Zenovia’s secret (Chapter 19)
Posted by: Maria Atalanti
Published on: 09/10/2022Back to Blog
This text is the product of fiction. None of the characters described are real.
Cyprus – Summer 2021
The next morning, when they woke up, Zena went to the beach to swim. Alexis then took the opportunity to call the Police Officer and tell him about the guy who was watching them the previous afternoon at the estate of Zenovia.
The Officer was not surprised by the incident. It was a consequence of the whole situation and the actions of Mr. Nicolaou. As he explained to him, the Paphos Police Director had contacted Mr. Nicolaou and informed him of Zena’s complaint to the police.
-He seemed surprised, he said that he had no ill intension, and everything was a misunderstanding. His interest is purely professional, that is, he wishes to buy the estate to develop it. Such and similar he said, until my colleague stated clearly, that he knew that on his company’s website he had put for sale the villas he intended to build on an estate that neither belonged to him, nor the owner had decided to sell.
-After that, he shut up and was forced to confess that he has now removed this advertisement from the website. The colleague concluded that there is a high probability that he has violated the borders of the estate with the villas he has built on the adjacent block. In such a case, Mrs. Vassilopoulos could of course file a complaint but as I had told you during your visit here, the trial will take many years in Cyprus, and it is not in her interest. It is better to come to a financial compromise with him, through a lawyer, so as not to get more involved yourself.
-My question, Mr. Georgiou, is that you, as the police of Cyprus, could not examine this case ex officio?
-Unfortunately, Alexis, if no complaint is filed we will not bother any more. You know, we have a bunch of cases that we don’t have time to deal with… The behavior of this gentleman has of course been noted, and in the future, if there is something else, it will be an aggravating element.
-The colleague also spoke with Mrs. Vassilopoulos’ lawyer, Mr. Neophytou. His was horrified, and I don’t think he will make such a blunder again. I don’t know, of course, whether it was a blunder, or he was blackmailed, in some way, by Nicolaou.
-We’re going to see him today. Zena will pay him, and we will stop doing business with him. Thank you so much Mr. Georgiou
-You’re welcome Alexis. Always at your disposal for whatever you need.
At that time, Zena also returned from the beach. She hurriedly entered for a shower, before getting down to the dining room for breakfast. Taking their breakfast, a little later, Alexis informed her about the conversation he had with Officer Georgiou.
-So, as we have suspected, Mr. Nicolaou has intervened in my own estate! But Mr. Georgiou is right. I have no desire to deal with him again. Nor will I waste my time filing a lawsuit, although he deserves it. We will find a good lawyer and assign him the case. We will make him pay every inch he encroached upon.
-I agree with you. We will have to complete this case soon, because I will have to return to Melbourne in a month’s time. I don’t know how long you’ll stay here. Really what are you thinking of doing?
-I don’t know. Everything is confused in my mind. I have so many issues outstanding that I cannot make decisions for the future now. I will proceed step by step. The examination of the secret of Zenovia. is preceded. Although I don’t see any light anywhere, I don’t intend to leave it until I’ve exhausted the last possibility. I have become obsessed with this issue. If this woman left something, there is somewhere. And if there is, I will find it! Where, I don’t know, but believe me, I will look for it everywhere.
-I see you very determined, Alexis said with a laugh. First, however, we will have to pass through Mr. Neophytou’s office to sign the documents and release him from his services to you.
-Yes, you are right. We start right away. I’ll call him first to see that he’s in the office.
After an hour they were in Mr. Neophytou’s office. He himself was very apologetic about the situation that arose, and so Zena was clear with him:
-I do not know why you informed Mr. Nicolaou about my estate and gave him the right to act as he has done, but even though I am very pleased with your services so far, I will have to interrupt with you. I will only pay you what I owe you so far.
-You don’t have to pay anything other than what you have already paid me to date. Although it may not matter anymore but, for the sake of truth, I would like to tell you that he alone understood that I was managing your estate when he saw me there, while I was visiting the property. From then on he became unbearably burdensome and pushy towards me, with the results you know. And if you wanted us to continue together, I wouldn’t accept. It is better to go somewhere else and even to a lawyer outside Paphos.
That is approximately how Zena’s collaboration with Mr. Neophytou ended.
