I was looking back over my time spent living in Kyrenia and one my memories is meeting this extraordinary Turkish Cypriot who is more like a brother to me.
This is an account of how we met and became firm friends written 6/7 years ago.
“Recently I have acquired a new friend through the Stop the Blackmail in North Cyprus Facebook Group. My new friend is Ulus Irkad. Ulus writes for an online newspaper sesoline.net and also for a weekly Turkish Cypriot publication Yenichag.
Last week Ulus wrote a very passionate article on www.sesonline.net which is Turkish and has as many as 500,000 regular readers, this week he highlighted the Kulaksiz 5 problems in his column in Yenichag.
Ulus is a fellow member of Stop the Blackmail in North Cyprus Facebook Group, a husband, a father, a writer, a teacher and a tour guide. Like most Turkish Cypriots he is passionate about this country but totally outraged by the way both foreigners and locals are suffering here.
Ullus kindly gave me a copy of a book he had co-authored with his father Huseyin Irkad and I was very touched by the gift. However upon starting to read this book I found I could not put it down. Sadly Ulus’s father is no longer with us but I thought it fitting to share one of his stories with you to whet your appetite.
“Cyprus Our Green Island of Hope by Huseyin Irkad & Ulus Irkad”
“Today we had a couple as guests from the other side. It seemed that like many Greeks and Turks, they wanted to make use of the opportunity to visit the places that they were born in and spent part of their lives in. They wished to feel the joy of being on an undivided island, and to share the emotions that had always remained alive in their hearts.
They didn’t come to our house, but their car stopped just on the corner and they asked for the address of the street that had long ago been given a new name. The residents in the quarter instantly remembered the old name, Mozart Street. My wife and I happened to be at the gate. The weather was so sweet, the smell of jasmine filled the air and practically everyone was outside on their front porches. Children were briskly playing in the street without any fear of traffic.
Their car slowly moved a few paces away from our house. It was obvious that they were looking for a house. The lady came out of the car. She had some difficulty in getting out. Her husband rushed towards the door and held her up tightly to help her get out. We quickly went to them. We wanted to help them if need be.
My wife, whose Greek is much better than mine, asked if we could be of any help to them.
The lady, Eleni, whose name we learned later, said “My grandmother used to live in a cottage here. I just wanted to come and see the cottage. Its memory is still vivid in my mind. My grandmother used to bring me here and I used to play under the trees. There were two palm trees here,” she said looking with excitement to see the cottage. The years had been merciless; the cottage had fallen as a result of lack of maintenance, but the palm tree was still there. The tree’s presence was enough to excite her. She could not control the tears that started to run down her cheeks.
The lady seemed very tired and weak. We invited them into our house. Her husband held her hand to give her support. She did not have enough strength to climb the stairs so she asked us to give her a chair so that she could sit on the porch. As the Cypriots that we are, we did not take even a minute to get to know each other. The lady’s name was Eleni and her husband’s was Nicola. They lived in Larnaca, not far from the American Academy. I do not remember the name of the quarter and the name of the block they lived on, but they were in the fifth block of a multi-storied apartment building. “If you come to visit us, the number of our apartment is 541.” Then Eleni let her story unfold.
With her trembling voice she said “I have cancer. It started years ago. The doctors said that I had very days to live. But I have endured until now. I was again hospitalised a few weeks ago. They opened my inside. Obviously, there was very little they could do. The doctors told me I did not have much time to live. Then I heard the news on the radio. The barricades were to be lifted. I had a strong urge in my heart to come and see my grandmother’s cottage. I have sweet memories about it, so I asked my doctors to give me leave to visit my grandma’s house. They were very understanding. The serum attached to my body were all removed. My husband took me home. With his help I took a bath, got dressed and we quickly drove over here.”
She slipped up the cuff of her jumper and showed us the still bleeding injector needle-points on her arm. Her husband Nicolas carried a deep sorrow and could not hide his tears. He said “I know I am going to lose my wife. My tears are for her. But I’m also very happy,” he said. “I followed your meetings. The voices and shouts of the people – Irini! Peace for all Cypriots! Cyprus is the home of Turks and Greeks alike! – still echo in my ears.” He continued: “I could not hide my feelings any more. I wept for all of us. I wept and cursed all of those who kept the Cypriots apart. We did not deserve this.” His last words will always burn like a hearth in my heart. I feel myself among my family. I feel myself at home. I instantly stretched my arms to him and we found each other strongly holding each other. We were both weeping, Eleni’s eyes shone with light. “I am very happy. The doctors told me that I might die any day, and you gave me warmth to live. If I am alive in ten days I will ring you and tell you. The time I’ve spent with you is keeping me alive.”
She was very weak and asked her husband to take her back to the car. Before she got in she embraced us all. Nicola was also crying. I could not also keep my tears at bay. I wept openly and I do not repent having done so.”
Huseyin Irkad April 26 2003
This book is a joy, there are many poems and stories by father and son. Ulus could not have become anything other than the warm caring human being he is, with such a father as a role model. Read the Foreword, a short history of Cyprus. Read the dedication to his father by Ulus.
You can obtain a copy at Bilgi Bookshop in Famagusta and Khora Bookshop in Nicosia.”