Zenovia’s secret (Chapter 21)
Posted by: Maria Atalanti
Published on: 23/10/2022Back to Blog
This text is the product of fiction. None of the characters described are real. Lellos Demetriades, Mustafa Akinci, Glafkos Constantinides, Agni Petridou, Katia Taoushiani and Manthos Mavrommatis and the associated of Mr. Akinci are real persons and the roles attributed to them in the chapter are their real roles.
Cyprus – Summer 2021
Zena wasted no time. She asked to be brought to her room a small table to use as a desk and she put there her laptop, the book that Agni gave her along with the interview that Glafkos brought her and began to study. At the same time, she was discussing with Alexis how she could communicate with Mustafa Akinci.
-I have asked Glafkos Constantinides and Agni if it would be easy for them to find me a way to communicate and they told me that they did not have any information themselves. What do you think we can do?
-I have something else in mind. A few years ago, when I had come from Melbourne and wanted material for a cultural event there, I visited the Nicosia Municipality and met the cultural officer, Mrs. Katia Taoushiani. She was a very kind and very educated lady, who served me directly. This is the one who organized the cultural activities when Lellos Demetriades was mayor and from what she told me they were having very interesting events. They promoted at the same time traditional cultural elements, educational activities such as the Open University and high-level intellectual events with renowned artists, such as Marios Tokas. Marios Tokas was a Greek Cypriot composer who excelled in Greece. His works are masterpieces and have been presented in many European capitals. Unfortunately, he died young. This and many more constituted the wide range of events that took place! I was impressed.
-Chatting with her at the time, she told me that her husband was the President of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry and had frequent contacts with the corresponding Turkish Cypriot Chamber. If my memory does not deceive me, his name was Manthos Mavrommatis. Even though she will now be retired, I have her phone and I may try to reach her. Perhaps, through her husband, she will be able to find something for us.
-Well done Alexis! It is useful to meet such remarkable people. If we have time I would like to meet her. Of course, as soon as we finish from here we will have to go to Paphos, but maybe later. Look if you can find Mrs. Taousiani and I will continue my study.
No more than half an hour passed, and Alexis returned with a triumphant smile on his lips.
-I have found her! She was very happy to hear me. She immediately volunteered to ask her husband for some contact information that she will send to my mobile. If we succeed we will have to go and see these people. Of course, I explained to her that I will have to leave soon, and you are committed to finding the secret of Zenovia, but we will keep them in mind.
-As soon as we have the details I will contact Mr. Akinci and I hope he will accept me soon. I am sorry that I cannot speak with Lellos Demetriades. I will try from the book that Agni gave me to find his own words and his own spirit for the period I am considering.
-You should keep in mind that the problem in Cyprus lies in a series of many events, interventions by third parties that promoted their own interests, but also phobias that the collective memory of people carries in its DNA. Do not forget that Cyprus was for 300 years under Ottoman rule and its inhabitants experienced terrible oppression, repression, and a policy of Islamization. Then the invasion of 1974 was the most violent and destructive thing ever happened in our country. Many of the modern Greek Cypriots may not know details about that period, but the collective memory is there and as far as 1974 is concerned, it is still bleeding.
-On the other hand, many of the modern Turkish Cypriots feel that the Greek Cypriots want to impose themselves and exploit them, being the most populous community on the island and face their actions with distrust and skepticism. They are mainly based on the events of 1963, by which they were forced to confine themselves to a few enclaves in various parts of the island. Of course, there is the corresponding interpretation of the Greek Cypriot side why this happened, but that is not what we are talking about. The previously stated desire of Greek Cypriots for union with Greece is another reason that makes them wary. No one, however, can deny that there has been violence and excesses on both sides, nor that there are fanatical, nationalist elements who want to torpedo attempts at a solution. But if we stay on this, there will never be any progress.
