January 29, 2023

Lurucina and the exodus

from the village.

By Ismail Veli

The people of Lurucina are spread far and wide around the world. From being the largest Turkish village in Cyprus it has been reduced to a tiny village of only 400 people. The exodus began in the 1950s and within the space of twenty years a village that took centuries to evolve iMap of Lurucina smlnto the unique bi-lingual, land owning community abandoned their homes in search of a better life. This article does not have the capacity or space to analyse in-depth such an event, but what we can do is share the stories of our experience during the long, hard and often heart breaking journey that resulted in the decimation of an established way of life. No doubt our experience was shared by many Cypriots during the period between the 1950s-1970s. Though the departure was sad it was also full of hope, ambition, excitement and a determination to seek a better future. We often remember the past with nostalgia. We dream of the past closeness of our relatives, while often forgetting the heartaches that went with it. We always talk about the large get-together’s and yearn for a time bygone, but rarely remember the lack of warm running water, no electricity, the holes in the ground that were toilets and the sheer suffering of our parents who rarely had two pennies to put together.

Humans being what we are tend to glorify the hardship to describe how our families were tougher, more reliable and courageous in the face of adverse economic conditions. People were indeed tough, they had to be. Women carrying huge rocks on their backs that we cannot liftWomen carrying rocks up today. Our parents and grandparents working in the fields in the scorching 100 degree Cyprus heat, that we cannot even walk in today. They carried the burden without expecting anything other than food on the table, and a shirt on their backs. Was it a surprise that when the opportunity to migrate was presented to them they took it with open arms. Their determination and courage became even more apparent when on reaching their destination in lands they knew little or nothing about they set about the task at hand. Many unable to even read or write other than sign their own names, with no English language or knowledge of their new environment, they gritted their teeth, worked ceaselessly day and night, and within a short period they not only integrated but went on to become new home owners, establish businesses, organized community centres and even supported families left behind in Cyprus.

The journey often took 6-10 days by sea and rail. The passenger ships, though seemingly large at the time, were only 4-5 thousand tons in weight. The result was sea sickness, fatigue and tiredness, but at the same time it was fun, adventurous and the sight of new lands was an unforgettable experience. So why did our families SS Negbah sml choose to travel by sea, the answer is obvious, the cost. at a time when even the skilled workers in Cyprus only earned £1.350 mils (£1.35p based on 1960 national records of Cyprus) and only £1.100mils (£1.10p for a labourer, the cost of travelling by air at £60 or £108 return was simply unattainable. The sea and rail journey was around the £35-£38 mark. With ever-growing numbers of families in the UK sending assistance, the pace of migration picked up and accelerated in leaps and bounds.

This article is dedicated to that period, and the people who experienced those momentous years that changed our lives for ever. Sadly not enough has been researched or written about the personal accounts of the people who lived during that period of immense change. While we are grateful and confident that the future of our children and grandchildren will be much more comfortable, it is also our wish that they understand what, when and how their lives have been shaped by the experience and monumental efforts of our parents and grandparents. One way to appreciate ourselves is to understand the trials and tribulations of a bygone era that was not in the too distant past.

Editors note:

To read more of Ismail’s fascinating articles, please write Ismail Veli in the search box on cyprusscene.com or visit his website by clicking here

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