Cyprus Community of NSW for ANZAC Day: Liberation must be respected

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By Michael Peters Kyriacou, President of the Cyprus Community of NSW Ltd and Member of the Cypriots for ANZACs Subcommittee

The Cyprus Community of New South Wales has achieved many milestones over the past 18 months, from the rezoning of its large parcel of land in Stanmore, Sydney to an immensely popular wine and food festival, a soccer team in the top four competition, about to launch our youth club, our professional’s association, and announcements about our heritage Club building and the future of the Stanmore property.

Perhaps the most prominent achievement has been the formal recognition of our veterans – our people’s efforts in World War One and Two, in Australia and overseas.

When a group of Club members started researching the history of our people’s involvement in both world wars, it did not take long to see the injustice and the neglect of our veterans.

Cyprus had more volunteers per person than any other territory or nation during World War II. Cyprus surpassed Russia, France, the United Kingdom and even the USA.

Although not a nation and still occupied and governed by the UK, the Cypriots were the first to land in Greece in the defence of Greece. They were also amongst the first to land in France, all volunteers. It has been often noted that the Cypriots were the staunchest supporters of the Allied cause in World War II. 

The invasion of Greece in 1940 and even before the UK decided to recruit volunteers for the war effort, the Cypriots were already in the trenches in Greece and France. Once the Cyprus Regiment was formed by the locals with support of the UK administration, 6,000 people turned up.

By the time the war concluded, more than 30,000 had served in the Cyprus Regiment and with Greek, French and other forces, many were fighting shoulder to shoulder with ANZACs in Greece, Crete, North Africa and beyond. All volunteers.

The patriotism of the Cypriots became legendary, their feats to conduct high risk operations surprised even the Germans, who wrote in their reports back to Berlin their surprise that an occupied people would co-operate with their occupiers to fight the Germans.

It seems the belief in liberty ran very deep, it’s part of the Greek DNA, an innate ability to recognise tyranny, and in the hope of their liberation they took arms to help others. Ironically, the highly trained Cypriots were later denied the promise to liberate Cyprus by the UK, a betrayal that shames the UK administration to this day.

The battle-worn Cypriots used their training to turn their efforts to evict the occupiers in the famous EOKA uprising of the 1950s. The disappointment that the UK and in part Greece did not recognise or appreciate the sacrifice of the people of this small European island is the focus of an entire academic discipline.

After WWII, Cypriots arrived in the UK, Greece and even Australia. The lack of recognition of their sacrifices left a scar.

The Cyprus Community of NSW was established in 1929, many of its members were Cypriots who fought in the “Imperial” forces, and with the ANZACs and the Greek Forces, but their efforts were virtually ignored. The Community became a haven for the new settlers where their sacrifices could be appreciated.

It will take the Cyprus Community almost 70 years to finally get the recognition and support our veterans, our heroes deserve.

In 2023, the Cyprus Community of NSW Board formed the ‘Cypriots for ANZACs’ group and due to the Community’s and Subcommittee’s efforts, we were invited to take part in the 2023 ANZAC Day March in Sydney. This was reported by the Australian and overseas media.

This year, the Community will take part in more ANZAC events throughout NSW and is about to announce the unveiling of a lasting monument to remind us all about liberty and selfless sacrifice.

The work of the Cyprus Community of NSW and its Board and the ‘Cypriots for ANZACs’ has now gone beyond NSW. The Community Board and the Subcommittee are in discussions to have a museum document the military contribution of our veterans – a permanent display in Australia to ensure we all honour and respect our Cypriot veterans.

France has always had an interest in the eastern Mediterranean and its support of Cyprus and its people is well known and documented.

The French government has been awarding the Légion dehorner to veterans from many countries to honour and thank those who fought and risked their lives to defend and later secure France’s liberation during the Second World War. This year we have been in talks to submit the names of our veterans and their families for recognition and to be considered for this significant ancient title bestowed by France.

In 2024, the people of Cyprus are still seeking their liberation.

2024 marks 50 dark years of occupation, ethnic cleansing, the suppression of basic freedoms and human rights on land occupied by foreign forces intent on destroying more than 3,000 years of history, culture, language, architecture, art, infrastructure, and religion, wiping out one of western civilizations birthplaces, and again Cyprus seeks volunteers this time to liberate itself.

The Justice for Cyprus Committee (SEKA) and the Cyprus Community of NSW, our members, friends, supporters, volunteers and all our Subcommittees will take part in a series of events to commemorate these dark times of tyranny, occupation, violence and ethnic cleansing.

WWI and WWII taught the world the importance of a rules-based global order. No nation has the right to steal other people’s land, culture, language, identity or history.

The story of our veterans is the story of universal liberation. It has no owners, it belongs to all of us.

The Cyprus Community of NSW, the Board, and its subcommittee the ‘Cypriots for ANZACs’ invite all families, friends and those from towns, villages who have a connection with veterans to join the march and register online at: https://cyprus.org.au

World War One, World War Two Lest We Forget. Cyprus 1974 Do Not Forget.

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