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'What we Knew was Lost'

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

An Oral History and Narratives of Loss Amongst a Family of Greek Cypriot Displaced Persons

By Christakis Peristianis

This article examines the changing texture of family relations and the different ways displacement is understood to have influenced these relations in my extended family of Greek Cypriot displaced persons. Its emphasis is situated in both the way the displaced generation comprehends their displacement and the extent to which such meanings have been inter-generationally transmitted to the second generation. As the article argues, a concept at the core of both generations’ understanding of the influence of displacement on family life is identity, with the family recognized as a guarantor of identity and displacement as a trigger for its reconsideration. All testimonies presented emphasized family life as an object of identification, with displacement associated with the disruption of both the object itself and its related settings, village life and proximity of residence.

On the 15th of August 1974, my maternal extended family left their village of Zodeia in the Morphou region of Cyprus to escape the advancing Turkish army. On that day, they became internally displaced persons [1]. My grandparents, Andreas and Panayiota, along with their six young children, got in their car and left the village with nearly nothing, anticipating their journey would be short. The family took shelter in four different villages during the next year. First, they stayed for a day in the village of Evrychou, hosted by a friend of my grandfather’s. They were then hosted in the village of Sina Oros for approximately 40 days, at the home of a family they had never met before. Afterwards, they squatted in a house in the mountain peaks of Troodoswhere they remained for three months. Eventually, the family would make its way to the village of Astromeritis, where my eldest married uncle resided. They would initially stay at his home for some weeks and then rent a house in the same neighbourhood for a few months. Eventually the family would be given land in the village to build a new home through a self-built government scheme [2]. While both my grandparents died while being displaced in Astromeritis, their children would eventually find their way back to their place of origin, if only for a visit; 30 years later [3].

In their analysis of refugee and forced migration studies, Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Sigona, Long and Loescher (2014) have argued that the Western discourse observed in much of the forced migration literature has tended to focus on the individualistic experiences of displacement, paying little attention to other experiences and perspectives. This essay is intended to challenge such notions through its consideration of the familial level of the experience of displacement. More precisely, its scope lies in the changing texture of family relations in my extended family as a result of displacement, with an emphasis on the personal meanings by the displaced generation and the extent to which these have been intergenerationally transmitted. At the core of this analysis is the concept of identity and the way it intersects with the institution of the family and the surroundings in which family life took place prior to displacement (Eisenstadt & Giesen 1995; Benmayor & Skotnes 1994). The argument of this article is that family members acknowledged the family as a guarantor of identity and an object of identification, with displacement a trigger for its reconsideration and restructuring (Rozińska 2011). The disruption of family life is related to two particular settings: the context and ontology of village life, and the proximity of residence among the extended family in such village communities.

In all testimonies presented in this article, family life was the ‘first memory’, the principal and primary mode through which family members, independent of generation, interpreted displacement. These testimonies referred, however, to a specific type of family and family life. This familial framework relates to what Philip Greven has called the modified extended family, which consists of ‘a kinship network of separate, but related, households’, with the principal variable being ‘not the structure of the household, but the structure and extent of the extended kin group residing within the community’ (1970: 15-16). The modified extended family is characterized by frequent interaction by choice and due to close distance, immediate affective bonds and a connection by means of mutual aid and social activities (Troll 1971; Bengtson & Cutler 1976). As Tamara Hareven (1974) has argued, this type of family and family life is contingent to the web of connections that a proximity of residence guarantees for different members of kin.

This was a kind of family life widespread in the rural communities of Cyprus prior to 1974. Following testimonies from members of my extended family, I understood that in the same neighbourhood where the family resided, also lived their paternal grandparents and the families of two of their paternal uncles. In the village of Zodeia, moreover, also resided their maternal grandparents, the families of three of their paternal aunts, the families of two of their maternal uncles and the family of their maternal aunt. One could even argue that the village community was to a certain extent comprised of relatives of different degrees. This description confirms Peter Loizos’ (1981) assertion that life in rural Cyprus ‘faced inwards’, oriented towards the family group and fellow villagers, with the two categories often being intertwined.

