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17 July, 2024
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1974 Toyotas stand still in Nicosia’s buffer zone

Lost treasures: A journey through time in Nicosia's buffer zone

Newsroom / CNA

Eight-year-old Dikran Ouzounian's childhood memories are intertwined with his father's garage, a once vibrant hub of automotive excitement in Nicosia. The allure of Toyota's latest models captivated young Dikran as he marvelled at the pristine cars that adorned the garage's floor. Yet, little did he know that these same vehicles would become relics frozen in time, trapped within the tumultuous history of Cyprus.

In the summer of 1974, amidst the bustling streets of Ledra, Dikran's father, Stefan, welcomed a fleet of untouched Toyota cars, Corolla, Corona, Crown, and Celica, each embarking on its final journey from Famagusta port to the sanctuary of the garage. Fast forward to 14 years later, a rare opportunity arises for a glimpse into this historic enclave, as CNA, accompanied by journalist and photographer Katya Christodoulou, ventures into the heart of Nicosia's buffer zone.

Their journey unfolds against a backdrop of political tension and delicate balances, where every step is a testament to the enduring divide that cleaves the island. Denied access to St James's church and navigating through the labyrinthine streets, the team arrives at Footballer's Gate, a site steeped in controversy and history.

Guided by Captain Luke Heppenstall, the group embarks on a precarious path to Maple House, overlooking the infamous Toyota garage. The once thriving basement, now ensnared within the buffer zone, bears witness to decades of neglect and decay. Rows of Corollas and Celicas, once gleaming symbols of modernity, now languish beneath layers of rust and dust.

For Dikran, now the CEO of the company, the garage holds bittersweet memories of loss and abandonment. Despite his father's efforts to salvage the vehicles, they fell prey to looters and vandals, stripped of their essence and left to wither in obscurity. Appeals to the authorities for access and recognition have fallen on deaf ears, leaving the Ouzounian family's legacy adrift in the sands of time.

As the journey continues into the desolate expanse of the buffer zone, a stark contrast emerges between the vibrant streets of Nicosia and the eerie stillness within the no man's land. Streets once teeming with life now lie dormant, swallowed by nature's relentless advance. Yet, amidst the ruins, a resilient spirit persists, symbolised by the verdant foliage that defiantly clings to the crumbling façades.

Half a century since the division, Nicosia remains a city suspended in time, its scars etched deep into the fabric of its streets. As the world commemorates this sombre anniversary, the lost treasures of the buffer zone serve as poignant reminders of a fractured past and an uncertain future. In the midst of despair, however, hope endures, a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

[Information sourced from CNA]

Cyprus  |  cars  |  history

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