I sat in one of the seats at the back after getting my queue number in the bank.
A young man sitting next to me turned around and said, “Hi Abi [Translator’s note: The word which means ‘older brother’ in Turkish used when addressing someone older], you don’t know me but I read your columns and watch your programmes when I find the time.”
I thanked him, and he continued talking, “You wrote an article on emigration some time back, I read it, and unfortunately we too as a family are emigrating to England; my mother, my father, my sister and I…We’re leaving, we had settled in Cyprus 17 years ago but now we’re returning to the UK for good, like permanently, there will be no returning.”
He was 10 when his family moved to Cyprus from the UK…He, his mother, and his sister who is five years older than him had not wanted to come to Cyprus.
His mother is a UK-born Turkish Cypriot, and his father had immigrated from Cyprus as a young man. They told him, “Come to London, we’ve found a nice girl for you to marry”, he took up the offer, married, and had a happy life.
However, his father had made a promise to himself the day he set foot in London, “I will return to Cyprus, I will die there and be buried there.”
The only thing the young boy’s parents disagreed and quarrelled over was about returning to Cyprus… This patriotic man had persuaded his wife and children 17 years ago and they had permanently settled in Cyprus.
“Actually it was more giving in than persuasion. I was little, and no one really asked my opinion but it was in fact my mother and sister, who gave in to my father’s stubbornness and persistence. My mother was either going to divorce my father or say yes to moving to Cyprus permanently. In the end, she accepted,” the young man said.
Both his mother’s and father’s relatives back in Cyprus had all warned, in fact, begged his father, “Don’t move here, don’t uproot your life, come stay for long holidays but do not return to Cyprus permanently” but his father could not be swayed.
The young man explains; that his youngest uncle had told his father, “Brother, if you really want to be buried in Cyprus, we’ll fly your body back here for burial when you pass away but do not sell everything you have there and move here”but he could not convince him…
They experienced great difficulty adapting to Cyprus after settling permanently. His mother particularly had become very unhappy. She kept on saying, “I cannot live in this disorderly country.” In fact, his father was also complaining about the disorderliness.
His mother kept on saying, “People accustomed to the European system go mad because of the disorderliness in Cyprus.”His mother and sister kept on saying, “No matter how bad the conditions become, England is still a country where there is a proper system in place. Even London’s regressed state is twice as good as our life in Cyprus”…
His father, who had remained silent for the first 15 years, had started two years ago to admit that moving back to Cyprus had been a mistake. He too started saying, “I can’t do this anymore.” The boy’s father was saying, “I work four times as much as I did in England but I earn far less. I can no longer stand anything in this country. I’m about to go crazy.”
This is how the boy described his father’s changing state of mind:
“My father is a very nationalist person. He has a star and crescent necklace [Translator’s note: Star and crescent represent the Turkish flag] and a ring, he never used to take them off. He would hang a flag in front of our house on national holidays. He would also do so in London, in fact, we got into trouble a few times for doing this.
Do you know what abi? He has stopped wearing the necklace and ring for the past two years, or hanging a flag in front of our house. We were very surprised to see him do this, I asked him one day ‘why?’ “I don’t want to be mistaken for a phoney nationalist. I feel bad when I see them [phoney nationalists] wandering out and about,” he told me.
That was the day I was truly convinced we were moving back [to the UK]…Do you know what’s really interesting abi? I really don’t want to return to England. I was ten when I came here, now I’ve grown accustomed to this place, I like it here.
My mother and sister on the other hand are both happy and sad. They’re happy that we’re moving back but they believe that both my father and I will be miserable once we leave here and that makes them sad…
When my mother brought this up one day, my father’s response was, ‘No I’m not sad, we’ve been here for 17 years. We waited for 17 years for this country to improve but things have just got worse. And it seems unlikely it will ever improve, this place repulses me. Every time state officials talk I feel disgusted like I want to throw up, I can’t stand it.’
