Zenovia’s secret (Chapter 20)
Posted by: Maria Atalanti
Published on: 16/10/2022Back to Blog
This text is the product of fiction. None of the characters described are real. Lellos Demetriades, Mustafa Akinci, Glafkos Constantinides and Agni Petridou are real persons and the roles attributed to them in the chapter are their real roles.
Cyprus – Summer 2021
The next day Zena woke up cheerful, had her swim, then took her breakfast with Alexis and began to make plans for the day.
-I think we should contact Vicky immediately, Zena said. I would not like us to delay it any longer. Besides, here we are talking about this is my last hope of finding the secret of Zenovia. If she doesn’t know something either, I can’t imagine what to think anymore!
-Yes I agree, we will call her and if she can, we will go and visit her today. We should be able to rule out this possibility as well to go further down.
-Where are we going to go further down, Alexis? I can’t imagine what else we could do!
-You never know, there are always unexpected chances in unlikely places. Now call Vicky. Do you want me to talk to her?
-No, I will speak directly. If she doesn’t understand my Greek, I’ll give her to you.
She took Vicky’s number and waited a while until she answered. It took some time for her to understand what Zena was telling her about and suggested that they should visit her in Limassol, after five in the afternoon when she would be home from work. She gave them her address and said she would be waiting for them.
At exactly five o’clock in the afternoon they were outside Vicky’s apartment in Limassol. It was in a building opposite the sea and surely the view would be fantastic.
Vicky was a cheerful woman at about Zena’s age. But with two boys, between 8 and 10, getting tangled in around her and staring puzzled at the two strangers, Zena realized that she had had a family for years. She showed them to the living room, which indeed had a fantastic view of the sea. It reminded Zena of her own apartment in Melbourne facing the Yarra River.
After the first formalities passed, Zena with the help of Alexis had to explain again to Vicky the reason of their visit. She looked at them enchanted. It was obvious that their story seemed very romantic to her and as if it came out of a fairy tale. When they finished she replied with some embarrassment.
-What can I tell you? I don’t know anything of what you ask me. My great-grandmother was not Eurydice, but Euthymia. I am a generation younger than you; she told Zena. My mother was the granddaughter of Euthymia. My grandmother, the daughter of Euthymia, left the village and came to Limassol, after selling everything she had in the village. We used to go to Statos from time to time, but we didn’t have anything there of our own. No one ever told me that there was a document that we should keep. My grandmother, who was also called Eurydice – now that you say it – mentioned something to me, when I was little, about a woman called Zenovia who gave a house to her own grandmother, but I don’t remember anything else.
-Yes, you are right that you are from a younger generation. In our own family all were got married in old age. Is your grandmother, Eurydice, alive? Your mother?
-My mother has sadly died. My grandmother lives but she very old and she stays in a nursing home. Due to the pandemic, no one can visit her, for safety reasons. But besides the fact that she suffers from dementia, and it is impossible to communicate with her, she does not have any possessions. Those of her belongings that have not been sold have been thrown away. After all, she had nothing of value in her possession. I’m sorry, but I don’t know how I can help you.
-Never mind, thank you for accepting us. And we are also glad to have met you. Your great-great-grandmother, Eurydice, was the best friend of my great-grandmother Zenovia.
-I am glad to have met you too. Come whenever you want again. My house is open for you.
On leaving, Zena left her phone number, in case she remembers something.
-I will talk to both my sister and my cousins. If anyone remembers something I will contact you. But I’m afraid it’s almost impossible. A hundred years have passed!
As soon as they got into the car Zena burst into tears. Alexis did not expect it and was surprised.
-Come on don’t be disappointed, he told her. We will think about something.
-How not to be disappointed Alexis! She was my last hope! I can’t think of anything else. And I want so much to find the secret of Zenovia! For my father, for grandfather Evangelos, but above all for Zenovia herself, who wanted to share it. She didn’t want to take it with her! I feel like it’s the role of my life to find this secret!
-If it is the role of your life to find it, you will find it. But now I propose something else. I think we have exhausted what we could do in Paphos. Right now, I don’t see anything else possible to do. We have run out of ideas. I suggest tomorrow that we leave for Nicosia. There we have a lot to do. We will have to find a lawyer, you will have you to speak with Eleni, what kind of house you want to be built and do not forget, Nicosia has other prospects. It is not the city of relaxation. It is the city of action. You said that. You could find a journalistic topic for you to deal with. You’ve been rusty for a year and a half now.