In terms of its methodology, this article is based on oral testimonies exploring the ways displacement is understood to influence the pattern of family relations in my extended family. They originated from the individuals this article examines, seeking to offer an alternative history of the family and its relation to displacement (Modell 1989). One has to recall, however, that oral testimonies are not a door to the actual events narrated. As Alessandro Portelli (2003) reminds us in relation to oral history testimonies, they tell us more about subjectivity, as they display what people think about events rather than the events themselves. As such, the kind of experiences designated in the narratives, originate in the different ways family members made sense of displacement, and the ways they tried to deal with its challenges.

Photographs of the neighbourhood where the family lived in Zodeia taken by the author upon his crossing in 2017. On the left photograph, the family home is the one with a motorcycle at its doorstep. In the plot of land to its right was located the house of one of their paternal uncles (the building was demolished following 1974). The photograph on the right depicts the houses of their paternal grandparents and of another paternal uncle. The rest of the houses in the neighbourhood belonged to families unrelated to the family by kinship ties. Interestingly, however, family members would refer to individuals from those houses attaching the nouns ‘uncle’ or ‘aunt’ to their names, assigning thus a familial relationship to otherwise unrelated individuals (e.g. they would refer to an English woman residing in one of those houses as ‘Aunt Jenny’).

Another point of consideration for the methodology of the study is the way the historian’s subjectivity influenced the narrators’ testimonies. In a well-known article in oral history methodology, Valerie Yow (1997) has urged historians to be aware of their relationship to the narrator and to the content, and the ways they could influence the interview relationship and the information generated. She advocates for a set of considerations in relation to the above concerns: (a) an appreciation of the real motives behind any project, (b) the feelings towards the narrator, (c) the reaction towards the testimony, and (d) the intrusion of one’s assumptions and self-schema into the interview and its interpretation (Yow 1997). The testimonies presented herein are part of my doctoral dissertation, which looks into the memory of displacement in my maternal extended family. As Laura Marcus comments, however, one has to be ‘sincere in the attempts to understand the self [here, the family] and explain that self to others’ (1994: 3). For me, this attempt laid in a yearning for comprehension of the intergenerational dynamics within my extended family and the influence of displacement in the way the latter have played out. These personal motivations were accompanied, on the one hand, by considerations such as access to and consent by participants, and how practical such issues would become. On the other hand, I had to acknowledge that my rapport with the participants was not merely familiarity and ease of interaction, but also that the research relationship was augmented by a mutual identification, emotional attachment, and personal and affectionate history which predates the research arrangement (Taylor 2011). This dialogic nature of the encounter has to be acknowledged, along with the way history emerged as a relationship, where, in the efforts to reconstruct a past, it enlisted emotions, both of the narrators and my own (Roper 2014).

Before proceeding to the main part of the essay, I would like to assert that my personal relationships with the participants of this study, and the way they affected both its conduct and the analysis, are something which I have strived to recognise and make evident throughout the article. On the one hand, I have left intact instances where the participants would clearly speak about my relationship with them or other members of the family (e.g. ‘your grandfather’). On the other hand, I have tried to be reflexive and proceeded in disclosing ways my relationship with these individuals affected the interview dynamic, as well as the knowledge produced. As a historian, I cannot but recognise the meta-discourse in this study, the way I as a researcher have affected the information provided and presented, as well as the various linguistic traces of my relationship in the text (Rentel 2012).

The following sections present excerpts from testimonies of two of the six siblings who fled from Zodeiain 1974, Petros and Sofia, as well as excerpts from the testimonies from two of their children, Marios and Andreas. The first section presents and analyses testimonies from Petros (born 1957) and his son Marios (born 2002). The second section presents and analyses testimonies from Sofia (born 1952) and her son Andreas (born 1981) [4].

The extended family and the context of the village

It was Saturday morning when my father drove me to my uncle Petros’ house in the village of Peristerona. Petros lives with his wife Eugenia and their two younger sons in a Turkish Cypriot traditional village house that Eugenia’s family took over after their own displacement. Eugenia has ‘inherited’ the house from her parents, despite not having the title deeds. Their oldest son lives in Nicosia with his fiancé while their second son lives and works in the island of Lesbos in Greece. I recall pondering as I entered their large living room: ‘how long has it been since I last came here?’ The living room was large and had a rectangular shape with very high ceilings. Its walls had a white-colour rough texture while the vintage furniture in the living room was made of dark-coloured wenge.

