On the wrong side of the divide
A single milk bottle among a shop window of colourful vases. And like this milk bottle I found recently in a shop window inside the Bandabuliya, I am considered by some, on the wrong side of the island’s dividing line.
In some respects and according to certain rules implemented by the government in the north, I am indeed on the wrong side. Have a look here at a number of strange comments and incidents I’ve had with Turkish Cypriot border officials. Just recently I was told that if they let me cross on a Republic of Cyprus ID, I won’t be able to cross back into the south without a TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) identity card, as I am a Turkish Cypriot. Despite the fact that I was born in the south and have no affiliation (and neither does my family) with the northern half of the island, they feel they must ‘claim’ me as one of their own.
Nonetheless, I have spoken and written endlessly on my inner struggle to find my place on the island with regard to an identity that pleases and fulfils me in every way. I re-learnt Turkish a few years ago because I felt that my Cypriot identity could not be complete without this language. Most importantly, I not only reclaimed Turkish but I reclaimed the Turkish Cypriot dialect. The child that once spoke the dialect on a daily basis still haunts me in times when the words genni/genne fly out of my mouth (him/her-to him/to her in the dialect). I’ve been told that most people use ‘kendini/kendine/gendini/gendine’. In re-learning Turkish one of the hardest things for me was realising that Turkish Cypriots are not Greek speakers or speakers of the Greek Cypriot dialect; at least not in my time. Just because I move between these worlds it does not mean that everyone else does and not everyone can understand.
I’ve come to realise why exactly I have so much trouble with this. Because I grew up with Greek-speaking Turkish Cypriots. The definition of what it is to be a Cypriot, Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot were constantly being blurred.
How can I ever fully explain that I have lived the island where I am simply a Cypriot or I am simply Connie and Hussein’s daughter, from Potamia?
A friend asked me recently whether there’s any one part of my identity (English-Greek-Turkish speaking) that dominates. It’s a tough and complicated question. The only way I could answer it was by saying that if I ever found myself in a situation where I wasn’t able to speak either Greek or Turkish for a long period of time, I would suffer. It would be as if a part of me was ‘missing’.
Our island’s troubled history means we all carry a burden of sorts. It’s impossible not to afterall. Some are refugees, some have lost family members and friends, never to be heard of again and some carry a hatred inside them so strong that it fills every corner of their heart, leaving no place for hope and love. Mine is trying to find that sense of belonging outside my own village of Potamia, and trying not to feel like a foreigner in certain parts of the island where I still struggle to be a Cypriot, in a language that I only recently reclaimed.
This month my blog turns two years old. The journey has been long but it continues.
- Bringing the ‘dead zone’ to life
- My summer in the buffer zone
Great story Natalie. Amazing.
Beautiful n moving article! Keep on writing 🙂
Remember: Milk is far more valuable than an empty vase. You are no empty vessel. You are important and valued no matter which side of the divide you are on.