December 4, 2023

Appeal by Ismail Veli….

I would like to share my father’s story and hope that someone, somewhere will come forward to help me find the family of Areti/Erato from the village of Meneou.

The story as told by my father MEHMET VELI ‘Kirlapo’s, first journey to the UK in order to explore the possibilities of permanent migration which finally took place in 1962. He was born on 12th August 1929

It was the summer of 1957 when Mehmet Veli ‘Kirlapo’ undertook his first journey abroad. Leaning over the railings of the ship as the Filippo Grimani cut through the waves he was intrigued when something distracted his attention. A few metres away he noticed a young lady in her early 20’s holding a child 3-4 years old, she was arguing hysterically with a middle aged man when she frantically ran in the direction of Mehmet crying profusely. Mehmet was the only person on the deck at the time. She began to ask for protection as the middle aged man was offering her £5 to prostitute herself. It seemed he was very insistent. In the 1950’s, for a woman to be travelling on her own with a baby was no easy task. Mehmet annoyed at what he heard approached and told the other man to hide his face in shame and warned him that he would have him to answer to and in addition he would report his harassment to the ship’s captain. It seemed the young lady’s name was Areti/Erato and she was joining her husband who had worked and saved enough money to bring his wife and son to the UK.

1957 and a journey to a new life on the Filippo Grimani

Feeling safe with Mehmet she sat at his dinner table and stayed with him  throughout the journey and only left her room after a glance from her cabin door that the coast was clear. At 4.000 tons and only 150-200 passengers the Filippo Grimani though seemingly huge at the time was a tug boat compared to today’s cruise liners.

On arrival to the UK, thank you’s and goodbyes were said, and everyone was picked up by relatives at Victoria station. It was a hard 6-7 days journey but at last the trip was over.

A few months later Mehmet returned to Cyprus. Once his employment in Melusha with Ahmet and Nebile ended, he was helped by Ahmet to find a job in Meneou village, near Larnaca. This meant that he would be away from his wife and 3 children for 2 months. On recommendation he contacted a middle aged family to rent rooms for his family. Unfortunately Yorgo and Angela only had one spare room and indicated that a family of 5 would be too much for them. Cypriots being what they are nevertheless offered coffee and cakes. My father started to explain that he had met a young lady from Meneou with a baby a few months ago on his journey to the UK. At a time of strict rules of conduct Yorgo and Angela were startled at this, they explained that Mehmet was talking about their daughter. Mehmet quickly explained the circumstances and Yorgo shook Mehmets hand, thanked him for helping and protecting his daughter and grandson. He called him a ‘Balligari’ (a brave/hero in Greek). Yorgo and Angela then immediately told Mehmet that his whole family were welcome to stay at their home for as long as they needed to. As it turned out the father later contacted his daughter Areti to tell her what had happened. Naturally she was shocked at the amazing coincidence and told her family to do their best for Mehmet and his family as she owed him her respect and security on her long journey.

My family in 1956 as we would have looked whilst staying in Meneou and that’s me the youngest on my mums knee

My parents have always spoken in high regard for Yorgo and Angela. As a mark of respect for us being Muslims, Angela was always eager to point out to my mother if there was any pork being cooked, she ensured that the food was cooked in separate pots. I’ve been told that she cared and played with me for endless hours. Though our stay was short, my parents, Yorgo and Angela had become very attached to each other. The ladies in particular were crying when we departed.

Sadly after leaving Meneou they never saw each other again. Communication facilities were primitive and the massive migration from Cyprus and Lurucina in particular were immense. Although I was less than a year old at the time, I have always wondered what happened to Yorgo, Angela and in particular to Areti/Erato and her little son. If he is well and alive he would now be about 63-65 years old, possibly with grandchildren of his own. Though Yorgo and Angela may not be alive, I pray and hope that Areti/Erato is.

If anyone knows this family I would be more than delighted to have information that could lead to me getting in touch with them. It may be a tall order, but as we have seen from our friends in Melusha it is not an impossible dream. Yorgo, Angela and Areti/Erato came from a very small village, and I feel certain that if someone from Meneou reads this article our re-union with some members of the family will become a foregone conclusion.

Important Note. A few Greek speaking friends have indicated that the name of the lady in the story could be Areti or Erato. I apologise for my original misspelling of Eredo

Translate » to your language