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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 14 November 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2015 9 FEATURE in northern Cyprus ment, and he started swiftly up the hill, eager to reunite up the hill eager to reunite with his childhood friend. I grew up hearing stories from Costas of how he and Mehmet were closer than brothers. My pappou would have tears in his eyes and say to me, "I would trust a Turkish Cypriot over a Greek Cypriot any day; they are the best friends you could ever have". He told me he and his brothers would play with Turkish Cypriot children, that most villagers spoke both Greek and Turkish, and that they embraced each other's cultural and religious customs and events. At Easter, the Greek Cypriots would prepare special pastries (flaounes) and coloured eggs and would share these not only with their Greek Cypriot neighbours, but with their Turkish Cypriot neighbours too. villagers spoke both Greek After Ramadan, Eid was a Turkish Cypriot feast shared with their Greek Cypriot friends. They were invited to each other's weddings and other celebrations, and people were judged on their character ahead of their ethnicity or religion. This was normal life in Agia Irini, a once harmonious, multiethnic village. The love and friendship be- with their Greek tween Costas and Mehmet has lasted throughout the decades and overcome ethnic conflict and separation. forced assimilation? to call home, has a responsibility to ensure that the nation's pillars of ‘security, economic stability, interests and longevity’ come first and foremost above all other considerations. Family, faith, culture, traditions are not outcasts but are firmly embedded within those ‘pillars’; surrounded by a world that is full of uncertainty, diminishing resources and invasion of the privacy that we who grew up as baby boomers once enjoyed. Now, after a period of some 70 years immigration, this nation is coming to grips with entirely new phenomenon, one that previously did not have the means, resources and ability to raise its ugly head above the parapet. Today we are subjected, via the media, to information relating to racist attacks on innocent people by individuals who would under normal circumstances not react. This is nothing new and it will continue to occur with newcomers whose culture is alien to our western way of life. Australia has not been immune from the ills of the world, but it does have a responsibility to its people first and then to the wider global community. I honestly believe that all individuals can live harmoniously together in peace side by side, without the need to resort to violence or threats of assimilation, by integrating cultural and traditional values that are compatible with Australian values, ethics and its laws and way of life. Faith is a personal experience and should not be part of the equation, as integration means living within a society that has the freedom to worship one’s creator whoever that may be, and without losing one's identity or where they originated from. Again I find it ironic. At this point I am quite sure that I too will be attacked for my opinions by all sides who wish to point some error in my analysis. However, whatever the case may be, my point of view does have its genesis based on a lifetime of extraordinary life challenges and I am quite sure that sanity will prevail in the end. Remember that ‘multicul- turalism’ as a word is merely a journey to becoming an Australian citizen, nothing more and nothing less. If Greeks, Italians, Asians and Indians, like their brethren Anglo Saxon and Gaelic cultures, can do it, so can those who are of the Islamic faith. I have enormous faith in Australians of the Islamic faith and it is up to them to come to terms with the Australian way of life, not the other way round. This article is dedicated to all my friends whom I have known throughout life, whether they are of the Islamic, Judaic, Christian or other forms of faith. Tolerance and commonsense are virtues that need to be cultivated at all times. That is the Australian way and that is the journey I have taken. * Peter Adamis is a journalist/ social media commentator and writer. He is a retired Australian military serviceman and an industry organisational & occupational (OHS) & training consultant whose interests are within the parameters of the domestic and international political spectrum. coffee, discovered mastica ice cream and rejoiced in watching the old friends sitting and talking together, reconnecting after all these years. Amazingly, Erol, the owner of the kafenion, was the author of a book on the 2,000-year history of the village; he sold quite a few cop- of water and co Witnessing their reunion in the kaf enion was an extraordinary surprise, a deeply emotional experience and a privilege for all of us. We drank lots of w t s d t r p al d tic an in ing frie and get nec all t Am Erol of th was of a the histo villa quite ies that day. Eventually we left and walked back towards our cars. Suddenly, an older lady called out to us - in Greek! Emina had recognised my uncle (my dad's brother) from his visit to the village in 2011. She remembered Costas and Andreas from decades before and embraced them with much warmth. She called her sister Serpil, who joined the reunion and they told us many stories of the old days of the mixed village, and of how my greatgrandfather, Pappou's father, had died. They introduced us to their children and grandchildren, some of whom now live in the house that had once belonged to Pappou and his brothers. Costas reminisced: "That room is where we used to store the hay …" Serpil opened the room to show us its current use: they make cheese there. She cut up some freshly-made goat's cheese and sprinkled it with locally collected sea salt; we all sampled it with relish. Then we all had to try the haloumi … and Serpil made up several parcels of cheese for us to take away with us. Iordanis' two children grew up in the south of Cyprus. They had never met a Turkish Cypriot before. My aunty said to me, "they look like us, and they speak like us!". Her ‘knowledge’, learned from school and the media, that Turkish Cypriots were very different to the Greek Cypriots, was deeply challenged. I observed her responding to the hugs, kisses and smiles of the Turkish Cypriots with warmth and affection. She told me that she was drawn to them and felt a natural connection to them. So there we stood, outside the house in which my Pappou and his two brothers grew up, listening to stories of when Pappou was a child and enjoying our time with the lovely Turk- ish Cypriots living in the house today. When we left, my mum kissed Serpil and said "efharisto poli" ("thank you very much") and she replied, "tipota" ("It's nothing") and then "kopiaste" (a Cypriot, rather than a Greek or Turkish word, relating to hospitality; "come and share my food"). We left Agia Irini with Erol's book in one hand, bags full of cheeses in the other, and deep happiness in our hearts. We all shared a sense of amazement at the day we had experienced. My parents and I have visited Agia Irini many times since this day in 2013. We are incredibly appreciative of the love and hospitality that we receive upon each visit. * Stephanie Jacobs is a PhD candidate in the School of History and International Relations at Flinders University. Her topic is ‘Memories of a Cypriot Belle Époque from Cyprus and Australia; intercommunality from the 1930s to 1950s’. Her PhD journey began in April 2013; she was motivated to write the hidden chapter of Cypriot history: that of intercommunality, cooperation and friendship between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots prior to nationalism and conflict on the island. She has interviewed 64 Greek and Turkish Cypriots so far, in Cyprus as well as in Australia. If you would like to contact her or read more of her work, please visit www.stephaniejacobs.com Agia Irini - the church has since been cleaned and partially restored.
7 November 2015