By Marianna Alepidis
On Sunday, July 16, misty eyed members of the Greek and Cypriot community, along with various dignitaries of Greece, Cyprus and Australia, gathered at the Australian Hellenic Memorial in Melbourne, Victoria to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
The wreath laying ceremony, organised by SEKA Victoria (the Justice for Cyprus Coordinating Committee), was opened by Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne Board Member, Spiridoula Demetriou.
“We pay tribute to the Greek-Cypriot and Greek soldiers who died, also to the civilians, including women, the elderly and children who were killed. And those amongst the long list of missing persons who are still unaccounted for,” Dr Demetriou said.
Bishop Kyriakos of Sozopolis conducted a blessing for the ceremony before Deputy Government Spokesperson of Cyprus, Doxa Komodromou shared some words with those present.
Ms Komodromou mentioned the efforts of the Greek and Australian soldiers that fought side-by-side during WWI and WWII, noting the ties that laid the foundation for what would become the Cypriot-Australian community of Australia.
“Please allow me to highlight at this point, we are also equally proud of the Cypriots that, in waves, migrated to Australia and were welcomed by the Australian Government as refugees decades later… thus creating the Cypriot community of Australia, of which many members are among us today,” she said.
The Consul General of Greece in Melbourne, Emmanuel Kakavelakis, emphasised the importance of resolving the ‘Cyprus Problem’ by ending the Turkish occupation and colonisation of the occupied part of Cyprus.
“The Cyprus Problem is a problem of invasion and of occupation; the termination of Turkish occupation and colonisation of the occupied part of Cyprus…The comprehensive, mutually acceptable, just and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem is a top national priority of Greek foreign policy which obviously has significance for Greek-Turkish relations and the peace and stability of the wider region,” he said.
“There can be no comprehensive agreed settlement of the Cyprus Problem without the full withdrawal of Turkish occupation forces and the termination of the Anatolistic System of Guarantees of 1960.”
Mr Kakavelakis continued, noting the basis for settlement is determined by the high-level agreements of the two communities and the resolutions of the UN Security Council. He also expressed that any solution must also be fully compatible with the EU acquis.
“Greece does not intervene in negotiations of internal aspects of the Cyprus Problem from which the Cypriot Government has exclusive competence,” the Consul General said.
“Greece will always support the Republic of Cyprus’ sovereign rights, which are not linked with the process of resolving the Cyprus Problem.”
The Consul-General concluded with some personal thoughts.
“Cyprus is not simply an island. For us, Cyprus is a place of saints, of martyrs and heroes. I won’t hesitate to say that today Cyprus is a marble mill of our generation,” he said.
Dressed in traditional clothing, Maria Sotiriou, 13, followed Mr Kakavelakis’ speech, reciting the poem My Village, passed down from her great-grandmother Maria. The poem elicited many tears from community members, young and old.
“Being a part of this ceremony helps me be closer to the community and be a part of history,” she told The Greek Herald.
“It’s all about learning our history… I’ve learnt that what the Cypriots have gone through was much worse than what we thought.”
Maria was joined by her younger brother Sotiri, also dressed for the occasion.
“This event means that we can raise more awareness and commemorate what has happened,” he added.
SEKA Victoria President, Tony Kyriacou concluded the speeches for the event, extending his thanks to the esteemed guests and the community for their presence.
“It is obvious that today is a reflection of memory, a reflection of pain and a reflection of history. As we can see, human rights are being invaded, and there are serious injustices on our humanity. We deserve the right to return to our homeland,” Mr Kyriacou said.
Wreaths were laid by the speakers, representatives of various Greek clubs from across Australia, along with the High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus in Australia, Antonis Sammoutis, and Senator Jane Hume representing the Federal Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton.
*All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Marianna Alepidis.