controversy in Cyprus and Greece at the moment regarding the stupid comments made by President Christofias at the Brookings Institute, during which he stated that both Greece and Turkey ‘invaded’ Cyprus in 1974. I don’t want to get into the details of why this comment is so ridiculous other than to point out that Christofias is an idiot and his English appalling and his comments have to be understood in this context. (See here for full transcript).
I did, however, want to compare the embarrassing comments from Christofias with those I found recently made by Christofias’ predecessor as president, Tassos Papadopoulos, speaking at a Cyprus Federation of America event in New York in September 2004 (a few months after the ‘NO’ vote against the Annan Plan) which was held to honour Tassos Markou, who fought the British as an EOKA leader, the Turkish Cypriots in 1963 and the Turkish invaders in 1974, since when he has been missing. I believe Papadopoulos’ comments below are a truer reflection of the sentiments of Cypriot Hellenism than the communist claptrap Christofias comes out with.
It is a difficult and solemn task to address you at this event bestowing honour on Lieutenant General Tassos Markou. It is he, who has the right to judge us for everything we have done or failed to do, in defense of our homeland and national freedom, due to his accomplishments and ethos.
It is not we, who bestow rightful honour to a true fighter of freedom and virtue, such as Tassos Markou, for it is we who are honoured by our participation in this event.
On the morning of the 15th of August 1974, we lost trace of the heroic, then Colonel Tassos Markou, and from that moment he joined the ranks of the martyred missing persons.
It is for this reason that I would firstly like to address the relatives of the Lieutenant General; his wife, his two children, his sisters and brothers; who since August of 1974, along with thousands of other relatives of the missing, have been enduring the drama of the uncertainty of their fate.
Feel blessed and find comfort in the knowledge that a member of your family is unique amongst the unique, as he is endowed with all the virtues that justify a person as Greek.
Feel blessed and find comfort in that you had the joy of living together with and close to such a man, even for those few years between his manhood to the day he became a missing person.
For we should be conscious and always remember, that life is not measured by its length but by its intensity. It is not how few or many years we live that matters, but rather the content we give to our existence and with how much intensity and conscientiousness we define our journey and our dedication to virtues, ethos, and ideals.
The ancient saying ‘it is the greatest virtue to defend one's homeland’ was pivotal in the life of Tassos Markou.
And for us Greeks, there is no greater ideal than faith in freedom and dedication to our homeland.
He believed in this with fervour and intensity and this ideal became a beacon that guided his life and journey.
Both in words and deeds he proved himself to be conscientious to the principle and guidelines of life, that he himself with virtue voluntarily selected as his way of life, both in the way he fought and lived.
The hour he chose to remain and fight for his ancestral land at Mia Milia in the defensive line and not to retreat, he was acting in accordance with his guidelines of life. At that moment of decision he called upon and concentrated all the history and greatness of Hellenism in such a way that even if he lives a thousand years more, that hour will remain his finest.
His actions and his life, and not I, are the infallible witness that he dedicated his life to the service for his homeland and the defense of his forefathers’ land.
In 1954, while still an adolescent, and a pupil at the Greek gymnasium in Famagusta, he envisioned serving his homeland as a soldier and studying at the Evelpidon Military Academy. After the start of the EOKA liberation struggle and while the colonial power was searching for him for his involvement with EOKA, he managed to escape to Athens and realize his dream and enlist in the Evelpidon Military Academy.
Before graduation he heard the call of his own struggling homeland and returned to Cyprus in 1958, during difficult times for the freedom struggle, to serve as the head of the Kythraia contingent once again as select amongst the selected.
I don’t intend to refer to his biography or to enumerate his national actions.
First of all because his overwhelming personality and accomplishments are too large to be condensed in this narrow confines or to the few minutes that I have at my disposal for a speech bestowing honour to such a great son of Cyprus and also because I know that the enumeration of virtues and his heroic behaviour, conflicts with the sense of modesty that distinguishes those who are celebrated more for their actions and less for the praise of others.
It is this remarkable and unique man, that the Cyprus Federation of America had the wise idea and commendable initiative to honour by organizing this event on the occasion of my presence in New York. I warmly congratulate the President, the Council and the members of the Federation for their idea and decision to honour the distinguished fighter and soldier Tassos Markou, thirty whole years from the day that his anxious voice was heard for the last time on his walkie-talkie from the first line of defense at Mia Milia, outside Nicosia, on 15th August 1974.
