of the Indies and I know a lot of Egyptian history.

-Very interesting what you are telling me, my dear Lady! You could help me communicate with the locals, since you speak Greek and Turkish, he said with a laugh.

-Do not laugh, Mr. Hubertus, I would be happy to do so. I am very interested in your work and the archaeological mission you are preparing.

-Well, then let me accompany you to dinner to continue our conversation.

-I will see you in the dining room, around 8.00.

When she returned to her cabin, Mary sat on her bed, surprised by herself. She was not used to chatting with strangers and even with such intimacy. She could not deny it. Mr. Hubertus was a very charming and terribly interesting man!

Mary was used to receiving the attention of men. Most of them approached her for her beauty, others for her spirit, others for both. But she was not easily fascinated. Her husband often said this, when his friends teased him because his wife was attracting male gazes.

-Don’t worry, he used to say, they’re looking at her, but she’s looking at the books on the shelves of the library, behind them!

Fortunately, she thought, that her husband was not jealous. They did not have much in common with William, but it would have been a big problem if he was jealous of her. Of course, she herself had never given him a reason. On the contrary, he was flattered that this beautiful and witty woman was his wife. Of course, the same was not true of the wives of the men who were gazing at her, but that was another story.

She remembered then, at the age of seventeen, when her mother had sent her to London to her sister Susan. Her goal was to find her an aristocratic groom and according to her plan to get her married and all of them live in London. Of course, things did not happen exactly the way she wanted them to be.

Despite the confidence she had gained, with her mother repeating to her every moment that she was a McCain, daughter of the military commander of Nicosia and had nothing to fear for in life, when she arrived in London she felt lost, out of her waters.

At first, she thought that everyone was looking at her because she did not know how to behave properly, like an English aristocrat. But soon Aunt Susan opened her eyes.

-My precious, she told her, everyone is looking at you because you’re not just beautiful. You’re a beauty. As your pitch-black hair frames your white skin and, as your eyes shine with huge eyelashes and, I’m sure you don’t know, but your lips are very voluptuous! As for your body, you are like an ancient Caryatid.

How embarrassed she was by Aunt Susan’s description! Except her dark childhood, which was as if she did not exist, she devoted the rest of her life to learning. She never bothered with her appearance. Her clothes were chosen by her mother, and she was completely happy with it.

Slowly – slowly, she got used to living with her rare beauty and managing the bridegrooms who surrounded her full of desire. Although she continued to study at the university, she felt the constant pressure from her mother to choose someone to get married, and then she decided to make her revolution, within the narrow confines that her life allowed her.

Among so many English nobles, she chose William Moore, the son of a lord, who by the death of his father. Would also become a lord. He was an officer of the British army, quite nice, tall, blond, and sturdy. He was also a smiling, pleasant, humorous man, a keen dancer and seemed to really love her. But his main advantage, for Mary, was that he was a military man and hoped that they would not live the rest of their lives in dull London but would travel to the colonies. Of course, she would have preferred to travel to Cyprus, but she could not be sure of that.

William was clear with her when he asked her to marry him.

-I want you to promise, he told her, that wherever I go you will follow me, always (he underlined the word “always” emphatically”). I may become a lord in a few years’ time, but I do not intend to give up military life. I will be a soldier until the end of my life. You are ready to become the wife of a soldier.

-Yes, William, she told him. I will always follow you wherever you go.

Of course, years later she regretted this promise, but at that moment she believed that she had made the right decision.

Her mother, on the other hand, was not at all happy to lose her daughter, but she could not refuse her to marry a lord. After her daughter’s marriage, she returned to Cyprus.

-Why did I remember all this, Mary thought and started getting ready for dinner.

Throughout her life she has been an elegant, extremely elegant lady, but not particularly a coquette. Her natural beauty did not require her to wear makeup, so she was almost always completely naturally. Tonight, though, she wore a particularly elegant blue dress, put a little blush on her cheeks and a discreet perfume behind her ears. She wore some lovely earrings with blue sapphires, which lit up her eyes and set off for the dining room.

-Mary, she said to herself, beware. That’s not your goal right now!

At dinner, they did not stop chatting with incredible fervour. They had so many things in common that both were interested! By the end of the evening, they had become so familiar that they had left the formalities and each of them called the other by their first name.

They talked about Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in November 1922 and the incredible treasures found, since it was the first undisturbed pharaoh’s tomb to be discovered.

Kristian Hubertus had very strong views on the subject.

-You will see, he said, that a hundred years from now archaeologists and scientists will still be studying this tomb. Incredible treasures have been found in there.

-Did you hear, he continued, about the recent death of Gertrude Bell, in Baghdad? Great loss, for Britain, the Arab world and all the women of all times.

Mary did not hear this news and was unpleasantly surprised. She told him about a meeting with Gertrude Bell in Cairo in November 1915, following the death of her beloved Dick Doughty – Wylie at Gallipoli. This great woman was devastated, but she did not want to show anything.

-Life was hard to her, Kristian said. Such an educated woman with such incredible abilities, who despised the Victorian English society of 1886 and not only was educated in Oxford, at a time when no woman was educated, travelled everywhere, made so many archaeological discoveries, studied Arab culture as no one else, but could not enjoy love.

-You know, Mary continued, Dick Doughty – Wylie wasn’t her only love. In 1892, she had met Henry Cadogan in Tehran and fell in love with him. He is the one who introduced her to the study of Arabic language and Arabic poetry. Unfortunately, her father did not consent to marry him, and this cost her unimaginably. In 1893 Henry Cadogan died, although many say he committed suicide.

-Dear Kristian, Mary continued, I’ve figured out that you can’t have it all. Life will take something back from you, to balance what it has given to you. Gertrude was so gifted and had so many abilities! She was a mountaineer, archaeologist, writer, poet, diplomat, dedicated her life to Arab culture and the Arab world. Her achievements were miraculous, and perhaps no other woman would ever make it. The Arabs called her Queen of the Desert and respected her unimaginably, those who consider women to be subordinate beings! Life did not give her the right to enjoy love. Hard? Life through human eyes is both hard and unjust. But who knows what is the meaning of everything, in the endless circles of the universe?

Suddenly they realized that everyone had left the dining room. They got up and, after saying goodnight to each other, promised to meet the next day to continue their conversation.

Mary returned to her cabin cheerful. She had not felt like this for years. She had a very nice evening with a very charming and interesting gentleman.

Surely the rest of the trip would go by pleasantly. The path she had taken to find her past began with optimistic omens.

She laid down on her bed, and from one side the rhythmic shake of the ship, and from the other side the sweet memory of the evening that had passed, gave her a deep, happy sleep.

 

Bibliography:

http://www.polignosi.com/cgibin/hweb?-A=43830&-V=limmata

Gertrude Bell, A Woman in Arabia (The writings of the Queen of the Desert)

 

(Chapter 5)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Nicosia October 1878

The events of the last few months have been overwhelming. The British had managed to convince the Sultan, Abdul Hamid II, to grant Cyprus to them. Britain’s Prime Minister Disraeli was convinced by his military experts, that with the acquisition of Cyprus, they would have at their disposal one of “the keys of Asia”. The pro-Turkish policy pursued by the British, from the time of the Turkish-Egyptian crisis, as well as the skilful manipulations of their ambassador in Constantinople, Austen Henry Layard, resulted in the signing on June 4, 1878, the Anglo-Turkish defence treaty, and the simultaneous military occupation of Cyprus.

On the 12ht of July 1878, the British arrived in Nicosia with mules loaded with six penny coins, to distribute them to the inhabitants, and many promises that they would pay all the late salaries, to annihilate any possible reaction of the Muslim inhabitants of Nicosia, who were superior to the Christians. The Greek Christians were thrilled with the arrival of the British.

When, on July 25 of the same year, the first English High Commissioner, Sir Garnet Wolseley, arrived in Nicosia, Archbishop Sofronios welcomed him with a warm speech and many hopes.

Sir Garnet Wolseley settled in the Kykkos Monastery, outside the walls of Nicosia. At the same time, many officials and soldiers had begun to arrive. In addition to the housing needs that were presented, there was also an immediate need for interpreters.

Antonios Philippou did not hesitate, when asked, to offer his services to the new conquerors. He was fluent in English, Greek, Turkish and French and knew the English law. The finesse he had acquired by living many years in Paris and London, was welcomed by the British.

He was appointed to the service of the military commander of Nicosia, Michael McCain, and his wife Evelyn. They were a very decent couple, with no children. Antonios, in addition to his daily duties, which he performed flawlessly, began to make friendships with the couple, especially with Mrs. Evelyn McCain.

When at some point Mrs. Evelyn McCain expressed the wish to have a maid who spoke English, so that she could communicate, Anthony spoke to her about Maria. His description was very eloquent and detailed, which made Mrs. McCain impressed and very interested in Maria’s case.

Of course, it was not at all easy to distract Maria from the Turkish family and take her to the McCain house.

Mrs. McCain, despite her husband’s objections, began to devise with Antonios a plan to get close to the family and do everything she could to acquire Maria.

For two months Antonios taught her Turkish so that she could, even rudimentary, communicate with Mrs. Fatma and negotiate the transfer of Maria to her home. Antonios knew that Fatma anyway wanted Maria to leave the house, because she was afraid that in the future she could be a potential rival, but master Suleiman certainly did not want to lose Maria. That is why everything had to be done very carefully. They had decided, from the beginning, that Antonios would not appear.

Mrs. McCain began to take frequent walks in the area and admire the architecture of the few beautiful houses, the most impressive being this family home on Yeni Mosque Street. It was obvious that it was an old mansion of the Lusignan*. At its entrance it had a Gothic apse with a frame and decorative finishes. At the top it had a shield and various decorative weapons on the sides. One could also see traces of Byzantine windows. In front, a wooden gazebo was erected, according to Muslim customs. It was obvious that they had neglected it, and it had lost its former glory.

Mrs. McCain found a way to ask to see the lady of the house and seek permission to visit the house and see the interior.

Fatma felt very flattered and invited the English lady to come inside to have a coffee. The house inside was decorated with heavy oriental furniture and divans, but neglected. They sat comfortably in the living room, had their coffee, and ate oriental sweets, baklava and kantaifi. It would be comical for someone to try to understand their conversation. Mrs. McCain with her broken Turkish and with winks, was trying to thank Fatma, and Fatma was constantly talking trying to impress Mrs. McCain, who understood almost nothing. However, at some point, she asked to see the rest of the house and the garden.

Fatma had no problem showing her the rest of the house, but she was hesitant about the garden. She knew that Maria was there, and they did not want anyone to see her. But Mrs. McCain insisted and with the lack of communication that existed, she could not prevent her from moving towards the garden. She hoped, therefore, that Maria would not appear.

Maria, however, had been informed by Antonios to make her presence obvious. As soon as Fatma saw her, she became wild and started yelling at her to go away. But Mrs. McCain stopped her and asked who the little girl was. Because of the wretchedness of the clothes she wore, Fatma compulsorily called her a servant for the animals.

Mrs. McCain had learned the rest by heart and continued in impeccable Turkish:

-My dear lady, I see that you have several servants at home. I have recently come to Cyprus, and I do not yet have as many servants as I need. Could you please give me this little girl, who does not seem to be one of your important servants? I will pay you well.

And she pulled out of her bag three golden English pounds.

Fatma’s eyes opened wide. She saw the golden coins shining in the English woman’s hand, she thought about the danger run because of Maria, in relation to her husband and on the other hand she was afraid of her husband’s reaction, if Maria disappeared.

It did not take long for her to decide. She would sell Maria. She would take the golden coins for herself and escape this potential rival. Her husband would spend days noticing Maria’s absence, and she would tell him that she had run away. What could he do to her after all? He would not kill her!

She stretched out her hand to grab the golden coins, but Mrs. McCain closed hers. She tried to make it clear to Fatma that she would only take the golden coins when she would hand over Maria.

In a pantomime of movements, grimaces and gestures accompanied by a few Turkish words, the two women agreed that in the evening, after sunset, a carriage would come outside the house and stop only for a few seconds. Within those seconds the aliysi – verisi (the transaction), in the Turkish expression, would take place.

Mrs. McCain thanked Fatma and walked away with grace and dignity. In the evening a carriage, with Mrs. McCain inside and as a driver the teacher disguised, stopped outside the house on Yeni Mosque Street, for a few seconds, as if something was wrong with the horses, and it started immediately. Fatma gave Maria and took the three golden coins. No one understood anything.

Days passed, for anyone in the house, to realize Maria’s absence. They did not see her often. Fatma sent another servant to feed the animals a few times, and sometimes she went by herself. The English woman’s visit had been forgotten, and no one combined the two events. Her husband had become furious, that they let Maria leave. But he could not go to the police. He also had a lot to hide…

Mother Ayşe, who had understood everything, did not speak. She hoped that this event, would take away from her son many sins, and that the little girl would have a better future.

When they arrived at the McCain house, Maria was terrified and trembled all over, even though the teacher had prepared her for it.

Mr. McCain, who disagreed with the whole operation, was angry and insisted that they should report the incident to the police if they thought that the girl’s presence in that house was illegal. Now you two are Illegals, he told his wife and the teacher. Angry as he was, he turned to leave the room, and then he saw this little girl, in her wretched rags, crying silently and trembling.

Surprised by himself, he knelt and hugged her, trying to comfort her.

-What’s your name? He asked  in English.

-Maria, replied, the little girl.

-Maria, these two – and he showed his wife and the teacher – have taken you away from your house. Do you want to go back home, or do you want to stay with us?

Maria lifted her eyes and looked at the room. How different it was from the place where she lived!  Then, without thinking about it any more, she ran and took the teacher’s hand.

-Ι want to stay with the teacher, she whispered. I don’t want to go back. I want to learn a lot of things. I love to learn.

Mr. McCain stood up and said decisively:

-Evelyn, the matter is closed. The little girl, Maria, will not stay with us as a maid. It would be illegal. We will adopt her, and she will stay with us as our daughter! Tomorrow I will write to my lawyers in London.

And he got out of the room.

Evelyn McCain was not prepared for this development. She did not know if she had to rejoice. She was confused. The teacher, the same.

But when they gave a bath to Maria and put on her first clothes, Evelyn McCain had no doubt that she would like, this beautiful and brilliant little girl, to be their daughter.

Evelyn McCain was a very intelligent woman, giving and open-minded, but at the same time she was possessive and could intrigue to achieve her goals.

She decided that Maria would not be their adopted daughter, but their real daughter, for everyone else. While her husband was setting out the legal aspect of the matter, she organized the plan through which Maria would appear a day, like Mary McCain.

In any case, everyone was new to Cyprus and did not know each other. So, when asked if she had children, she would say about her daughter Mary, who was in a school in Switzerland and would be coming to Cyprus soon.

She made sure that no servants stayed in the house in the evenings and had Maria isolated in a room. There, daily, the teacher came and taught her. Not only, Maria was not bored, but she was also excited.

When everyone left, Mrs. McCain would take Mary to the room, which she was supposedly preparing for her daughter who was to come from Switzerland, and played the role of mother with devotion.

She bathed Mary and combed her curly hair, put her to bed and told her stories about London, sometimes she would read her fairy tales, but more importantly she explained to her how a good little girl behaves in the world.

It was such a magical situation for Mary that she did not even notice that she had lost all freedom. In fact, she had no idea what freedom meant, since all she knew was the garden of the Turkish house and the animals she took care for.

Mrs. McCain was quite anxious when she would present Maria to her friends. She knew she had no social education and skill. She grew up among the animals. On the other hand, very few children had the knowledge that Maria had. Besides, she had taught her so well what she should say and what she should not say, that she hoped that in the end she would succeed.

The first presentation took place in a small circle, so the little girl would not be scared because of the crowd, since she was not used to. Mrs. McCain was completely surprised with Maria’s comfort. In the innocence of her soul, all these people with the wonderful clothes and smiles, were for Maria/Mary a new expression of the wondrous world in which she had begun to live. She answered with joy and enthusiasm their questions, making sure to follow the instructions her mother had given her.

So, the first contact with society was for Maria a triumph. Other public appearances followed, and Maria was doing great. Evelyn McCain knew that behind her people were gossiping about how it is possible that such a modest couple, gave birth to such a beautiful girl with black hair, but she was not interested. Mary was, for her, her own daughter.

McCains, meanwhile, had ordered a bunch of toys from London. Dolls, tea sets and anything a little girl would like to play. Fortunately, her dad also ordered her a train that was running on rails, because Mary was not particularly interested in playing with the dolls. She preferred, to Evelyn McCain’s dismay, to play with her dad and the train.

One day, a soldier came to the house to bring an envelope to the military commander of Nicosia and found him lying on the floor playing with Mary and the train. He was so surprised that the envelope fell to the floor, next to the train.

Just as the wind blew that year and the occupation of Cyprus changed hands, so it dragged in its path, Maria, who became Mary, and began a new course in the world’s changing movements.

 

 

*This mansion exists until today. It is in occupied Nicosia and has been restored. I would like to express my thanks to the Architect, Mrs. Agni Petridou, for the relevant information.

Bibliography:

Great Cyprus Encyclopedia

https://clioturbata.com/%CE%B1%CF%80%CF%8C%CF%88%CE%B5%CE%B9%CF%82/chasiotis_cyprus_colonial

Lefkosia – the capital of Cyprus – Archduke Luding Salvator of Austria

 

(Chapter 6)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Famagusta, Nicosia – Summer 1926

When Lady Mary William Moore woke up in the morning in her cabin and saw from the porthole the port of Famagusta, the port of her homeland, she had mixed feelings. Her heart, beat loudly, almost madly that she had finally reached her destination, but on the other hand she regretted that she would lose the pleasant company of Kristian Hubertus, the Swedish Archaeologist. During the trip they had had endless discussions, they had shared opinions and feelings, and so his absence would leave a void in her.

Kristian Hubertus would go to Larnaca to meet Mr. Loukis Z. Pierides, to arrange how he would continue his mission, and she would continue her journey to Nicosia.

When they met at breakfast, Mary gave him her address in Nicosia and asked him to visit her, if he ever came to the capital. He assured her that he would write to inform her about his travels in Cyprus, and he would visit her in Nicosia.

They got on the boat together to get to the port. Kristian Hubertus helped her find porters to carry her trunks to the train station, to travel to Nicosia. He was waiting for Mr. Pierides’ car to take him to Larnaca.

They said goodbye with a warm handshake and Kristian said to her:

-I am very pleased to have met you, Mary. We will meet again.

-And I am glad to have met you too, Kristian Hubertus. I would very much like to see you again.

She hesitated for a moment and then added:

-My name is Maria.

Before Kristian could ask for clarification, Maria got on the train.

The train was very small compared to the London trains. However, it had first class and economy class. The seats of the first class were almost empty, because it seemed that Cypriots could not afford the expensive ticket. She sat in a first seat and as she was feeling now, she was glad that she had no fellow passengers to start chatting.

As soon as they got outside from the city of Famagusta, Varosha, as it was known, they saw the plain of Mesaoria. In the background on the right, the Pentadactylous mountain range could be seen, spreading lazily along the route. The grain in the fields of the plain had been harvested, and the landscape was bare and yellow. From time to time, some olive trees coloured the monotony with their green- silver colour. Flocks of sheep grazed in the plain, eating the remains of harvested grain. Maria smiled. In London, folks of sheep were used to eat the green grass in the parks and keep it mowed. No difference, she thought. The result is the same, the colour of the food is what differs.

Some shepherds were sitting under the olive trees, playing their flute, and others greeted the train as it passed by. Some children were running barefoot next to the train, as if they wanted to catch it. Maria began to greet the shepherds and children. She felt like a little child again. The burden began to leave her soul.

From time to time, she could see some villages projecting in the background, with low mad-brick houses. The weather was warm, and Maria had the window open. In London the weather was cold, but in India and Egypt it was hotter than in Cyprus. The difference was that, especially in the Indies, there was not any fresh air to breathe, even in the countryside, because people used as fuel, the manure of cows, which had a very bad odour. Here the air was clean and pleasant.

By the time they arrived in Nicosia, Maria was smiling and felt happy. The dream of a lifetime had begun to take shape. At the station, an English soldier was waiting for her along with a carriage. He greeted her militarily and announced that he was sent by the wife of the military commander of Nicosia, to receive her. He would take her to her house to get to know each other and rest.

She climbed on the carriage and the young soldier led her outside the walls of Nicosia, where the British had their houses built. They arrived at a house, built with a yellow stone, which also had a garden. Mrs. Jennifer Thomson, wife of the military commander of Nicosia, was waiting for her on the steps with her two children, Helen, at six and John, around seven. She was an ordinary English woman, slim and tall, who welcomed Lady Mary William Moore, with a bright smile. Maria, dressed elegantly, with the latest fashion and her aristocratic stature, seemed like a princess next to her.

-Welcome, my Lady, to my home, she addressed her. And she immediately nodded to her children, who made a bow.

Maria was surprised. She did not expect such an official reception.

-My dear Mrs. Thomson, I am really pleased to know you, and I thank you very much for your kind help. I will never forget it. For you, I will always be Mary and for your children Aunt Mary; Anything else is an exaggeration.

-But how is it possible, my Lady, Mrs. Thomson reacted. You are a Lady; I cannot address you differently,

-No, I am Mary and nothing else. Mary, who owes you a great deal of gratitude. Come children inside to see what is in my trunks for you;

The children followed her excitedly, and their mother followed them compulsorily. After opening one of the trunks and taking out the gifts for the children and Mrs. Thomson, Mary was taken to the garden to enjoy the afternoon tea, prepared for her.

The children were thrilled with the gifts. A doll for Helen and a car for John. A gift for both was the book: “The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story”, by Rudyard Kipling. For Mrs. Thomson, she had brought a fashionable hat and a matching bag. She, too, was thrilled but was trying  not to show it.

-You know I’d like to bring you a dress, but I couldn’t know your size and that’s why I chose those two.

-They are great! Thank you very much. Here you see it has no such fashions. Underdeveloped place, my dear!

-But I don’t understand, she continued, why you asked for a house in the old town. All of us, British, live outside the walls of the town. What will you do on your own in the old town, along with the locals?

-As you know, I grew up in this place and I know the locals. I speak both Greek and Turkish. My teacher was Greek and was called Antonios Philippou. I feel very friendly to the locals. Besides, I would like to visit the libraries of Phaneromeni and the Pancyprian Gymnasium to study.

Mrs. Thomson was left with her mouth open. The intimacy with which Lady spoke about the locals, left her speechless.

-We, she said, prefer to socialize with each other. But will you come next week to take tea with us? How about next Wednesday? There will also be the wives of the other officers here.

-Gladly, Mary replied.

She knew she could not and should not refuse. She would make sure to keep the balance. It was not in her interest to snoop on the British, but neither should she have them very close to her if she wanted to finish her task.

At dinner, she met Mr. Thomson. A strict, unsmiling military man, not at all social, that was constantly making remarks to the children.

-Tomorrow I must leave, Maria thought. I can’t stand it here any more.

But she could not leave the next day. The house that Mrs. Thomson had found for her, on St. Antonios Street, next to the church of St. Antonios, was not ready to be inhabited. Of course, what she had sent from London had been transferred there, but there were other missing items, such as kitchenware and food, that had to be bought and arranged.

Admittedly, Mrs. Thomson, seemed very helpful. She accompanied her to the shops to buy what she needed and provided her with her servant to help her tidy up. She even suggested that Mary might employ her little sister, who still lived in her village. Maria’s answer was a definite no. All this brought her bad memories and on the other hand she did not want to have someone permanently at home. She knew that servants watch and listen, behind closed doors. She said she would be satisfied with a woman from the neighbourhood, who would come during the day and leave in the evening.

Mrs. Thomson found her increasingly strange. But the highlight was when Maria said she wanted to buy fabric and ask her to suggest a needlewoman to sew more simple dresses for her to wear in the city. She could not understand that. Why would a Lady want to look as simple as the locals?

-I will answer all your questions, dear Jennifer, at the party you are preparing for me on Wednesday. Don’t worry, I know well what I’m doing.

Mrs. Thomson, for better or for worse, made sure to invite an old English lady, who had been living in Cyprus for years and had met Mary McCain, before leaving for London. It would not hurt to do a second check on the Lady’s identity.

-I will answer all your questions, dear Jennifer, at the party you are preparing for me on Wednesday. Don’t worry, I know well what I’m doing.