-You’re right. There is no point in looking for the secret while I am at a dead end. Besides, Vicky can find something new and call us. Let’s wait. As for the journalistic issue, I have something in mind! Let’s go and I’ll talk to you about it. I will see what prospects are presented and act accordingly. Thank you!
-It is not of my character to despair but for more than a year I have been dealing with this issue and it has become an obsession to me. I’ll have to move away a little bit and look at it again with a clear eye. So back to the hotel. Tomorrow we leave for Nicosia.
Alexis and Zena were in Nicosia for a week now and they were busy arranging meetings and make decisions. Zena was incredulously making the decisions, but Alexis next to her was very supportive. And when Zena was confused with her sentimentality, his own voice was within reason, and he was clearing the clouds.
They decided that Eleni’s friend, the lawyer, Mr. Eugeniou, was reliable enough to manage the case with Mr. Nicolaou. The surveyor’s investigation proved that there was a serious breach of borders and the demand for damages would be proportionate. Zena assigned it to him entirely, not wanting to meet Mr. Nicolaou again.
These days, while she was touring Cyprus, and seeing the villages and cities, what impressed her the most was the renovated house she had seen in the village of Statos. From the moment she had seen it, she had decided that she would ask Eleni to renovate Zenovia’s house. Traditional houses look as if they grow through the landscape, preserving the colors of the earth, the mountain and the plain. Zena wanted her home in Cyprus to be such. As if the earth gave birth to it.
They talked it a lot with Eleni. Although it was enclosed by modern villas, due to the large area that surrounded it, it was possible to isolate it, by erecting a fence and planting trees Besides Zena had decided that a part of the estate could be sold and from the money she would get she would finance the construction of her own house.
Eleni had captured the original design of the house and the rooms that existed. They studied it a lot and decided to add a few more rooms so that it can meet the needs of today. Its equipment and amenities would of course be according to modern standards, but the house would retain its traditional character. If they succeeded, they would also restore the old well which with a modern turbine could meet the garden’s water needs.
After settling all this, she decided to concentrate to the journalistic issue that interested her. She wanted to collect information about the two persons who, as she had been informed a few days earlier, acted for the cooperation between the two communities, very few years after the invasion of 1974: Lellos Demetriades and Mustafa Akinci. Discussing the matter with Alexis, she told him why these two people caught her attention:
-If you open any book of the history of any country, the basic information you will find is about the wars that that country has made or suffered. Heroes are those who were killed in the war or those who killed in a war. You will find very few words about the peaceful acts and the paths of communication opened by some of the inhabitants of these countries. This has always troubled me and in every country I visited, I was trying to locate such material. Especially in Cyprus, which in one way or another, is my homeland. Eleni has told me about these two people and from that moment on I would like to meet them.
-As far as I know Lellos is very sick and you will not be able to see him, but Mustafa Akinci, I think you could. We will just have to find contact information to request a meeting with him. For Lellos, we have some friends who were his close collaborators and may have some material that could be useful.
-How could I see these friends of yours?
-I will tell my father to invite them one evening to his house and inform them of the reason for the invitation. So, if they have any material they will bring it with them, so as not to waste time. They are Agni Petridou and Glafkos Constantinides. Agni is an architect and Glafkos is an urban planner.
-Who exactly are they?
-They were very close collaborators of Lellos in the Master Plan. The unified Master Plan for the development of Nicosia, that is, which included both sides of the divided city. They executed the vision of the two, Lellos Demetriades and Mustafa Akinci, as technocrats, on the Greek Cypriot side. They are very pleasant people. You will like them.
-But soon because we will have to leave for Paphos.
-Have you thought of anything else about the secret of Zenovia and you are in a hurry to go to Paphos?
-No, but the source of any possible information is there. I will finish with my research, and we will leave.
