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Testimony of the soul by Kati Economidou – The Greek Cypriot grandmother of the Turkish Cypriot Olivia

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Testimony of the soul by Kati Economidou - The Greek Cypriot grandmother of the Turkish Cypriot Olivia

The Turks landed in the yard of the house of her husband, Panikos Economides, in the Five Miles of Kyrenia at 5 in the morning of July 20, 1974 and the first victims of the invasion were his father, mother and sister. Nevertheless, Kati Economidou experiences the power of forgiveness and together with her husband today is a very important presence in the life of the Turkish Cypriot Olivia who often visits their home and they have developed a relationship between granddaughter and grandparent.

Panikos Economidis was a reserve soldier when the Turkish invasion took place on July 20, 1974 and a few hours before landing he had gone with a friend to the center that operated next to his house in the Five Mile area of Kyrenia at 03:00 in the morning. Although Panikos Economides did not see what was happening in the dark, he felt the presence of some and decided to leave with his friend for their own safety during those difficult hours. Eventually Panikos returned again at 05.00 in the center but did not see any of his own, but the Turks made the landing with his yard and fired at the area and so he left. He went to the castle where he informed the Greek army officer about the invasion, who did not believe him.

Eventually Panikos Economidis lost his own and to this day he does not know what happened. They are all missing. This was and is the pain of loss that he experiences throughout his life. And it is not only the pain of losing his own people, but also all the injustices that followed the uprooting of the refugees' homes and properties.

Testimony of the soul by Kati Economidou - The Greek Cypriot grandmother of the Turkish Cypriot Olivia

Pagona, Porphyrios, Xenia Economidou, the first victims of the invasion.

The power of forgiveness

The wife of Kati Economidou, a central figure of the reunification movement, talks to politis.com.cy about Panikos Economidis and the story with little Olivia. “What kept me in Panic,” he says, “was the fact that this man has the courage, he fought when he needed to, he did not hide like some others who later became patriotic. The second element that I admire in Panikos and that he taught me a lot, is the power of his soul to speak of forgiveness. Because I am also a tour guide, I often visited the north side of the island and I had the freedom from Panikos. Why; Because he had opened this space for me, through the power of forgiveness and he told me if I want to live in my place and meet people on the other side then go. He could very well have said to me: “What are you doing my daughter, we lost our people and our property in Kyrenia, sit quietly”. On the contrary, when I went with colleagues in the first year that opened in Apostolos Andreas about 20 years ago and some media presented us as traitors and started making phone calls at home with threats that upset me, Panikos told me: “Listen, I do not know and I do not understand all that you do in their entirety, but if it is what you believe, stand by the values that you believe in, not to be paid by all of these ”.

The first bi-communal groups

“I remember the first times when we started gathering people from both sides, that is, 25-26 years ago, when we asked Denktash for permission through the American embassy to meet and sometimes he gave it to us, Panikos often happened to come home and find Turkish Cypriots. It was then that we started conducting the first seminars to see how we work with each other and how the dialogue between everyday people is structured. I had a great desire to include the Turkish Cypriots in my life and they in theirs and it is something we have achieved through these groups “.

According to Ms. Economidou, the Fulbright American Foundation had managed to organize the first bi-communal groups with Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, such as Serdar Denktash, Kati Cleridou, Maria Hadjipavlou, Costas Siagoun, Costas Siagma and others.

Testimony of the soul by Kati Economidou - The Greek Cypriot grandmother of the Turkish Cypriot Olivia

Kati Economidou in moments of carefree and relaxation with Olivia Birinci.

The story of Olivia

“At a concert in Panagia, in Agios Nikolaos next to Agia Sofia (Betestan) about 3.5 years ago we played music for charity with Demetra George of Greek origin who lives in Los Angeles and is married to a Turkish Cypriot and Fikri Toros , current MP of RTK. I had taken with me my husband and my eldest daughter who were sitting behind Mustafa Akinci, next to Deniz Birinci. That's how I met Denise and developed a friendly relationship together. So when Denise gave birth I sent her a message informing her that she was in Makareio Hospital. I immediately got up and went to visit her where I found her in the hospital with the seven week old baby in a room with four other babies. I politely asked the head doctor to move the baby to a room on his own, so that he was not at risk of any other contagious disease. Which happened the next morning and so a relationship began to develop with the baby and his mother. There were times when Panic went to get Denise food at the hospital. It was very moving for me to see a man whose Turks killed his family running to get food in a Turkish Cypriot. Thus, a very close and beautiful relationship was gradually created and to this day we meet with the baby. We play, we shout, we sing, Olivia has a nice voice, we do different things together and she calls me grandma “.

“She is a very smart baby full of life. And because school is coming to the Greek Cypriot side, I can see it two to three times a week. This child today is 3.5 years old and already speaks three languages! “

“Pain does not go away”

“The pain of losing your own people does not go away but it is very important that someone can forgive and thus create a space within where instead of hatred reigns love reigns, so that he can move on with his life. This is my personal testimony and story. The memories and everything we lived are not erased but what comes, depends on us if it will be the result of the bad and difficult experience we had. Nelson Mandela, for example, when he was released from prison after 27 years, when asked if he had forgiven, replied: “Yes, I have forgiven and I am moving forward. “If I did not forgive, it would mean that I would continue to be a prisoner of hatred.”

“You do not stop claiming your place, nor do you forget your roots and people. You are just opening another path that is not that of confrontation and perpetuation of hatred. Besides, we must understand and realize that we are alone, because in times of crisis all those who claim to be our allies did not and will not do anything. Therefore, we only have each other and when we understand this, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, maybe the situation will finally change “.

“I step on my father's footsteps”

“The future is the children, but we owe it to them to build peace. My children also have no experiences and when they started to know the Turkish Cypriots of the same age, they came and said to me: “Mamma, these people are like us”. Our children move on without forgetting. Our god put his eyes forward and not back. Why; To see ahead! Of course, as I said, memories exist and will exist. I remember when my eldest daughter and I went to the Five Miles, she was 10 years old and she was jumping in the puddles of sand and when I asked her “How are you and how are you coming?” I cried. This connection will not go away, the issue is whether you hold it and fill your heart with hatred or you fill it with love and light that will include the Other, who today is not the same one who held the gun yesterday and went out to shoot you “.

The symbiosis

“In fact, I remember the answer I gave when I was invited to take part in the meetings with the Turkish Cypriots where I had said that I do not speak with Turks. However, this negative attitude changed and little by little I managed to open up to the Turkish Cypriots and today I consider it possible to live peacefully with them “.

Testimony of the soul by Kati Economidou - The Greek Cypriot grandmother of the Turkish Cypriot Olivia

Who is Kati Economidou?

For those who do not know, Kati Economidou is the famous soprano mezzo and tour guide, with studies in Political Science and Philosophy, who specialized and taught Conflict Resolution and Mediation. Katie participated with Beyhan Demirag in the first bi-communal concert held by the United Nations in 1995 in Ledra Palace.

Today she co-chairs with Pembe Mentesh the Women's Non-Governmental Organization “Hands Across the Divide” founded in 2002 by women in Cyprus and has implemented, among other things, the “Peace Bus” project, thus giving people the opportunity to meet villages of modern history on both sides but also to meet again fellow villagers from former mixed villages.

Source: politis.com.cy

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