-Now what do we do? Alexis asked her. What do you suggest?
-In fact, it would be a nice idea to visit the friend I met on the plane, Mrs. Maria Stylianou and then the archaeological sites of Paphos. But the fact that you will leave in less than a month, forces me to concentrate solely on my goal: to find the secret of Zenovia. For this reason, we will go directly to the village of Statos, lest we detect something.
-So, let’s have lunch and then get started.
It was very early in the afternoon when they left for the village. As they climbed the mountain the view changed. Vineyards, apple, and pear trees, among other cultures everywhere, greened the landscape in contrast to the lowlands of Cyprus, where, at this time, everything was yellow from the summer drought.
-Very beautiful scenery! Alexis told her.
-Indeed! Everything is completely different here. Let us hope that the village will also be equally beautiful. From what I have read on google, however, the original village of Statos has been abandoned in the sixties, after some landslides and a new village has been built a little higher, called Statos – Agios Fotios or Ampelitis. The village of Zenovia of course is the old one and there we should go initially, although I do not think it is inhabited.
In about half an hour they arrived in the village. The stone houses were now half-demolished. Everywhere there was a desolation. They got out of the car and began to walk in the empty streets. There weren’t many. It was obvious that even at the time when the village was flourishing, it was very small. As they proceeded they saw the church, which was still standing, but abandoned and empty.
-The church of saints Zenovios and Zenovia! Zena said. Here Zenovia was buried. Do you remember Alexis the funeral that Grandfather Evangelos described in his letter?
-Yes, I remember it. It was as if Paphos buried her heart!
They tried to get inside but the door was closed. Around the stone-built church was an open space and on one side you could see the view that stretched as far as your eye could reach, as the mountains descended towards the sea. It was gorgeous.
-At Zenovia’s funeral, this whole place must have been filled with people, Zena commented.
Suddenly, she felt that she would have to remain silent and listen to the sounds from the past, that the memory of place brought to her heart.
-It’s weird, but such places are like being alive. They are like a time machine that can take you years back and make you feel the vibrations of that time. It’s like listening to the lamentations of the women who were mourning the only one, who tried to get them out of nothingness.
-Come on, let’s move on, Alexis told her. We may find someone to guide us.
They continued to walk on the street that looked like the main street of the village and to their great surprise, among the ruins and wrecks they saw a house renovated. It was the only one in the whole ghost village. They stayed looking at it, but it was locked, and no one seemed to be staying inside. That moment they saw a woman in her sixties, coming down the road with some goats. As soon as she saw them she stopped.
-Are you looking for someone? She asked.
Alexis tried to explain to her the reason for their visit that they were looking for the descendants of Eurydice and Euthymia, but she did not seem to have known them. Zena noticed that the Cypriot language that the woman spoke was somewhat different from what she was used to hearing until now. If Alexis hadn’t been with her, she might not have understood. However, she advised them to visit the new village, Ampelitis, because perhaps someone there could help them.
Before they left, Alexis asked her about the renovated house. She replied that lately electricity was brought to the village and an old resident renovated her parents’ house to come for vacation.
-Oh, how nice it would be if all the houses could be renovated, Zena said as they left. It would be like taking steps in the past. In Australia, there are some towns of the first settlers, which have been renovated and are visited by tourists. Surely this village has a longer history!
The village of Ampelitis was located 2-3 km higher. Here the houses were relatively new and seemed to be a modern village from its street plan. The streets were straight and intersected vertically by others, forming squares. On almost all the roads there were walnut trees, and it seemed different from all the villages through which they had passed. It was obvious that it was a village of the modern era. It did not take you back in time, but it was beautiful and green.
They searched and found the traditional coffee shop.
-Here, Alexis told her, we will find the elderly of the village. These are the only ones who may have memories of the people we are looking for.
In the coffee shop, the customers were 75 years old and over. They were having their coffee and playing cards. The entrance of strangers pleasantly surprised them. They stopped their game and looked at them full of curiosity. Alexis explained the reason for their visit and asked them if they knew anything about these two women or if they have ever heard about Zenovia.