On that morning, I interviewed both Eugenia and Petros. Their youngest son Marios was home as well and would occasionally walk through the living room during the interviews, without, however, interrupting their testimonies. Petros sat in the room during Eugenia’s interview, but she herself left to prepare lunch during her husband’s testimony. The first open-ended question for both was: ‘Can you tell me what 1974 means for you, the events and experiences that were and are important for you?’ The following excerpt opened Petros’ testimony and captures the way he comprehends displacement and the severity of its damage:

"Until 74, I was 16 years old. We lived a discreet life. A calm life, in the village. And suddenly, everything was overturned. And how were they overturned? Our family was a farming family. We dealt with orchards, we dealt with your grandfather’s flock. We went to school. These. These were [elements] of the simple life of the village, of Cyprus. Like the older generation knew it and how we found it. Now, the invasion and the war overturned these things completely. How were they overturned? Firstly, from the familial point of view, all the families were disrupted. Because leaving from a village, the families, the way they were before… some went in one place, some went somewhere else. So the bond of the family, the way we knew it, was lost. Each went with their own family and tried to survive." (Petros, interview with author, 9 September 2017)

The above excerpt could be divided in two parts. Its first part documented life prior to 1974 while the second chronicled what Petros perceives to be the influence of displacement. The written form of the excerpt, while containing the words and phrases which ascribed meaning to Petros’ narrative, fails to recognise its oral elements such as pace and rhythm (Portelli 2003). The first part of the narrative was characterised by a decreased pace and the unhurried description of village life prior to 1974, with Petros speaking as if he took pleasure in its narration. The second part, on the other hand, was marked by a much faster pace. While the sentences in this second part seem longer, the narrative itself was characterised by more pauses and interruptions which signified more emotional content.

Petros began his narrative with a reference to the way of life in the village, ‘the discreet and calm life’ that characterised his childhood and adolescent years. As Peter Loizos (1985) has also documented, this was a life dominated by agricultural production and animal husbandry. The family owned approximately 39,600 m2 of orchards with citrus trees (oranges, lemons and grapefruit), 26,400 m2 of land where they grew barley and wheat, and a herd of goats which provided with milk and cheese. Taking care of the orchards and the herd included tasks and activities which ensued throughout the year and which occupied a large part of life in the village. As Sarah and Robert LeVine (1985) maintain, the domestic and familial use of child labour was a fundamental strategy in agrarian families, one which was often central to the public definitions of age and gender roles in the society. At the age of 16, Petros was already responsible for many tasks associated with the family’s orchards such as irrigation and harvesting. These tasks, as Petros contends, formed part of a life which was transmitted to them, a way of life their parents and grandparents lived by and one which they were born and brought up into.

Petros’ tone of voice and the way he unpacked his personal meanings in this first part of the excerpt suggested that this way of life was for him more fulfilling, a way of life he treasured and still cherished. Marked by an abrupt change in oral tone and form, the second part of the excerpt described what Petros understood to be the influence of displacement. In his efforts to verbalise this influence, the first subject he alluded an alteration to was family life, and more particularly, the extended family. This family and its setting were the first intuitive relation he made to the kind of disruption displacement was. As he maintained, displacement interrupted the normal order of things, ‘the way things were before’ and ‘the way they knew it’. This normative knowledge concerned the interconnected households of their extended kin and the kind of interactions they enjoyed with them. This setting was a bond well-preserved and deeply rooted to the idea of village life. The vicinity with one’s kin and the surroundings of rural life provided for a genealogical depth and strength in kinship ties which urban life was unable to provide. For Petros, therefore, the act of leaving from their village meant that this type of family life had been lost, interrupted by displacement.

