Cyprus – Frozen images of the past. Nostalgia opposed to reality!
By Ismail Veli……
We live in an age of high tech computers, TV, satellites etc. At a press of a button we catch images across the globe and of the past, and yet many people still visit book shops, second hand bookshops where old postcards and magazines are searched for eagerly. I’m one of those who simply love searching through old magazines, newspaper and postcards for images and stories that bring the past to life.
The images of the world frozen in a split second on the camera suddenly takes on a life of its own. The stories behind the photos are equally interesting. For me the hard copies of old magazines seem much more interesting than the images searched for on Google. Sharing such images of the past seem to many, a much more interesting hobby than simply finding them on Google. Being a member of Frozen Cypriots where thousands of photos are shared is simply much more rewarding. Perhaps it’s the ownership or personal touch these images have that helps us all appreciate what we all share.
The post magazine images and stories of life in Cyprus from 1946 to the 1950’s are indeed rare and gives us all an insight into how life was rather than how we imagine it to be. Contemporary history and images are the most valuable source of information we can possess. The passage of time often leads many to knowingly or unwittingly distort not only events but life as it really was. Frozen images of the past are no doubt nostalgic but above all create an illusion that life in all its glorified simplicity was simply much better. Having studied history and collecting thousands of cards and books on the subject leaves me in no doubt as to how life really was. Of course we as humans need to acknowledge that our desire to learn of our ancestors lives helps fill the void in our present lives which can be stressful in itself. An escape into the past is a nostalgic need that helps us escape from our present toil and grind which tires us all to no end. Hobbies can and do help us relax and move to the next stage with new vigour and energy that helps most of us cope with the fast pace of modern life.
Our parents and grandparents who traveled to other countries during the mass Cypriot migration periods of the 1950’s-1960’s did so because life in Cyprus was harsh and unbearable. And yet speaking to the old timers they also miss the simplicity they left behind. Perhaps it’s their youth they miss, perhaps the changes in the modern world have moved so fast that it has bewildered their image of what modernity has cost the cultural traditions they grew up with. Whatever the reasons, humans by their very nature often block the negatives of the past and often tend to talk about the positives of past life, that is until one begins to question them much more closely. They then begin to complain about the holes in the ground as toilets, no electricity, no comforts etc, and yet they nearly always end up with the phrase ”but we were still happy”.
The Cypriots like other people in the world set up clubs, cafes, cinemas and continued their cultural links regardless of where they migrated to. This gave them a sense of being ”back home”, while maintaining their social, cultural and political identity intact. Regardless of where the Cypriots live they somehow seem to integrate well in their adopted country. Sadly with the world in total chaos and millions of migrants/refugees forced to leave their ancestral homes not everyone has the same opportunity to better themselves. Racism, bigotry, politics and even fear cloud people’s judgement of newcomers who are simply seeking a better life for their children and themselves. That of course is another subject.
We would do well to remember that it was not too long ago that Europe itself was destroyed during WWII. The migration, devastation and loss of millions of lives are still a memory for some who are still alive to tell the tale. The ability of humans to recover from such devastation is a testament to our amazing durability. In the final analysis we should be free to recall the past with nostalgia, but we should be cautious in denying the hardships of the past as it really was. The study of history with an open mind is the first prerequisite to accepting our grandparents’ hardships with the reality that their lives were not half as good as we often like to think.