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20 July, 2024
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Let's not forget to whom we owe a debt of gratitude

Remembering the dual legacy of July 1974

Alexis Papachelas

Alexis Papachelas

It has been 50 years since the dramatic events of July 1974. We must never forget that the joyous hours of democracy's restoration in Greece were also hours of great sorrow and tragedy for Cyprus. We must remember those to whom we owe our gratitude. As memories fade, there is a visible danger that we will forget. The knowledge of history has begun to decline and, most dangerously, fall prey to easily digestible conspiracy theories.

We owe a debt of gratitude, first and foremost, to all those who defended the honor of the homeland and lost their lives in Cyprus that dramatic summer. Those young men from Mouzaki or Palamas who were loaded into ancient aircraft to go and fight, but were killed by friendly fire due to the criminal disorganization of the defense on the island. It is unbelievable that their bones were buried in the wreckage of an aircraft for decades, the product of an unjustifiable guilty silence about what happened.  As if Greece had to prove—to whom, I wonder—that it had no military involvement after the invasion. I had the honor of being on a flight of a transport aircraft carrying the remains of some of them back to Greece. It was chilling to see brothers and other relatives waiting anxiously for a cycle of uncertainty that had lasted 40 years to come to an end. And it wasn't just those young men who lost their lives and to whom we owe gratitude; there were many more.

As memories fade, there is a visible danger that we will forget. The knowledge of history has begun to decline...

Looking back, it is clear to any objective observer of history that we owe a lot to Constantine Karamanlis as well. He took the reins of the country amidst an unprecedented storm and led it to a safe harbor. The way he handled the dehumanization, laid the foundations of modern Greek democracy and avoided war with Turkey is worthy of admiration. Some questions need to be discussed, such as whether he should have left the military arm of NATO or what else he could have done before or during the second invasion. But let's make no mistake, no one else could have handled that crisis so robustly and wisely. We owe it to him, and we have an obligation to make this understood by younger generations and to preserve his legacy.

Finally, it would be good if the guilty silence of the Greek state about what happened back then could be broken once and for all. There is no reason why the relevant records of the Greek Foreign Ministry, for example, should still be secret. Fifty years on, we are ready and mature enough to look in the mirror and, along with the anniversary celebrations, indulge in a little self-awareness exercise.

Cyprus  |  Turkey  |  Greece

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