Mrs. Thomson, for better or for worse, made sure to invite an old English lady, who had been living in Cyprus for years and had met Mary McCain, before leaving for London. It would not hurt to do a second check on the Lady’s identity.

Wednesday’s party was prepared with all British solemnity. All the invited ladies were very well-dressed, and Maria was not less. She dressed as she deserved and as her audience expected her: a Lady, who had just arrived from London, knowing the latest fashion. Maria enjoyed the interest of the ladies present.

Of course, she successfully passed the test with the old lady, Mrs. Jones, who was excited to see her again, and they talked about the old days. It remained the last announcement on her part, to satisfy all curiosity and stop the gossip. So, when the rite of tea was over, she got up to speak to the ladies:

-My dear ladies, I would like to thank you for the warm welcome and especially my dear Jennifer, who did so much to help me settle in Nicosia, in my home in Agios Antonios, in which I hope to move permanently from tomorrow. As you may have heard, doctors in London advised me to live in a warmer climate, as I have been accustomed to, almost all my life. I have lived in Cyprus, India, and Egypt. Of course, I preferred Cyprus because here I have spent my childhood with my parents, I speak Greek and Turkish, and it is easier for my daughter and my son-in-law to visit me.

-As Mrs. Jones, who has known me since I was a child, can assure you, I have always been a restless spirit with a great inclination to learn. So, I would like my presence here to be creative, so as not to be bored and not to feel the absence of my family. So, I thought I could write a book about Cyprus and the change that we British people brought to the governance of the place and to the lives of the inhabitants. I have already realized, in the few days that I have been here, the great progress that has been made. The swamps have been drained, hospitals have been set up, a train line has been installed and many more, I imagine, I have not been able to learn yet. For this reason, I should live in the city, to be close to the locals and make them trust me and talk to me freely and not as they would talk to an English Lady.

Maria’s explanations satisfied her curious audience and many ladies offered to give her information about the great work in the governance of the British, even though the locals were ungrateful and constantly asking to be united with Greece.

Maria thanked them and promised to come to them when the time would come. For now, she would like to collect material from the locals.

Mrs. Thomson was relieved and began again to admire the Lady with her great personality and creative ideas. After all, she, was her best friend!

When the hustle and bustle of the party ended, and the ladies left for their homes, Maria stood in the garden of Mrs. Thomson’s house and gazed at the crimson sky of Nicosia, as the sun set. In her heart, she felt that a wind had brought her here. Would it also lead her to her roots, the true roots of her existence?

 

 

Bibliography: Great Cyprus Encyclopedia

 

(Chapter 7)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Nicosia 1869 -1888

Antonios understood from the first moment that Evelyn McCain had no intention of letting him maintain the relationship he had with Maria. She wanted Maria to be connected only with her and with her husband, since she was claiming the exclusive role of the mother.

Mr. Michael McCain, on the other hand, was more indifferent to Maria’s relationship with Antonios. He was simply satisfied with the fact that Maria loved him and especially liked to play with him. In addition to the train, they often played with the soldiers. They extended them in order of battle and developed techniques of defence and attack. Of course, Maria could not understand that the war had losses and a lot of suffering. For her it was just a strategy game. Mr. McCain, however, was thrilled with his daughter’s performance.

When Maria reached twelve, however, she began to realize the ringer that was imposed around her life, mainly by her mother, and began to rebel. Antonios was trying to calm her down and often told her:

-Maria, you should always remember that your mother with unparalleled courage and bravery entered the Turkish house and distracted you from that wretched life you lived. In fact, her initial addition was to make you her servant, not her daughter. Your father is the one who adored you immediately, and although he disagreed with the whole project, he decided to adopt you. You owe them everything in your life.

-I certainly owe them a lot, Maria replied, but it is to you that I owe everything! You discovered me in that wretched house, and you taught me what knowledge is. Better to be their servant instead of their daughter. I would be freer.

Antonios did not tell her that he too had the  same thoughts, many times. If they did not adopt her, she could become his own daughter, but he kept it for himself

-Don’t have such thoughts, he used to tell her. It is a sin. These people have given you everything. All girls of Cyprus would envy you for what you have.

-Yes, you’re right, Maria consented in the end. I love them, I really love them, but my mother sometimes drowns me!

As Maria grew older and became more and more beautiful, her mother decided that she would not leave her in Cyprus, to fall in love with a Cypriot or a Cypriot fall in love with her and lose her. So, she started talking to her about London, how big and wondrous a city it is, and the potentials she could have there.

Maria reacted very negatively to the thought of leaving for London. She was in a panic. She would lose her teacher. Of course, she did not tell her mother this, because she had figured out how competitively Evelyn McCain reacted to him.

But she spoke to Antonios. His heart was clenched. He had lost everyone he loved in his life. If he was also going to lose Maria, he would have no reason to live. But he did not tell her anything. He tried to reassure and comfort her.

-Maria, you must know that your father is a military man. Today he is in Cyprus, tomorrow he can be transferred to India or even to It’s not his permanent residence here. London is a good choicer than living tomorrow in an unfamiliar country, where conditions will be much worse than here. Surely your mother has as ultimate goal of marrying you to some rich and noble Englishman, but you can negotiate this with her. You will tell her that you agree to go to London, to her sister, if she allows you to take a course at the University of London. They have very high-quality programs for ancient Greek literature, and I am sure that you will find something that will satisfy you and make you happy. At the same time, you will have the chance to choose the right young man who will suit you. Love is a great thing, Maria, and it is worth living it.

And so, Maria’s negotiation with her mother began. She became furious when Maria told her she would like to continue studying, but Maria was adamant. She managed to take her father on her side, who had a particular weakness for her and wanted to fulfil all her desires. So, it was two vs. one.

After intense “negotiations” they came to the decision that Maria would go to London to study ancient Greek literature, but at the same time she would also study English literature. This was no problem for Maria, who wanted to learn everything. ‘It was just an excuse for her mother who wanted to have the last word.

So, at the age of seventeen Mary began her preparation to leave for London. Her mother would accompany her, but then she would come back to stay with her husband.

Maria, deep inside, was mourning, and although she said nothing, one could realize just by seeing her, that she was deeply sad. Her father was almost ready to accept her not to leave, but her mother was adamant. A few days before departure, Maria wrote a letter to the teacher to give it to him before she left. In this letter she unravelled her heart and her feelings for this man, who was, for her, the most important person in her life.

Maria wrote:

My teacher, my father, my friend

I began my life from nothingness, until the day I met you on the foliage of that fig tree. In this life most people take their first breath when they come out of their mother’s womb, I took it when you first engraved the alphabet on the soil for me. Then I realized the greatness of the world. I realized that if I learned to read the symbols, I would understand the world around me.

And since then, teacher, I study, to understand the secrets of life, which through the centuries people have turned into symbols, and scattered them into books for anyone who is interested to discover.

With each passing day I try more and more and if I accepted to leave for London it is because I know that there I will meet more knowledge and perhaps understand my strange fate.

Many times, you urge me to show more understanding for the actions of my parents and especially my mother’s. I would like to assure you that I love my parents. I know they have given me everything, but they are trying to distance me from you. This hurts me unimaginably.

I am afraid that we will not be able to communicate again. My mother will take care of this. She doesn’t understand that this causes a bigger gap between her and me. I will follow the path they are preparing for me, but I will always search for the truth, wherever I am.

There are no words to express the gratitude and love I feel for you. You taught me that our fate can lead us to many strange paths, but in the end it will bring us to our destination and the goal we chose in our lives.

I don’t know when I’m going to arrive there, but when I arrive I’d like you to be by my side.

With love

Your daughter Maria

When she met Anthony for the last time and gave him her letter, he gave her a letter of his own. It was a farewell kiss that she could take with her.

His own letter said:

My beloved daughter Maria

I once lost a daughter named Athena. When I met you I felt that God has sent me a second daughter. But I was not courageous enough to take you away from that house. I sent Evelyn McCain, and she did it, without even knowing you. That’s why she is your mother, and you must honour her and forgive her actions that you don’t understand. Because she dared for you. If she was the one that gave birth to you, be sure, she would behave the same way.

Today that you are leaving for London, a new cycle begins in your life. The years that have passed and the storms that have marked my life, have taught me that human beings are feathers in the wind. They fly right and left and rarely remain very long in a place or in a state. But it seems, the way they swirl in the vortex, is no coincidence. Forces, incomprehensible to us, direct the fate of people.

You must learn to listen to silence and read the signs of the times, just as you have learned to read the letters in the books. It’s not easy, but that’s the only way you’ll be able to endure the difficulties of life. Try to be able to see behind the events and have patience. At some point, fate will open its cards, and then you will have to be ready to understand and act accordingly.

Your presence in that house is a mystery. A mystery that I fear you will not have the opportunity to solve, in the years that follow. I will take on this task. Now that you will leave, and my life will seem without purpose, I will search for the truth. The signs of fate show that you are a precious person, and no power would want you to get lost in nothingness.

So, I promise to find the truth about your life. And whatever happens in the future, no matter how many roads divide us, I will find a way to put this knowledge in your hands.

Have a nice trip my beloved daughter and remember that the maelstrom that is currently driving you to London, may know better than you and me what is good for you.

With love

Antonios Philippou – your spiritual father

With Antonio’s letter in hand and her heart torn apart, Maria entered the ship to London. She often stood on the deck of the ship and smelled the sea. She let the air get deep into her lungs and rejuvenate her. She hoped that one day she will see her teacher again and learn the truth. For her own life, but also for the turnings of the world.

When Maria left, Antonios was lost for a while. He read and reread Maria’s letter and kept it as the most precious amulet.

He informed Michael McCain that he would leave from his service, and, despite his protests, he did so immediately. He returned to school and taught passionately the children who adored him, but he never met any child who learned at the speed Maria did.

At the same time, he returned to his old residence, next to the Turkish house. It was the only way to learn the truth about Maria.

His new goal gave him an incentive to exist. But he was also given strength by the children he taught. He always remembered his father’s words:

… I will be waiting for you to come back. Because you must come back. Only the educated can save our country!

He did not know if he could ever save his homeland from the conquerors, who succeeded each other. But he would definitely educate as many children as he could. They might be able to save the country tomorrow…

In the evenings he used to sit next to the fig tree and smelled the cool air of Nicosia, hoping for a message and a direction how to approach Mother Ayşe. He was sure she was holding the key to the big secret.

 

Bibliography and Photo:

Agnes M. Michaelides: “Chora” The old Nicosia

 

(Chapter 8)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Nicosia autumn 1926

Maria had been living in her new home for a while. It was a simple house compared to the luxury she was used to, but this did not cause her any problems. It also had electric installation, something that did not exist before she left Cyprus. In Nicosia, in 1913, a private electricity company had been established and so those consumers that wanted and could pay for, had a supply. She lacked nothing to live comfortably.

A lady from the neighbourhood came every day and took care of the housework and cooking. In the evening, she returned to her home and to her family. She was called Mrs. Vassilia and Maria particularly liked her. She was an excellent cook. This encouraged Maria to try to learn to cook Cypriot dishes, which she found extremely delicious, compared to the water-boiled English dishes to which she was used to.

Vassilia had two daughters, Helen, and Georgia. They were around eight to ten and often came with their mother. Maria told them stories about faraway India, about elephants and fakirs. They listened to her with their mouths open. She had even written to her daughter to send her the book The “Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story” by Rudyard Kipling. She was planning to read it to them herself and translate it at the same time.

Although she had not yet managed to find anything about the subject she was interested in, she was very happy in Nicosia, “Chora”, as the locals called it. She had decided to act with a plan so as not to raise suspicions about what she was looking for. It was a very wise decision to pretend that she was writing a book about Cyprus. In this way she could approach people and ask them various things without getting suspicious.

The city of Nicosia had been greatly upgraded since she remembered it. It had expanded outside the walls to the areas of Agioi Omologites, Agios Dometios and Kaimakli. Maria recalled in her memory, when she was little, the first time she began to go out with her mother, that outside the walls of Nicosia, on the way to Kaimakli, there were lepers begging passers-by for something to eat. It was a very tragic sight. Now a quarantine hospital had been built outside the walls, and they had at least some care. In general, although there were beggars in the streets, there was not the same misery and the same diseases as in the past.

As soon as Maria put her life in order, she tried to sort out her priorities and see where and how she would start her research. There were two aspects to her quest. To find the house she lived in the first years of her life and see if she could learn anything from the environment and neighbours, and at the same time search for her teacher, Antonios Philippou. Because of something her mother had told her before she died, she had realized that the teacher probably would not be alive. So, she thought it was better to set as her first goal to find the house.  Searching for the teacher would be more difficult.

She began searching from the Turkish-mahalades (neighbourhoods), near the Saragio (Turkish administration building) and Hagia Sophia, which had been converted into a mosque since the Ottomans occupied Cyprus. She often visited the area, talked to its Turkish Cypriot inhabitants, telling them that she was writing a book. Everyone was impressed by this English woman who spoke Turkish. The women often invited her to their home to have coffee, and as they chatted, Maria was trying to gather information.

She looked closely at the houses in the alleys and tried to recognize something, but in vain. Probably, the house in which she lived in her early miserable years, had been demolished. At the same time, she tried to find out where the Turkish Cypriots were buried, in case she might find the tomb of Mother Ayşe. She wanted to honour the memory of this woman who stood by her with love, but unfortunately she did not learn anything that could enlighten her.

Sometimes instead of going to the Turkish-mahalades she preferred to walk around the city. She found it generally very interesting with the narrow streets, the churches, one in each neighbourhood, the latticed windows, the Greek Cypriots – many of whom still wore black breeches – and the Turkish Cypriots who wore white breeches and fez. She had noticed that not all Muslim women covered their faces, in the Muslim custom, and generally circulated relatively freely. Many Greek Cypriot men and women of the city were dressed quite modern and tried to follow the European customs and move away from the misery of the past. Theatres had been built, such as the Papadopoulos Theatre, dances were held, and a certain social life had generally begun to exist.

The wife of the English Commissioner was accepting visitors once a week and Maria did not fail to give her presence once or twice, dressed and sparkling, as a real Lady. She had to keep the balance and at the same time through these gatherings she could make acquaintances and drew information about the society of the past. She had also gone to dance teas, which were organized in clubs and hotels. There she happened to see Russian refugees, who fled after the red revolution of 1917, dressed in their official tsarist uniform.

A very interesting feature of the city was the Women’s Bazaar. Maria liked to visit it and gaze at the exhibits that women were placing on the cobbled streets (side walks) and on the terraces. It was a purely female bazaar that took place at the end of Makrydromos (long street), towards the left side, in the old town. There, women, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, but also Armenians, brought their goods, which were mainly woven, Lefkaritika embroideries, embroideries of Lapithos, cotton fabrics of Kythrea, silks of Chora, crochets of Strovolos, kouroukles (shawls) with jibes for the bath and various sweets. The women’s bazaar took place every Friday, and on this day the women occupied the whole area and stopped the circulation. In fact, she had bought silk fabrics and sent them as a gift to her daughter in London. There was a rumour circulating that the first British Commissioner had sent a silk shirt from Nicosia to Queen Victoria, which she liked so much, that she asked to be sent more.

Maria liked all these walks in the city, but she was not progressing at all with her research, and that worried her. Her visits to the Turkish-mahalades yielded nothing, and she was at ground zero. What impressed her one day, and uprooted her somehow, was a theoretically insignificant event. As she walked in the neighbourhoods, a Turkish woman invited her to treat her to ekmek Kanteif (a Turkish sweet) and at the same time offered her coffee. In that house, sitting in a corner was an old, wrinkled woman, and the hostess suggested that she could tell Maria’s fortune by reading the dregs of her coffee cup. Maria, who did not believe in such prejudices, tried to avoid it, but she did not manage.

-Let her, she knows what to do, the hostess told her.

The old lady took Maria’s cup, turned it, studied it, whispered something incomprehensible words and then said to her:

-Lady, it’s not what she seems. She is a queen, yet she grew up like an animal, and a queen became again. It is a difficult road, but a teacher holds the lamp and shines in the dark. You will find what you are looking for, my lady.

And then she went silent and turned to her corner. The hostess was embarrassed with the strange words of the old lady and tried to apologize, but Maria stopped her, saying that it is okay. She did not believe in such prejudices. However, though, she was upset.

The next day, she decided not to go by her usual route. She left her home, proceeded to the archbishop’s palace, saw the new building of the Pancyprian Gymnasium, which was renovated after the fire of 1920, passed through the church of Agios Kassianos and proceeded initially west and then turned north. There was also a Turkish- neighbourhood, but she had never come before. At one point, at a turn of the road, she saw it.

It was there. Opposite her, the house where she had spent the first years of her life. It was in a miserable state, as if abandoned, but she recognized it. She saw the Gothic arches, the gazebo on the façade, but above all she felt a punch in the stomach, which made her almost bend in pain.

She stayed stunned and looked at it, unable to move forward or back. A Turkish woman, who sat on the street next to it and peeling green beans, noticed her.

-Are you well, lady? She asked her. Come sit down, and I’ll bring you a glass of water;

Along with the water, the woman also brought coffee. She had the water and coffee and began to help the woman peeling the green beans. The woman was very talkative and at the same time flattered that an English lady sat down with her and helped her. She was more impressed that this lady could speak Turkish! With Maria’s first question about the house and its history she began to speak and without a second question from Maria, she recounted everything:

-This house was once a palace. It was built by the Franks many – many years ago. When I was little, some rich people lived here, who came from Paphos. Strange people. They didn’t talk to anyone in the neighbourhood. The man looked wild, and his wife bitter. They had no children and after years he took a second wife, but he didn’t have children with her either. I think the master was called Suleiman and his first wife Fatma.

-His mother seemed nicer, but she didn’t go out much either. As if they wanted to hide something, They had a maid, Eminé, was her name, who was my peer. Sometimes she was sent out to chores, and she would stop and play with me. But she never said what was going on at home. She was afraid.

-My annesin (grandmother) said that the master of the house had done something bad, and Allah was punishing him. That’s why he couldn’t have children. But I had heard from other children in the neighbourhood that he had stolen a child and that’s why he left Paphos. However, we never saw a child. It may have been all lies. Who knows?

-These people, died one, one by one and the house was deserted. But my annesin insisted that all this was a punishment from Allah. Who knows? They may or may not have done something bad. Does anyone know what their kismet (luck) writes for them?

The woman was talking quickly and with the repeated information she was saying, Maria got dizzy. She set up herself as she could and thanking the woman for the treat she left.

By the time she got home, her legs trembled. She was piled up in a chair, and Mrs. Vassilia hurried to bring her water and make her tea. Maria was trying to recover but it was very difficult.

She waited for so many years to learn some information about her past and now that she began to have a faint idea she could not manage it. Many hours passed before she was able to put her thoughts in order and convince Mrs. Vassilia that she was well, and she could return home.

When she was left alone, she found that she had not learned much information. Apart from what she already knew, the newest thing was that the Turkish family came from Paphos and that there was a possibility that she had been stolen from her family. This news may have put events in some order, but it did not give her any direction to follow. It was vague information, leading nowhere. Perhaps one important piece of knowledge was the maid named Eminé. If she was still alive, she probably knew something. Somewhere deep in her memory there was a faint picture of a girl, but she did not remember much.

She decided, the next day, to revisit the lady to thank her, and at the same time to inform her about the book she was writing and to ask if Eminé was alive and where she could find her.

By the next morning, Maria had found her usual composure. She got ready and started for her visit. She took with her a small gift, from those she had brought from London, and knocked on the door of the lady she had met the day before. The lady, hospitable, like all women from Nicosia, Greek Cypriots, and Turkish Cypriots, cheerfully accepted her and invited her inside.

She gave the gift to Mrs. Aydan, as she learned that was her name, and apologized for her behaviour the day before, by saying that she had a pain in her stomach. She then informed her about the book she would write about Nicosia and its citizens and how much she would like to include this ancient mansion in her story.

Aidan was impressed and flattered that the English lady was asking for her help in writing a book. But she had no idea where Eminé was, she did not even know if she was alive. She had probably returned to Paphos since she most likely came from there. But she would ask and when the lady passed again, she would inform her about.

Mrs. Aydan did not stop talking, and Maria found it difficult to leave. But such people, she thought, are useful for her research. You ask them little, and they tell you a lot, but you do not know how reliable they are.

As she was leaving, she promised Mrs. Aydan that she would return. She continued walking through the streets of Nicosia and stopped in front of the church of Chrysaliniotissa. In every neighbourhood of Nicosia there was a church. All were very beautiful, but Maria found the church of Chrysaliniotissa particularly interesting. It had a strange Γ shape, from the various additions that had been made to it, but its façade was adorned with arches that gave it an imperial appearance, although as a church, it was very small. The priest was sitting outside, and Maria asked him when this beautiful church was built.

-It is the most ancient church of “Chora”, he replied. It was built by Eleni Palaiologina in the 15th century so that the Orthodox would have a place to worship God. Back then, Cyprus was owned by the Franks and all the churches we had in the city were Frankish. Eleni Palaiologina was the wife of the Frankish king of Cyprus, John II, and she did a lot of good for us Orthodox. She came from the Byzantine house of Palaiologos, and she was a great woman.

-But aren’t you an Englishwoman? He asked her.

-Yes, I’m an Englishwoman, she replied, but I grew up in Cyprus and I can speak Greek fluently. Can I go inside?

-Certainly, my daughter. Go and pray if you want.

Maria entered the church and even though she was not religious, she could not help noticing that the atmosphere was very devout. Some candles were lit on the candelabrum and gave a dull lighting to the interior. There were no frescoes on the walls, but the icons, with their Byzantine rigour, seemed to stand guards and supporters, for every believer who wanted to place their pain and hopes on them. She noticed, among the Byzantine icons and some in western style, and remembered the words of the priest about the Frankish Kings of Cyprus.

Without thinking about it, a prayer came out of her lips:

-Please help me to see how I shall continue this quest!

She was surprised by her words and came out of the church. She greeted the priest and started for her house, lighter than before.

There, a pleasant surprise awaited her. Two letters, one from her daughter and one from the Swedish archaeologist Kristian Hubertus.

She flew with joy and barely heard Mrs. Vassilia complaining that the British were receiving their correspondence immediately, but the locals would wait for months to receive a letter.

She first opened the letter from her daughter. She was telling her that she was pregnant and in three months she would give birth. As soon as the baby could travel, they would come to Cyprus to see her. That was not just joy. It was jubilation! She felt as happy as ever.

She held the second letter for a while in her hands. What would he, her so special friend, say?

She waited to be left alone to open it. He wrote to her about the research he had made in archaeological sites in Cyprus and that in a month’s time he would leave for the University of Oxford. He had informed the king of his country about it in a report he delivered through the Swedish consulate. Before he left, he would pass by Nicosia to see her. He asked her to suggest a good hotel for him to stay.

A different feeling of joy filled her. She immediately sat down to write to him.

Dear Kristian

It is with great pleasure that I have received your letter, and I have been more pleased to be informed of your upcoming visit to Nicosia. I look forward to hearing about the results of your research!

In Nicosia there are some hotels where you could stay. Personally, I would recommend the hotel Cleopatra located in Makrydromos. In it there are also social activities. Dances are organized in the afternoon “tea parties” and it will be an opportunity to get to know how the people of Nicosia,” Choraites” according to the locals, are entertained, “.

So, I will wait for your visit to hear your news.

With kind regards

Lady Mary William Moore

When she lay down on her bed and brought to her memory the mixed feelings that she had experienced, this contradicted day, which had begun with disappointments and ended with joy, she smiled. Life is a strange journey, she thought. You never know what is behind the shift. You just must be patient and wait for the mystery to reveal itself…

 

Bibliography:

Agnes Michaelides: “Chora”, the old Nicosia

Great Cyprus Encyclopedia

 

(Chapter 9)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Nicosia 1888 – 1895

Antonios, apart from teaching at school, began to take part in the cultural life that appeared slowly – slowly in the city of Nicosia.

After the arrival of the British, the first newspapers began to be published, leading thus to the creation of the first printing press in Nicosia. This was founded by Pericles Michael ides in 1880. Specifically, Mr. Michael ides transferred the printing press he had in Larnaca, to Nicosia.

One of the first newspapers published in 1882 was the “Voice of Cyprus”. Antonios Philippou wrote frequently and tried to inform his compatriots on various issues, and mainly on the international currents and the position of Cyprus on the chessboard of the region.

