Who are you?
“So you identify more with Greek Cypriots?” This was the hardest question posed to me once, in an interview, which was part of a series of interviews conducted in Potamia.
Needless to say I was pretty stumped and had to think fast as I was being recorded.
I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was just the beginning of trying to answer that question for myself time and time again.
Who do I identify with more? A community that I’ve lived with all my life speaking their language, knowing and experiencing their customs or a community, the vast majority of which I’ve never met and whose language I still don’t speak well enough?
Undoubtedly language has to play a huge part in this. Much to my annoyance someone very close to me once asked me ‘How can you be Turkish Cypriot if you don’t speak the language’? I think what he was trying to get at was how can I claim this title/ethnicity if I don’t speak the language. But even before the language became a part of my life again, as it is now, I never stopped being a Turkish Cypriot emotionally. Or at least I never stopped being a Turkish Cypriot of Potamia.
I think maybe in the end it doesn’t come down to who do I identify with more, because in reality a Cypriot is a Cypriot it’s simply a matter of dialect, but who do I feel more comfortable with. To be brutally honest (and I guess this blog is also very much about being truthful to myself and trying to encourage other Cypriots to do the same) it also comes down to who do I feel accepts me more?
Congratulations, Natalie! I look forward to your future reflections.
The question of identity is deeply embedded in the search for formative memories — the personal memories leading us into memories of place, of people, and the narratives that bind generations together. Thanks for making an honest and provocative contribution to this search.
Thank you for your support Bill 🙂
You’re raising good questions, Natalie. I look forward to following your journey in search of answers.
You are not the only one who wonders. So both my parents are Greek Cypriot. My dad had English education from the age of 11 and my mum French. Aunts and uncles married to English and German nationals and all live abroad. I went to the Junior School from the age of 6, then secondary education at the English School and had my first Greek lesson when I was 12. Studied and worked in the UK. My first language is really English and I feel at home in the UK. In the past i have been criticised for speaking English in Cyprus. I found it difficult to get along with and understand the work culture there, but i have lots of special friends and care about the place. I am neither Greek nor Turkish nor have I ever identified with anything other than Cypriot. Some do not like that. For me, it really does not matter from which ‘side’ or ‘culture’ my friends come from. They are my friends because we understand each other, our mixed and messed up background and have memories to share, even though political we often do not agree.
Hi Athena, thank you so much for sharing this interesting and insightful look into the subject of identity here. I really like and appreciate what you’re saying. Would it be ok if I shared your story on our Facebook page but without using your name? As I really feel it’s something people ought to hear.
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