Leaving the Dali industrial area, just off the Nicosia highway, everything goes quiet. There are fewer cars, the landscape changes and there’s a distinct smell of manure in the air (from all the cow farms on the surrounding hills). Rolling fields give way to strange flat-topped hills in the distance and one very distinct cone-shaped hill.
Beyond the hills is the buffer zone, but lying within the Mesaoria plain at their foot is Potamia, a bi-communal (mixed) village in the Republic of Cyprus, just 20 minutes south of Nicosia.
It was my home for 18 years and even though I’m now proud to be living in our buzzing capital city, I will always be first and foremost a ‘Ποταμίτισσα/Bodamyalı’ (in English this means simply ‘someone from Potamia’).
Despite the fact that it’s still very much considered a mixed village there are less than 50 Turkish Cypriots now living there, within a population of around 415 (according to the 2001 census). Some left in 1963-1964 during the second wave of troubles and some left in 1975 when the exchange of populations took place.
Before they began to leave, the percentage of Turkish Cypriots living in the village was actually slightly higher than the percentage of Greek Cypriots, at 319 and 220 respectively, according to a 1960 census.
My family was one of the ones that remained.
Through the years the lack of knowledge on Potamia has always puzzled me. Everyone knew Pyla (in the Larnaca area, however under UN control) as the only remaining mixed village, why didn’t they know my village?
My mother has a theory: she believes that the village of Potamia was being kept ‘hidden’ on purpose. It may have been important for the leaderships of both sides to keep it this way, so that the rest of either side of the island didn’t find out that there was a village within the Republic of Cyprus where Turkish and Greek Cypriots had lived side by side for decades with no problems; a place where some Turkish Cypriot families had never left.
- Who are you?
- How can you forget a language?