It is important to note the association between the extended family and displacement that Petros arrived to, as he had done so freely and through his own mental material. It was an association which established the extended family as material that mattered to him, as an idea which he was deeply invested in. As Hollway and Jefferson uphold, such free associations in the interview setting ‘follow pathways that are defined by emotional motivations’ (2008: 309) and express things that one has sentimental value in. The second part of the excerpt indicates precisely Petros’ strong personal meanings regarding village life and its relation to the extended family. The latter was constructed as a fundamental aspect of a larger village ontology, one which he had earlier eloquently described and elaborated upon. To this extent, the extended family and village life in its totality can be seen as features in which Petros is emotionally invested in, features in which his identity and subjectivity were located, and features which trembled with displacement. The disruption of the object of identification would inevitably bring, however, the reconsideration and restructuring of identity itself.

Petros’ life after displacement holds a particular position in relation to the rest of his siblings. He was the only male child to be married after displacement and one of the two who stayed in a rural environment after their marriage. While his older sister Eirini did so, however, due to the wishes of her husband, he had done so due to the possibility of raising his family in the ontology of village life he cherished. As he maintained in his testimony:

"I realised that I would be staying here [refers to his current house in Peristerona] for the reason that I would have assistance. It [the proximity of his mother-in-law] is a great ease for a man that has 3 children… but 3 children. We are talking about in 3-4 years I made all three of them. And you leave the house and you are comfortable. And you know that they will be here. You are leaving, the kids are sleeping. There is the grandmother to care for them, to feed them, to do… A great help. There is no such thing. Whichever nursery you want to take an infant of 40 days… it is not the same." (Petros, interview with author, 9 September 2017)

This excerpt underlined Petros’ belief in the kind of support the proximity of residence provided for childrearing in his family. As he maintained, the extended family and the village setting guaranteed the safety of the children and provided an affirmation that they will be taken care of even in his absence. It is an excerpt which documents the way Petros managed to reconfigure his identity following displacement, a reconfiguration which took place and mirrored the village life ontology he was so invested in prior to 1974. His testimony revealed that he reverted back to this life with his marriage, establishing his household in the village of Peristerona, with his wife’s sister and mother living in close proximity, and himself taking over the orchards that Eugenia inherited from her father [5]. The village life ontology has thus become part of his identity, a way of being through which he has been able to be true to himself (Creet 2011). One should not question, nonetheless, that the initial loss and disruption to the object of identification was disheartening for Petros. While he did manage to reconstruct and reconsider his identity after 1974 in the same setting, that damage was shocking and dreadful, as revealed through his testimony.

With such strong connections between displacement, the extended family and the village setting in Petros’ personal meanings, the way his children understood the impact of displacement warrants consideration. An excerpt from the testimony of Petros’ youngest son Marios will be presented, in which similar associations between displacement and the extended family were made. On Saturday when I interviewed his parents, I had arranged with Marios to visit him during the week, as school had not yet begun. On Friday morning, therefore, I drove to Peristeronawhere I once again met him at their family home. As with his parents, the interview took place in the living room. At about five minutes into the interview and after his narration of what he knew about his parents’ displacements, I asked him ‘what’, he thinks, ‘displacement means for his family?’ He looked perplexed from the question and hesitated in providing an immediate response. After a few seconds, he asked: ‘that is?’ (A phrase more in line with ‘what do you mean’). I rephrased my question: ‘what do you think your father or your mother mean when they say ‘I am displaced’’? Marios’ response was very short: ‘it means they are not living in the place where they were born, in their family home… eh… it means… this.’ The power and pervasiveness of the historical representation and social imagination of ‘1974’ in the Greek Cypriot society became evident though Marios’ response (Popular Memory Group 2003). As Victor Roudometof and Miranda Christou (2016) have argued, the events of 1974 have been solidified as a cultural trauma on the Greek Cypriot collective identity, experienced through discursive, representational and institutional practices that have established the invasion and occupation - and their commemoration - as an everyday routine [6]. Influenced by such social rhetoric, Marios’ intuitive response placed the experience of his parents in terms of the loss of land and property.

I found Marios’ response to the question unsatisfying. A feeling of frustration took over me as I had expected a richer, more articulate narrative concerning his thoughts about his parents’ displacement. Both Petros and Eugenia, as well as Marios’ two oldest brothers, who I was more acquainted with, were very vocal and expressive about displacement and their identities as ‘displaced’ and ‘displaced descendants’ respectively [7]. Slightly annoyed with and disappointed by the answer, I proceeded to rephrase the question once more. The result was providing an articulate and stereotypical hypothetical setting for Marios, accompanied by a leading question.