Readers, who for centuries could not have any information and had lived far from the political and cultural developments of Europe, sucked every word, and tried to learn. The few educated people took on the role of the spiritual mentor for the inhabitants of Nicosia.

In 1891 the reading room “The Love of the People” was founded, which succeeded the reading room “Love” that had been founded in 1888 in the parish of Agios (Saint) Antonios. About the same period, “The Cyprus Association” was established. Here, the educated inhabitants of Nicosia gave lectures on various topics, such as “The results of the colonization of the Greeks in Asia”, “On Education”, “On Commercial Law”, “On Hygiene” and many more. The audience listened with admiration, and everything they heard had its weight and interest.

Antonios Philippou was an active member of these clubs and often made speeches trying to inform his fellow citizens. He saw that they were more enthusiastic about national issues and liked national paeans. They wanted to see Cyprus united with Greece, soon. He himself, who knew the facts and the forces that were pulling the strings, was trying to bring them down to earth and make them understand that Britain with the interests it had in the region was not going to consent and give self-determination to the Cypriots.

People often talk about the philhellenist of the many times Prime Minister of Britain, William Ewart Gladstone, especially after his support for the concession of the Ionian Islands to Greece in 1862 and his decision to allow the children in Cyprus to be taught in Greek. In other colonies, the children were taught in English. Antonios tried to explain to them that even this philhellenist would not go against the interests of his country and cede Cyprus to Greece. The concession of the Ionian islands was actually made because Britain no longer had any interests in the region, unlike Cyprus, for which British interests still existed.

Antonios saw that although the British had made many developing projects in the cities compared to the Ottomans and the place had begun to have the elementary for a country, nevertheless in the countryside the situation was still miserable. There were no roads, there was generally no infrastructure, and the farmers were still paying the tithe (one-tenth of their production in the State). Usury was spreading and only a tiny percentage of Cypriot farmers were not indebted to usurers.  The guarantee they put in to get the loan was their own fields, and so those who could not pay, lost their properties. The same tragic conditions were for the workers, who worked from sunrise to sunset and were paid very little.

Antonios exhortation was to demand more justice and deeds for the place from the British and not to provoke them, for the time being, by asking for the union with Greece. In any case, the historical period of the colonies was nearing to its end and in one way or another, the British would leave Cyprus. But this scenario was not popular among his fellow citizens. However, Antonios was still saying his opinion, because he believed that this was the best for his country, under the prevailing conditions.

Among all these activities, Antonios did not forget Maria and the promise he had given her. He knew it was not easy to approach Mother Ayşe, especially because a man was not used to visiting a Muslim woman in private.

He had noticed that Master Suleiman had brought a second wife home, but they did not appear to have had any children. Furthermore, he also knew that the two women often quarrelled, mostly because of Fatma. He could hear them shouting to each other. Mother Ayşe sat almost daily in the garden and Antonios saw her from the hole of the fence, which had never been fixed. She had aged and looked overwhelmed.

One day, around 1895, he accidentally saw Evelyn McCain at an event at the school, to which the military commander of Nicosia and his wife had been invited. Seeing him after so many years, Mrs. McCain felt nervous. She knew he would ask her about Maria, and she took her most imperial style to answer him.

-Mary is very well, she told him. She had finished her studies at the University of London, and she is preparing to get married to a Lord. She is very happy, and her life is like a fairytale. Not only that, but she doesn’t even remember Cyprus. Soon we will leave with my husband for London to attend their wedding.

With the effort made by Mrs. McCain to embellish the situation, Antonios realized that something was wrong. To get more information, he asked her again.

-Will they live in London or in any other city in England?

Here he realized that it was the thorn that pierced Mrs. McCain’s heart.

-You know, she replied, her husband is a military man and will most likely live in the colonies. Probably in India.

-Could I give you a gift from me, for her wedding?

-But my dear Antonios, what gift could you send from here to a Lady? You don’t need to get anything. I will tell her that I have seen you and that you are sending your wishes.

And she moved away before Antonios could ask or suggest anything else.

After this meeting and the way Mrs. McCain treated him – he himself believed nothing about Maria’s alleged indifference – he decided that he had to step up his efforts to find out about her past.

The next day, he collected some figs and gave them to the maid of the next-door house to give to Mother Ayşe. The maid was surprised by this gesture, since almost no one spoke to them in the neighbourhood, let alone a Christian man.

Mother Ayşe responded positively and in turn sent him some oriental sweets. This exchange of gifts between them was repeated several times. In the end, Antonios asked the maid to forward to her lady his request to visit her, whenever she deemed it appropriate. The maid saw him with her mouth open, who dared to utter such a thing.

The answer did not come immediately, and Antonios was beginning to worry. He patiently waited ten days and one afternoon he saw the maid coming and knocking on his door.

-Mother Ayşe can see you now, she told him. Would you come?

-Immediately, Antonios replied.

Antonios would enter the Turkish house for the first time. It was obvious that master Suleiman and his wives were missing. That was why Mother Ayşe had called him today.

-She knows what she’s doing, he thought.

Despite her old age, mother Ayşe sat straight on the oriental sofa of the living room, and with one hand she held her walking stick.

-She is like a queen, thought Anthony, unlike her daughters-in-law.

Antonios bowed before her as a sign of respect. Mother Ayşe invited him to sit down and asked him directly in Turkish.

-Would you like to speak in Greek or Turkish?

-I didn’t know you can speak Greek, Antonios replied. We can speak in any language you wish. I speak fluent Turkish, if this makes it easier for you.

-I grew up in Paphos, she told him, and there everyone speaks Greek.

She immediately beat her hands and the maid appeared.

-Eminé, she told her, prepare coffees and sweets. And fast.

Eminé did not take long to return with the treats. She placed them on the low oriental table and left.

-Better to speak in Greek, said Mother Ayşe. That’s how Eminé, who is definitely overheating behind the door, will not understand.

Antonios was surprised by her comfort in the Greek language. She made no mistakes, like most Turkish Cypriots.

-I invited you to come today because my son and daughters-in-law are away. Except the fact it is terribly unusual for a Christian to visit a Muslim woman, even if she is an old woman like me, I am sure that what you want to ask me will be confidential. And to get you out of the inconvenience, I’m sure you want to know about Maria.

Antonios looked at her very surprised. This woman did not mince her words!

-You have really surprised me with your directness and insight, he told her. How did you know I would ask you about Maria?

-But Mr. Antonios, she said to him, did you ever believe that I had never understood what happened to the girl? – I prefer not to mention names because the maid will understand. – The girl was sleeping in my room and often spoke in her sleep, and her words were in Greek. This child did not know Greek. Someone should have taught her. And then I noticed the hole in the wall. I knew that next door a teacher was staying. It wasn’t hard to understand what was happening! Then her disappearance did not happen without anyone taking notice, as my son believed. I knew she was picked up by the English woman, who supposedly came to see the house.

-And why didn’t you speak? Antonios asked her, surprised.

-Because that’s what should be done, she replied. That was the right thing to do. But tell me, how is the girl? Is she well?

-She is fine, replied Antonios. As we speak, she is probably getting married to a Lord in London. A few days ago, I saw her English mother, who informed me about it. She is also very rich and an aristocrat.

-Ish Allah, Mother Ayşe invoked God with relief. That’s what she deserved.

Antonios was very confused with the turn of the conversation (he had come to ask questions himself and found himself answering questions). He did not even know to what extent he should inform Mother Ayşe about Maria. But then he thought, that where Maria was, she was not in danger from anyone.

At that moment they heard a noise and realized that Eminé was moving away from the door, she was hiding, listening, since she could not understand what they were talking about.

Mother Ayşe smiled.

-What I have told you, she continued. But she may come back. Let us be careful. Unfortunately, we don’t have much time because my son will return. I do not think that we will have time to say everything, we need to say, today. We will have to meet again. But today I would like you to talk to me about the girl and tell me what happened when she left our house.

Antonios began to tell her how the McCains adopted Maria, how they raised her as their daughter, how much she was educated, how she went to London and continued her studies, and now she is getting married to a Lord. He had to explain what Lord meant because it was the first-time mother Ayşe had heard this title.

While Antonios was speaking, Mother Ayşe’s eyes were running non-stop, and she was constantly whispering:

-Ish Allah (God is great)

Concluding his narration, Antonios added:

-And now, Mother Ayşe, I’d like you to answer a few questions for me. I had promised to the girl, when she was leaving Cyprus, that I would learn the story of her life and find a way to inform her about it. Why she had been called with a Christian name, in your house, and why she wore a cross. Everything indicates that she was a Christian. How did she find herself in your home? The questions are too many.

-I’m an old lady, and I’m tired, she replied. My son will come soon, and he shouldn’t find you here. We will meet again, and I will answer your questions. Now you must leave.

After this statement, Mother Ayşe stood up and called Eminé to help her return to her room.

Antonios left very disappointed.  Not only, he did learn nothing, but he also gave all the information he knew about Maria.

The old lady is cunning, he thought. She has deceived me. She got all the information she wanted, without giving any. Now, how can I find a way to meet her again? She is also old, no one knows how long she will live. It was obvious that she wanted to hide something. Maybe she was not ready yet to reveal the secret. Would she reveal it before she leaves this life, would she?

That night, Anthony did not sleep. He was angry at himself for not negotiating the information he gave, with the those he wanted to get. On the other hand, Mother Ayşe seemed to love Mary and rejoice for the life she earned when she left their home.

The next day, in the morning, he got up before the sunrise and sat in his yard. He was looking at the flickering stars in the dark sky, and he was trying to see the message they were embroidering on the firmament. Slowly, the light began to be etched on the horizon of the east. Then he felt the hope in his heart arise.

-Nothing is finished, he thought. The dawn hasn’t come yet. But every day the sun rises from the beginning of the world and will rise until its end. I will learn the truth and bequeath it to my Maria!

 

Bibliography:

Agnes Michaelides: “Chora”, the old Nicosia

Great Cyprus Encyclopedia

 

(Chapter 10)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Nicosia Autumn 1926

After a few days, Maria decided to visit Mrs. Aydan to see if she had any information about Eminé. Mrs. Aydan greeted her cheerfully and offered her the typical coffee. She told her that she had asked about Eminé, but no one in the neighbourhood seemed to have known anything about her fate. She disappeared as soon as the last resident of the house died. She had probably gone to Paphos, but no one knew for sure.

Maria left disappointed and started walking through the streets of Nicosia, without having any destination. She remembered the teacher and felt guilty that she had not searched for him yet. As she walked so aimlessly, her steps led her out of the walls of the city and a piece of information, she had recently learned, came to her mind. To the south of Nicosia was the cemetery of Agios Spyridon. There were buried since the last century the Greek Cypriot inhabitants of Nicosia. She would go and search among the graves in case she might discover the tomb of her teacher.

She proceeded for a quarter of an hour and the cemetery, along with the small church of Agios Spyridon, appeared. Cypress trees had been planted and shaded the tombs, giving the impression of an oasis. She entered the church, and the priest was sitting there, as if he was waiting for her.

-My Father, she said, I am called Lady Mary William Moore. I have lived my childhood in Cyprus, and I had a teacher, a Greek Cypriot, who was called Antonios Philippou. I believe he is dead, and I would love to find his grave.

-Do you know my daughter when your teacher died?

-No, my father, I have been away from Cyprus for many years, and I came recently. This teacher was very important to me, and I would like to honour his memory. As far as I know he had no family and probably his grave is not cared after. I don’t even know if he has a cross with his name on it. From the facts that I have in mind, although very vague, I think he would have died some fifteen years ago. But I’m not at all sure.

-Come and let us look in the book of the church, he told her.

He looked at some older books and confirmed to her that a teacher, named Antonios Philippou, had died in 1910 and had been buried in this cemetery.

-Come with me to look at the graves, he told her. According to the date he died, I can calculate where he has been buried.

-As they walked among the tombs and read the names on the crosses, the priest began to tell her the story of the cemetery.

-At the time of the Turkish occupation, my daughter, it was a big problem to bury your dead. Turkish law forbade Christians to have cemeteries in the city or outside the walls. So, whenever people had a dead person they must carry them on foot, in the coffin, to the cemetery of Pallouriotissa or up to Strovolos, that is, long distances. The discomfort, especially in the hot summer months and in the cold of winter, was unimaginable! After the English came, the Christians held a fundraiser, and were able to buy this field and make the first Cristian cemetery of Nicosia.

Suddenly Maria stopped. She noticed a wooden cross, crookedly placed, that read on: Antonios Philippou, Teacher, Died June 22, 1910.

Before she thought about it and could restrain herself, she knelt in front of the grave and began to cry. The priest was taken aback. He did not expect such sentimentalities from an English Lady!

-You know, she told him to justify herself, he was a very important man to me. He taught me almost everything and gave me the foundations to continue my studies in London. Tell me what I need to do to place here a marble grave, as he deserves.

-I will take care of everything. Don’t worry, he told her. Tell me what you want, and I will do it for you.

-I would like a marble tomb with a cross, simple, not sophisticated. On the cross I would like to be written, in addition to what is already mentioned in the wooden cross, the following: “The man who taught the children of Cyprus, the knowledge and wisdom of their ancestors. Let his memory be in eternity.”

The priest noted the words that Maria told him and assured her that he would order what she asked him to do, to the best marble worker in Nicosia. Maria promised that she would come the next day, bringing a deposit to be given to the marble worker and flowers for the tomb.

As she was leaving, her feelings were mixed. She was glad to find even one clue for her beloved teacher, but the bitterness that had followed her since she was seventeen years old, when she had lost all contact with him, flared up in her heart. She could not restrain herself from not reproaching her mother for it. Within her, however, she also felt guilty that she never had the courage to trample on the false world that had been imposed on her and to seek him out. She knew that deep down; we all have a responsibility for our choices. We must not justify ourselves by blaming others.

By the time she arrived at her house, it was lunchtime. Mrs. Vassilia was waiting for her with a traditional food: koupepia (stuffed vine-yard leaves) with kolokasi (a Cyprus vegetable). Although Maria was crazy about this food, she did not have much appetite to eat.

When the door just knocked on, Mrs. Vassilia told her that a boy had brought a note. As soon as Maria opened it and read it, she was excited. It was from Kristian Hubertus, who informed her that he had arrived in Nicosia and would come in the afternoon to visit her

Immediately, before the boy left, she prepared a note of her own and gave him. She invited Kristian Hubertus to extend his afternoon visit until the evening, for dinner.

The arrival of her Swedish friend somewhat lightened her soul and formed a smile on her lips. She asked Mrs. Vassilia l to prepare roasted potatoes, alongside the koupepia with the kolokasi, which had remained almost intact, before leaving for her home. She assured her also that she could serve the dinner herself to her guest and she did not have to stay.

Ιn the afternoon, she prepared herself with diligence and finesse to welcome Kristian Hubertus. After the arrival of the Swedish, they had their coffee – Cyprus coffee had become a habit for both – and then Maria suggested taking a walk to see the surrounding area.

They first visited the church of Agios. Antonios, which was next to Maria’s house, and then she showed to him the Mansion of the Hatzigiorgakis family, which was located fifty meters away from the Church. The church and the Mansion had been built in the 18th century and Hatzigiorgakis had undertaken with his own funding the decoration of the Church, which, in a way, his family had under their protection. Hatzigiorgakis Kornesios had been a dragoman of Cyprus, during the Ottoman rule, i.e., an interpreter and responsible for collecting taxes and handing them over to the Sultan. These activities brought him many enemies, and as a result he was executed in Constantinople by the Sultan in 1809.

The Mansion of Hatzigiorgakis was an impressive building of the 18th century, two-story, in the shape of a Π.  At its entrance it bore a coat of arms, probably of an older house of the Lusignan and above the entrance it had an impressive gazebo. The interior could not be seen, because the house was inhabited by the descendants of Hatzigiorgakis, but from a glance they threw from the window, it looked very rich.

Kristian liked the tour very much. He found the city of Nicosia very interesting, despite the poverty that prevailed in various neighbourhoods. Society, as he observed, especially the Greek Cypriots, had a tendency towards Europeanization and progress, as shown by the activities in the hotel where he was staying.

When they returned home and Maria served the dinner prepared by Mrs. Vassilia, Kristian Hubertus was thrilled. He also found the Cypriot cuisine very tasty. He had become accustomed to it and would miss it when he would leave.

Later, after sitting in the living room to have their tea, Kristian talked to her about his mission. He had visited many sites with possible antiquities from Larnaca, to Lapithos and Karavas, in the district of Kyrenia. His report, about the realization of the Swedish archaeological mission in Cyprus the following year, to the prince of his country, was positive. He also recorded his suggestions on the places from which they could begin their intricacies. Einar Gjerstad would again be in charge. Kristian clarified that Prince Gustav Adolf was himself an archaeologist. Many donors had been found for the mission, and the Swedish State would also contribute financially where needed.

Last he left the most pleasant announcement: Mr. Pierides had lent him his car, and so he suggested to Maria to visit next day the area of Kyrenia. Maria was thrilled with the idea. She had never travelled outside Nicosia, and this would have been a wonderful opportunity.

So, they agreed to pick her up in the morning, around 8.00 a.m. and after they passed by the cemetery to leave money to the priest and flowers to her teacher’s grave, to set off for their journey. As he was leaving, he held her hand for a while after the warm handshake and told her:

-I was very pleased to see you, Mary!

Maria smiled broadly at him and replied in the same tone:

-And I was glad to see you, Kristian! Have a good night and a let us both have a good waking up, as they say here in Cyprus.

The next day, Maria prepared herself early in the morning, made a bouquet of the fragrant roses brought to her by Mrs. Vassilia and waited for Kristian. As soon as the car arrived, she got in, and they set off. They made a short stop at the cemetery of Agios. Spyridon, where Mary left the flowers by the tomb of her teacher and the money to the priest and began their journey.

It was autumn, but the autumn time in Cyprus is sweet and mild. The weather was wonderful and as the windows were open a cool breeze caressed their faces.

-What a wonderful place, Kristian said. I have never experienced such autumn in my life before. In my homeland now probably, there is snow and certainly in your homeland, Mary, cold.

Maria felt uncomfortable that Kristian called England her homeland.

-I grew up here, she told him. This, for me, is my homeland!

-Well, you don’t have to get angry! Kristian told her with a laugh. By the way, why did you tell me that your name is Maria, when you were on the train in Famagusta?

At that moment, Maria decided:. She would tell him the truth about her life. Her realization yesterday that her insistence on remaining true to the lie that had been imposed on her, kept her away from her beloved teacher, made her want to stop this untruthful story. At least among her own people.

-Listen Kristian, she told him. In the next village that we will stop, I will tell you a story that I did not tell anyone, except my daughter and my son-in-law.

Kristian was surprised by Maria’s serious tone and respected her request. They continued to the village of Lapithos. Kristian, who had studied the history of the village for the report he prepared, informed Maria:

– It is an ancient village, which has existed for thousands of years. It will be one of the places where excavations will be carried out by my country’s mission. It is believed that the ancient city was built by Praxandrous, a hero of the Trojan War from Laconia. Likewise, it took its name from mount Lapethis of Laconia from where its settlers came from. I believe that we will find interesting remains here because this city flourished in antiquity.

As they arrived in the village, Maria exclaimed at the sight of it.

-Oh my God, what a beautiful place!

The village spread on the northern outskirts of Pentadactylous mountain, all green, among lemon trees and in the background sparkling the blue of the sea.  Its houses, perched on the slope of the mountain, white, looked like bird nests. The architecture of the houses was very interesting. Many were made of stone with carved vaulted gates and tall walls, all with lush gardens. It was obvious that it was a very rich and large village, by the standards of Cyprus.

-Here there is a lot of water, which flows from the mountain, Kristian told her, who had previously visited the village, and so they can cultivate everything. They also make wonderful clay pots and vases. It is worth buying something before we leave.

-I have never seen a nicer place in my life, Maria whispered.

They sat in a café overlooking the sea. They chose a distant corner, not because the villagers, who were sitting there having their coffee, would understand what they would say, but for Maria, to feel more comfortable talking.

Meanwhile, they ordered their coffees and sweet walnuts (a traditional Cyprus sweet) to the smiley shopkeeper, with the big moustache and bright eyes. When everything was served, Maria spoke to Kristian about her life memories.

Tears flowed from her eyes, and often her chest was jerked by a sob that she was trying to hold back. The years of silence had created within her a beast that was looking for a way to come out and be freed. Kristian listened to her carefully and held her hands between his. It was a very tender scene, which the villagers could not fail to notice. Many, although they did not understand what was happening, were moved.

Kristian did not interrupt her at all, during the narration. He listened to her silently. When she finished, he spoke to her calmly and quietly:

-Maria, the tragedy in your life is due to your possible theft from your mother’s lap. Your adoption by the English family was a blessing to you, and no matter how many flaws your mother had, all mothers have flaws. You have lived an exciting life with incredible opportunities and experiences. Your alienation from your teacher was a big mistake, and I believe that this is what torments you the most. As I listened to you talking, I decided to delay my departure from Nicosia, if it takes, to help you find clues about the teacher along with the truth about your past. Tomorrow I will telegraph to my university.

Kristian’s words brought more tears to Maria. She could not believe she would have someone next to her, in her up to now, dead-end quest. She would like to tell him that there is no need to make such a sacrifice, but she wanted his presence so much, that she could not speak.

-Thank you, whispered. It is the greatest gift that someone can give me!

When they got up to leave, a surprise awaited them.  The shopkeeper did not accept to be paid!

-No visitor pays when he comes to our village, he explained to Maria, who spoke Greek. The mukhtar (community leader), who sits there – and showed a smiling gentleman in the background – paid for your coffees and sweets.

Maria approached the mukhtar to thank him, and he insisted on taking them to his house for lunch. With great difficulty they managed to avoid the invitation of these friendly peasants, who adhered, for centuries now, to the ancient Greek customs of hospitality.

Then they visited a workshop that manufactured clay pots, next to the café, and bought a vase for each one. Maria’s was decorated like a dark seabed. Against a deep green, almost black background, incised fish of various sizes swam. At the base and on the rim of the jar, flowers and plants were engraved on a brown background. Kristian insisted and managed to pay for her own vase, like a commemorative gift for their trip.

They then boarded on the car and continued their route through a beautiful landscape, having on the right the mountain of Pentadactylous, green and on the other hand the sea moving like a living being, glimmering blue and glamouring.

Tired of the charge of the confession and relaxed by the tranquillity and beauty of the landscape, Maria closed her eyes and fell asleep. She sank into a calm sleep, feeling for the first time that she was not alone.

 

Bibliography:

Agnes Michaelides: “Chora”, the old Nicosia

http://www.mcw.gov.cy/mcw/da/da.nsf/All/B910C8576D6CFD61C2257199001FB424?OpenDocument

http://cypernochkreta.dinstudio.se/text1_127.html

http://www.polignosi.com/cgibin/hweb?-A=43830&-V=limmata

 

(Chapter 11)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Nicosia, 1896 – 1910

After Antonio’s attempt to learn Mother Ayşe’s secret failed, he began to torture his mind to find a way to approach her again. It was not easy at all. At the same time, he watched the old lady, who was sitting in the garden of her house, and it was obvious that her health was not good at all. This worried him greatly because this woman was his only hope of learning the truth.

A few months passed with this uncertainty and anguish for Antonios. One day while he was sitting in the yard of his house, watching from the hole in the fence Mother Ayşe sitting relatively calm and watching the hens grazing under the trees, he suddenly heard her voice saying to him:

-Antonios, come here. Don’t just watch me through the hole. Let’s talk.

Antonios was surprised. He could not understand how she had perceived him. But immediately he replied:

-I am coming, Mother Ayşe. I am coming in a minute.

He ran into his room and took paper and a pencil. He was determined to record everything that Mother Ayşe would tell him to accurately convey it to Maria.

For the first time in his life, Antonios passed through the hole in the fence in the house next door. Mother Ayşe sat calmly in a chair and invited him to sit next to her.

-Don’t worry, she told him. They all have gone to Paphos. Fatma’s father died, and they went to the funeral. They wanted to leave Eminé with me, but I convinced them to take her with them so that she could see her parents. They will be away for a few days, and so we can talk at our leisure.

-If you don’t mind Mother Ayşe I will record what you tell me to inform Maria when I meet her.

