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?
Fantastic! I know what you’re thinking but I couldn’t resist leaving a comment ! Good luck and keep writing about how you see it and feel.
Thank you and I will! More to come 🙂
my grandfather was the muhtari of ayios sozomenos.. mustafa lefakaridi. i have been to ayios sozomenos and hence potamia two times. first one was when the crossing points recently opened and the second time was a month ago.
at our first visit my grandmother was alive so she was lucky to see her village after february 1964 but my grandfather couldnt ever find chance to visit his village again because he passed away at 1993.
maybe one day i will find the chance to move to the lands of my family in ayios sozomenos.. and who knows maybe this time i will be the muhtari of the village))
Hi Fuat, thank you for sharing that 🙂 Who knows what the future holds! Hopefully positive things for all of us and the island we love. There are also some Ay Sozomenites living in Potamia.
I hope that one day I’ll be able to see this peaceful place. What a nice village within the Republic of Cyprus where Turkish and Greek Cypriots had lived side by side for decades with no problems ! Thank you for this useful article ! 🙂
Thank you Nahit 🙂 I hope you’ll be able to visit us soon too and experience it for yourself.
I have visited both north and south. People I have asked always tell me that they are Cypriots. They may add Greek or Turkish but all seem to agree that first and foremost they are Cypriots.
A shared history (good & bad!) and a sense of national pride can provide a good background to co-existing through friendship and mutual respect.
You experience is a lovely example of what can (and should) be normal.
Now you just have to get politicians to share the vision and let Cyprus breathe, relax and move on.
Thank you for sharing your experience.
Hi Peter! Thank you for these heartfelt thoughts I really appreciate them. I totally agree. And especially now, national side is so very important.
Would you mind if I shared your comment on the blog’s Facebook page but without your name of course?
This is absolutely fascinating, thanks for sharing Natalie! I look forward to hearing more about your experiences growing up in Potamia. Is Turkish Cypriot still spoken or do the TCs speak mostly greek cypriot? Also how was it for you, and for your family living in the south as Turkish Cypriots? Did you ever face discrimination or did you ever feel like you had to hide your roots? I hope to read more from you in the future 🙂
Hi Francesca! In answer to your questions the Turkish Cypriot dialect is still spoken by Turkish Cypriots but it is a strange situation because I’m not the only one who kind of ‘forgot’ the language along the way. My cousin was telling me that when she was a child she wasn’t allowed to speak Greek in the house, for that very reason. Greek would have dominated if these rules didn’t exist probably.
And for your second question, there’ll definitely be more on this later, but we didn’t face discrimination 🙂 There are reasons though which I’ll explain later on, some being that I went to a private school so the dynamic was not at all the same as in the public schools.
That’s a very thoughtful piece of writing! Keep up the good work Natalie!
Thank you Chrystalla for your kind words 🙂 Hope you continue to enjoy the blog.
Providing no one from “other nations” keep poking us and telling us what we are and what we should do we would not have issues ourselves…
Cenk I believe now is our time to carve our own path.
Very true… the people of this island have all the right to decide how they will live their lives as long as they can make sure every respectful inhabitant can coexist peacefully
I think that, although very unfortunately, your mother is probably really on target about this issue… It sometimes overwhelms me that some politicians can work so hard (and succeed 🙁 ) on trying to separate these communities so much in the peoples’ image, for their own chauvinistic gains… hopefully soon enough people can begin to see that we always can and will always be able to share lives together..