I met him for the first time in November of 1958, when we were together for a short time in a Nicosia hideout during the EOKA struggle. Ever since then, I became connected to him with a close, true, unshakeable friendship that was always accompanied with mutual admiration and honest, open communication.
I met him for the final time on the 30th of July 1974, in Nicosia, which was suffering from the coup d’etat and the invasion and had become a city of pain and anguish.
I remember as if it were yesterday – our dramatic meeting and conversation and his last words still ring in my ears “Goodbye my brother. I am leaving now and going to the front. I do not think you will see me again.”
During those dramatic moments of the Turkish Cypriot insurrection of 1963, he proved himself to be a worthy soldier, a unique leader and a brave fighter who voluntarily undertook and accomplished the most risky of missions.
Those who know him and served with him in the National Guard, those who know him as a senior officer and as a man, speak of his integrity. They characterize him as a man of principle, dedicated to his ideals and beliefs, who had an unwavering and uncompromising boldness of opinion in what he believed to be correct and true towards persons of authority and others.
Dedicated in the carrying out of his duties, that he always accomplished in full, even to the point of treating himself harshly. Simultaneously humble, approachable and humane towards his inferiors and his soldiers who adored him as a decisive leader and stable supporter in their personal and private problems.
His lithe stature, nobility of personality, and the ethos he exuded spontaneously from his simple presence and beauty, compete only with the beauty of his soul and virtue. The peak of his contribution was his stance during the 1974 coup d’etat and the invasion.
When the coup d’etat broke out, he left with permission from his unit in Kythraia, anxiously seeking support to avoid the worst that was to follow, as he correctly predicted and foresaw, i.e the Turkish invasion.
It was a concise and correct judgment that the invasion was previously agreed on and what Cyprus was facing was a predetermined scenario for the partition of Cyprus. He fought with bravery and with all the strength he had, even when he was alone and helpless against the coup d’etat, against the force of the Turkish invader and even when he knew he did not have the ability or hope of overcoming them.
He fought for freedom, democracy and legality against the coup d’etat of the treacheous junta.
He remained where his homeland called upon him to be. And there he remained. And since then he is missing.
The enemy has passed but remains in Cyprus, as an aggressor and occupier for thirty whole years. And we, the betrayed and unjustly treated Greeks of Cyprus seek for thirty whole years the fundamental, natural and obvious right to live freely in a reunited homeland without occupation troops, without settlers, without the walls of separation, without refugees, missing and the enclaved. We seek simple justice and simple justification.
Some accuse us of being rejectionists and unrealistic when we refuse to accept the absurd and unfair, that they characterize as, supposedly, ‘fair’ and ‘uniquely balanced’ resolution of the Cyprus problem.
They use as a threat the suffering and difficulties that will arise, supposedly, because the great majority of our people decided on the 24th of April to say ‘NO’ to a Plan which as it was did not secure a workable and viable solution.
They say that they respect the democratic right of the People to decide their fate. But when the large majority of the people, 76%, freely, democratically and fully-informed voted ‘NO’, in deed and words they do not respect the verdict of the people or the majority of the people. On the contrary they mock the decision and exercise psychological terror upon the great majority of the people or they just project real or invented dangers that are incited, supposedly, from the ‘NO’ vote in order to indirectly promote a ‘YES’.
They don’t say however, as honesty and conscientiousness of word and deed requires, how much the same and worse dangers and difficulties would have been avoided or would have been worse and multiplied if we had voted ‘YES’.
Voting ‘NO’ the people did not reject a solution to the Cyprus problem. They did not vote against the reunification of our homeland. They rejected this specific Plan, which amongst other things perpetuated divisive tendencies and institutions instead of bringing about reunification and unity.
We are committed and dedicated to a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution that would bring about the reunification of our homeland which would be workable, viable and make a reality the gradual rapprochement of the communities in Cyprus, the social and economic reunification and which will not institute the division of the communities and institutions.
Those who threaten with dangers and who describe the products of their own fears as realism, seem to be unable to be inspired by the example of the life and struggle of people such as Tassos Markou.