-I don’t mind, my son, you are writing what I will tell you. Another thing worries me. The secret I am going to tell you is great, and I am afraid that it will harm my son if it is learned. I want you to promise me that as long as my son lives, the secret will remain hidden.

-You put me in a very difficult position, Antonios replied. Maria is probably in India now, and I have neither her address nor do I know when I will meet her, if I meet her, during my life. It is very unlikely that your words will be able to harm your son. On the other hand, the truth will lighten your son’s position before God when that time comes. The lie will weigh him down more. And your own soul, Mother Ayşe, will meet God lighter if you talk about this secret.

She remained silent for a while. It was a big step she had to take. She knew the time of her death was approaching, and she did not want to leave without justifying Maria. She sighed deeply and said to Antonios:

-Write my son. I’ll tell you the secret. Allah is my witness that I do it because I believe this is the right thing to do. I hope Allah will forgive my son and not punish him any more. For, my son, Antonios, has suffered greatly for his actions.

And Mother Ayşe began her narration:

-I, my son, was born a Christian. My village was Vretsia in Paphos. My name was Eleni. Our whole family ware Christians. Times were tough. People were very poor, and Christians had to pay unbearable taxes. One year, my father mortgaged his fields to a Turk to give him wheat to sow. That year we had a drought, and my father didn’t manage to fulfil his promise to pay him back. We would be taken everything away from us, and we would die of hunger. Then they suggested to my father that if he became a Muslim, they shall give him the debt. Difficult decision, but he had no choice. He accepted. In secret, we were Christians and in the openly Muslims. All our relatives hated us. No one was talking to us any more. They called us Linobambakous (Of two natures: Linen and Cotton).

-I was very young then, around ten. I remember that at the back of our house we had a room with icons and every night we prayed to Christ. We had overcome the risk of poverty, but we had been left alone. We started hanging out with the Turks. When I was fifteen, a Turk saw me and longed for me. He became my husband. My father couldn’t refuse. My husband was rich, but I didn’t love him. I only had one child with him, my son Suleiman. Then he took another wife.

-I’ve had spoiled my son a lot. Very bad thing, spoiling the children. It makes them selfish, and they always want all their desires to be fulfilled. When they grow up they remain the same, they cannot change. And that’s dangerous, my son.

Antonios recorded what she was saying and did not interrupt her, because he was afraid that she would not endure for long. She had begun to cough, and emotionally she was very upset. Tears were coming out of her eyes non-stop, just as she remembered her life and the turn it took because of her family’s poverty.

Mother Ayşe did not talk for much longer. She could not. She was exhausted.

-Tomorrow my son, she told him. Tomorrow we continue. I can’t talk any more.

The next day, Mother Ayşe continued in the same way. On the one hand the bitterness for her own life, on the other hand her reluctance to talk about her son’s actions, delayed her narration about Maria.

-When the English came, my son, my people wanted to return to the Church, but they were not accepted. So, they stayed forever Muslims. And they hated Christians. I have aged, my son, and I have known both Christ and Allah. God is a good spirit. What does his name matter? I have never understood this hatred that people have for the sake of God. How is it possible to love God and at the same time hate the other who gives him a different name? I will die, and I will not know the reason.

Antonios was recording and not commenting. He knew about the tragic fate of the Linobambakous, those who became Muslims during the Ottoman rule, to avoid the heavy taxation imposed only on Christians. When the English came, and they asked to return to the Church, they were not accepted. Each side had its arguments, but Antonios knew that what was growing was the Muslim population of Cyprus, with unpredictable consequences for the future of the country.

So almost a week passed, and Antonios was writing and writing the narration of Mother Ayşe. His hand was hurting, but he did not stop writing. It was for her something of a confession, an overflow of memories of her life and a testimony to God and people before she met her end. Through her words she was trying to soothe her son’s responsibility and take on the greatest burden, because of the upbringing she gave him, because of the favours she did to him when he was a child.

When he wrote the last sentence from Mother Ayşe’s narration, she looked at him tearfully and told him:

-My son, now I can die and meet my God, up there in heaven. If he is called Christ or Allah, it doesn’t matter. He will be good, I know, because God is only goodness. God has no hatred. I hope he is also forgiveness. To forgive me and my son. I don’t know if Maria will ever forgive us. We took everything from her, but it seems that God gave it back to her, in another way. Ask her, my son, to forgive us! If she can do it…

Antonios was touched by the pain of the old woman. Her apology was sincere, and as much as her son’s actions toward Mary were criminal, he felt that it was God who would judge. Only He knows how the games of fate are played in every person’s life and how circumstances determine the future. Antonios remembered the ancient Greek tragedies and the interpretation given of the Gods’ intervention in the fate of men by influencing their actions.

Not many days had passed after the residents of the next house returned from Paphos and Mother Ayşe left for heaven. Her son was inconsolable. Antonios could hear his sobs all the way to his house. Even his wives experienced great sorrow. This woman was the strength and cohesion of their home. It was now certain that the disintegration of the family would follow.

It took Antonios a long time to copy carefully in a notebook with a thick cover what he was recording when Mother Ayşe was speaking. Outside he wrote:

For Maria – The story of her life as narrated by Mother Ayşe.

He waited for the summer when the schools were closed for a while and set off for Paphos to look for further evidence that emerged from the words of Mother Ayşe. He visited the villages of Emba, Vretsia and Statos. He did not find anything special. Many years had passed, the people who knew had died and no one remembered anything. However, he recorded in the notebook for Maria, what he found and what he did not find. She could search for herself if she wished, when this information would reach her.

In 1898, when he had the information ready and could have given it to Maria, if there was a way to meet her, he went to visit Evelyn McCain. She was his only choice and his only connection with Maria.

Mrs. McCain was not very happy to see him but was typically polite. This did not particularly care Antonios. What he cared about was learning details about Maria, where she was, what she was doing, etc. Of course, he had no intention of informing Mrs. McCain of his inquisition. He justified his visit by saying that he would like to know Maria’s news.

-My dear Antonios, Mary is very well. She had a wonderful wedding; you can’t imagine the luxury. My Mary was the most beautiful bride ever existed! Everyone admired her and commented that Michael got the most beautiful woman in the world. I was so proud! My husband was constantly tearing from emotion. I told her that I saw you, and you send your wishes for her wedding. She was very pleased.

-Now, our Mary is Lady Mary William Moore. But the most important thing is that last year she had a little girl, Alexandra. Now all three are in India and unfortunately for me they will stay there for many years, as it seems. My son-in-law, although he is a lord, he does not give up military life.

Here, Evelyn McCain, was completely honest. The whole situation, them staying in India, was very distressing to her, but what she could do. An attempt by Antonios to ask for Maria’s address fell on deaf ears.

-She has no address, Evelyn McCain told him. Only military correspondence can be received.

And this is where the discussion and the visit ended.

Antonios was at first very disappointed. He did not know how he could communicate with Maria. It was obvious that Evelyn McCain had no intention of giving any information about her address. Then he decided to think positively. Life had shown that Maria had care that came beyond this world. Some way would be found to learn the truth about her past. It is enough that the data were recorded.

However, he visited Mrs. Evelyn McCain twice more, in 1900 and 1903, but the same scene was repeated. He did not get any substantial information that could bring him into contact with Maria, but he learned general information about her life. And that was fine. This was a consolation for Antonios.

The last time he visited the McCain house was in 1907. This time he did not find Evelyn McCain. As the maid he met informed him, Mrs. Evelyn McCain had gone to London. Mary had asked her to go there to be close to Alexandra, who had been in a boarding school for young misses. Mary had to return to India to be with her husband, and she did not want her daughter to be alone in London.

Antonios left very disappointed. If he knew it in time, he would have gone to London himself to meet Maria. But now it was too late. Lately he felt quite weak. He was now sixty-seven years old. The bitterness of his life had left their marks on his health. He often coughed and felt bites on the side of the heart. He had to find a solution.

That night he did not sleep at all. He was thinking. During the morning hours, one thought illuminated his mind: that is what he should do. Only in this way he would ensure that Maria, in one way or in the other, would receive the information he wanted to give her.

As soon as the first light shown, he got up. He found a small wooden box, and he put inside the notebook with the story that Mother Ayşe had told him. He put the rest of the evidence he found when he went to Paphos, which was not much. Then he searched and found all the letters he wrote to Maria from time to time and could not send them to her and put them in. He did not seal the box, in case he might want to but something else in it.

Then he went out into the courtyard and sat next to the fig tree. He pondered his life. There was much more bitterness than joys. Was it worth his course, or was everything in vain? Despite all the pessimistic mood he had, a voice in the depths of his mind whispered to him:

-If it were not for you, Antonios, Maria’s wretched life would continue up to her death. God has designated you to play this role.

He smiled bitterly.

-And my father instructed me to educate the children of Cyprus, he thought.

He knew he did not have a long time to live. He wanted before leaving life to be sure that he performed the role it was given to him on this earth. And if the two above goals were the trust of his life, he did everything he could to complete them as good as possible.

These thoughts brought him peace. He got up, ready to start his day, with a hope that his life had not been wasted.

 

 

(Chapter 12)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Kyrenia – Nicosia, autumn 1926

Maria woke up as soon as the car stopped at the port of Kyrenia.

As she opened her eyes, she saw the incredible picturesqueness of that small harbour and exclaimed:

-No matter how many times I say it, it will not be an exaggeration. What a wonderful place my homeland is! Homeland, she repeated, what a nice word!. For the first time, I can say it out loud.

-I agree, Kristian replied. While you were sleeping, I couldn’t get enough of admiring the scenery. It is a beautiful place, your homeland!

They sat in a small café overlooking the fishing boats and on their right the castle of Kyrenia. The air was cool and with a smell of the sea. When the owner approached them, dressed traditionally with his breeches, Maria asked him in Greek if they could eat there.

Good (of course), replied, the owner. The fishermen just got fresh, mullah. Do you want me to fry some for you? I’ll make you a frying of potatoes, salad, olives, halloumi, and anything else you want.

-Perfect, Maria agreed. Bring us some wine, from what is produced here in the place.

Until the food was ready, the owner brought them olives, halloumi, tomatoes, and bread to begin with.

Maria and Kristian began to talk about the issue that was burning her. How to locate data and information about Antonios Philippou.

-Be sure, that this man has found the story of your past, and somewhere he would have left you the information. We need to find out where he lived, how he died, what assets he had and where they are, Kristian told her.

-As far as I know, Maria replied, he taught at the Pancyprian Gymnasium. Of course, it’s been 16 years since his death, and I don’t know if he is remembered by those who are there now. But you’re right, that’s where we must start. As for where he lived, I don’t know. I know he initially stayed at the house next to the Turkish mansion, but then, when he was teaching me, he left from there. I don’t know where he lived.

-It doesn’t matter, Kristian told her. We may visit the lady you met, Aydan, if I am not mistaken, and we will ask her. Any information is valuable. The city of Nicosia is small, someone will remember something.

By the time they finished their conversation, the owner came with the food. He deposited the fish that smelled beautifully on the table, brought the potatoes, the wine, the salad, and Maria asked him if he had time to sit and talk to them about the city of Kyrenia.

-I can sit my daughter, he replied to her, but I am illiterate. The teacher sitting over there will explain you better.

And before they could answer, he shouted:

-Teacher, these strangers want to know about our country. Come and talk to them, you who are educated.

And turning to them, he added:

-He is very well-educated, our teacher, Mr. Kranidiotis. He speaks English also.

Mr. Kranidiotis, around fifty, tall, dressed in European clothes, with a suit, beige colour, and a corresponding hat, approached them and stretched out his hand in a warm handshake. And he continued in impeccable English:

-My name is Eleftherios Kranidiotis, and I am a teacher. I am at your disposal. You can ask anything you want.

-Please sit down and have lunch with us, they invited him and asked the owner to bring another dish.

Mr. Kranidiotis sat down, and after the recommendations were made, he began to talk to them about the city of Kyrenia. He spoke slowly and through his words you could discern his erudition, but also his love for his homeland.

-Our city, our Kyrenia, is a proof of the colonization of the place by the Achaeans. A city of the same name existed in the Peloponnese, as well as a river. According to Lycophron, an ancient writer, the city must have been founded by Cepheus, a strategist of the Vouraians, a city in the Peloponnese, near the ancient city of Kyrenia. Cepheus was co-ruler of Praxandrous who founded Lapithos, which in ancient times was a more important city than Kyrenia.

-Kyrenia was seized, like the whole of Cyprus, by many conquerors: Phoenicians, Persians, was occupied by Alexander the Great, passed to his successors, was a Roman district, then belonged to the eastern Roman Empire, namely Byzantium, where the castle you see was built. Of course, the Lusignans followed, the Genoese besieged it, experienced the Venetian rule and in 1570 it passed, like the entire of Cyprus, to the Ottomans.

-Dark years during the Ottoman rule. The Greeks, residents of the city, moved to Thermia and only the Turks remained in the city. Nothing reminded of the old bloom of the place. During the late 18th and 19th centuries, the Greek inhabitants began to return and buy houses and property from the Turks. Then trade flourished, and the city began to find its former glory. At this time, the people of Kyrenia had many commercial relations with Greece. Many Greek captains came and settled here. You can understand it from the many Greek surnames: Skopelidis (from Skopelos). Chalkidis (from Halki), Chiotelis (from Chios), Vrachas (from the Ionian Islands) and me, Kranidiotis, from Kranidi, Peloponnese.

-Unfortunately, in 1922, with the Asia Minor disaster for the Greeks, the commercial activity of the inhabitants was destroyed. What was never lost was the beauty of Kyrenia. Nowhere else in Cyprus, you have a green mountain in the north and a blue sea in the south to mingle and give a cool climate and an unparalleled view.

-Now with the English, things are better. We have started to have travellers. In 1922 Kostas Katsellis founded the first European type hotel in our city, and we hope to slowly develop in this new fashion of the time: Receive tourists.

Maria and Kristian were impressed by Mr. Kranidiotis’ knowledge and continued the conversation with him to learn more details about the fate of the place. When it was time for them to leave, and they went to pay the owner, there was almost a battle with Mr. Kranidiotis who insisted on paying for lunch, even if they were the ones who invited him. In the end, Kristian managed to pay and Mr. Kranidiotis was left very disappointed.

-We will come back, said Kristian, to comfort him. And then you will pay.

-The people of this place are really descended from the Achaeans, Kristian added, as if they got into the car. The Xenios (for the visitors) Zeus is for good rooted in their hearts!

-Yes, said Mary with pride. They are the people of my homeland!

The trip to Nicosia was pleasant. Despite the emotional charge of the morning, the rest of the day helped to relieve Maria and a sweet happiness began to fill her. She was herself for the first time and that was wonderful!

Before Kristian left her at her house in the evening, they agreed to meet the next day to visit the Pancyprian Gymnasium.

The next day, in the morning, Kristian knocked on Maria’s door around 10 a.m. The weather was dull and rainy, unlike the day before, and so they took an umbrella with them.

-At last, Kristian commented, something reminiscent of autumn!

The Pancyprian Gymnasium was only five minutes away from Maria’s house and so the rain, that fell gently, was no problem. On the contrary, it was like a promise of catharsis, like a cleaning of the past and a new beginning.

As they arrived at the entrance of the Gymnasium, Maria took a deep breath before they went inside. They asked for the manager’s office, and an ageing cleaning woman led them to a big door in the background and told them:

-That’s it. Our director is Mr. Andreas Georgiadis.

They discreetly knocked on the door and after hearing the invitation “Come in” they went through.

Mr. Georgiadis was a short, fatty gentleman, around fifty, with a small moustache, glasses, and an unsmiling style. After they were introduced they told him the reason for their visit. They wanted to know about an old teacher at the school, Mr. Antonios Philippou, who died in 1910.

Mr. Georgiadis did not seem very willing to help them.

-I’ve only been here for ten years, he told them. I didn’t know the person you’re talking about.

-Are there other older teachers who may have known him?

-I don’t know. Most of them here are young. I don’t know when everyone came to this school!

With these words, he leaned over his books and began to read something, showing them that they had to leave.

They came out very disappointed. Maria was ready to cry. Suddenly she felt someone tap her at the arm. She turned and saw the cleaning woman who had accompanied them before, who whispered to her in Greek:

-I knew the late Antonios Philippou. Come with me and I’ll to tell you.

She led them to an empty class and began to talk to them:

-The late Mr. Antonios was a very good man, and everyone loved him at school. His students adored him. What do you want to know?

-He was my teacher when I lived in Cyprus during my childhood. I loved him very much and would like to honor his memory in every possible way. I am even thinking of writing a book about his work and action. That’s why I’d like to know if he left anything behind, books, writings, etc. Do you know where he lived in his last years?

-I think he lived next to the Turkish mansion. But the one who will know more is his student, Eleftherios Constantinou. The late, Mr. Antonios loved him very much. He had him as his son.

-Do you know where I can find him?

-I don’t know, unfortunately. He had also gone away when Antonios died. I think he left him money to study in London. Doctor? Lawyer? I don’t really remember. But surely everything he had, it was left to him.

-Do you know someone else who may know more? asked Maria.

-There was another professor with whom they were friends. He is called Demetrios Demetriou. As far as I know, though, he is very ill. He grew old and lost his sanity. He lives in the district of Agios Kassianos. If you find him, he might remember something.

They thanked the woman, and before they left, Maria gave her five pounds. The woman was surprised and did not want to take the money.

-Please take them, said Maria with tears in her eyes. You don’t know what a gift this information is for me! Besides, I know that you don’t get paid much, and you need the money.

On the way back, Maria translated her conversation with the cleaning woman to Kristian. When they arrived at Maria’s house, while having their tea and eating from the cake prepared by Mrs. Bassilia, they began to devise their plans:

First they would search and find Professor Demetrios Demetriou, in Agios Kassianos.

-It’s very close from here, Maria said. Only a few minutes. You may stay for lunch, and we will go in the afternoon.

They ate the wonderful meal prepared by Mrs. Bassilia and started early in the afternoon for Agios Kassianos. The rain had stopped and the wet, refreshing smell that pervades the atmosphere, after the first rains, filled their nostrils.

They originally passed by the church of Agios Kassianos. The church is a stone building with the characteristic porous lime stone of Cyprus. It has double aisle and was built in the 19th century. It is surrounded by narrow streets and houses with internal courtyards. Some of them are majestic, two-story, while others are humble single-story houses. But everything is built in continuous construction, making this district of Nicosia very picturesque. In the courtyard of the church, they found the priest, whom they asked if he knows where the house of Professor Demetrios Demetriou is.

The priest looked at them in amazed.

-What would you do with poor Demetriοs? He asked. The man is not well.

-We want to ask him about another professor. Antonios Philippou. If he can’t speak, we won’t force him.

-There is the house of Demetrios. He stays with his daughter.

And he showed them a house outside the churchyard with a green door. They went ahead and knocked on the robe on the door that had the shape of a closed female hand. A tired young woman opened the small door window and looked at them in surprise, behind the decorative railings.

-What do you want? She asked.

-Excuse us for the inconvenience. My name is Lady Mary William Moore, and he is the archaeologist Kristian Hubertus. I have lived my childhood in Cyprus, and I had a teacher named Antonios Philippou. I’ve come back from London, and I’m looking for information about him. From what I have learned, Mr. Demetrios Demetriou was his friend, and maybe he knows something. We will be very much obliged if you let us see him for a few minutes. We’ve learned he’s ill, but he may remember something.

Before the young woman could answer, a voice was heard from the background:

-Antonios, Antonios, has Antonios come?

-No, father. He’s not Antonios. Some strangers want to ask something.

In the back of the room appeared an old man, unshaven with a distraught gaze, dressed in his pyjamas.

-Come, come, he invited them. Antonios is my friend.

So, the young woman was forced to open the door.

-Do not tire him, warned them, and left the room annoyed.

The furnishings of the room were some old armchairs and a coffee table that had some photos on it. It was generally sloppy, expressing the bad situation that prevailed in the house.

-Have a seat, have a seat, Demetrios repeat.

As soon as they sat down, he looked closely at Maria and his gaze changed. As if a glimpse pierced his spirit, his face was lit up, and he exclaimed:

-You are Maria! I have recognized you. He was always talking about you. He loved you dearly.

Approaching Maria, he knelt, took her hands in his and kissed them.

Tears were coming out from his eyes, and he kept repeating:

-Maria has come, Antonios. She came my friend.

Maria could not hold back her tears. It was a very emotional moment. But she formed herself, hugged Demetrios and helped him get up. He sat it in a chair, and she caressed his hands. Slowly – slowly the old gentleman calmed down.

-Please tell me, Mr. Demetrios, did Antonios Philippou leave something for me? Did he say anything to you about me?

Demetrios’ voice sounded calm. He was no longer the ill man, who did not have his senses:

-Antonios was always talking about you, how beautiful you are, how smart you are, how studious you are. He loved you very much. But he didn’t say details. As if he were trying to keep a secret of your own. He wanted so much to find you, but he didn’t know where you were. The last few years before he died, he told me one day that you are in India. Is it true? Were you in India?

-Yes, Mr. Demetrios. I was in India. That’s why I couldn’t come earlier. But it’s important to know if he left anything for me.

-My daughter, I don’t know if he left anything for you. Whatever he had, he left it to Eleftherios Constantinou, a boy he had as his son. He also left him money to study in London. He always said he was a very smart boy, but not like his Maria. If there’s anything, he’ll have it.

-Do you know where I can find Eleftherios Constantinou?

-Not my daughter, I don’t know. Eleftherios left for London after Antonios death. I think he would be studying as a lawyer. I haven’t seen him since.

At that time, the door opened, and Demetrios’ daughter returned, giving them a message that they should leave.

When they got up and headed to the door, Demetrios told them:

-Do come back again. Come back Maria!

But his daughter’s gaze said otherwise. They thanked and greeted them and left.

As they took to the streets, Maria explained to Kristian exactly what was said and added:

-I can’t take any more emotions for today. You cannot know how thankful I am for you being with me today! But I will have to go back home to calm down. What do you think? Should we meet tomorrow around 10 a.m. to think about what we will do next?

Kristian agreed. They said good night to each other, and Maria continued her way through the wet sunset. How much this moisture matched her muddy heart, she thought. However, she knew that the ball of thread of her life had begun to unravel, like the process of giving birth. Before, there is pain, there are tears, and then comes the joy of a new life. That is what she wanted to hope for and expect.

 

Bibliography: http://www.polignosi.com/cgibin/hweb?-A=12908&-V=limmata

 

(Chapter 13)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Nicosia autumn 1926

The next day, Maria woke up with a strong headache. However, she got up and dressed, trying to relax. The emotions of the previous day had charged her and no matter how much she tried to see things from their positive side, she felt tired.

Demetrios’ words, “Maria has come, Antonios. She has come, my friend,” echoed in her ears all night. For the first time, she had realized how big mistake it was not to try to break the establishment and the protocols earlier and search for her teacher. But she could not change the past. She had to give all her energy to find as many clues as she could, now.

As soon as Mrs. Vassilia came, she asked her if she had heard of a lawyer named Eleftherios Constantinou.

-No, Mrs. Vassilia replied. I’ve never heard of him before. But my sister’s son is a lawyer. He is called Georgios Antoniou, and he has an office in Makrydromos, Ledra street. If there is a lawyer with this name in Nicosia, he will know him.

-Can you please give me his address? I would like to ask him because it is very important for me to learn everything I can about this man.

Mrs. Vassilia, very discreetly, asked nothing, just wrote on a piece of paper the address of Georgios Antoniou.

Kristian came around 10:00 as they had agreed. Maria told him of the information he got from Mrs. Vassilia and the two of them agreed it was best to visit him immediately. In this way, they would clarify the information if Eleftherios Constantinou were in Nicosia.

The distances in Nicosia within the walls are so small that one can move within a few minutes from one point to another. In five minutes, they were outside the office of Georgios Antoniou, knocking on the door. They heard from inside the lawyer’s voice calling “Enter” and they went in, hoping to find an edge in their search.

Georgios Antoniou was a young lawyer, around the age of 35. He was quite handsome, and he greeted them with a wide smile, asking how he could be useful to them.

-My name is Lady Mary William Moore, and this is the archaeologist Kristian Hubertus. I had lived my childhood in Cyprus, and I had a teacher named Antonios Philippou. I am searching for information about my teacher, and I was told that probably a gentleman named Eleftherios Constantinou, who is probably a lawyer, may be able to help me. We came to you hoping that you would know him. We were sent by your aunt, Mrs. Vassilia.

