I found myself staring at the photo essay above, by Reuters photographer Neil Hall, for a long spell. The disturbing images sent me back in time, as I sorted through my personal memories of the island of Cyprus during the early 70s.
On 15 July 1974, I was at the airport in Nicosia waving my husband (at the time) goodbye and watching him disappear through the sliding glass doors of the Nicosia International Airport. Normally, I would have parked the car, gone inside, and enjoyed a cup of coffee in the modern and comfortable lounge—a showcase of 70s furniture and fixtures. But feeling anxious about the mounting tension between the Greeks and Turks, and after seeing armed soldiers standing along the road leading to the airport, I decided to drive home to Kyrenia as soon as possible. My husband tried to assure me by saying it was probably a routine military exercise and then reminded me that the car brakes needed fixing on my way home.
Steering onto the exit road, I noticed more soldiers gathered. Even more than we had seen on our way to the airport. Scores stood alongside the road and in empty fields. I turned the radio on to BBC. Just static. Same static on other radio stations. I switched it off. Nearing the roundabout, I noticed a tank approaching from the direction of the Greek Army Camp. I pushed down on the gas pedal and sped around the traffic circle and onto the frontage road. A sudden burst of rapid gunfire behind sent shivers down my spine. I was caught in the middle of a killing spree—a coup to topple the nation’s first elected President, Archbishop Makarios III.
My memoir, The Lullaby Illusion—A Journey of Awakening, tells my personal story of the coup and the Turkish invasion five days later. For years following the war, I marveled, bewildered, at how a peaceful place (seemingly paradise) could disappear and become a living hell in the space of a few days.
After almost forty years of time standing still, the buffer zone still contains crumbling relics covered with dust and cobwebs, abandoned houses and cars, and the rusted remains of a gutted airport—a haunting reminder of the lunacy of war.