We should focus on the fact that Turkey occupies about 37% of the island and this is not in the interests of either the Greek Cypriots or the Turkish Cypriots, who every day risk losing their identity. The goal of every Cypriot should be the reunification of our homeland and the vision of a common future that can bring prosperity to both communities. Almost 50 years have passed since the 1974 invasion, and it seems that the collective memory of both sides stands between them and prevents them from looking each other in the eye. Of course, the biggest player is Turkey and its expansionist plans, but we Cypriots have no ally other than ourselves and the consensus and solidarity between us. A small amount of yeast can change the composition of a huge amount of dough. This is how we must act if we want to change the fate of our country.
-Thanks Alexis for this analysis. You know that me, a person who doesn’t know the details that you know, all this seems complicated and difficult to understand. But listening to all this, I confirm that my focus on these two people is very correct. Surely they too would have the inhibitions and wounds you describe, but for the good of their city and homeland, they overcame them.
-I let you study, and I’ll make some phone calls. Oh, wait. I have a message from Katia with Mr. Akinci’ contact details. I give them to you and the rest is up to you!
-Give me the information and thank Katia and Manthos on my behalf.
Immediately Zena wrote to Mr. Akinci explaining who she is and the reasons she would like to meet him as soon as possible, because she would have to go to Paphos. Then she continued with her study.
The book brought to her by Agni, published in 2017, wrote many details about the efforts made to complete the Nicosia sewerage system, immediately after the 1974 invasion, serving both sides of Nicosia. But she would like to focus on the thoughts and words of Mr. Lellos Demetriades himself. She wanted to understand his momentum and the openness of his spirit. At the beginning of the book, there was a greeting from himself, from which she chose to note two characteristic paragraphs:
… Nicosia also suffered a particularly difficult situation. It was mutilated economically, socially, culturally, urbanely. To this day it remains the only divided capital of Europe, but this historic city did not maintain a fatalistic attitude or show passive behavior. The municipal authority and its citizens rolled up their sleeves and were thrown into a struggle to maintain and rebuild their city, with the aim of breathing life back into its Municipality to continue its illustrious history and regain its glamour. Because they believed that, if we create, we do not perish, as the late Andreas Christofides, director of the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, said…
… The Municipality organized and designed the General Urban Plan of the City in both parts of the divided, long-suffering capital, projects that even the Government itself could not perform, since the barrier was the Green Line, the officially inaccessible space for many decades. Only the local authority was able to carry out this achievement without laws, political planning, official documents, and protocols, but unwritten agreements that are in force and are applied to this day and no Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot leader of a local or other authority wanted to stop…
At that moment Alexis returned, and Zena asked him:
-Why is the dividing line called “Green Line”?
-For a very prosaic reason. When the riots began in Cyprus between the two communities in 1963, the British General, Yang, drew with a green pencil on the map the line that would separate the Greek Cypriots from the Turkish Cypriots in Nicosia, when a ceasefire took place. After 1974 the term was extended across the dividing line.
-A line, draw with a green pencil was left to characterize the division of an island!
-How are you doing with your study?
-The interview that Glafkos brought, and was given in 1997, is just as interesting as the greeting in the book. Mr. Demetriades mentions, among other things:
…As soon as circumstances permitted after 1974 I made approaches to those on the other side of the Green Line. The task was a difficult one but at the end of 1977 I had my first meeting with Mustafa Akinci, my counterpart in the Turkish Cypriot administration of the city, We met in private in my home with our wives, officials from the North and officers of the UN force in Cyprus.
-And he continues further on:
The results were very encouraging. We got the blessing of the authorities on both sides, and we were able to start bi-communal meetings which continue to this day, attended not just by political leaders but technical people. These formed the Master Plan Team of Nicosia and they dealt with number of problems. One of the first of these was the sewage system, which was nearly finished before the 1974 invasion. Thanks to the team’s efforts it started to work in May 1980, serving both sides of Nicosia, with the treatment plant on the Turkish Cypriot side and the bulk of the network on the Greek Cypriot side… The plan was completed by members of the team under the guidance of the UN and delivered in 1987. We are now concentrating on preservation work in the city on both sides of the Green Line, to revitalize the heart of Nicosia and ensure that this area does not deteriorate because of its proximity to the dividing line.