-So, you are the English Lady for whom my aunt works. She has told me the best about you. Admiringly, you are fluent in Greek.

-Whatever I know I owe to my teacher Antonios Philippou, and it is very important for me to find the information I am looking for. Could we speak in English so that Kristian can understand?

-But of course, we can speak English! I knew Antonios Philippou. He was also my teacher. Excellent man. All his students loved him. It seems that in his life he had lost all his loved ones and was always sad. But in the classroom, his eyes shone while teaching. From his lips’ knowledge flew like gurgling water and there was no way that a student would not assimilate his teaching.

-He was even unusually realistic about the events in our country. He believed that we should take advantage of the presence of the British on our island and reap as many benefits as we could. Likewise, he did not agree with the patriotic paeans that others were uttering. In one way or in the other the British will leave, he used to say. Now we must force them to organize us as a state, because they have a tradition in this area, while we do not. The liberation struggles are for later. The British are insidious and if they leave now, they will divide us. Do not forget the Turkish population! But no one was listening to him. Some even called him anti-Greek. The man who not only dedicated his life to the teaching of Greek culture, also infused hundreds of children with those ideals!

-Big words always inspire the people, he concluded. Realism does not excite the crowds.

Maria was glad that Kristian heard from someone else how extraordinary, special her teacher was. However, she asked Georgios Antoniou again:

-Do you know where I can find Eleftherios Constantinou?

-Oh yes, I have forgotten about Eleftherios. I knew him. He was my classmate. He had lost his parents as a child, and Antonios Philippou had found him wandering aimlessly and took him under his protection. Eleftherios lived with his grandparents, but it was Antonios who took care of him. He had him as his son. As far as I know, he left him money to study. Excellent student. He left for London, just before the war, to study. But to be honest, I don’t know what happened next. As far as I know, he did not return to Cyprus.

-Could his grandparents know? Maria suggested.

-I don’t think his grandparents live, but I can ask if you want. I have some old classmates who may know more.

-Thank you very much. Any information would be useful. For anything that concerns one of the two or both.

They thanked Georgios Antoniou and left. Maria proposed walking to the church of Phaneromeni and see the new building of the Phaneromeni Girls’ School that had been completed recently, with the sponsorship of the church of Phaneromeni.

While they were walking, Maria explained to Kristian about the Girls’ School of Phaneromeni, which was founded in 1859 by Archbishop Makarios A’.

-At the time of the Ottoman rule on the island, there were almost no educational institutions. Only the church could take some initiatives because the Ottomans were not interested in educating the inhabitants. Cypriots are generally very studious, and they could understand that with education their children would have better prospects in life. The first schools founded at this time simply taught the basics, reading, writing, elementary mathematics and subjects related to religion. But these were sufficient, under the circumstances, for people to be able to read a document or a book that would come to their attention. Since a Girls’ School was founded, it seems that some girls were also educated, at least in elementary terms.

As they arrived at the church of Phaneromeni, Maria suggested that they could visit it. There they found the priest, who informed them that the church was built in 1872 on the ruins of an older church. It is said that this church was the one that in 1857 the Turks allowed its bell to ring, for the first time in the whole of Cyprus, after 300 years.

-Here are kept, he explained to them, and the relics of Archbishop Kyprianos and the other bishops who were killed by the Turks in 1821 to prevent and stop a revolt of the Greeks of Cyprus against them, as an outcome of the Greek Revolution.

The church of Phaneromeni is the largest church in the city of Nicosia within the walls. Entering, Kristian and Maria felt an uplift of their souls with the magnificence emitted by the space and the architecture of the church. In the dome, in the centre of the church, the Father Pantocrator (All mighty) is painted, in the western style.

Coming out they saw, at the back side of the church, the Girls’ School of Phaneromeni. A majestic, neoclassical, two-story building in the shape of a Π, built with porous limestone. Having columns and a pediment at the entrance, it dominated the small square – street, which separated it from the church. It was a very beautiful corner of the city. Kristian took his camera and took a picture. He also asked Maria to stand at the imposing entrance of the school and photographed her against the background of the building.

-Very picturesque point, he commented.

Maria led him to a small patisserie nearby. They sat down to have a cup of coffee and comment on the information they got from Mr. George Antoniou. Along with the coffees, they also asked for baklava from the boy who came to take the order.

-Although we have not been led to Eleftherios Constantinou yet, I believe that we have begun to unravel the ball of thread and that little by little we will reach the edge, Maria commented.

Kristian remained silent and somewhat abstract, mechanically eating his syrupy baklava.

-Is something wrong Kristian? Maria asked him. You’re unusually silent today. Are you ill?

-No, no Kristian replied. I got a telegram this morning that made me sad.

-Did someone of your family has a problem? Maria asked him again.

-No, luckily, they’re all well. The telegram is from the University of Oxford. I need to go back as soon as possible. This saddens me unimaginably, on the one hand because I have promised you that I would stay with you until you find what you are looking for and on the other hand because I do not want to lose your company.

-I will miss you too, Kristian, I will really miss you but that is no reason to be upset. I will manage on my own. I’m not a weak little child. And you have seen it. The people here are very friendly and cooperative.

-Perhaps I haven’t spoken clearly. But everything inside me is clear: I have fallen in love with you, Maria and I would like to take you with me. To be together forever!

Maria did not expect this. She had realized that Kristian had some feelings for her. He was always so loving and protective towards her, but she did not expect this moment, in the small pâtisserie, a love confession. She was completely unprepared.

-You say you’ve fallen in love with me. As strange as it may seem to you, I have never fallen in love. I chose my husband for reasons unrelated to love, and I received in my life what I had chosen. A husband who treaded me as a trophy. A woman next to him that all men admired, but she was his own. He was not jealous in the usual sense of the term, because he knew that I would never cheat on him, but he enjoyed the jealousy of other men who did not have me. I’ll tell you a thought of mine that I didn’t tell anyone, nor am I going to say. I am afraid that his insistence on sending our daughter to London was an innermost desire for him to enjoy me alone, as a trophy, and for no one to distract me. For the same reason, he didn’t want us to have other children. This decision was his choice.

-If what I feel with you, the security, the happiness, the desire to see you every moment is love, then I too am in love with you. But now, I’m afraid, it’s not a good time. And that saddens me immensely because I would like us always to be together. It is the archetypal desire of every person to find our mate and live our whole life with him. And I think you’re my mate, Kristian.

Kristian took her hands in his own:

-Maria, my sweet Maria, I know you are my mate. I met many women and would call myself a man with a past. But what I feel for you is not the simple erotic attraction, what Freud describes. It is as if your presence fills my existence with gurgling water, which quenches all my needs and raises my soul to another level.

Suddenly they realized that everyone in the pâtisserie, from the customers, the owner, and the young employee, were standing and looking at them. They felt so uncomfortable that they got up and left.

On the way back, they were both silent. Suddenly Maria asked:

-When should you leave?

-As soon as possible. In fact, tomorrow because there is a boat departing from the port of Famagusta. If you want, though, I can delay my departure for a few days and say I lost the boat.

-No, Maria replied. The delay will make things even more difficult. You know, Kristian, that I must accomplish what I have started. You do understand this, don’t you?

-Unfortunately, I understand that. But someday this quest will end. And you will find the truth about your life and about your teacher. I will wait for you, no matter how long it takes. That’s not a figure of speech. I mean it.

-I know you mean it. But let us not commit ourselves to promises that we may not keep. Trust me, after the resurrection I had when I met the teacher and the birth of my daughter, you are the most beautiful thing that has been in my life.

Then they both fell silent. As they reached the point where their ways were parting, Maria’s for her house and Kristian’s for his hotel, they stopped suddenly and in front of the surprised eyes of passers-by, they embraced. They stayed that way for a few minutes, and then Kristian told her:

-I’ll write to you, Maria. Good luck with your quest!

-Have a nice trip, Kristian. We will meet again!

Kristian opened his step so that Maria would not see the tears that filled his eyes and got lost in the narrow streets of Nicosia.

Maria continued for her home. When Mrs. Vassilia went to her house and she was left alone, she could not hold back her sobs. The most important man of her life, after her teacher, had gone away. Is it my fate, she thought, to lose those I love?

But she soon formed herself. Melodrama was never her choice. She tried to put her thoughts in order. For the first time in her life, she had three paths ahead of her to choose:

The first path was to continue her search. It was certain that she was going to do so, but the question was where she would stop. Even if she soon found the evidence she wanted, it would lead her to other questions and new searches. The Gordian knot of her past was not easy to be solved. And then did she want to leave Cyprus? Now that she has found her homeland, how ready was she to lose it?

Her second choice was to return to London to be close to her daughter and grandchildren, she would soon have. Perhaps deep down she owed this to her daughter. It was definitely a good choice, which would give her fullness and happiness.

Kristian’s proposal was the most beautiful proposal she had received in her life. It was a promise of a calm and happy life with the man she loved, assuming, of course, that she would abandon her two previous choices. How ready was she to do that?

Maria got dizzy by thinking. What a tragic irony! She thought. All my life others have been making decisions for me and now that I can decide for myself, I don’t know what I want!

She closed her eyes for a while, and then she realized that she did not need to decide now. Life would lead her steps to where she should go, regardless of her own complex connotations. Isn’t this the case now? Doesn’t life lead her steps?

Despite her worries, Maria slept that night calmly. As much as her breakup with Kristian brought grief to her heart, his love confession filled all the needs of her soul. His words:

… It is as if your presence fills my existence with gurgling water, which quenches all my needs and raises my soul to another level,

recurred like music in her mind and lulled her sweetly. Her life had turned to another page.

 

Bibliography: Agnes Michaelides: “Chora”, the old Nicosia

 

(Chapter 14)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

London, spring 1927

Alexandra was holding her daughter in her arms. She had given birth a month ago, and she became a very happy mom. She adored her daughter so much that she could not leave her care to the maids. Likewise, she was looking after her herself and that gave her great satisfaction. Now she realized how cruel it would have been for her mother when her father forced her to send her to London, in a boarding school.

She was humming to the little girl when the door knocked, and her maid announced that a gentleman was asking for her. Alexandra was surprised. She did not expect anyone.

-What is his name? She asked the maid.

-His name is foreign. I can’t remember it. In fact, he first asked for your mother, Lady Mary William Moore, and when I told him that she no longer lives in London and here stays her daughter with her husband, he asked to see you. I’ve left him waiting in the library.

Surprised but also curious, Alexandra left the child to the maid and proceeded to the library. As she entered, she saw a presentable young man, around thirty-five, with a Mediterranean appearance, looking at the books.

-Hullo, my name is Alexandra James Macdonald, and I am the daughter of Lady Mary William Moore. How can I help you? Unfortunately, my mother is away in Cyprus.

-Very bad timing for me, said the young gentleman. My name is Eleftherios Constantinou, and I am a lawyer. I have something for your mother from her teacher, Antonios Philippou.

Alexandra’s heart, beat loudly as she heard the name, Antonios Philippou. But before she could utter a word, Mr. Constantinou continued, showing her a wooden box, he was holding.

-I am instructed from the teacher to hand it over to the Lady personally. I don’t know what to do now. Not only that, but I have been holding this box for seventeen years and various circumstances have not allowed me to meet your mother.

-At the begging, when I came to London in 1910, to study, and I had searched for your mother, I discovered that she was not in London, but in India. Later, when the war took place, I enlisted and fought alongside with the British. In the war, I was wounded, and it took a long time to recover. Then I continued my studies and with some other difficulties I had, I am ashamed to say, I forgot the box and the mission assigned to me by the teacher.

-Lately I got married and as I was trying to clear up some things to transfer them to my new home I discovered this box. I feel bad because it was my teacher’s last wish to hand it over to his Maria, as he called her, and I failed. But I don’t know if I can give it to you. The teacher’s instructions were explicit: you will deliver it personally only in Maria’s hands.

-I do not want to pressure you, Mr. Constantinou, but I would like you to know that my mother has spoken to me about her life and about her teacher. She is now in Cyprus to find her teacher or any evidence for him.

-But to get you out of the inconvenience, I suggest that I give you my mother’s address and either write to her or telegraph her and ask for her permission to give me the box. In a month we will leave with my husband for Cyprus, to visit my mother, and we can take it to her.

Eleftherios sighed with relief.

-Yes, that would be a very good solution. I would keep my promise to the teacher and finally hand over the box, albeit in an indirect way.

Alexandra wrote Maria’s address on a piece of paper and gave it to him. At the same time, he asked for his own address in case something went wrong. After they exchanged addresses, Eleftherios thanked her and as he was leaving, he told her:

-You have great books in your library!

-They belong to my  mother,  replied Alexandra.

The night, when her husband returned, Alexandra talked to him about the unexpected visit and the surprising turn that events took.

-It is a tragic irony, to say the least, that my mother has been searching for clues about her teacher in Cyprus for so long, and that information is in London. I don’t know what to think!

-What did she write to you in her last letter on this subject?

-She had told me that certain information leads her to a lawyer, Eleftherios Constantinou, but she had reached a dead end because no one knew where he was. It seems that her teacher undertook his education and studies and from what emerges from his visit, he trusted him with everything he knew about my mother.

-Do you think he knows what happened to your mother?

-I can’t imagine because the box he was holding was sealed, nailed to be precise. Should we inform my mother about this incident, or wait for Mr. Constantinou to write to her?

-I think it is better to inform her. She will at least be prepared and will cease to feel that she is at a dead end. Did you get his address?

-Yes, of course, in case he forgets again, Alexandra said with a laugh.

-Perhaps we should speed up our trip to Cyprus, James concluded. Do you think it will be alright for our child to travel?

-I don’t think it makes any difference if we travel in two weeks or in a month’s time. Our daughter is strong. She is full of health. After all, we will be in a better climate than the climate of London.

The next morning, Alexandra went to the telegraph office and sent the following telegram to her mother:

“Eleftherios Constantinou visited me. He has evidence from the teacher. He will ask permission to give it to me. As soon as we have it, we leave for Cyprus.”

In a few days, she got an answer from Maria:

“Eleftherios Constantinou contacted. I gave him permission. Come as soon as possible.”

The next day, Eleftherios Constantinou visited Alexandra. In his hands, he was holding the wooden box again. He looked very relieved.

-At last, he told her. I can deliver it in your hands and you in the hands of your mother. So, I pay back this debt to the teacher, because in general I owe him so much in my life.

-Tell me about this teacher, Alexandra asked him. My mother says the same thing as you. That she owes him everything in her life.

-Our teacher, Antonios Philippou, may be the ideal of the meaning of the term “teacher”. Those children who were blessed to study near him will remember him until they die. I personally owe him everything I am today. Around the age of five, I had lost both my parents and was staying with my grandparents. They were both very old and all they could give me was a plate of food. I used to wander in the streets, and basically I was a vagabond. When I met the teacher, he started approaching me by telling me stories and fairy tales based on Greek mythology. I was enchanted, because it was the first time in my life I had heard such things. In this way I was drawn to school and my vagrant life was slowly replaced by discipline and learning. He gave me the money to study, which I think was all his life savings. That’s why I felt so bad when I discovered that I forgot my promise to hand this box over to Maria.

-We will soon leave for Cyprus to hand over this precious box to my mother. Would you like us to give her a message from you? I am sure she would love to meet you.

-Tell her that Antonios Philippou loved her so much that sometimes I was jealous. She was the surrogate of his daughter Athena, who also lost at a very young age. She must be a great woman. You are lucky to have her as a mother!

-Yes, Alexandra said. She is a rare woman.

-I wish she finds in this box that what she is looking for and what she needs. I, too, would love to get to know her. Who knows, that may happen someday?

Not many days passed, and Alexandra, her husband and their daughter were travelling to Cyprus. Her feelings were mixed, between a sweet anticipation, but also anguish about what it was hidden in the well-sealed wooden box. She had missed her mother, but she had learned to live away from her. When at the age of ten she was forced to move away from her, it took a long time for her to recover. But this separation had made her strong and independent. Like Maria herself.

Now she could live away from her without suffering. On the other hand, James was an exceptional husband, with whom she had excellent communication. He always found the best way to rein in her explosive temperament, which she had inherited from her father. She was very happy with him.

Through her mother’s letters she had realized that she had established a particularly friendly relationship with a Swedish archaeologist and Alexandra would not be surprised at all if she fell in love with him,

-He surely is in love with her, she thought. All men fall in love with my mother. Especially sophisticated men. She is the ideal of a beautiful, cultured, and intelligent woman.

Alexandra herself was quite beautiful, but certainly not as much as her mother was. But she did not mind. The rare beauty creates big problems. She had realized how her father presented her mother: like a trophy to flaunt.

-What matters in a relationship is love, understanding and tenderness, she concluded. Anything that goes beyond the normal creates inequalities that are sometimes very difficult for people to manage.

With the arrival of her daughter, Alexandra felt that she had completed happiness in her life. But she knew that most of the circles in her mother’s life had been left in limbo and placed her with huge gaps. Her unknown origins, her violent separation from her teacher and saviour, her typical marriage that took place basically to please her mother, the coercion by her husband to separate her from her daughter. It was a lot of them gathered. And yet this woman stood like a rock and was imposed by her presence wherever she was.

Her mother deserved to be happy! And Alexandra would never stand in the way of that. She had sacrificed much to please others. It was time for others to offer her as much space as she needed to find happiness.

Alexandra was surprised by her thoughts. She had never been so selfless.

-Maybe motherhood has changed me, she thought. When this event comes into our life, we realize that the joy of giving is greater than the joy of receiving.

She looked at her daughter, who was sleeping deeply, lullabied by the shaking of the ship.

-There isn’t a more beautiful sight than a child sleeping, she concluded. There is so much bliss, so much surrender of self to life, so much trust! Growing up come the doubts, the selfish claims and all this is lost. Similarly, the freshness of the face, the radiance from the eyes and the enjoyment of the person for their very existence, are lost.

Alexandra smiled at her philosophical disposition. It was not common for her!

-Motherhood is to blame, she concluded again.

At that time the cabin door was opened and James, her husband, appeared.

-Come, he told her, I will stay with the child. Go out to enjoy the sunset. It has fantastic colours.

Alexandra felt so full of the presence of her daughter that she had no other desires, but surely a sunset would help her change her representations and thoughts.

She wore a cardigan and assented to the deck. The sun had gone down and touched the surface of the sea with its disk. Golden, red, yellow, and orange colours spread on the surface of the water, dancing rhythmically with the movement of the waves. The clouds over the sky looking as if they had caught fire and a crowd of passengers was watching enchanted.

Alexandra held with her two hands the handrail of the ship, admiring the majestic phenomenon of the sun sinking into the deep blue waters. Little by little, the colours began to fade. The red clouds initially became golden, then rosy and at the end spread the grey that indicated the departure of the sunset. Not long passed, and the sky was filled with bright stars on the black background of the night. Alexandra was still looking.

-What a beauty, she thought. What a brilliance!

Suddenly and unexpectedly came to her mind, the horrible images she had experienced through in the war. How much pain, how much wretchedness, how much misery! And all this in a world that can be bathed in so much beauty!

-How can these two combine and coexist, she wondered.

She did not get an answer. Likewise, anyone never got, who asked this question. There is only the outcry of human actions that wreak havoc and destruction. But havoc and destruction are also manifestations of nature around us. Associations and questions that remain for centuries. And they do not change. Just as the course followed by the sun has not changed since the beginning of life, just as it keeps its beauty unaltered in all the sunrises and in all the sunsets, even if they take place over scorched earth.

Alexandra returned to her cabin and found James holding their daughter in his arms and talking to her tenderly. She was smiling subtlety.

-Oh, she woke up, Alexandra said. It’s time for her to be fed. One minute to wash myself and breastfeed her.

In a few minutes, she was holding her daughter in her arms, and she was suckling greedily.

-What a two-way relationship breastfeeding is, she pondered. It’s like erotic love. You share the juices of your being with another being and give them life. I am happy to have experienced both those greatest expressions of life!

Then she thought of her mother and their meeting tomorrow at the port of Famagusta. She had telegraphed to them that she would come to pick them up. Mrs. Jennifer Thomson, the wife of the military commander of Nicosia, had lent her driver and her car so that they would not have any difficulty at all. Especially the child.

That night she did not sleep. She knew that the contents of the sealed box would surely contain some tragic information. But they both had to learn. First her mother, then her. It was their roots. The story of their lives. That is the only way they could continue in life, knowing their identity, whatever that may be.

 

 

(Chapter 15)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Nicosia, autumn 1926 – spring 1927

After Kristian’s departure, Maria was upset for a few days. But life had taught her not to be trapped in negative situations, but to use what she has at her disposal as good as possible.

With Kristian, they maintained very frequent correspondence, at least once a week, and through the letters they exchanged, they shared thoughts and opinions on various topics. This helped them to come closer and understand each other better. They did not talk about their common future at all, waiting to see how the circumstances of life would evolve. But they knew fully well that, deep down, that was the goal of them both.

On the other hand, she waited anxiously for the time when her daughter would give birth and was sorry that she was not close to her. She was comforted by the fact that her son-in-law was a doctor and would do the best for his wife and child. In addition, he was an excellent man and a supportive husband. The assurance that they would visit her in the spring was a great relief for her.

She had begun to prepare their room, ordered to a carpenter a cot for the child, and she was completely ready to welcome them. At the same time, she bought many traditional textiles to decorate the room as well as Cypriot silk sheets for the bed of her daughter and son-in-law, and for the child. She tried to bring Cyprus to their room, so that they could get to know her homeland and its tradition.

At the end of February, she got a telegram that Alexandra had given birth to a healthy baby girl and the two of them were fine. How much would she like to have phones in Nicosia to talk to them! She had heard that in Limassol in 1925, someone called George Giordamlis, had installed a limited telephone network, but it was probably for domestic use. In Nicosia, there were only small telephone networks for government offices. So, Maria would have to wait for the arrival of the whole family in Cyprus, to talk to them.

Beside the above activities, Maria had visited the lawyer Georgios Antoniou a few times, to see if he had any information about his colleague Eleftherios Constantinou. Unfortunately, Mr. Antoniou could not find anything enlightening about her search. Eleftherios’ grandparents had died, and it seemed that he did not maintain correspondence with any of their common acquaintances. So here she found again a dead end.

At the same time, she began to visit more often the wife of the military commander of Nicosia, Mrs. Jennifer Thomson. Little by little they became friends. Mrs. Thomson, despite giving the impression of a plain woman, she was basically a very good person and as she turned out to be very studious. Maria had begun to introduce her to the Cypriot history and culture, and together they frequently visited the Women’s Bazaar, buying embroidery and textiles for their home. She taught her about the tragic fate of the place and its people, and Mrs. Thomson began to change her mind about the “locals”. Her children adored her when she told them stories about India and the mysteries of Egypt.

Mrs. Vassilia’s daughters also found in her face a lady who could take them to distant and magical places. They looked at her with eyes wide open and could not get enough of hearing her. In turn, they then conveyed Maria’s stories to their friends and classmates. Even their teachers waited to hear the new stories they learned from this exotic English Lady.

One day, as she recounted to them Carter’s discovery of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s mummy and the wondrous objects found inside the only undisturbed Pharaoh tomb ever discovered, she realized a timeless truth. She was explaining to the girls, that when this young Pharaoh died at the age of 19, his successors tried to erase his name from history. They destroyed all the signs that mentioned his name and did not include him in the long row with the names of the Pharaohs of Egypt. And yet three thousand years later, his grave was found undisturbed! This event made him the most famous Pharaoh in the world.

-The whole world now knows Tutankhamun, and his life will be studied for many years to come. That means justice. For every injustice that is done, there is the reciprocation of the universe that will balance things. Even if three thousand years have passed!

And she whispered, as inside her, she thought of herself:

-One way or another, the truth will be found.

But what filled Maria and gave her deep joy and emotion were her visits to Mr. Demetrios Demetriou. Despite his daughter’s initial negative attitude, Maria dared to visit him again. As soon as his daughter saw her, she was ready to drive her away, but again Demetrios appeared and invited her inside.

Maria’s presence it seemed to have a therapeutic effect on the elderly gentleman. At least for ten minutes after he saw her, his spirit was illuminated by a strange glimpse, and he told her stories with Antonios Philippou, before returning to the state of confusion and oblivion. However, a calmness erupted to him during the hours that followed, and this made his daughter accept her amicably and even treat her with coffee and sweets.

