Arriving on the island in 1978, still very much a young woman, my mother, of Irish-parentage, came to live in the mixed village of Potamia with my father, who had been living in London for 15 years with my auntie and grandmother, following the intercommunal strife of the early 1960s.
Let me put it into context: she came from north London to live in a country still fresh from the 1974 war, where refugees were still living in tents and a place where God forbid you muttered the word Turk or were married to a Turkish Cypriot (who was probably also just considered a Turk).
She came to a secluded village in the Mesaoria (the plains) where she also didn’t learn how to drive for another four years, thus leaving her stranded in this village. Many may ask, including myself, what was she doing here?
In the meantime though, she did learn how to speak both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot dialects, which she steadfastly defends claiming that they are special because they are ours. She also learnt how to cook delicious Cypriot food. Admittedly, she makes the best ‘κουπέπια’ (stuffed vine leaves/dolma) and ‘κεφτέδες’ (Cypriot meat balls/köfte) ever!
My mother was very much embraced by the Ποταμίτες (people of Potamia). And I don’t say this in order to put some romantic spin on her time in the village, but they truly did, with one of the reasons being that she embraced them and their culture, in its entirety.
Surprisingly enough it was this ‘foreign’ woman that contributed much to my Irish/British yet Cypriot upbringing, appreciating and embracing Cypriot culture from the start, such as traditional Cypriot music. It’s my mother who can make both cultural references to ABBA and Cypriot Eurovision song entries from the 1980s.
And it’s from her I learnt what some may call very ‘χωρκάτικες λέξεις’ (words of the village/coarse), such as ‘τζίλα το αμαξούι σου τζίτε μερού’, meaning ‘stop bothering me with this/go away’.
My family has never been one for talking very much about the troubles of the 1960s and then of 1974, but my mother was always willing to answer questions on this subject, remembering important things that others had forgotten, such as the fact that the priest of the village spoke perfect Turkish. The priest of the village happened to be Loukis Papaphilippou’s father (Papaphilippou is the owner of Antenna, TV station).
My mother has been living in Cyprus now for 38 years; still very much a ‘European’ in many of her ways but also a Cypriot in others.
- The power of ‘words’ (part 2)