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24 May, 2024
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15 days of hell in Varosha in the summer of '74

Andreas Paraschos tells the story of Xenia Hadjipavlou, who lost her husband on August 19, 1974, when he was allegedly buried by UNFICYP

Varosha. August 19, 1974. Appartments, Block 10, apartment 2. There lived Michalakis Hadjipavlou, 30 years old, with his wife, Xenia Hadipavlou, aged 25, and two of their three children. Their firstborn, four-year-old Thomas, and two-year-old Marios, while their three-year-old daughter Maria was at a friend’s house in Larnaca.

Xenia was in the eighth month of her fourth pregnancy. Turkey’s invading troops and tanks had already arrived in the city. That morning, Michalakis told Xenia that he would go to the FLORIDA hotel where he worked as an assistant cook to bring home some potatoes so that they don’t start to smell, as per the instructions of his bosses.

“When he got home, he told me he was going to fetch milk for the babies. Although I replied that we had two cartons of milk, he insisted on going. He said that he would go by his mother, in Pente Pitharia, to take his brother with him."

She carried over Cypriot coffee reminiscent in its smell of the masterful brewing of elderly women, and sat across from me in her small and narrow apartment in the refugee quarters of Linopetra.

“Where did Michalakis end up going?” I asked.

“I found out later that they went to the the shop of Tsoukerou at the Stavrou parish. But I have to say that since they were late, I got worried and told my mother-in-law who had come to our house, that I would go look for them. I thought of Mr Parayiotis, who was the UNFICYP chef and managed the buffet of the Association of Apartment Buildings. He gave be a chair to sit on because I was eight months pregnant. He started asking me if my husband was accompanied by someone. I replied that his brother, Kostakis, was with him. He described Kostakis to me and I confirmed that was him. He then revealed to me that earlier, UNFICYP men had found both of them dead outside the shop of Tsoukerou. They gathered their bodies, put them in bags, took them to the old cemetery of Stavrou and buried them. I understand they buried them offhandedly, as the feet of Kostakis, who was taller than my husband, were sticking out of the grave.”

We asked Mrs. Xenia if she went to the grave, but her answer was negative. “I told them, UNFICYP, to take me, but they refused because there were bombings.”

‘They tried to rape me’

Xenia and her two children remained trapped in Varosha for around 15 days.

“One day three Turkish soldiers came to search the house. They went into the bedroom and searched the closet. They found nothing. They asked for a soft drink, but I didn’t have any so I gave them water. One of them showed different intentions, and tried to rape me. I refused. He was fervent and his body movements made his intentions obvious, without taking into account that I was 8 months pregnant. He took my hand and brought his body…” Her tears streamed down slowly and torturously and a lump in her throat made it difficult for her to speak.

“They came the next day too,” she said once she caught a breath.

“The same ones?” I asked cautiously.

“No, others.”

I stared at her, stunned. It was her voice that insisted, as if she wanted to let everything out once and for all.

“The next day more came. And the next, more. When I saw them coming into the house I fell to the floor. My son, four years old, fell on top of me and put his hands between my feed and cried to the Turks: “They killed my father, I don’t want you to kill my mother, I love her.” The Turk that spoke Greek asked the child: “Who killed your father, Turks or the English?” And thank God the child replied that was the English.”

Afterwards, according to Mrs Xenia, she and her children were transferred to Kato Deryneia, and were handed over to soldiers of the National Guard, who transferred them to Ormydeia.

I asked who transferred them there, and for a few moments, Mrs Xenia looked as though was sifting through the remnants of forgotten memories. As if searching for an excuse, she turned to me and said “four years have passed and so much suffering, the mind has stopped helping…”

“Do you mean forty years, Mrs Xenia? I asked.

The neighbour

"Yes, I want to tell you two things. The story of a neighbour who suffered terribly in the hands of the Turks. Six soldiers went to search her home and five of them raped her. She mutilated the sixth… They took her, while she was devastated at threw her off the balcony onto the street.”

“Was she killed?” Andreas Paraschos asked.

“No, she did not die. She suffered though because I later found out that she had fractures in her spine and they had her in plaster for a long time and because she became pregnant they had to continuously cut the plaster and replace it. The second thing I want to tell you is that I want my husband's bones to be brought to me too.”

Thomas’ tent

In Ormideia, where Mrs. Xenia ended up with her children, her second daughter was born and they all lived in a tent. The first daughter was a relative’s house in Larnaca throughout the ordeal. With Xenia was her four-year-old son, Thomas, two-year-old Marios, and the newborn Constnatina.

“We lived in the tent given to us a place full of tents. One night, strong winds were blowing, shaking the tent, which almost collapsed. Little Thomas started crying frantically. He went out of the tent and started shouting: “Help, dad! Don’t you pity your Thomas? The tent fell on top of us. Help, daddy…” People came out of their tents in tears to comfort little Thomas.”

Thomas, who was not handed an easy life but rather a life that kept scratching at his wounds from a young age, with all that he had seen and lived through during that tragic summer of ’74.

Cyprus  |  Varosha  |  1974  |  Turkey  |  invasion  |  rape  |  murder  |  Famagusta

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