The short stories of Demetriou were lively and opened a window into time for Maria to learn how her beloved teacher lived and acted. There was nothing that could give her more pleasure.

One day, to her surprise, she realized that one of the photographs that adorned the wretched table of the hall (eliakos) of Demetrios house, presented her teacher with Demetrios posing on a street in Nicosia. She grabbed it in her hands with longing and looked at it with emotion. He was not like she remembered him. He had aged, and his hair had turned white. The details of his face were lost in the faint outline of the black and white photograph, and yet one could see his bright gaze! It illuminated his face, and the whole photo.

Demetrios immediately realized her action and said:

-Take it Maria, take it to remind you of Antonios.

Maria turned and looked at his daughter, who nodded approvingly. She did not hesitate any more. She took the photo in her hands and looked at whether there was the photographer’s name. She read: Papazian 1905.

-Very important photographer, said Demetrios’ daughter. He was the photographer of the Commissioner.

-Maybe if I find him, and he has the negative plate, I will tell him to reprint one for me and return it to you, Maria suggested.

-You don’t have to, said Demetrios daughter. I do not think that Mr. Papazian is still alive.

Maria kept the precious photo. She searched for Mr. Papazian, but she could not find him. So, she bought a frame and placed it in the most prominent position in the living room of her house.

Having this routine in her everyday life, she was trying to balance within her the absence of Kristian, her longing to see her daughter and granddaughter, but above all the absence of information about the teacher and her past.

Of course, until now, she had found some information about her teacher, but these did not lead her on the way to her origins. But even what she had found gave her the context and the environment in which this excellent man, Antonios Philippou had lived and had been active.

And while she had originally invented a lie, that she would write a book about Cyprus, to justify her research, she was now certain that she had collected enough evidence to write about the life and work of Antonios Philippou.

She had begun to record the information she was collecting and especially after her visits to Mr. Demetrios Demetriou, she noted every detail he mentioned to her, slowly forming the skeleton for her book.

There were also times when she wondered if it was worthwhile to delve into her past like that and look for a truth that would surely be painful and tragic. After she had been rescued from that wretched house, life had generously given her opportunities and experiences. Very few women in Cyprus – perhaps none – were given the possibilities presented to her. Her parents adored her, and if there was not their action for her complete separation from the teacher, she would have no complaints with them. Her husband, despite the flaws she found in him, had given her a rich life, had travelled with him to magical countries and never stood in the way of her love of learning.

So why was she looking for something that would surely cause her pain? Perhaps because she too, like every plant that grows on this planet, has roots and if you cut even one of these roots, the plant will not be able to fully grow. Although in her life up to this day, she herself had blossomed, she lacked something basic: the truth. She had to find it and bequeath it to her daughter. It was the original root of their existence.

And while she felt that things about her were at a standstill, around the end of March 1927, she received a telegram from her daughter that shook her. She felt that at last, the gears that every day move the earth around the sun, were mobilized and began to move for her own life:

“Eleftherios Constantinou visited me. He has evidence from the teacher. He will ask permission to give it to me. As soon as we have it, we leave for Cyprus.”

-It’s not possible, she thought. I have been looking for him for so long in Nicosia, and he is in London!

Before she managed to recover from the shocking news, another telegram arrived:

“I am Eleftherios Constantinou. I have a package for you from Antonios Philippou. Am I allowed to give it to your daughter, Alexandra James Macdonald?”

She replied immediately:

“Deliver the package to Alexandra as soon as possible. Thank you very much”.

From that moment on, her life was filled with a different agony: not whether she would find evidence of her origins, but what these elements would be and how she would manage them. She often woke up at night sweaty. She had dreams of the Turkish house, Mother Ayşe, Fatma, master Suleiman, moving in a vortex and sometimes approaching her and sometimes moving away and fading into the void.

Somewhere in this nightmarish situation, she felt an unprecedented feeling: the embrace of a woman. It was a very blurry impression, but it gave her security and happiness.

-Is it possible for me to remember my mother? She wondered. Never have I had such a memory. Maybe deep inside my subconscious there is something.

Her mother’s thought had begun to fill her existence. A longing was burning for this unknown mother. What would have happened? She frequently wondered. Had her mother died, and she was taken to the Turkish house, or had they indeed stolen her, as Mrs. Aydan had claimed?

It was difficult for her to form herself and rein in her thoughts. For the first time in her life, she was constantly in a state of confusion and anguish. Even her visits to Demetrios did not bring her the same satisfaction. She had lost interest in almost everything.

She wrote a lengthy letter to Kristian, informing him of the recent events and the emotions that overwhelmed her.

-Luckily, there’s him, she thought. He is the only person to whom I can unfold my heart and unload the burden I hold.

Kristian’s response was brief but substantive:

My beloved Maria

At last, things have been taken to where you would like them to be led. The truth about your life, my dear Maria, has always existed and nothing will change when you read what your teacher recorded for you. It is just that this truth will illuminate your past and possibly open new paths for your future.

Don’t be afraid. When you read what is in the package from your teacher, you will have your daughter by your side. The only person in the world in whom this truth has a reflection. You will not be alone, and you are not alone either now.

Maria, your story proves beyond doubt that you are protected and the criminal actions of people in your childhood have not been able to stop your glorious course in life. Always remember that!

I am always by your side; And if necessary I will come and be physically present for you;

Don’t be afraid. Everything will be fine!

With love

Kristian

Kristian’s words had a magical effect on her. They took her out of the emotionally dangerous situation in which she was trapped and helped her find her usual composure.

Whatever events were recorded by her teacher, she would face them with courage. She could not change the past. She could only manage the present. And she would manage it in the best way for her, her daughter, and her granddaughter.

Now in a structured way, she made the last arrangements for the arrival of her daughter, her son-in-law, and her granddaughter from the port of Famagusta. She asked Mrs. Jennifer Thomson for the military car that had recently been given to the family and together with the driver they set off for the port of Famagusta.

The road passed through the plain of Mesaoria and Maria remembered the first day she had arrived in Cyprus and made the same route by train. Then it was summer, and all the fields were harvested. They spread around, yellow, and monotonous. This time it was spring, early April. The fields were all green and on their outskirts, as well mixed and with the grain, bloomed bright red poppies, yellow daisies, and colourful wildflowers. Everything was gorgeous.

-I am glad that my daughter will see all this beauty today, she thought. Our country has done its best and welcomes her with all its brilliance.

As soon as they arrived at the port, she told the driver to wait, and she proceeded to the reception hall.

Her daughter’s family arrived with the last passengers. They certainly did not want the child to suffer, and waited for the crowd to leave.

Amid the hugs, kisses and emotion of reunion, Maria could not help but noticing a wooden box that was stacked over their luggage. Therein lay the secret of her life.

As they began the journey back with her granddaughter in her arms, smiling, Maria knew that the first chapter of her existence would open in very little.

-The wind of my fate has blown, she thought. Soon the nails from the box will be gone, and the information left for me by the teacher will be revealed.

She shuddered and smiled at her daughter, who admired the landscape that was bathed under the bright sun of her homeland.

 

 

Bibliography:

https://www.cyta.com.cy/chronology

 

(Chapter 16)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Nicosia, spring 1927

They arrived in Nicosia around five o’clock in the afternoon. Mrs. Vassilia was waiting for them with the table set up with all the Cypriot sweets: ladies fingers, bourekia, (small stuffed patties) cookies and small sandwiches with halloumi. While they were taking their luggage in the house, she quickly prepared a teapot with English tea.

They all sat around the table and between a lively discussion to complete their news and first impressions of Cyprus, they also tried Mrs. Vassilia’s sweets. James could not get enough of eating the patties, while Alexandra found the ladies fingers very tasty and delicious the halloumi sandwiches.

Maria felt very happy with this wonderful company that filled her home. She had an exceptional feeling of fullness from the presence of the people she loved. In the background, however, there was an anxiety about the wooden box and its contents. Until now, none of them had talked about it.

After the afternoon tea, her daughter went to their room to breastfeed and put her daughter to sleep. Maria sat down with James in the living room, and the talk about the wooden box, was brought up. He handed it over to Maria, who stayed a few minutes looking at it not knowing how to open it, but deep down terrified about its contents.

James, realizing her awkwardness, took it from her hands, took a sharp object and pulled out the nails. He lifted the cover and showed its contents, overflowing on the floor. It was filled with letters that were never sent, multipage texts and a thick notebook that had written on its cover in Greek:

For Maria – The story of her life as narrated by Mother Ayşe.

James, although he could not read what was written on the cover of the notebook in thick letters, he realized its meaning and gave it to Maria, leaving the room discreetly.

She was left holding it in her hands and reading the black letters again and again, as she was not able to understand their meaning. Then she turned and looked at the rest of the contents of the box: letters yellowed by the age, speeches and articles written by her teacher, scattered on the floor, as if they were claiming the right to exist, after so many years. It was the voice of her teacher coming out of the wooden box.

She was still holding the thick notebook in her hands, without having opened it, when Alexandra entered the living room. She sat next to her and asked her tenderly:

-Do you want us to read it together?

-Thank you very much, but I don’t think so, Maria replied. The Greek you know is very little – what I taught you until the age of ten – and I would like to read it first. I don’t know what’s in it, but it certainly won’t be pleasant. I will wait after dinner and translate the important points to you in the morning. Now I want to enjoy you and your presence in my home.

Saying this, she got up, picked up the contents of the box from the floor and tidy them up. Then she went to the kitchen to help Mrs. Vassilia with the preparation of the dinner.

When they sat down at the table, almost none of them were hungry, after the rich afternoon tea they had taken. So, despite the delicious food that Mrs. Vassilia had prepared, they ate very little. Deep down, all three of them were anxious about the content of the thick notebook.

After dinner, they took their tea and James and Alexandra discreetly withdrew to their bedroom, leaving Maria alone. She did not put it off any more. She took the notebook in her hands and began to read.

As the text was written in first person, the way mother Ayşe had narrated it, Maria thought she was listening to her speaking. She watched her sitting in her armchair and tell the story. It seemed to her like a fairy tale, which did not concern her, and she had difficulty identifying with its content, especially in the first pages.

In the beginning, Mother Ayşe was talking about herself and the fact that while she was born a Christian, the harsh circumstances of the time made her a Muslim. Then she was talking about her son, how much she had spoiled him, and it was obvious that she was trying to justify him for his actions.

She read several pages until she reached the point where she was referring to her mother. She put a mark on the page to start translating for Alexandra:

-My son traded. He collected the carobs from the villages and took them to Skala for export. He was making a lot of money from this job, and he was rich. This made him proud and believe that any woman he wanted would become his. I used to say to him: Son, find a girl from our village and get married. Don’t look in other villages. And don’t look at Christian women. Your father will never let you marry any Christian. He didn’t listen to me. He had become conceited.

-We were living in Vretsia. The inhabitants of the village were both Turks and Greeks. I knew that my husband had agreed with Fatma’s father to get them married. Fatma was rich, and my husband liked riches. I tried to tell my son about it, but he thought he could defy his father. My husband was a tough man. He beat my Suleiman and threatened him that he would take everything he had and leave him with nothing. He was forced to marry Fatma, but he never loved her.

-One day he went to a village in Paphos, called Emba. There he saw a girl he really liked. He fell in love with her immediately. He was told she was a Christian, but he didn’t care.

-This girl, as soon as she noticed the Turk who was looking at her, ran to hide in her house. My son followed her, and then he learned of her origins. She came from a noble family, Frankish. Her father was a descendant of John Denores who was the Vailos (commander) of Emba and the surrounding villages, during the Franks occupation of Cyprus. I do not know how her father’s family stayed in Cyprus when everyone else left. Eleonora, that was her name, was a lady. Very pretty, my son, Maria, looked like her a lot. There was no prettiest girl in the whole of the Paphos region. She could also read and write. A rare thing for the time.

-Her father, when his daughter told him what had happened, as well as other villagers who saw my son following her, got angry but also scared. The Turks, then, had great power, did what they wanted, and no one could find justice. He sold all his property and left Emba.

-When my son went back, they had disappeared. Suleiman became furious, he threatened the villagers to tell him where they went, but no one knew. Meanwhile, Fatma learned the story and began to be unimaginably jealous. My son didn’t want her in the first place, after they didn’t even have children, he almost hated her. I was trying in every way to bring them together, but things were very difficult.

-No man can escape from his fate, my son. A few years had passed, and my son went to another village of Paphos, Statos. He was thirsty, and he passed from the public fountain to drink water. There he saw Eleonora. She was filling her jugs with water from the fountain and loaded them on her donkey. My son hid so as not to see him. On the donkey sat a little girl, beautiful too. She was her daughter, Maria. He went crazy with jealousy.

-He asked and found out what had happened. When they left Emba, they went to Statos and bought the largest house at the highest point of the village. As I have said, they were rich. Her father chose the strongest young man of the village and gave him to her, as a husband. His name was Alexandros. He wasn’t rich, but he was very strong. Thus, he believed, his daughter would be protected.

Maria stopped here in shock. She realized that tears were coming out from her eyes, non-stop. She could hardly see to read. But what riveted her was her father’s name.

-Alexandros, she whispered. My father was called Alexandros.

She remembered her own insistence on naming their daughter Alexandra and the struggle she made to convince her husband. She did not know why, but an inner need pushed her to that name. Her father’s name!

She got up and prepared a cup of tea, trying to calm down. She looked at the clock of the wall. The time was 2.30 in the morning. She was in no mood to sleep. She would read the story up to the end. It was the story of her life and as tragic as it was, she had to know it.

She heard the child in the room crying and realized that Alexandra got up to breastfeed. Not many minutes passed, and Alexandra came out of the room and came to her. It was obvious that she was restless and seemed sleepless.

-How are things going? She asked her. Have you read the notebook that your teacher left for you?

-Your grandfather was called Alexandros, Maria replied with tears in her eyes, as if this was the most important thing she read.

-I haven’t finished reading it yet. Although what I had known so far led in one way or another to a faint outline of the story, it’s shocking to read the details.

-Do you want to talk to me a little about what you have learned? Alexandra begged her.

-No, it’s better until I’m done. I can imagine what had happened, but I want to read it, no matter how painful it may be. It won’t be easy for you, either. Try to sleep, and we will talk in the morning.

Reluctantly, Alexandra returned to her room and Maria took a deep breath and continued reading.

-My son, from that moment, went crazy. He realized that now he could no longer make Eleonora his own, but the worst thing was that she had had a child, while he had been childless. A thousand devils entered his mind.

-My son, love can be a great disease. The greatest that exists if you cannot have the one you love. Suleiman was always used to get what he wanted, and that is my fault. It is very bad to give children everything they crave. They become greedy, greed rules their lives and leads them to dark roads.

-From that moment on, he was constantly missing. He didn’t tell anyone where he was going and was away for days. Fatma was about to go crazy with jealousy. My husband was already dead, and he had no one to fear any more. I threatened him that I would curse him if he did something bad – a curse he was very afraid of – but at that time, he did not listen to me with at all.

-One day he came and told us that he bought a house away, and we would go to live there. Fatma was crying, she didn’t want to leave the village and her family. He gave us no option.

-Tomorrow we leave, he said. Take with you only your clothes. For everything else, I have taken care of myself. I’ll take you to a palace that has it all.

-The next day we left. We took with us only our clothes and Eminé, whom I had as an adopted servant daughter. No one knew where we were going. All our relatives were crying and with them, we were crying too.

-He brought us here, to this house. We didn’t know anyone, and no one knew us either. He ordered us not to hang out with the neighbours. The house was a real palace, but for us, it was a prison. We had both lived in the village, with our relatives and friends, we used to open our door, to say good morning to everyone, to have coffee with the neighbours, we chatted. Here we could not even say good morning.

-After a few days, he left again. We were both in agony what would happen this time. One night he returned and held a bundle in his arms. As soon as he walked in, he opened the bundle and we both saw a little girl around three to four, crying silently. She was terrified. He gave the little girl to Fatma and told her, “This is our daughter.”

-What happened then, my son, is indescribable. Fatma suffered a hysterical crisis and she was screaming. She grabbed the little girl and tried to drown her. We barely saved her from her hands. The little girl, Maria, began to cry in terror, Fatma was shouting hysterically, beating herself, and not even Suleiman’s power could hold her back.

Here Maria stopped reading. She had been drowned by her sobs. The nightmares that have been woken up for years in her sleep were echoes of this scene.

-How cruel, how inhuman, she thought. She had really been stolen! Mrs. Aydan was right. And mother Ayşe, how could she tolerate this?

She was no longer able to control her thoughts. Her brain stopped working. She leaned her head into the armchair, exhausted and almost fainted.

In the morning, when Alexandra got up, she found her mother sleeping in the armchair holding in her hand the notebook with the thick cover. Her chest was shaken by small groans, and it was obvious that she was suffering.

She was wondering if she should wake her up or not when Maria opened her eyes. They were all red. It seemed that she had cried a lot. But as soon as she saw her daughter, her face calmed.

-What’s going on, mother? What is written in this notebook? Alexandra asked her.

-I have read what I have always known deep in my soul. It is written what I had in my nightmares. I thought it was hard for both of us that your father made us live away of each other, at the age of ten. But it is nothing compared to what my own mother lived through!

-Tell me, mother, what is written in this notebook? I’m about to become crazy in agony.

-Sit down and I’ll tell you. I will translate to you the pages that directly concern my own life, because there are many details about the life of the Turkish family. I will translate these things to you later.

Meanwhile, James also woke up and sat down with them. Maria told them the story to the point where she had read it. Alexandra was in a state of shock. As a young mother, in love with her daughter, she could not imagine what her grandmother went through. Her brain was going to explode.

-What had happened next? James asked. Does it say anything about your mother and father?

-I haven’t read more, Maria replied. I will have to continue reading, and I will tell you later. Furthermore, I couldn’t stand it any more.

-Mother, you should lie down for a while, Alexandra urged her. You look exhausted. Nothing will change if we find out later, what had happened. These events took place many years ago and nothing can be corrected now.

-Yes, James agreed. As a doctor, I recommend that you to lie down immediately. We’ll find out later. You should know that we are by your side, and we will support you in whatever comes up.

Maria did not object. She agreed to lie down. Her strength had abandoned her. She just asked them:

-Please name your daughter Eleonora, after my mother.

-We will call our daughter Eleonora – Maria. Be sure of that. It’s the most beautiful name in the world!

Before Maria lay down, she had the tea that Alexandra prepared for her and passed by their room to see little Eleonora – Maria, who was sleeping blissfully.

She had already been lying on her bed when she heard Mrs. Vassilia arriving for the daily care of the house. She would not want her to see her in this miserable state and was glad that she could be locked in her room. Alexandra, with the little Greek she knew, would be able to justify her.

She closed her eyes and while she was in the state between sleep and awake she saw her teacher in front of her, smiling, telling her:

-Do not be afraid, Maria. Everything will be fine. Today you have opened the door to the dark past, to let it go. The bright future that is coming, awaits you.

She felt a calmness and with the smiling face of the teacher, who alternated with that of Kristian, dominating, she fell asleep.

 

Biblebiography:

Ιστορικές ειδήσεις για την Έμπα Πάφου

 

 

(Chapter 17)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Nicosia, spring 1927

Even though Maria’s sleep was agitated, and she often woke up, she felt surrounded by a hug and faintly watched her mother’s face project. Her characteristics were not obvious, but the sense of her presence was clear.

As she woke up completely, she remembered something she had learned when she was staying in Egypt. An archaeologist had explained to her, that the ancient Egyptians believed that the soul of a person consists of five elements, which are necessary for them to exist after death. One of them is the name of each person. If you do not have a name, you get lost in nothingness.

It seems that speaking aloud her mother’s name after so many years, brought her existence to life and gave her form.

Could my mother live? She wondered. Very unlikely. Should I have siblings? I must read the sequel to the narration of Mother Ayşe.

And without further ado she entered the living room, took the thick notebook, and came back. No one noticed her. Mrs. Vassilia was in the kitchen and the others in their room.

She sat on her bed and continued reading:

-In the evening I took the child with me, to sleep in my bed. She was crying, poor child, and she was terrified. All night I didn’t sleep. I made my decisions and in the morning I announced them to my son and my daughter-in-law:

-You should get the child back to her family, I said. Your wife doesn’t want her, and what you did is a crime. God will punish you. You must take the child back to her parents.

-I can’t, my son told me. Her father will kill me. He’s very strong. Besides, I want her as our daughter. She – and she showed Fatma – doesn’t have children. I want children. We will change her name, and no one will know that it is not ours.

-Fatma again began screaming and threatening to kill her. I remember that I got up and gave a slap to my son and another one to Fatma. First time in my life, I beat a person. My son looked at me in amazement. I should have given him this slap years ago! Fatma stopped screaming and began to cry silently.

-Don’t you dare, I told them to change her name! She was baptized Maria and will remain Maria. I will curse you both and my curse will burn your soul! Deep inside, I had my own wound when my name was changed from Eleni to Ayşe. I would never wish I was the cause to do this to another human being.

-We won’t change her name, but I won’t take her back! Do you want your son to be killed? He asked me. And you, she asked Fatma, do you want to be left without a husband? What do you want? Maria will stay here until we see what happens.

-And so, Maria stayed. To protect her from Fatma and not to be seen by others, we had her in the garden to take care of the animals. Slowly-slowly, she forgot the Greek she knew and spoke only Turkish. As she grew older, she became more beautiful. My son was seeing Eleonora in her face, and his ill love for this woman began to be addressed to the child. I was horrified and disgusted by what was going to come.

-Every night I prayed, once to Allah and once to Christ, to find a way to save the little girl. And then you came, my son, and you brought the English lady, and Maria was saved. I am grateful to you, my son, for that.

-When Maria left the house, my son had at first become furious, but slowly he calmed down and began to reflect on what he had done. He often talked to me about his thoughts, and never before had we come closer. He suffered for his actions, but now it was too late. Nothing could be corrected.

-As time went by, we all relaxed and started to have contacts with our relatives in Paphos. I tried to find out then what happened to Maria’s parents. It wasn’t easy because I didn’t want to raise suspicions. Luckily, however, one day a relative of ours came from the village and on the conversation she began to talk to me about a Frankish lady whose daughter was kidnapped and she, from her languish, died. Her husband had become wild from anger and grief. He searched for the person responsible, but he could not find anyone, Disheartened and desperate, he got on a ship and left. No one has seen him since.

-I don’t know, my son, if it’s true, but I couldn’t learn anything else. I don’t have any good news for Maria. But I told you everything I knew. I hid nothing

-Son, now I can die and meet my God, up there in heaven. If He is called Christ or Allah, it doesn’t matter. He will be good, I know, because God is only goodness. God has no hatred. I hope He is also forgiveness. To forgive me and my son. Maria, I don’t know if she will ever forgive us. We took everything from her, but it seems that God gave it back to her, in another way. Ask her my son to forgive us! If she can do it…

This is where the narration of Mother Ayşe ended. Maria leaned back and cried silently. At some point, her bedroom door opened, and her daughter walked in to see how she was doing. She was horrified to see her in such a state. But Maria nodded to her.

-Don’t worry, she told her. They are the tears of redemption. I have read the whole narration of Mother Ayşe. I cry for my parents, those people who both perished after my own disappearance. My mother seems to have died, and my father left Cyprus forever. For this reason, you should give your daughter her name. To let her have a right to existence. You have my father’s name.

At this point, she recounted to her what she had learned in Egypt, about the name of each person.

-We have already named her Eleonora – Maria. And it seems that she likes it, every time we call her like that. She smiles and responds. We will do anything to honour the memory of your parents.

And she repeated emphatically:

-Everything! Come, I have asked Mrs. Vassilia to return home. I have prepared tea, and we have a bunch of sweets from yesterday. We will sit down to have our tea, and you will tell us what happened next.

Maria got up and washed her face. When she looked in the mirror, she was horrified by her appearance. She tried to relax and smiled faintly, to show that everything was alright.

As they were taking their afternoon tea, Maria recounted to them the continuation of Mother Ayşe’s narration. Alexandra was crying non-stop. She was shocked by this tragic story. James was not talking, but it was obvious that he was very moved.

