103-year-old Evripidis Mouxouris shares his story in new documentary ‘Two Homelands’

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By Kay Pavlou

Greek Cypriot refugee Evripidis Mouxouris stands strong at 103 years old. He is the eldest member of the Cyprus Community of New South Wales.

As the 50th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus approaches on July 20 this year, he remembers clearly his beloved homeland in Cyprus.

Evripidis was born in 1921 in Morphou, in now-occupied Cyprus. His family were humble farmers. Aware there was no money for him to complete his schooling, he became a tailor. Inspired by a visiting unionist from Limassol, he started the first tailor’s union in his local Morphou region in 1938.

“From then on my life was dedicated to ‘ta koina.’ the greater good of the people. I worked for my career but my spare hours were spent in organisations,” he says.

In 1941, he joined AKEL – the Progressive Party of Working People.

“I am a communist and always will be,” he says.

AKEL encouraged Evripidis to create a farmer’s union. He rode his bicycle to the surrounding villages.

“I remember I dedicated two years. We organised the farmers to get better conditions. Life is very hard for farmers,” the 103-year-old explains, before moving on to speak about wartime.

“In 1943, we were the first to volunteer as soldiers to fight fascism. I fought in Italy with the British Army, as we were still part of the British Empire in Cyprus. The Second World War was a terrible thing.”

After the war, he opened a tailor’s shop in the centre of Nicosia where he had front row view to the EOKA rebellion against the British from 1955. In 1960, he witnessed the creation of the new Republic of Cyprus. Soon after he married Panayiota and created an idyllic life. Each day, he would commute from his house in the village of Morphou to his shop in Nicosia.

“My house was paradise. Built on four acres, I planted every kind of fruit tree, including 4,000 orange trees. We had seven goats and made our own haloumi,” he says.

His paradise was taken in 1974.

“When the invasion happened, I was left only with the trousers I was wearing. We, who fought for freedom, I, who enlisted in the Army for World War Two, become a refugee in my own country. They took our land and put us out as refugees,” Evripidis says.

Four weeks later, Turkey launched a second attack. Homeless, Evripidis’ wife was due to give birth on the exact day of the second invasion. The clinic, full of battle injured, was plunged into darkness and short on medical staff. Evripidis drove through military blockades to find an anaesthetist for his wife. After a night comparable to “the sufferings of Christ,” their son was born.

“But then what? We had a newborn baby, a small child and no home. We found a squat in the middle of Nicosia, near the Buffer Zone. We stayed for two years living without a permanent home, before we decided to migrate to Australia, for the future of our children,” he explains.

When Evripidis arrived in Sydney, two Turkish Cypriot brothers came to welcome them to Australia.

“We grew up together in Cyprus. They came up from Melbourne and found my home. We are good friends. We always had good relations with Turkish Cypriots,” Evripidis explains.

Evripidis then had to work two jobs in order to provide for his family.

“I didn’t become a rich man but my life is good. We have a good home in Marrickville. I also continued to be political. I joined SEKA (Justice for Cyprus). We raise money to help get the message out about the Cyprus Problem,” he says.

Currently, aged 103, he makes his way five days a week, with a walking stick, to the Cyprus Club of NSW’s basement cafe.

“I am a person who needs to keep busy and at my age there is little can do. I play backgammon so the brain doesn’t stop working and we speak our Cypriot dialect,” Evripidis explains.

He refers to his opponents as ‘the old men.’

“I love Australia because both my children have been able to graduate and we are well. To tell you the truth – I love Australia but I also love my homeland. I am a man who has two homelands,” Evripidis concludes.

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