Abi, even though I love Cyprus very much I share my father’s mood. I’m not happy or at peace here. There are always problems, I’m 27 years old and I can’t see a future in this country. I’m sad but I believe I’m at an agreeable age to leave. At the moment I’m trying to convince my girlfriend to come with us…
Just like my father who ‘feels repulsed’, I too feel the same way. Can you see what’s going on in the country? How can one tolerate all this that is happening abi? I’m just like those ready-to-burst people you see in the movies, who rush to a field, or a hill or to a mountain top where they scream out at the top of their lungs, that’s how I feel. And I did that once, I went to a field and screamed as loud as I could…”
As the young man told his story, the words my mother used to utter in times of frustration, “I feel like screaming” came to my mind…
The young man said, despite having brought with him a good sum of savings to Cyprus, his father lost a lot of money until he got to know people, until he adapted to this distorted system, being swindled from time to time as he was perceived by many as a sucker.
The young man said his father was particularly hurt by being seen as a “wealthy chump from London” and continued:
“We’re not going to London with a lot of money. We had debts which we settled, our [financial] situation is at best mediocre. My father has friends in London and he has arranged work for himself, for my sister and for me. The jobs he has arranged are not in the areas we studied. Once we get there my sister and I will try to find jobs more suitable for our education. My mother says she is “willing to work as well if necessary.” My mother is 65, my father is 68, they shouldn’t be working at this age but he insists “I will work”. The man is stubborn…
By the way, my father no longer wants to die or be buried in Cyprus. “We’re getting old, the system in Cyprus does not protect the elderly, doesn’t take care of them. We will become a burden to our relatives in Cyprus, they’ll end up counting the days until we die but [the system] in the UK will take care of us,” he says.
He told my youngest uncle, “Under no circumstances should you spend money to bring me back to Cyprus when I die, I want to be buried in London.”
Meanwhile, my father has taken out his star and crescent necklace and ring from safekeeping. He says he will wear them again in London. He is also going to take a Turkish flag with him but will be leaving behind the TRNC flag. You might not believe it but he has lost his faith in the TRNC. He says the creation of the TRNC was not to the advantage of Turkish Cypriots, in fact, he argues that it has brought their end.
Whereas, in the past he would get really angry at those who used to talk like this but now he himself has been expressing these views. We are leaving behind the TRNC flag and the TRNC, never to return. My father says those in charge of governing this place are unsuccessful, incompetent puppets, and I agree.
We as a family are all British citizens, why should we remain here and face this ordeal, why should we constantly feel repulsed or disgusted, why should we always feel like screaming? We will not share our departure on social media. We will leave silently. I have other young friends who are going to emigrate, I will help them once I get to the UK. I have friends who have gone to the Netherlands, Italy, and Scotland for university but who will not return [to Cyprus]. Those who have turned this country into what it has become should be proud of their work. I will write to you through Facebook Messenger when I get there abi…thank you for listening to me…”
This is a summary of what the young man told me. He had spoken longer…Do you see that apart from our young people migrating, we have now succeeded in disgusting those who repatriated from the UK or Australia, making them miserable. Now full of regrets they are moving back.
Our own people, who want to die and be buried in Cyprus are changing their minds, wanting to die in foreign lands. Have you heard, that nationalist citizens who return to Cyprus permanently are repulsed by the phoney nationalists?
Those preparing to emigrate are saying they cannot tolerate the words and actions of some of those governing the country, that they feel like throwing up, like screaming.
Lately, I have come across the story of four different expatriation stories on social media, the story told by this young man is the fifth…Do those running the country care? Do the defenders of this rotten order, kneaded into a lie, care about the people of this country? Does the fact that these people are emigrating or leaving this place mean anything to them?
We really feel repulsed, we constantly feel like throwing up and we seriously want to scream out at the top of our lungs…It’s really a shame, we will vanish piece by piece as long as we, as a society, don’t rise up for our salvation…It doesn’t really make a difference as long as there is a population to replace the one leaving, does it? This is why the Turkish Cypriot people waged a struggle for existence, isn’t it? Be proud of your work.