-This story, Maria concluded, in addition to the pain caused to me by the details I have learned, it also brought me a redemption. Now I know what had happened. The most tragic figures are my parents, and I can’t imagine what I could do to justify their existence on earth.

-These atrocities were not rare during the Turkish occupation. Very often they took the beautiful girls for the harems of the pashas, and for the boys they applied the child mass to integrate them into the body of the janissaries. The janissaries were an elite part of the army of the Ottoman Empire and consisted mainly of children of the Greek enslaved. They were Islamized, had harsh discipline, received excellent military training, and often developed hatred for the Christians.

-Ever since people began to organize themselves into groups and create societies, the law of the possible has always prevailed. Only with civilization, humanity can put justice and universal principles above their personal desires and animal instincts. And still through culture and laws, we find ways to blackmail our self-interest, James commented. Do not forget about the recent war. It was made between “civilized nations.”

-You’re right, James, Maria added. When man has an unaccountable power in his hands, he becomes brutal, cruel, and heartless. Animals kill only to feed themselves, which is a natural necessity of existence. People are happy to kill and torture for satisfaction.

-Another piece of information I did not expect is that my mother came from the Frankish conquerors of Cyprus. She seems to have been a lady, that is why I had a golden cross. It would be interesting to learn about this family of John Denores. I imagine the library of the British Museum may have information about families of Frankish aristocrats, although they may have been Venetians too. We don’t really know. I will search in the library of the Pancyprian Gymnasium and the Library of Phaneromeni.

-I will visit the British Museum when I return, promised Alexandra. Likewise, I would like to know about our ancestors.

-I feel as if my life has included the history of Cyprus for the last five hundred years, Maria concluded.  I come from the Franks and Greeks of Cyprus, I was stolen by Turks, and I lived with them for a few years, and I was raised by an English family. All this could create a vague identity for me, but I feel deeply Cypriot, and the history of my country is intertwined with my life.

-Does your teacher write something else other than the narration of Mother Ayşe? Alexandra asked.

-I’ll have to look in the letters contained in the box. I’m sure he would have investigated it more. My teacher wouldn’t leave it that way. Perhaps he found some clues about my parents that are not included in Mother Ayşe’s narration.

At that moment, Eleonora – Maria was heard crying. Alexandra ran and brought her. The presence of the child dried their eyes from tears and filled their faces with smiles. It was the rebirth of life and in her, all three, saw the revival and atonement of the tragic figure of Eleonora.

-All the misery and barbarities of this world are washed away only by the creation of new life. I promise to teach my daughter, but also to as many other children as I may have, that respecting each other’s happiness is more important than fulfilling our own self-centred desires.

-This is what Mother Ayşe was trying to say, with her simplicity, Maria added. She constantly blames herself for her son’s crimes because she did not teach him to respect other people, but only satisfied all his desires.

Eleonora – Maria started crying again, and it was obvious that she was hungry. So, Alexandra went to her room to breastfeed her, and James began to take the dishes from the table to the kitchen.

Maria was left alone in the dining room and took the wooden box back in her hands. She spread the contents of the box on the table and tried to sort the yellowed letters and the multipage speeches of her teacher. There were letters written since 1888 when she herself left Cyprus, which of course were never sent. All were addressed to Mary McCain, but none of them had a mail address. The last letter was dated December 8, 1907. She understood that any additional information about her life would be recorded in it. But she did not open it.

She began to put the remaining letters in order, based on the date they were written, and then she sorted in the same order and the speeches. She brought two new smaller boxes and carefully put the letters in one and the speeches in the other. Furthermore, she kept them in a cabinet in her library, which she then locked.

The night had already fallen, and it was a big surprise for her when she heard a knock at the door. Surprised, she opened it and saw a woman standing in front of her, dressed in Turkish attire. She was not wearing a ferret, and she could see her face, scratched by wrinkles. She was looking at her in amazement when the woman spoke in Turkish and said:

-I am Eminé. Aydan told me that you are asking about me. You are, definitely, Maria.

Maria’s surprise was indescribable. She could not recognize her old acquaintance at all. She was so old! Not only that, but she seemed many years older than her, but she might have been older, three or four years. She also could not overlook her gaze, which was full of bitterness and denial.

However, she invited her inside and had her sit in the living room. At that moment, Alexandra came in and looked at the unexpected visitor in surprise.

-It’s Eminé, Maria explained to her.

And turning to Eminé she continued:

-She is my daughter, Alexandra.

After a typical handshake, Alexandra left.

They both remained silent, looking at each other. Their short, distant, common past passed lightning fast from their memory. They had never been very connected, but now Eminé could be holding some very important information about her life, Maria thought.

She herself had been through a very charged day and felt exhausted. But she would have to handle this moment as best she could. For two reasons:

Surely this old woman opposite her was able to clarify her past more, but at the same time, she felt the need to ease somehow the bitterness she saw in her eyes. At the time, Maria felt as if she was the strongest of the two of them, and it was her obligation to give Eminé something positive, a hope.

She assembled her strength and looked her in the eyes, smiling. Their lives had once met. On the fabric of space-time, there were wefts that were common and indivisible. They could now offer each other something of the truth they carried or acquired during life. Two different women, with different experiences, but who had something to share.

Maria decided to lead the conversation. Now was the time.

 

Bibliography:

Great Cyprus Encyclopaedia

http://www.polignosi.com/cgibin/hweb?-A=2361&-V=limmata

 

(Chapter 18)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Nicosia, spring 1927

-How did you understand that it was me, Maria, who was looking for you? She asked her, as politely as she could

-I had heard something when that teacher visited Mother Ayşe and I realized that you were taken by the English lady who came to our house at the time. It was easy to understand who was the English lady looking for me, now. So, what do you want from me? She asked abruptly

-First, I would like to offer you something, Maria suggested. Would you like a cup of tea, a cup of coffee?

-I don’t want anything. Just tell me what you want me about?

Before answering, Maria went to the buffet and took the box of expensive Swiss chocolates that her daughter had brought to her. She treated Eminé, who, for the first time in her life, had seen or tasted chocolate. She liked it so much that she got a second one.

-Take the whole box. It’s yours, Maria told her. I was looking for you, Eminé because I wanted to ask you if you knew anything about my parents. I spent my entire life not knowing who I am and where I was coming from. Now I have been in possession of some documents left to me by my teacher, Antonios Philippou, as recounted to him by Mother Ayşe, and so I know my origins. But if you know something more about my parents, since you live in Paphos, I would like you to tell me.

Eminé, chewing the chocolates, replied, full of bitterness:

-I see you have a daughter too! And you’re still beautiful! And rich! While I am an ugly old woman who never had children and I have lived all my life to serve master Suleiman, his twisted wife Fatma and mother Ayşe. I didn’t get married while I was young, I don’t have children, I have nothing in my life!

-I was stolen from my parents, Maria dared to say.

-So what? Eminé continued. My parents gave me to Mother Ayşe because they didn’t have to feed me, and they never cared about me. You have always been the beautiful, the lucky one. Mother Ayşe loved you, no one loved me.

Maria never expected to find a person who would envy her for the miserable life she made in the Turkish house. And yet this old woman, opposite her, considered her luckier than her!

-This is not possible, Mother Ayşe would love you, Maria said. She was a very good woman.

-Yes, she was so good that she left me her house in Vretsia when she died. But I was old, and I couldn’t have children any more. I then got married to a widowed drunken, who used to beat me for no reason, and fortunately he died in a few years. Now I am alone and waiting to die. Nothing else.

Maria felt depressed by this bitter confession by Eminé. It was difficult to oppose any argument to the blunt words she heard. However, she responded with a positive spirit, trying to encourage this life-disappointed woman.

-And yet Eminé, you live in your village, you have your own house, you are independent. I am sure that you have relatives and friends there. Since you didn’t have children of your own, you could help your family with their own children. I was not the child of the parents who raised me, and yet they loved me with the same strength that natural parents love. When you give love, you will get love, this is how the law of nature works.

Eminé looked at her without answering. Deep down she found justice in Maria’s arguments, but she was used to self-pity, and this was the way she wanted to face her life. She ignored Maria’s last words and continued, answering her original question:

-When you got lost, I often thought of you and envied you. I imagined that you became queen and travelled in a golden carriage. I wanted someone to come and pick me up from that awful house. When everyone died, and I went to Paphos, in my village in Vretsia, I started asking about you. Few remembered your story. Many years had passed, and everyone cared about their own sufferings.

-I knew that master Suleiman had stolen you from Statos village. I had so much curiosity that one day I went to the fairy of Panagia Chrysorogiatissa, with some Christian women from my village. You know, we also go to Christian fairies, it doesn’t matter that we are Muslims. This monastery is close to Statos. Many villagers were there. Some sold their goods; others went to pay their respects to the Virgin Mary.

-We sat, with my friends, in a place to have loukoumades (sweet traditional doughnut). Next to us was a group of women from Statos. We started talking between us, and I was not embarrassed to ask them if they knew the story of Maria, who had been stolen by the Turk Suleiman. The younger ones knew nothing, but an old woman looked at me suspiciously and asked:

-How do you know about Maria?

-I was working for master Suleiman, at his home in Chora, and I knew Maria. But she was lost from our house, and I think she was taken by an English lady, I replied. I’m curious, what happened to her?

-Do you know where Maria is? She asked me again.

-No, I don’t know. And now that I’m talking about this story is because all have died in my master’s house. Otherwise, I wouldn’t speak.

-Maria’s mother, Eleonora, was a Frankish lady from Emba, an only child, the old woman began her narration. Such a beautiful woman had never not been born again. One day the Turk, Suleiman, saw her and craved her. When her father found out, he took his wife and their daughter, and left Emba. They came and settled in our village, to save Eleonora.

-All the lads of our village fell in love with her, so great was her beauty. But her father chose Alexandros and got them married. Alexandros was an orphan and poor man, but the strongest. Not only of our village, but of the whole of Paphos. Every Easter, in the games that took place in the church’s yard, only he could lift the dijimi (a huge boulder that only someone very strong could move). Everyone was afraid of him. But he was a very nice young man and loved Eleonora very much.

-When they had Maria, all people were jealous of their happiness. They named her Maria because it was the name of his mother, who had died young. Maria was beautiful, she looked like Eleonora, but she was not blonde. She had Alexandros’ black hair. There is a proverb that says: human happiness, when it reaches a certain height, pulls on it the thunderbolt. That’s what these people got!

-When the child was lost, everyone understood that the Turk had taken her. Alexandros went to Vretsia to find him – he would have killed him – but he had disappeared. No one knew where he went. His family was also lost with him. Everyone thought they had left Cyprus.

-Eleonora did not live long after that. She died in a few months, because of her languish. Alexandros, desperate, searched for some more time for the Turk, and then he left. He got on a ship and perished forever. Not so long after, Eleonora’s parents also died. Their entire generation has been wiped out.

-When the old lady finished her narration, everyone started asking questions, but she didn’t talk any more. This whole story seemed like a fairy tale to them. They didn’t think it was true. But I knew that all this had happened.

-In the evening they hosted us in their village because it was too far away to go back the same day. In the morning, before we left, the old woman took me to the cemetery and showed me Eleonora’s grave.

The details of Eminé’s narration moved and hurt Maria. It was the only description she had of her parents. How much she would like to hear more! She asked Eminé in a choking voice:

-Does this old woman live?

-I don’t know, I don’t think so. Eminé replied.

Thank you very much for coming to see me, despite the bitterness you feel for your life. You are the only person from my past who lives and no matter how strange it may seem to you, I feel that you are my relative. My only relative. Could I come and visit you in Vretsia?

Eminé was speechless. She never expected to hear such words from Maria, who was now an English lady, especially after what she had told her about her own feelings.

-Why not? Everybody will burst out of jealousy when they see you! My house is big. You may stay if you want to. We can also go to Statos and show you your mother’s grave. And who knows, we might learn something else about your parents.

-Where will you stay tonight? Maria asked her. You can stay here if you want.

-There is no need. I’ll stay with Aydan. After all, she is waiting for me.

-Eminé, before you leave I would like to give you something, a gift to thank you for coming to see me. Ask me whatever you want.

-What can you give me, Maria? Your clothes? Can’t wear them? Your ornaments? People will think I have stolen them. I’ll just take this.

And she showed the box of chocolates. She got up to leave and as she reached the door, she stood and turned back.

-It’s something you can do for me, Maria. Aydan told me that you are writing a book. Write about me in it as well. So that people will know that I was born and that I have lived in this world.

Maria, with tears in her eyes, hugged her and said:

-I will write about you, Eminé. So that everyone knows that you have lived and dedicated your whole life to taking care of others. And that’s great.

After leaving, Eminé felt bursting with a feeling of hope. A feeling she had years to experience. It was as Maria had given her something of her energy, something of her strength in life.

Alexandra impatiently appeared as soon as she heard the door close.

What did she tell you? She asked Maria. I was trying to listen, but you were talking in Turkish, and I couldn’t understand a word.

Maria recounted to her what Eminé had told her and added:

-Eminé’s visit was a revelation to me. All my life I considered myself wronged because I did not have my parents and yet this woman, who had parents, had a more miserable fate than me. This fact has shocked me!

-Perhaps we define our lives, beyond the events we encounter along the way, Alexandra replied. Don’t forget your own inclination for learning that brought you close to the teacher and paved the way for you to freedom. Do you think Eminé would follow the same path if she had met the teacher first?

-I don’t know, Maria, It is very difficult to analyse the facts of life and people’s choices. However, I recognize that I was very lucky after meeting with the teacher. But I had a boundless thirst for learning and an appeal for life that overcame me. Perhaps these were the driving forces that attracted the events in my life. Because whatever happened to me, I was trying to make the most of it. I never stayed crying for my misery. And unfortunately, that’s what Eminé does. That is why she is so miserable.

At that time, James came. They tracked him out for what had happened and for the thoughts they exchanged about the life and fate of people.

-Maria, you’re right, he told her. As a doctor, I can assure you that people who treat their lives and illness with courage and optimism are much more likely to recover. Self-pity is the worst counsellor in the critical hours of our lives.

-However, from the moment the edge for your origins was found, events run, Alexandra observed. Who was expecting for Eminé to come today!

-At the beginning of my research, I was looking for her anxiously, said Maria, but after the evidence I gathered about my teacher and especially after reading mother’s Ayşe narration, I had completely forgotten about her. And yet, surely, she is one of the people who knew the truth. She listened to everything and processed it in her mind. The fact that she knows where my mother’s grave is, it is very important to me.

-We could all go together, James suggested.

-I have never travelled to Paphos and as far as I know it is too far away by Cyprus standards. These villages that they mention, I think, are in the mountains of Paphos, which means that they are even further away. As far as I know the roads are not in good condition in the countryside, and we do not have a car either. We should consider it well before taking such a decision. Don’t forget, we have Eleonora – Maria. It would not be right to trouble her with unknown routes.

-Of course, I could stay here with the child, Alexandra said, and the two of you could go. But mother is right. We should think about it first. Then there are the letters of the teacher. We don’t know what he’s writing.

-I haven’t read his letters yet, said Maria. In the last two days, the information has been overwhelming, and I have not had time to assimilate it.

-Better to eat something casual and lie down to rest, James suggested. Tomorrow is a new day, and always in the morning things look clearer.

They went early to bed because in one way or in the other no one had slept the night before. Maria, despite her emotional exhaustion, was in overstimulation and could not relax. The scenes from the text she had read, Eminé and her narrations, all circulated in her mind, following irregular routes. She understood that in this way it would be impossible to sleep and tried to focus on a single topic. On her mother. On Eleonora.

Her mother’s presence had been pervasive in the last few hours. Those few years that she had rested in her arms and had experienced her love, began to come alive in her memory.  They were not so much images as feelings of care and security. As she closed her eyes, she thought she was a child, that she was perching in a hug and all her needs were satisfied. In an instant she whispered: mother, mother. She was surprised to hear these words and opened her eyes. But she closed them immediately and as she was in Eleonora’s arms, she fell asleep.

 

 

(Chapter 19)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Nicosia, spring 1927

In the morning, although Maria woke up with a headache, she felt her soul light as if she had met her loved ones, as if a window had opened and the sun filled the dark room with light. To her surprise, she was humming. She did not even believe in her reaction, after the tragic events she had learned the day before.

Everyone else was asleep and so, after preparing her tea, she opened the window of her office for the spring morning sunshine to enter. She smelled the roses and basil she had on the porch and sat in her armchair, trying to reflect on where this pleasant mood came from. She was sure that the change had come during her sleep.

Furthermore, she remembered that when she was staying in India a guru had told her that when people sleep their soul travels to other dimensions and meets the supreme knowledge. There they meet people who have passed through their lives. We almost always forget these contacts, but sometimes the effect on our soul is so intense that we transfer to the material world the quality of the feelings we have experienced.

She did not remember what had happened during her sleep, not even as a dream, but she was sure that she was surrounded by the love of her parents and especially Eleonora’s. She felt that she had met them and that somehow their souls were vindicated, that their only child knew their existence and could pronounce their names. Now they could continue their journey into the endless world of good spirits.

She got up and opened the cupboard where she had kept her teacher’s letters. She took the letter dated December 8, 1907 and sat down again in her armchair. She held it for a while in her hands and then began to read:

My beloved Maria

My greatest wish, before I leave life, is for this box to reach your hands. Then you will be able to read the facts about your origins, so that you and your parents will be vindicated.

A few days ago, I visited your mother’s house in Nicosia, in the hope that I could learn something about you, so that I could send you the information I had found. Unfortunately, I also failed this time. As the maid had told me, your mother had left for London early in September, to meet you there. You would bring your daughter to study, and you wanted her to stay with her, because you would leave again for India. I was very sorry that I did not learn that in time. I would have come to London to meet you. Unfortunately, as many times in the past I had visited your mother to learn about you, she was very cautious, not to say negative, and so I did not have the courage to go there often.

Be that as it may, the way things came, I will not be able to see you again before I die. Nevertheless, the fact that I have met you and have been able to contribute in one way or another to the course of your life, has given value and meaning to my existence. All I want and wish from the bottom of my heart is that you are happy.

Beyond the story of your origin, as described by Mother Ayşe, I bequeath to you all my work, to use it as you think best. You are my spiritual child and the best person in the world to understand my thoughts.

What is included in the thick notebook, which I suppose you will read first, is recorded as it was narrated by Mother Ayşe and so you have her actual words, without additions or alterations. It is not a pleasant story, but it is the truth, and surely that is what you would like to know.

That summer, after the narration of Mother Ayşe, I went to Paphos to visit the villages mentioned in her story. This district has no transportation and so, to be able to travel, I rented a donkey from the inn I stayed in Ktima, the city of Paphos.

 I first went to Emba, the village where your mother, Eleonora, came from. It is located west of Ktima, relatively close to the sea and is lowland. All the inhabitants of Paphos are engaged in farming to live. The fields of Emba are more fertile than those of the mountainous areas, and so its inhabitants are less poor than the inhabitants of the mountains. Perhaps for this reason, it was a fief during the Frankish rule. On the other hand, it is also close to Ktima, and it is easy for the villagers to sell their products. It is one of the few villages in Cyprus, which from the mid-19th century, had teachers to teach children.  The time of me being there, it had about 400 inhabitants.

I stayed a few days in the village and tried to find out a little more about your mother’s family. Unfortunately, I have not been able to learn much. The villagers either did not know or did not want to say. It seems that as much of your grandfather’s property was not sold, they divided it among themselves, and it was not in their interest to admit the existence of the Frankish family, lest there be descendants and heirs. However, it is a very beautiful village that is worth visiting, if you ever can.

Leaving Emba I went up to Vretsia, which is located at a higher altitude and adjoins the forest of Paphos. The inhabitants are mainly Turkish Cypriots because the Greek Cypriot inhabitants of the village were forced to become Linobambakous, like Mother Ayşe. They converted to Islam, that is, to escape the heavy taxes. I did not stay there for long. All I learned is that Suleiman’s family is one of the richest and most powerful families in the village. In this village, livestock farming is relatively developed. They have many sheep and goats, and this makes it a relatively rich village by Paphos standards. It had, at the time I visited it, around 300 inhabitants.

From Vretsia, I followed the road to Statos. I was directed by the villagers, and I went to the monastery of Panagia Chrysorrogiatissa. The monks there hosted me, and so I was able to stay more days in the area.

Statos is not far from the monastery. Of the three villages I visited, it is located at a higher altitude, with an inclination from east to west. Here, too, the inhabitants are engaged in farming and are very poor, like most rural dwellers. They work hard, both men and women, to survive, provided it rains well that year. Otherwise, they are charged to moneylenders and often lose their properties. Women are aged young, from constant exposure to the sun and hard work in the fields.

Of course, it was not easy to ask many questions, knowing your English mother’s desire not to make your origin known. So as many times as I visited the village, I talked generally with the villagers, asking them about the history of the village and things like that. I did not get much information from there. But I was able to locate the house of your mother, Eleonora’s, which was in a high spot, abandoned and deserted. They simply told me that the owners of the house either have died or have gone abroad after losing their daughter. Tragic story concluded the old man who reported the facts to me.

More details I learned from an elderly monk in the monastery. He knew your mother because she used to go there often and pray. To him, I have spoken clearly about the reason for my visit. I trusted him because he seemed to be a holy man and discreet. His name was Father Eleftherios, although I do not think he lives any more. He was quite old in 1896, when I visited the monastery.

So, Father Eleftherios told me that your mother often went to the monastery and talked to him. She had shared with him the story of her life and the reasons that forced her to come to Statos. Although she was very happy with her husband, Alexandros, she nevertheless had a bitterness in her because she had lost her village and her way of life. Here she was forced to work hard, like the other women of the village, but since she was not used to, it seemed very heavy to her. She was sorry that her daughter would have to follow the same life and said that she would educate her, in the hope that she would have a better future.

Your mother had a great weakness for you and never left you alone, unlike the other women, whose children toured the streets of the village all day, without supervision. Some of them used to work in the fields from the age of five to help their families. On that cursed day when Suleiman took you, you were crying and wanted to play with the little girl next door. Your mother had to go to the fountain to bring water and with great hesitation, she agreed to leave you, urging the neighbour to take care of you.

This village has two fountains: the upper fountain and the lower fountain. All residents must carry their water from these two fountains located on the two edges of the village. Your mother used a donkey for this job, but there were other women carrying the jugs on the shoulder. Due to the distance from the village, this work took some time.

The neighbour of course was not used to having her mind on the children and quickly forgot her promise. By the time your mother returned, you had disappeared. The whole village was looking for you, but in vain. The other little girl, you were playing with, could not say how you got lost.

Your mother, of course, had immediately figured out who the kidnapper was, but they could not find him anywhere. He had disappeared, along with his family. What killed Eleonora was her remorse because she left you alone. Your father was about to go crazy. He had lost his daughter, and at the same time he saw his wife melting like wax. He was looking for Suleiman to kill him. But he was nowhere to be found.

As mother Ayşe told us, Alexander got on a boat and perished after Eleonora had died. He, the mountainous lad, left the mountains he was born in and went to the sea he had never seen before! He may have thought that this other world would ease his pain and erase his bitter memories.

The old monk was crying as he recounted the story to me. This event had shocked all the surrounding villages, and he was very pleased when I told him about you and the luck you had.

-You see, my son, he told me. The unjust are not blessed. God does not allow it. Let the soul of the late Eleonora to be at rest. In the end, her daughter got what she dreamed of for her.

After the narration of the old monk, I stayed a few more days in the monastery, more to get to know the place where you were born. It is a very beautiful village. It is surrounded by the mountains of Paphos, and it looks green because of the fields, that are cultivated by its inhabitants. People are very poor, and most are indebted to moneylenders. However, they are hospitable and will offer you everything they can from their shortfall.

Comparing this village to Emba, your mother’s village, I was reminded of the words of a read professor I had once met. So, he had told me:

-People who are born in the plain or near the sea, have more open horizons than those who are born in the mountains. From the moment they are born they know that the world extends far beyond their village, while those who are born in the mountains see a limit towards them and this makes them more conservative and closed.

So did Eleonora. She was born in the plain and near the sea. Her horizons were endless. The narrowness of a mountain landscape, who knows? Perhaps it was pushing her.

However, I loved your village, my dear Maria. As the sun rises behind the mountains, the sky turns rose and the surrounding landscape takes on a gray-blue colour. You may not see the depth of the horizon, but you know that behind the ridges there is another world that calls you.