The role of the UN has been of continuing importance: without them no meetings could have taken place and co-ordination would have been impossible….
…Of course, no one can argue that what we have achieved will be a help in solving the problems of Cyprus, but I think that the bridges we have built are necessary and conducive to an agreement for the whole island. To this day I continue my policy of working to create a unified home country. I shall stick to my policy to respecting people and creating a climate of trust, not just in Cyprus but in mainland Greece and Turkey. We need collective effort, an effort as huge as the obstacles we have to overcome…
-How essential his words really are! How I would like to meet him!
At that moment she heard a sound coming out of her computer. It was a message from Mr. Mustafa Akinci’s’ associate, Dr Meltem Onurkan Samani. Her proposal had been accepted and he would meet her in two days at his office in occupied Nicosia. She just asked her to send him the questions in advance so he could be ready.
Zena was thrilled. She did not expect such a short response. She immediately sat down, wrote the questions, and forwarded them to Dr Meltem Onurkan Samani.
On the way to the barricade at Ledra Palace, where she would be picked up by Mr. Akinci’s associate, Zena felt an agony. The man she would meet represented what, in her own world, is the hero. She recalled a paragraph from the book Agni had brought her:
… Through tireless and continuous efforts, the Mayor came to the decision to contact the respective “local authority” of the Turkish Cypriots. He considered that the project was equally relevant to the other side and its implementation was in their own interest. The Mayor of Nicosia of the Turkish Cypriots was Mustafa Akinci, a man of vision and spirituality, prudence, and realistic attitudes on this important issue. Thus, the first step and the most essential one was achieved: the two men managed to bring the Sewerage Plan back to the negotiating table – after three years and with enormous difficulties. Other welfare projects for the two communities followed. The understanding came to fruition, because the two representatives of the municipalities believed in the work, but also in the common purpose of the efforts they made, for their city to be revitalized and function at least in the field of public health.
With these words, Mustafa Akinci was characterized, in a book about Lellos Demetriades and his work. Such people, with an emphasis on the transcendence they made for the common good, should be projected, in her opinion, by the television receivers of the world, instead of shapely ageless ladies and charming men, who have only to talk about themselves.
Dr Meltem Onurkan Samani, was a pleasant Cypriot, I emphasize the term Cypriot, because in appearance the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots are no different, with a smile, which made Zena feel immediately comfortable. Along with her was another associate, Evi. They led her to an area outside the walls of Nicosia, with beautiful houses of the 60s, reminiscent of the areas of Agios Andreas and Agios Dometios on the Greek Cypriot side.
A pattern that repeats itself, she thought. And yet they have been separated by a “Green Line” for more than half a century.
She then recalled that Alexis’ father had told her that before April 23, 2003, when the barricades were opened, after a dynamic mobilization of the Turkish Cypriots, to go from the Greek Cypriot side to the Turkish Cypriot side, one had to travel by plane abroad, go to Turkey and then come to the occupied territories. In other words, it was easier to go to Australia from Cyprus than to cross 50 meters in Nicosia!
Mr. Akinci’s office was in this area, on the ground floor of a two-story building with a garden. Nothing extravagant, that is. They were greeted by his secretary and then taken to Mr. Akinci’s’ office.
A gentleman with kind features, who radiated calmness and simplicity, approached Zena, and greeted her with a warm handshake. After the first greetings had passed, Mr. Akinci suggested to treat her with a Cypriot coffee. A smiling young lady brought the coffee. They had their coffee chatting pleasantly and then Mr. Akinci answered Zena’s questions. It was obvious that returning to those years, when together with Lellos Demetriades, were fighting for their city to have a common future, was a pleasant memory for him.
Photo: Caricature of the time for the Sewerage System from the book “Nicosia Municipality under the Mayorelty of Lellos Demetriades 1971 -2001”