The next night, they gathered again under the lemon trees in the courtyard of Alexis’ parents. Zena met for the first time Agni Petridou and Glafkos Constantinides who were among the first collaborators of Lellos Demetriades, during the years of operation and creation of the Master Plan, around 1987 and until the departure of the mayor from the Municipality of Nicosia, in 2001. Both were successively coordinators of the technical team of the Greek Cypriot side and together with their Turkish Cypriot colleagues promoted similar projects on both sides of Nicosia.
Glafkos Constantinides is still working on the promotion of bicommunal activities, as a member of the Bicommunal Technical Committee for Cultural Heritage. This Committee is active in both communities with the aim of restoring monuments, churches, etc. left to the ravages of time, due to the invasion of Turkey in 1974 and the separation of people into two parts of a divided homeland. Glafkos gave Zena a copy of an old interview that was published in an international magazine in of September of 1997, by both mayors. But he also talked about his experience in bicommunal issues.
-Bicommunal activities are about learning how to work together and find out how to listen, appreciate, consider, and share ideas and solutions with professionals with different experiences and points of view. It is not unusual to start work on a planning issue with a set of ideas based on your own ‘little world’ to find out that colleagues from the other community have a rather different set of ideas. You need to stop and listen seriously to that point of view and discuss it in depth to adjust or influence what the steps will be.
-The message is that professional skills are as important as the communication skills and the ability to understand the other point of view and make it all a valuable resource for society and the city. *
Zena listened attentively to what Glafkos said and recorded in her memory the key phrase: “Learn to listen.” How many evils would be prevented if people learned to listen to the other, instead of just hearing what they say themselves, she wondered.
Agni Petridou brought her a book written by the philologist Andreas Hadjithomas and paublished in 2017, entitled: The Municipality of Nicosia during the Mayoralty of Lellos Demetriades 1971 – 2001.
-Here you will find all the projects that Lellos promoted in Nicosia and valuable photographic material, she told her. I hope that through its pages you will be able to understand his love for the city of Nicosia and his vision for the unification of Cyprus. Really, why are you so interested in all this?
-I am an Australian journalist and I have always been interested in environmental subjects and peace. I write about these issues and project acts of brave people who promoted peace and protected the environment. I came to Cyprus for a different reason. When my father died, in 2019 he left me a box of letters with the story of my family. These letters led me here in a search of a hundred-year
-During my presence here, however, I learned about the Cyprus problem. Alexis’ family, as you know, are refugees from Marathovounos. The stories I was told, the barbed wire I saw on the green line in Nicosia, and the problem that has existed for almost 50 years, raised a question in me: Has there never been anyone who has achieve something substantial and measurable for the good of this place? And then I learned about these two people who worked together so soon after the invasion. Back, when there was so much hatred and suspicion!
-I intend to write a book about people from all over the world who overcame obstacles, worked, and created through adverse conditions of hostility. Often history forgets about them. So, I thought to speak on their behalf.
And returning to Agni she asked her:
-Can you tell me Agni about your experience in the Nicosia Master Plan? I would be very much interested to hear.
Agni looked at her and her eyes lit up. It was obvious that it awakened pleasant memories to her.
-My participation in the bi-communal team of Nicosia Master Plan was the most beautiful experience of my professional career. The structure of this cooperation contained several innovative elements:
-It was possible for the first time to jointly plan the future of the divided capital
-Besides, it was the first time that young Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot professionals worked together in such a good atmosphere, with a common vision and good cooperation which over time turned into a close friendship that lasts to this day.
-It was also the first time that the Department of Urban Planning of the government and the Municipality worked together in a joint team, for years, for the good of the city
-We were given the opportunity to participate, we local technicians, with an extensive interdisciplinary team of foreign consultants, from whom we learned a lot
-I feel very lucky to have been part of the Master Plan team during its early years. A team with a vision that was chasing innovation.
-Lellos and Akinci proved with this collaboration that anything can be done. *
Zena wrote down Agni’s words. It was a living testimony of how cooperation could work, in a hostile environment, when there is goodwill and a vision for peace.
The evening passed pleasantly, and Zena felt a satisfaction that she was achieving something after the repeated disappointments about Zenovia’s secret. This filled her heart with optimism and revived her hopes that for everything there would be a way out.
*The words recorded here are the views of Glafkos Konstantinidis and Agni Petridou, as they themselves have expressed them.