December 3, 2022

Rebecca Bryant’s book

“The Past in Pieces: Belonging in the New Cyprus”

Intro by Ralph Kratzer

I found the following interesting article written by Marina Christofides in the Greek Cypriot online newspaper “Cyprus Mail”.

Unlike other articles, her post describes the Cyprus conflict in a very unbiased and non populist way from the point of view of a Greek Cypriot.

Rebecca Bryant

Anthropologist Rebecca Bryant’s book “The Past in Pieces: Belonging in the New Cyprus” makes for depressing reading. Not just because of the suffering that both Greek and Turkish Cypriots have gone through this last half century, but also because, as its author shows, our interpretations of the past remain diametrically opposed with little hope that there will be any meeting of minds any time soon in order to pave the way for a joint future.

Bryant’s ten year study tells how the opening of the checkpoints in 2003 and the referendum that followed impacted the lives and views of the inhabitants of the formerly mixed town of Lapithos [Lapta], but did little to bring the two sides closer together.

She describes how, after the euphoria of the first days of the opening and the humanity of the early days, Greek Cypriots who crossed to the north were suddenly confronted not with their dream of how life used to be, but with reality. Initial feelings of joy were replaced by feelings of strangeness. Life in the north had gone on without them, things had changed. Someone else was living in their home, working their land.

Border TRNC
border crossing to the TRNC

Their homes and villages were no longer their own, both because they were occupied by others, and because they were not as they remembered. “This is my home,” one woman said. “This was your home,” came the reply. Some people, when confronted with these realities, began gradually to accept they no longer belonged, that ‘real’ return might not be possible, nor something they desired, and saw that things would never be as they once were. One person considered renting a place in his village and moving back. But most felt that they were like “tourists in our own country” and apart from their initial crossing, refused to confront that reality again.

The Turkish Cypriots, after the initial welcome, began to resent what they saw as intrusions. “Why do they come so often?” they told her. “Coming once to see is one thing, but they keep coming back. It’s been thirty years! Why can’t they put it behind them?”

For Bryant, the essence of the problem is encapsulated in the poignant question that many a Greek Cypriot would ask a Turkish Cypriot, “Wouldn’t it be better if we could just go back to the way things once were?” and the silence or shrug of the shoulders with which it was met. This simple exchange shows that even our memories of our shared history are conflicting. Greek Cypriots remember that “we got along perfectly fine before politics got in the way”, recalling how they worked together in the fields, sat in front of their homes and shelled beans together, traded foodstuffs with each other, and sat in the coffeeshops and argued together.

Turkish Cypriots
Turkish Cypriots ask respect for their culture, their language, their past and their humanity

Turkish Cypriots, however, remember how those same people they used to work with in the fields changed towards them in the 1950s and 1960s, threatening their lives. Their memories are of living in crowded, squalid conditions for over a decade, with little access to their lands or to any form of livelihood, in enclaves from which they could exit only by passing through Greek Cypriot checkpoints, where so many had gone missing or were subjected to humiliating searches, reason enough for them to remain there where it was safe, relying on rations and salaries from Turkey in order to survive. All able-bodied men became fighters, including young boys, and all were responsible for guarding outposts.

Not surprising then that few Turkish Cypriots want to go back to the way we were. “We can’t go back to the past. We don’t want to go back to the past,” they told her repeatedly. “They suffered, but we suffered more. They never had two men leave home one evening and never come back.” The persistent response to the Greek Cypriot question, “wouldn’t it be better if we could just go back to the way things once were?” was, “there is no going back.” “We can’t live mixed any more.”

Read the whole article written by Marina Christofides in Cyprus Mail 

by clicking here!

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