"Okay… imagine that ‘the Turk’ comes, as you are sitting in this very moment, in this very house where you were raised, that it has been 16 years now… and he kicks you out. What do you think you will feel? That thing that your parents felt as well?"

One the one hand, I am ashamed to admit that my description of the hypothetical setting of a ‘second invasion’ was filled with over-generalised stereotypes concerning an aggressive ‘other’ in the form of ‘the Turk’. My emotions of frustration during the interview were complemented by the social imagination and public discourse concerning an inanimate aggressor ‘other’ I myself was exposed to throughout my life. On the other hand, the question I posed to Marios suggested the kind of information I was looking to confirm through his testimony: emotions of fear and anguish. Despite these mistakes on my part, Marios’ response was one which mirrored his father’s personal meanings and association between displacement, the extended family and the village setting:

"That I will never… fear will overtake me. You do not know if you will meet again your own. You do not know what the purpose is of those who have kicked you out. So there is an uncertainty for the future, over what will happen." (Marios, interview with author, 15 September 2017)

Marios was raised in the village of Peristerona, with his aunt’s family living in close proximity to their house and his maternal grandmother living in the same house as his family. His answer to the question concerning displacement expressed thoughts and concerns which were largely determined and contingent to his present experiences and interactions (Lothane 2018), a family life based on the extended kin. With his reference to ‘not seeing again your own’, he relates displacement with not only the nuclear family but also the extended one, a type of family life which he associates with the village he currently lives. Similar to his father, family life and the village setting are the first association he makes to displacement. It was the first postmemory (Hirsch 2012), the entry point to the ‘affective thematism of [his] spontaneous associations (Lothane 2018: 412) and the way he constructively imagined what it means to be a displaced person. To this extent, both Petros’ and Marios’ personal meanings about displacement had at their core the disruption to the extended family, a family life which they both clearly associated with rural Cyprus and life in villages.

The extended family and the proximity of residence

My Aunt Sofia’s house is located directly next to my family’s house. These residential arrangements proved quite convenient for the first phase of my fieldwork in 2016 where I was to collect testimonies from all members of her nuclear family. Given that she was a pensioner (she used to work for the Cyprus Police), we had agreed to conduct the interview on a Tuesday morning. I recall her calling me on that morning from her kitchen door and inviting me to her house for the interview. I entered her house from the back door which led directly to the kitchen. Once there, I sat on the kitchen table in the middle of the room and she offered me coffee [8]. After preparing coffee for the both of us, she sat opposite me, smiled and asked to begin. As I turned the voice recorder on, I referred to her by the nickname that all relatives refer to her: ‘Mrs. Soulla’. She quickly interrupted me, asking me to refer to her by her proper name: Sofia. At that moment I realised that the voice recorder and the interview setting induced her not only to formalise our relationship but to speak as if her audience was not merely myself but a much larger audience in the public ‘theatre’ of history (Popular Memory Group, 2003).

One of the very first questions posed to Sofia concerned her life prior to the invasion and occupation. Following some information regarding her employment in the Police Force and the way she was dismissed for five months following the invasion, she turned her attention to life in Zodeia:

"Our life was very good. We lived in our village, we had all our relatives close. Our siblings. Our grandmothers, our grandfathers, our uncles and our aunts, our cousins. Eh… after 1974 we were all dispersed. We did not meet with our cousins, with our uncles, with our grandmothers. Each one went on different directions." (Sofia, interview with author, 6 September 2016)

Sofia’s narrative about the social world she was exposed to in the village was arranged according to two features. The first concerned the proximity of residence and the kind of closeness this provided, both in physical and in relationship terms. Her experiences and impressions of life were dominated by the surroundings of the extended family. The word ‘close’ captures a proximity not only in spatial terms but extending also towards personal meanings in connection to relationships with her kin. The second feature of the narrative, moreover, concerned the way this experience and emotional investment was not assigned only to her person but acquired a more collective tone with the possessive pronoun ‘our’. Sofia allocates this affinity and belonging in a plural form, incorporating to her understanding of this family life also her siblings. By doing so, she collectivizes the experience of belonging and participation, and in extension, the identification with the extended family (Nájera 2018).

