By COSTAS VENIZELOS
This was not war, it was plain treason. Not only that, but a well-designed plan for the partition of Cyprus. July 1974, the beginning of our county being held hostage, and has been suffering the consequences of that treason; something that will keep on until she is finally free.
On the evening of Wednesday, 10th of April, 2019, we had the avant premiere of the film documentary “Prisoners of treason”, with eyewitness accounts of prisoners from the summer of 1974. It is as film by Michel Georgiadis, with research work ny Chrysanthos Chrysanthou (production by Michaelangelo cinematographic services Ltd, for the Pancyprian Union of POWs of 1974).
The film documentary features interviews of many prisoners, most on the place where they were captured by the invading Turkish army; these locations are in the part of Cyprus occupied by the Turkish occupation force. The prisoners’ accounts are chilling, breath-taking and hair-raising. All of them came face-to-face with barbarism and death. The battle was completely one-sided. They were forsaken by everyone and left at the mercy of the Turkish army that was armed to its teeth.
- Regular army officers of the Greek junta [who were at nearly all officer posts of the Cyprus National Guard] forbade the soldiers from opening fire on the invasion force, even after the force landed on Cypriot soil [early morning of 20th July, 1974] “This is merely a Turkish military exercise” they kept repeating. Even after the cease-fire agreement [into effect in the early evening hours of 22nd July] the standing order was not to “hit” the invading force [that kept violating the cease-fire] unless the Turkish army fired first. In short, let them march forward.
Arrests, imprisonment by the Turkish army, that was conducting Operation Attila. Torture and hardships to untold degree, so much so that the prisoners are begging to be killed, so that their anguish will be over. To have the fate of some of their former mates, who were shot with a single bullet to their brain, a common practice towards [Cypriot] prisoners of the Turkish invasion army. Left to fight without food or water, and worst of all, with no orders from anywhere.
They are fighting the invading army left to their own resources. They take the initiative themselves. They were waiting for help from Greece in vain. The Greek junta, however, had delivered Cyprus to the Turks, along with her own local collaborators, and naturally was not about to send any help. Nevertheless, they were waiting for help from Greece. This is why so many of those in the Cypriot National Guard would run towards tanks and aeroplanes appearing on the horizon to welcome them, as they were expecting the arrival of help from Greece. And yet they were not from Greece. Time and again, regrettably, it was evident that they were Turkish.
Execution squads everywhere. Rapes of women, arrests and persecutions. The prisoners that were transported to Turkey, were threatened with lynching by fired-up crowds crying out for Greek blood. “They wanted to kill us, as if we were the ones that had invaded Turkey”, said one of the prisoners in his description. Their trip from the port to the Turkish prison was plain hell. Stones were hurled at the buses that carried them to the prison by angry crowds who wanted to go into the buses and lynch the prisoners. Their life in the prison was equally hellish.
Στιγμιότυπο από τα γυρίσματα του ντοκιμαντέρ «Αιχμάλωτοι μιας προδοσίας». Πρόκειται για μια ταινία σε σκηνοθεσία Μιχάλη Γεωργιάδη και έρευνα Χρύσανθου Χρυσάνθου. Η φωτογραφία είναι του Βάσου Χρήστου, Προέδρου του Συνδέσμου Αιχμαλώτων 1974.
In the documentary, a living proof of what happened, the prisoners describe the battles with their lips held tight, so that they will not be overwhelmed by pain and memories.
- They remember, and their eyes become wet. The man next to them would be hit by a bullet, or by shrapnel from mortar fire. They, by contrast, were caught prisoners and faced death several times. Some others never returned. They remain missing to this date. The remains of some others were found in wells and in mass graves.
The descriptions convey a sense of something distant. Of a movie. “The Turkish soldier pointed his pistol at me and shot me, while I was moving around so that he would not hit me…. . We faught, myself with one injured hand. He put his hand tightly [around my throat] to strangle me. I bit his hand so hard that he let go of me and started screaming for help. I ran to save myself…”.
He was arrested later on. Their release is described as a return to life. As they were coming to Ledra Place Hotel, where the exchange of prisoners was taking place, they would find out what had happened in the meantime. That half of Cyprus was, now, under occupation.
“Where would you like to go?”, they were asked. “To my village” was the standard answer. “It is under occupation…”. Around the end of October  was the time that the last of them would return, and it was then that they would find out what had happened.
That [those that had become refugees in their own land] had no longer a home to return to, and their family was somewhere—they did not know where—in the free area [of Cyprus]. “When I was 20 years old, this state gave me a war to fight, and when I became 60 it gave me unemployment”, said one of the prisoners of 1974, while giving his own testimony, and his own complaint. A complaint that was expressed by almost all of them. No one has asked them since if they are alive or dead, or if their wounds have healed.
“You must go and bring me a certificate from your commanding officer”, said in a stern tone a bureaucrat in a hospital, when one of them was released from the Turkish prison and went to the doctor to have his injuries examined and taken care of. “But, my commanding officer is himself a POW in Turkey, I myself just returned from there, should I go back there to find him?”, he wondered. “Those are the regulations”, said the bureaucrat who was in a hurry to get rid of the bothersome fellow in front of him. A break from the shooting of the documentary “Prisoners of a treason”.
This is a film directed by Michael Georgiadis and researched by Chrysanthos Chrysanthou. The photo is by Bassos Christou, President of the Pancyprian Union of POWs of 1974. This state, that was defended by all those who faught in 1974, as well as in all other struggles of our country, is occasionally staffed by persons who think that we … owe them something. This is a constant and unchanging reality. The POWs of 1974 carry with them the history of this land. They are prisoners of a treason that has destroyed Cyprus. A treason whose consequences are with us to this day. They themselves feel that their struggle has hardly been rewarded, as they see the rewards of the system to all those who either took an active part (in some manner or other) in the destruction of Cyprus or those appearing “immaculate”… and absent from the field of battle.
The premiere of the film took place at the Palace Movie Theater in Nicosia, and the audience, most of them having lived through the Turkish invasion of 1974, identified with the testimonies of the people they saw on film. They were reliving all that they had gone through themselves, during those days of the fighting, as well as thereafter. Deeply moved, they brought to memory images and experiences of their whole life. Some let their memory be overwhelmed by pain and broke down and cried. An historic documentary in order not to forget.
The film documentary is an historic document, an important memory tool lest we forget! The work of Michael Georgiadis and Chrysanthos Chrysanthou is an important documentation of the history of the land, as well as an important contribution towards remembering what actually happened then. The idea of this project became reality when Michael Georgiadis came up with the concept, and talked about it with Vasos Christou, the president of the Pancyprian Union of POWs of 1974, who moved the project forward with perseverance. The movie is 94 minutes long. The actual filming material accumulated is 1,700 minutes long, an important fund from which future work on the matter may emerge.
Translated from HELLAS JOURNAL