Near the village is the forest of Paphos, which is perhaps the most beautiful and densest in Cyprus. Paphos, in general, is a beautiful district, with alternating landscape. It is worth visiting the village where you were born if you can.

Leaving Paphos, I thought a lot. I saw the world we live in as a mosaic, consisting of millions of tesserae, and each tessera is a human being. Most of us do not stand out within the whole picture, and our role is to complement the endless design. There are some tesserae though that shine, and these should be placed in a prominent position. The creator takes them with his forceps and places them where he thinks they will adorn his work.

So do you, my Maria. No matter how cruel and inhumane it was what had happened to you, no matter how criminally Suleiman acted, you were placed in the position you deserved. I am sure that you shone with your presence during life and enlightened the people around you. This is a vindication for you and a retaliation for the drama your parents had experienced.

My beloved Maria, all my life I have tried to understand the structure of the world and give meaning to the tragedies we all experience. It is not easy. Often our pain blurs our vision and puts curtains on the truth. I never understood why I lost my wife and my daughter. Maybe to meet and take care of you. Who knows? But if one can see from a distance the mosaic of the world, one will find it perfect, despite the personal tragedies of the people.

It would be an immense joy for me to meet you at this older age and see how your spirit and soul have been matured. I will not make it, though. Many times, I blame your English mother, but deep down I also understand her own role in the mosaic of life. She was always afraid of losing exclusivity in your life, but at the same time she was terrified of the reception that English society would have for you, if they knew your true origins. She did what she thought best.

It does not matter now, any more. The mosaic is completed. I deliver to you that I had promised you when you left for London, and I wish the creator would make sure it reaches your hands. I will hand it over to my other spiritual child, Eleftherios Constantinou, who will go to London to study. Furthermore, I think at some point you will return to England, and he will be able to find you to give you the box with its contents.

I feel, my Maria, that my role in your life has come to an end. It is up to you how you handle all this information, whom you forgive and whom you do not. What I would like is that the life you have lived was complete and happy. These all-black pages, just to shed light on the course that brought you here, and not to be a cause of misery and mourning.

I greet you, in every sense of this expression. I personally feel that I have completed the task assigned to me in this life, and I can go and meet the spirits of my wife and daughter.

My beloved Maria, I leave you with this last sentence:

Love life and our homeland, our Cyprus.

 

Antonios Philippou

Your spiritual father.

When Alexandra got up, she found her mother sitting in the armchair of her office, motionless, with the letter in her hand and tears coming out from her eyes.

-What does the teacher write? She asked her.

-He just confirms the correctness of Mother Ayşe’s narration, adding some information about my parents. It’s not about that I cry. It is for him, this wonderful man, who did so much for me, without even being able to reciprocate it, even with a word of love.

-I am sure that you will find a way to honour him and preserve his memory. Your love for your teacher is pervasive every time you refer to him. And love is a feeling beyond matter and the physical world. He will certainly be able to collect it. Just as I felt your love, when I was in London, and you were in India.

-I am surprised by your philosophical treatment of life! Maria replied

-I got something from you also. Not only my father’s explosive temperament, Alexandra replied with a smile. Come now to take our breakfast and tell us what your teacher writes.

Alexandra’s relaxed treatment discharged the atmosphere and Maria got up. She had already decided how to proceed. After breakfast, she would write to Kristian. Life should take its normal rhythms. Her daughter’s family had come on holiday to Cyprus. And that would be offered to them from now on. The past cannot change the future. Life goes on.

 

 

Bibliography:

Great Cyprus Encyclopaedia

Wikipedia

(Chapter 20)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Famagusta Port, June 1927

Alexandra was standing on the deck of the ship, holding Eleonora-Maria in her arms, staring at the dock. Next to her stood James, silent and visibly moved. He was moving his hand in a  farewell. They saw her mother, hanging from Kristian’s arm, saying goodbye to them with tears in her eyes. It was the end of a wonderful three-month stay in Cyprus, full of the emotion of separation.

As the ship had already started and was moving away from the port, the figures of Maria and Kristian were lost. However, Alexandra stayed there still looking, as if trying to reduce the distance with the power of her vision. James took the child out of her arms and set off for their cabin. He understood that for Alexandra the present moment was almost sacred, and so he left her alone to experience it.

From the memory of Alexandra passed all the moments from her arrival on this island, until now that she was leaving. She could say without hesitation that these three months were the happiest months of her life. After the shocking events of the first days, when everyone learned the truth about her mother’s dark past, Maria tried to offer them everything she could to get to know her homeland.

The next day, when the whole story had been revealed, her mother had written to Kristian and informed him about everything. She waited for his reply in two or three weeks or so – so to get the letters from England to reach Cyprus. Instead of a letter though, in a week’s time, she got a telegram saying:

“I arrive in Cyprus in two weeks. I want to meet your daughter. I became a member of the Swedish Mission. If you want, we can get married.”

The surprise and joy of her mother were indescribable. Alexandra had no objection to this marriage. On the contrary, she was happy that her mother would no longer be alone in Cyprus. She would have a companion. At first, Maria thought of getting married in St. Antonio’s Church next to her house, but eventually they realized that this would not be possible. Neither of them was a Christian Orthodox. Although, Maria should have been baptized when she was a child. So, they had decided to have a civil marriage, which had been established in England, by law, since 1836.

Until Kristian’s arrival, Maria guided them to the city of Nicosia. Alexandra was surprised that this small and poor town was closing in so much history. Behind the bastions of the walls, hid the Frankish knights and the Venetian rulers. The icons, in the small churches of Nicosia, testified to the Byzantine culture, the palm trees, the minarets and the voice of muezzin every noon, the onslaught of the Ottomans. In the Pancyprian Gymnasium, she learned about Archbishop Kyprianos and the other bishops that the Turks killed in 1821, before the Greeks of this place dared to revolt. The house of the governor, the English flags and the soldiers declared the presence of the British. Endless conquerors and all left behind their seal.

They organized a simple wedding and in this they were helped by her mother’s friend, the wife of the military commander of Nicosia, Mrs. Jennifer Thomson. She arranged for all the necessary permits to be issued quickly, and the marriage was performed by her husband. There were very few guests. In addition to the Thomson family and her own family, Mrs. Vassilia with her family, the lawyer Georgios Antoniou with his wife were also invited and to everyone’s surprise, Demetrios Demetriou with his daughter were present. Kristian had also invited some members of the Swedish mission.

After the ceremony, they all went to her mother’s house for dinner, except for Mr. Demetriou with his daughter. It would be impossible to keep him in control for a longer period. However, during the wedding ceremony, Demetrios was moved and whispered all the time:

-Antonios, my friend, this is a great time. Our Maria is getting married!

They had a wonderful time at dinner. Mrs. Vassilia’s food was excellent, and everyone fully enjoys it. After eating, Kristian sang wedding songs of his country. Alexandra noticed that he had a remarkable voice. Towards the end, and when everyone was almost drunk, Mrs. Vassilia stood up and began to sing the Cypriot song of marriage:

Good time, golden time, time of blessing

this event that has just started, let it become steady

She was accompanied by Georgios Antoniou with his wife as well as her daughters. When they explained the words to the non-Greek speakers, they found that the lyrics expressed a very substantial wish for every young couple.

The celebration ended with dancing. They started with a tango that Maria danced with Kristian. The room was filled with the music played by the phonographer that her mother had brought with her, from London. All of them applauded excitedly. They were such a fitting couple! They continued with contemporary dances, and in the end the Cypriots danced Cypriot dances.

Alexandra at one point remembered her father. What would this marriage look like to him? How would he react? What would he say? He would probably find it foolish that his wife had sacrificed titles and riches to marry a Swedish archaeologist. Alexandra smiled.

-Father, she thought, mom is happy and that’s what counts. Be happy for her, too. She deserves it!

After the wedding, Kristian managed to be away from the archaeological expedition for a few days. So, they all went together for holiday to Troodos, the highest mountain range in Cyprus. The height of the top of Troodos reaches 1951 meters. There they stayed in one of the houses that the British had built to take their holiday. It was a wedding gift from Mrs. Jennifer Thomson to the couple. She also gave them her car and driver to take them there, who then returned to Nicosia.

Here Alexandra got to know a completely different side of Cyprus. It was already late May, early June, and the first summer heats had made their appearance in Nicosia. At least during the day, they felt discomfort, since all of them were used to colder climates. The crops had begun to turn yellow and even though there were beautiful wildflowers everywhere, Cyprus had begun to take on its yellowish summer colour.

In the mountains the weather was cool, in the evenings a bit chilly and the scenery amazing, everywhere all green. The house that was granted to them was in the forest, and around stood towering pine trees. Alexandra was surprised that the top of the trees was flat. They explained to her that here in winter it snows, the snow weighs down the trees and causes this phenomenon.

They took daily walks and enjoyed the refreshing purity of the air, enriched with the smell of pine trees. A fragrance they had never encountered in their own forests.  Eleonora-Maria was growing up impressively, and her cheeks had become rosy from health. All of them were crazy about her. They consumed large quantities of fruits, cherries, apples, and anything else they could get from the villagers of the surrounding areas. They drank gurgling water from the spring and ate fresh village eggs, halloumi olives and village bread. It was as if they lived in a paradise, far from civilization.

One day Kristian left with an Englishman who was also staying in the area, and when he returned in the evening he brought a car with him. He was greeted by all with cries of excitement. Now they could also visit the villages of the region.

From the very next day, the journeys by car began. They travelled to many villages in the area, such as Prodromos, Pedoulas, Moutoulas, Kalopanagiotis, the monastery of Kykkos and of course the beautiful Platres village. The roads were miserable and often had to get off to push the car, but that too was part of their fun – an adventure in the mountains of Cyprus.

Alexandra for the first time in her life heard the nightingales singing in Platres, and she was enchanted. They saw gurgling waters fall, they enjoyed the beautiful unspoiled nature and the hospitality of the poor peasants.  It was an unprecedented experience for everyone.

Kristian was clearly in love with her mother. In the sunsets they used to go for walks in the forest, by themselves, and found a thousand topics to discuss. The two of them had so much in common! Alexandra remembered that her mother and her father did not talk much to each other, except for the necessary family matters. It was wonderful that even now her mother found a partner to share her thoughts and opinions.

On the other hand, she had noticed that Kristian had infinite knowledge.  On the nights that Eleonora-Maria went to sleep, everyone sat in the living room and Kristian talked to them about the ancient history of Cyprus. The most impressive thing, however, was that his knowledge extended to other topics, apart from history and archaeology. He described to them how Cyprus had emerged from the bottom of the sea and that the geology of Troodos presents the stratifications of the seabed. Many scientists come to study Troodos to learn about the oceanic crust of the earth.

In this way, two weeks went by. They had to interrupt their holidays so that Kristian could return to the Swedish mission and themselves get ready for London. They said goodbye to the mountains of Cyprus, reluctantly. How much they would like to stay longer! Fortunately, they had taken several photos to remember the place and their experiences.

As soon as they arrived in Nicosia, Kristian left by car to meet the other archaeologists. They themselves began to be prepared for their return trip. They did not know how to manage to fit in their luggage the infinite items they bought, or the gifts Maria had given them.

At that time, Alexandra realized she was pregnant again. She felt the new being moving inside her and confided it to her mother. Maria spontaneously told her:

-If he’s a boy, name him Antonios.

But she immediately regretted it, because she remembered that James also had the right to name his child. He also had his own parents. Alexandra, however, reassured her:

-James would have no objection to naming our child Antonios. He is very moved by this man’s self-sacrifice, and I am sure he would like to honour him. Besides, in England, we can give more than one name to each child. And don’t forget. We would like to have many children and honour all the people who contributed to James’ life and to our own lives. There are also your English parents and my father. Everyone deserves to keep their memory.

Suddenly, Alexandra came to reality and realized that the boat had moved so far away from the land that she could not see either her mother or the shores of Cyprus. She decided to return to their cabin and deal with their daughter. However, going down the stairs, she began to think about whether she could live the rest of her life in Cyprus.

She could not deny it. She loved life in London. Furthermore, she had grown up living in luxury. She enjoyed her home, the wonderful furniture, the expensive paintings, the rich social life, the theatres of London. It was a different, comfortable life. It certainly could not be compared with the simplistic way people lived in Cyprus. But here, there was the light, there was joy, here was her mother! She quickly pulled that thought out of her mind. She was not alone. There was James, and London is where his job was. If her mother stayed here, they would come to see her, but only that.

But her heart was telling her other things…

When Alexandra came into the cabin, James went down to the ship’s living room to find an English newspaper to read the latest news. Carried away by the carefree life of the holidays, they had forgotten the rest of the world and its intrigues, which determined the fate of the nations.

On a coffee table was thrown an old newspaper of the Times of London. It was at least a week old. But it did not matter. His own news update on the world was at least three months older. He took it in his hands, ordered a cup of tea and began to read. What caught his attention was an article by a reputable English journalist about the latest political developments in Germany.

James had served as a doctor in the last war from 1914 to 1918 and had lived through all the wretchedness and barbarism. The toll: 8,500,000 dead soldiers and 14,500,000 civilians. He himself never believed that there is a war with an ideological background. Perhaps some liberation movements, but for them too, another way of claiming could probably be found.

So, this journalist wrote about some up-and-coming German politician named Adolf Hitler. He was described as an ideologue, a fanatic, and a nationalist. A lethal combination, thought James. As an ideologue, he may inspire the crowds because he talks to them about some great values, that can carry them away. As a fanatic he has no room for conciliation, but what is worse, as a nationalist he supports all the positive and all the interests concerning his own race, ignoring the rights of other nations. Such are the people who cause the wars. And right now, he is addressing a nation, who are poor, who have been defeated, and humiliated. It certainly finds plenty of space for resonance among the crowds.

And the reporter continued. Adolf Hitler tried in 1923 a failed coup in Munich, for which he was sentenced to five years in prison and executed only one. This is a proof that the authorities tolerate such ideologies. In prison, he wrote the first volume of his book, which he published in 1925 under the title “Mein Kampf”, (My Struggle). Then in 1926 he published the second book with the same title. In both books, he clearly explains his political goals and the ideology of National Socialism. In 1925, he played a leading role in the reconstruction of the Nazi party. He was well into politics, and it seems that his goals are high.

Concluding, the columnist expressed his concerns about the future of Europe by focusing on a possible second war that would come from the defeated and humiliated Germany. Leaders with Hitler’s rhetorical gifts and fanaticism could inspire the crowds and challenge the war.

James was horrified. He was in no mood to live in a second great war. Above all now that he had a family. Alexandra was pregnant with their second child. No, he whispered. If the nations of Europe wanted to kill each other again, he would not be involved in this dissonance.

And then for the first time an idea shone in his mind. He would take the courses of events and if it seemed that the drums of war would sound again, they would leave London. He felt they had a place to live. Furthermore, he had loved this island. Yes, this island could become a second homeland for James and his family.

Of course, it would not be easy to leave London and their lives there, but he would not allow his family to live in a second world war. Four years on the front line of the war, in makeshift hospitals, mutilating people and seeing young men die, alone, away from their loved ones, was enough. He had offered his homeland his fair share.

He remembered his years in university, the idealism that infused his dreams at the time, and gave strength to his soul. Not only that, but he wanted to study as a doctor to offer to the poor and weak. Cyprus was a poor country and certainly needed doctors. He was sure that his services here would be much more significant than in London.

Of course, he should not be in a hurry to make such a decision. But it was a serious choice in case Europe would be drawn into war again. And he was sure, the whole family would be happy on this island. A very high-level English school, Newham, had been established in Nicosia, so his children would not be deprived of an education. These were serious arguments that would weaken any opposing view. Yet he smiled.

-Hasty thoughts, he said. I am influenced by the sadness of separation and end up thinking about leaving London. These are not serious things!

He got up and set off for his cabin, leaving the newspaper on the table, determined not to think about it again. But this possibility had taken a place in the back of his mind and waited to appear when circumstances would allow it.

 

Troodos

(Chapter 21 – Epilogue)

(This story is the product of fiction, and all characters are fictional; the historical elements included are real)

Nicosia, June 1927

Maria was sitting in the armchair of her office, thinking. It was her favourite place when she wanted to make decisions. It helped her sink into the inner layers of her mind and ponder the issues in a global way.

Kristian had already left to meet his colleagues on the mission, and her daughter with her family were travelling to Great Britain. She was alone again, but this time she knew that her loneliness was a brief respite, strengthening her expectations for Kristian’s return. Yes, this time life was different. She had a companion. She shared her dreams and problems with someone with whom she was united by love.

She remembered a year ago, when, as the aristocrat Lady Mary William Moore, had decided to leave London and luxurious life to search for her past. It was a great decision that she knew would lead her through unknown paths with dreaded results. But she dared to do so.

-Now I’m Maria Hubertus, she thought, looking at her wedding ring. But am I a “Hubertus”? She wondered. Who am I really? How do I feel? I am Maria. I may not have a surname because I don’t belong anywhere. I was born in Paphos and then wandered in the neighbourhoods of the world, leaving aside my true identity. Now that I have found it, I will keep it. I am Maria. I don’t know the last name of my real parents, so I’m just Maria. For the institutions of society, I will be Mrs. Maria Hubertus, but for me, I am simply Maria.

The fact that as soon as she got married to Kristian, he was forced to leave, was not particularly pleasant for both. So, they had decided, next time Maria would follow him and stay with him. The conditions would not be very comfortable, but she did not care. It took her long to find the man of her life, and they did not have many years to live together. They would make the best use of them.

Besides, she found his work very interesting and would like to know as much as she could about the history of Cyprus. It was for her a very exciting perspective. Their coexistence in the archaeological site hid a romance that suited them.

Of course, she had a book to write. She did not forget her promise to Eminé, nor her obligation to her teacher. The material at her disposal was rich and with the experiences that her daily life in Cyprus gave her, she possessed a treasure. Her role was to manage this treasure properly and create an attractive book, appealing for the reader and truthful. Her goal would be to preserve the memory of her teacher for years. It was the least she could do for him.

She had not decided yet whether to include her own biographical information in the book, or whether she would not betray her identity. She knew that she had an obligation to respect the memory of her English parents, as well. She owed them a lot. Perhaps it was only now that she understood how much she owed them. If her beloved teacher pulled her out of the misery, they maintain the vehicle that drove her up to here. She had to take their wishes very seriously.

In this circle of memories, her husband, Lord William Moore, appeared before her. She felt gratitude for this man also, even if he did not represent the ideal husband she had desired. With him, she did not live the closed life of an English lady. She had travelled to the end of the world and met other cultures and interesting people. William deserved her respect for what he was and for what he had offered her.

The journeys of memory in the past inevitably led her to Master Suleiman and to the life in which he condemned her with his greed, selfishness, and lawless desires. Her heart was empty of feelings for this man. It was as if she had suffered an accident, but as the years passed this accident was unworthy to remember. She could not say I forgive you, nor I do not hate you. A void was inside her.

She abandoned the journey in the past and let her mind wander to Paphos and the promise she had given to Eminé that she would visit her. They had discussed it with Kristian, and it was a priority for them to travel to Paphos at the first opportunity. Of course, they would have to secure the mission’s car first, because in Paphos there was no transportation, especially in the mountains. This visit had a sanctity for Maria and would not want it to be done like a hasty passage. She wanted to get to know the place and its people. Kristian’s presence would give her the strength to manage the emotion that would be arisen by the land where she was born and where her parents came from.

Her daughter and her son-in-law came to her mind. Alexandra could not have had a better chance than this wonderful man, James! He was so reasonable, so measured, so good husband and father. The only thorn was that they were far from her. But she hoped that soon Cyprus would have an air connection to London and could see them more often. And who could know? The paths of life are unexpected. One of them could probably lead them back here!

She smiled in doubt about this optimistic thought of hers and got up.

All this, of course, was her own desires and her own planning. She knew that other things people schedule and different events life presents them. By now, however, she had learned and realized that life scenarios are more interesting than people’s narrow-minded expectations.  You need to have patience. Events do not come at the speed or in the way that we would like.

Up to now, she had gained both patience and trust. She was happy. She saw the course of her life unfold through bumpy paths and unexpected routes. But all this, along with her own determination, led her here. In her homeland. The appearance of Kristian in her life was a gift beyond her dreams and expectations. A bonus of life. He could fill in her weaknesses and colour her everyday life.

She went to a bookshelf and took the poetry collection of Kostis Palamas, “The Twelve Words of the Gypsy”. She used to read this poem often, and each time she found new meanings. It was so introspective, so lyrical. She thought that for Palamas to be able to write it, beyond the great inspiration and poetic skill, he had indulged in the deepest layers of human thought and intellectual ability. It was a masterpiece.

She opened the book at a point that she had always marked with a bookmark and read:

No matter how many mountains you climb,

from their peaks you will see other peaks

higher, another form of a seducer nature;

and even when you reach the highest peak,

you will understand again that you are,

like at the beginning, under all the stars. 

 

That is how she felt right now. She had climbed to a peak of her life, but she knew that beyond the horizon she was awaited by other landscapes with unknown beauties, but also thorns that would make her legs bleed. This is the life of every human being, full of peaks and deep cliffs. Full of expectations, but also disappointments. But whatever would come, she would face it.

She read another excerpt from the Twelve words of the Gypsy. This gave her the strength to move forward in life, imperious and proud, as every human being deserves to be:

 

And I leaned towards my soul,

like at the end of a well,

And I cried to my soul

with the mind’s caw;

and from the deep well,

as if from a travel, foreign,

came back to me the voice

 

-You are the one, you are the incomparable,

You are the special, 

 

Maria was left pondering the words she had read. She could hear the words sounding, as if they were coming out of a deep well, in reality. She identified herself for a moment and felt that she was the gypsy who was looking for his identity, initially rejecting all values and then restoring them. Perhaps now she had reached the end of the search. Perhaps her life at this stage could be a chapter that closes with the phrase:

“…and they lived happily ever after.”

But she knew it was not like that. She had conquered this peak and there was still a lot left to conquer. Now that the burdens of the past were no longer chasing her and the nightmares had stopped, now was the time to gaze towards the other peaks and not hesitate to move on.

The experiences of her life had now been translated into age, that sometimes makes us sad, but these are our riches to move forward. Yes, she was rich in experiences. She was equipped for all the battles that might follow or the peace that life might be offered to her. She was ready for everything.

She closed her eyes and saw the circles of her life: Maria as a child in Paphos, Maria as a servant, Maria as the daughter of the English family, Maria as a lady, Maria as a mother, Maria in love with life and knowledge and now, what was she now?

Now Maria was happy. At this moment of her life, she felt complete. She had everything. And if life tomorrow would take everything back, she knew she had managed to climb to the highest peak.

She remembered a poem by another Greek poet she loved. She whispered Cavafy’s lyrics, realizing that they were very similar to her own course:

 

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

 

Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

 

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean*.

She did not find her own Ithaka poor, although she was not able to find her parents. She had started from the deepest cliff and managed to climb to the highest peak.

It has been a wonderful journey!

 

This is where Maria’s story ends. We, who watched her, invading in the fabric of space-time, and identified ourselves with her, watching her adventures, should leave. The sequel may not concern us, perhaps each of us can imagine it in the way we choose.

What is important is to examine the adventures and quests of our own lives, defining the journey back to our roots. Because our roots are not the patriotic songs which are taught in school, nor the misleading speeches of some of our politicians. This trip is internal. We should study our history without aphorisms and prejudices. But above all, we should love our country for what it is and with all the people who make it up.

We have a very wise proverb in our country that says:

“Man in the place and the place (without man) is a desert”

There is no other expression that signifies better the ancient anthropocentric Greek philosophy, than this saying. So, let us study and love the people of our homeland, all the people, because they make up our country. Without the inhabitants of a place, the place is deserted, a simple landscape. It is the people and their works that shape the concept of homeland and the quality of a place.

With this thought, I greet you, and thank you for going with me on this journey. You have been valuable companions.

 

 

 

Ithaka

* TRANSLATED BY EDMUND KEELEY

 

You may follow the links below for analysis of the excerpts from the poem “The Twelve Words of the Gypsy”:

htps://cosmosblog.io/the-twelve-words-of-the-gypsy-1/

https://cosmosblog.io/thoughts-on-the-twelve-words-2/

2 responses to “Maria (Consolidated text )”

  1. Jacob says:

    Great!

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