One should not undermine, nevertheless, the importance of these declarations of belonging. Similar to her brother Petros, Sofia’s assertions delineate and draw associations to the identity of the subject and the loss of the object of identification. Rather than focusing on the village setting itself, however, Sofia highlights proximity in both spatial and sentimental ways that this setting provided. The object of identification as the extended family is not altered; what changes is the association the two siblings make with it, one with the village setting, and the other with proximities. This position affirms philosopher Zofia Rozińska’s contention that the object of identification for migrants is ‘not an actual physical object but rather a bundle of varied experiences and impressions’ (2011: 31) [9].

Out of Sofia’s two sons, only her youngest Andreas discussed family life and its relationship to displacement in his testimony. Andreas’ interview was carried out in his own flat (which is located less than a mile away from his parents’ house) where he lives by himself, on a Friday afternoon after he finished work. I arrived at his flat at about seven. We had dinner together, accompanied with some alcohol, prior to sitting in his living room for the interview. His testimony was the longest among the second generation and provided plentiful and rich information in relation to how he understands displacement and its influence on family relationships. The following excerpt forms part of his response to a question in relation to the influence of displacement for his family:

"It [the family] was affected first of all in that they left from the village, the parents, they left from where they were all together. You were… They were dispersed. Which is this about displacement. I did not tell you this before because… Where they were all growing up in a village or at least close, they were dispersed all over Cyprus." (Andreas, interview with

author, 9 September 2016)

Andreas’ understanding of the relationship between displacement and family life can be understood utilising the sociological concept of socialisation. Socialisation is a concept capturing how individuals construct identities through a process which ‘involves the internalisation of group values and norms that inform an individual’s behaviour and self-concept’ (Roscoe & Pithouse 2016: 345). As Roscoe and Pithouse (2016) argue, the construction of identity by individuals can be seen as a process of belonging and becoming, a process which takes place in the interrelationships and interdependencies that agents of socialisation provide, with the family being the most primary one.

Applying this theorisation to Andreas’ narrative, we can argue that he comprehends this process to have occurred primarily in the context of the extended family. The focus in the narrative is on the proximity and daily interaction between members of the extended kin, and how these influenced the individual self-concepts of family members. The phrase ‘all together’ is used as an inclusive expression of interaction and communication. Similar to the possessive pronoun ‘our’ used by his mother, it is a phrase which delineates a sense of belonging, an inability to imagine the sense of self as separate from the extended family. Andreas’ usage of the word ‘close’ later in the excerpt has analogous connotations to the way it was used by his mother: it delineates both spatial and emotional proximity, intended as a recognition of an identity and belonging.

Displacement, according to Andreas, eradicated this sense of belonging and identity . As he maintains, the elimination of the context within which identity was formed had major consequences upon the parental generation. His emphasis and repetition of the term ‘dispersion’ indicates a belief that what was lost was not merely the individuals which formed the extended family, but the sense of belonging itself. An interesting aspect in Andreas’ testimony, moreover, was that this disruption to identity was not one he only perceived for the displaced generation, but one he experienced himself as a child. While the displaced generation suffered the most in this elimination of the context of belonging, Andreas believed that the latter had effects on his own self-concept as a descendant. Continuing his narrative, he argued the following:

"So it [displacement] affected in that some uncles, aunts and cousins, I would not see them for years. So it has affected contact with relatives. Also everyday contact… with others we would not meet as often as there was some distance, in different regions. So it has affected regular and everyday contact." (Andreas, interview with author, 9 September 2016)

In this excerpt, Andreas extends the consequences of displacement to the second generation, presenting himself as an example. He makes the experience of detachment from relatives ‘his own’, presenting himself as an individual personally experiencing the disruption of proximity between the extended family. This remoteness of the self and the distance from kin is constructed as something affecting his own identity and belonging. As a result, the dispersion of the extended family is an event which does not only ‘belong’ to the displaced generation but can be extended to the second generation. Andreas’ account was, thus, underlined by a belief that the injury brought about by displacement had transgenerational repercussions and was not limited to the way the displaced generation experienced family life.

