29th July 2021

FREEDOM AT LAST BUT WITH A STING….

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SCREAMING ON A SYCAMORE TREE A HUGE WELCOME TO A NATIONAL HERO!

Archbishop Makarios Portrait painted by Zenetzis 2004



1959 AT 12 YEARS OLD

The return of the political hero of Cyprus was the event of the year. The EOKA struggle was over, Cyprus was declared independent and the people gathered in tens of thousands to welcome to Archbishop, who led the political arm of the struggle to freedom and independence. The military arm was immediately to leave the island sort of in secret and in disagreement to the solution. However, who was to know what solution was agreed except from those in the know and of age to understand what has happened. I am not to get into that now because what is of importance to me today is that I remember vividly the event of the return and the forced exile of the fighters.

I climbed on a sycamore tree that lined outside the secondary school of Pancyprian Gymnasium, the school I would go to later in September and be there for six long years. The crowds are everywhere around the old Archbishop’s Palace, the official residence of Makarios. The sea of blue and white covers the area and the people of Cyprus are in a frenzy to see their leader after years of exile and have a momentary view of the fighters of freedom who immediately were to be taken to Greece.

Screaming Makarios, Makarios, Makarios and holding all sorts of Greek flags the Ethnarch of Cyprus arrived and spoke to the crowds. I suppose that was freedom as earlier no groups were allowed, no movement of big groups was allowed and being free to celebrate FREEDOM was a new experience that I remember today but had no idea what it meant at the time as I always felt free being a young boy in the village and roaming around nearly all the time.

Makarios spoke to the crowds, the unarmed freedom fighters passed momentarily by, that is how I remember it and the messenger of freedom was back with his people and the hope that the poverty of earlier times was to be replaced by prosperity and hope of a better future soon enough.

 

Moments that determine once life

The year 1959 was pivotal for me. It was not the welcome of the Archbishop, it was not liberation, it was not self-determination of the Cypriots. My future was decided by myself, my own work and my effort to enter after entrance examinations the school where I sat on the sycamore three shouting Makarios, Makarios. 

I was twelve. I was scared, I was intimidated by the events but I was well grilled in what was required. I was lucky to have a great teacher in the last two years of primary school, I was lucky my dad was strict with me in my schooling and I suppose I had an inner desire to educate myself as best as I could. It was instilled in me that education was the way out of poverty and misery. Poverty was everywhere but the poor people knew that education was the road out of poverty and a better life.

I passed the entrance examinations and entered the classes of 1959 in the Pancyprian Gymnasium, the school that Archbishop Kyprianos established in early 1800s and where his statue stands in memory of his contribution to his motherland and Hellenism. Archbishop Kyprianos was hanged by the Ottoman Turks in 1821 and upon the declaration of the Greek revolution of 1821.

 

St Johns Cathedral Nicosia with Arch. Kyprianos statue and Old Archbishop Palace in central Nicosia by Zenetzis, painted 1993

Thus life from a small village to a big town started for me and so many other young boys from central Cyprus. It was the second beginning of my education and the road to adulthood. Memories are now vivid. Times were hard, money was nowhere but education had to win the day but how?

Freedom had arrived through an agreement with the colonial power but as it was always the case the detail was poisonous. It was the usual “DIVIDE AND RULE” that will destroy the dreams and prosperity that arrived in Cyprus within ten years of independence!

Peter Constant

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