They began to talk to each other disagreeing and disproving each other’s opinion. It was obvious that what they were asked for, went beyond the memories they had rough in mind. Suddenly, an elderly man, who would have been over 90, raised his hand to silence the others. He grabbed his cane and stood, as if he were to make a momentous speech.
-I was a child, I would have been to the primary school, when I heard my grandmother talking about Zenovia from our village who wanted to save the women of Paphos from poverty but did not manage. She died and what she created, was dissolved. But everyone was proud that she had come from our village. I remember it because she was arguing with a woman from Panagia (a nearby village) who said that their village was better. And then my grandmother told her about Zenovia.
-The other women you ask for, I think I understood who they are. They both died, many years ago. Euthymia had two daughters. They sold what they had in the village and went to stay in Limassol.
After this statement the elderly gentleman sat down and turned to his silence. Alexis tried to ask something but a less elderly, around 75, told him that he was not going to talk anymore. This statement was a glimpse for old – Christos. He usually lived in the darkness of dementia.
So, they had a conversation with this man who was called, Philippos. He told them that he had been a teacher in the village, in the old days when there was a school here.
-Now it doesn’t exist anymore, he explained. You see, only elderly people live here, now. There are no families with small children. And if there is very rarely any child, attends a school in a nearby village.
At that moment Zena felt a pain in the heart. She understood that all the efforts of Zenovia to give strength and freedom to the women in the villages of Paphos failed. They, in one way or another, left their villages and went to the cities. So many villages, like Statos, lost their inhabitants and only old people lived in them.
Alexis was trying to find out if it was possible to be given the phone number of one of the descendants of Eurydice and Efthymia in Limassol, to go and visit them. The owner of the coffee shop had now joined the conversation.
-I think I understood who they are. My daughter, while we were living in Limassol, was a classmate with one of them and she may know her phone. Give me moment to call my wife.
He walked away for a while and when he turned around he was cheerful and smiling.
-My wife says that it should be Vicky who lives in Limassol. She will learn her phone from our daughter and tell us. So, the lady comes from here?
And he showed Zena.
-Not exactly, Alexis replied. Her great-grandmother Zenovia came from here. Her grandparents were from Alexandria, and she was born and raised in Australia. Her mother was Australian.
-Since her great-grandmother came from here, she also comes from here, the owner of the coffee shop said again.
-Yes, I am a fellow – villager, Zena replied. But I would like to know about my great-grandmother Zenovia. Does anyone know anything?
-Only what the old Christos, my daughter, told you. No one seems to remember anything else.
At that time, his wife arrived running. She held a piece of paper in one hand and a bag in the other.
-Oh, I caught up with you, thank god!
She gave them the piece of paper in which it was written a phone number.
-This is Vicky’s, from Eurydice that is, phone. She lives in Limassol. If you find her, give her greetings from Chrystalla and her daughter Teresa. These are some goods from our village to take with you. It’s a bit of soutzoukos (a traditional sweet, made with juice from the grapes and almonds), zivania (Cypriot alcoholic drink), some apples, two halloumi (Cyprus cheese) and a fresh bun that I ‘ve baked in the wood-fired oven.
Zena got confused. She was about to refuse but Alexis told her in English:
-Take them, otherwise you will offend them.
Zena took them and did not know how to thank them. For the first time in her life, she encountered such hospitality. They then set out to leave, before nightfall. Zena wanted again to see the sunset from Zenovia’s house.
Luckily they caught up with it. Once again Zena fell into silence and watched the sun sink and paint the landscape in its colors. She felt that these moments brought her closer to Zenovia because she was sure that she too experienced every sunset.
In the evening they sat on the terrace of their room and ate from the wonderful food that the wife of the owner of the coffee shop, gave them.
-I haven’t eaten nicer halloumi in my life! Zena said. It smells great! And the bread is excellent. As for zivania, strong drink. It relaxes all your senses.
-It is said that the halloumi of Paphos is the best, because of the plants that goats eat. Especially here, I don’t imagine them being fed with anything other than what they graze in nature. This is pure Cyprus, the Cyprus of tradition. Only in such places can one find it.
With the zivania they drank they slept deeply that night. They let their minds assimilate the multiple and intense emotions of the day, until another day would dawn with new perspectives.
Photo: Church of saints Zenovios and Zenovia