Concluding remarks

This article concentrated on the changing texture of family relations in my maternal extended family and the different ways displacement is understood to have influenced these relations. Two interrelated conclusions can be made in relation to its analysis. First, how memories (or postmemories) of displacement should not be considered as in situor as merely involving a consideration of fixity and of an unchanging environment (Creet 2011). The oral testimonies presented herein have demonstrated that the memory of displacement escapes such fixity. While involving stable environments (for example neighbourhoods and villages), the memory of displacement, and of migration more generally, can be associated with relationships, with bonds and with emotional intimacies not firmed on places but on people. While place has its own significance (e.g. as proximity), the memory and personal meanings of the individuals involved can be engrossed in real people and real subjects without places themselves seen as secondary.

In addition, the article has shown how identity as concept is at the core of the experience of displacement, both for the generation which have actually experienced it but also for their children. The extended family was presented and analysed as a guarantor of identity, not just in its end form but in the process and foundations of its development (Rozińska 2011). In all excerpts presented, both from the parental and second generations, the extended family was recognised as an object of identification, with displacement associated with the disruption of both this object and its related settings, the context of village life and the proximity of residence.

Author Bio

Christakis is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Sociology, University of Essex. His research on the way his own family of Greek Cypriot displaced persons have experienced and have been working through their displacement has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through the Consortium for Arts and Humanities South-Eastern England (CHASE). Prior to his doctoral studies, he obtained his Master’s degree from the University of Bologna with a focus on the Social and Cultural History of the former Yugoslavia, and his Undergraduate degree from the European University Cyprus on European Studies. He has presented in various Conferences all around Europe while he is currently teaching at the Royal Holloway International Study Center at Egham.


[1] A note on terminology: The Greek Cypriot displaced persons are according to law ‘internally displaced’ rather than ‘refugees’. The government of the Republic of Cyprus and the international community do not consider these displaced persons to have officially crossed an international border. As Roger Zetter notes, however, the term ‘refugee’ was used as ‘a convenient and realistic designation of social status and identity’ (1999: 20). In addition, the term prósfigas (πρόσφυγας; refugee) has surfaced in the Greek Cypriot community’s vocabulary to connote the situation of dislocation resulting from 1974, pushing aside the more legally accurate term ektopismenos (εκτοπισμένος; displaced). In this article I have chosen to employ the latter and have accordingly changed it in participants’ testimonies in order to be consistent.

[2] See Zetter (1991) and Loizos (2008) for further information on the concessionary government grants and loans towards displaced persons in Cyprus for the building of property.

[3] This return refers to the opening of the border dividing the two communities in 2003, which allowed the crossing from one side to the other for the first time since 1974. See Bryant (2010) and Dikomitis (2009, 2012).

[4] The names used herein are the real names of my family members, having all agreed and signed consent forms to the use of their real names (not surnames). I should reiterate that the ethical issues and concerns with such form of study were recognised and dealt with throughout my doctoral studies.

[5] Eugenia’s family were ‘lucky’ to have a portion of their property remain on the south of the Buffer Zone and, thus, under Greek Cypriot administration. Petros has taken over her share of the land and has been planting various crops (mainly potatoes, melons and watermelons). His full-time employment, moreover, is with the Cyprus Grain Commission, having worked there since finishing school.

[6] As Rebecca Bryant (2012) adds, within months after the invasion, dominant social institutions engaged in a narration of the past and of the events of 1974 in ways that they recreated the social and political realities of the division and occupation.

[7] Petros himself has been considerably active in the political scene of Cyprus, being a member of the Cypriot Socialist party (EDEK) for over 40 years, having served also as President of its Youth section in the town of Paphos. He is also currently the President of the Farmers’ Trade Union in Cyprus.

[8] The choice of Sofia to have the interview in the kitchen can be seen as symbolic of the association of women with the domestic sphere and the household in Greek Cypriot culture. Her husband, conversely, had asked for the interview to be conducted in an outside space, in their house’s back yard. For an elaboration of gender roles in a Greek cultural context, see Dubisch (1986).

[9] See also Renos Papadopoulos’ (2002) concept of ‘nostalgic disorientation’ to describe the refugee predicament.


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