PORT WASINGTON, NY – The commemoration of the tragic 45th anniversary of the invasion of Cyprus began with the memorial service following the Divine Liturgy at the Archangel Michael Church in Port Washington presided over by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America on July 21. The event, organized by the Federation of Cypriot American Organizations (FCAO) in collaboration with International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA) and the Consulate General of Greece in New York, sent a clear message that the end of the illegal occupation of 36% of Cyprus is long overdue.
Among those present were the representatives of the Greek and Cypriot diplomatic corps, association leaders, as well as many members of the Greek-American community. The unjust and brutal nature of the Turkish invasion which began on July 20, 1974 was again highlighted on the occasion of the 45th anniversary and the fact that in the 45 years that have passed since that day, the struggle for justice for Cyprus continues.
The event also marked the first visit of His Eminence to the Archangel Michael community since his enthronement one month ago.
Archbishop Elpidophoros noted that the memorial service was “for the souls of those who gave their lives defending their homeland, but also for the innocent souls who were unjustly lost by a barbarity which, for our people, certainly is not unprecedented.”
Consul General of the Republic of Cyprus, Alexis Phedonos-Vadet, referred to the victims of the Turkish invasion, as well as the open wound of the missing persons, whose fate remains unknown to this day.
“Among the victims were women and children, elderly people and even the disabled. Of our fallen soldiers, the majority were young men who, despite knowing the overwhelming numbers of the Turkish army and the immense inequality in the battlefield, did not hesitate to respond to the call of the homeland and to give what was most precious: their life. We do not forget either the missing, who from 20,000 in 1974 there remain about 300 today,” said Mr. Phedonos, who also reminded us of the victims of the illegal Turkish occupation since 1974, including seven members of the National Guard, and Solomos Solomou, Tassos Isaac, and Petros Kakoulis.
Also present at the event and among the speakers at the reception which followed were Permanent Representative of Greece to the UN Ambassador Maria Theofili, her counterpart from the Republic of Cyprus Ambassador Andreas Mavroyiannis, Consul of Greece Lana Zochiou, PSEKA President Philip Christopher, and Federation of Cypriot American Organizations (FCAO) President Kyriacos Papastylianou.
“We Do Not Forget 1974”
Immediately following the memorial service, a special event was held in the Archangel Michael community center, which began with welcoming remarks by FCAO Vice President of Culture Despina Axiotakis, who served as Master of Ceremonies. A video was then screened with photos from the invasion of the Turkish troops, the Greek Cypriot prisoners of war, refugees young and old, the looting of houses, and the desecration of the churches and monuments in the occupied area, moving many in the audience to tears.
“The Cyprus issue has cost us all very dearly and we are all concerned,” Archbishop Elpidophoros said, speaking from the heart as a Greek of Constantinople.
“The Cypriot people themselves, of course, paid the price first and the most of everyone, for the Cyprus issue. But, I cannot forget my experience as a young child in Constantinople, how this whole event of the Turkish troops in Cyprus was experienced by the Hellenism of Constantinople, our churches, our Patriarchate, the hierarchs of Constantinople, Imvros and Tenedos. The Hellenism of Greece also paid for it dearly. Therefore, there should be no Greek who considers the Cyprus question as a matter only for Cypriot Greeks,” His Eminence said.
PSEKA President Philip Christopher has repeatedly focused on the dynamics of the U.S. Cypriots as American citizens and expressed his optimism that based on the latest developments in Turkish-U.S. relations the circumstances may be more favorable now more than ever.
“My friends, we are all Americans and America should contribute to making Cyprus free. We need to ensure that the current administration will support us. F-35s should not be sold to Turkey, sanctions should be imposed and, possibly, such sanctions could bring Cyprus’ freedom. It is up to us, as American citizens, we are a strong group. Always inform your representatives and senators,” Christopher said in his speech.
Greece’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Maria Theofili, noted that “Greece will never accept the consequences of the Turkish invasion,” while Ambassador Andreas Mavroyiannis said that “the people of my own generation and the older have gone through life trying to put an end to the occupation. We will not give up, I assure you. We have a responsibility to continue this battle until Cyprus is liberated.”