“On July 15, 1974, the whole family was on the balcony of our house in Paphos, we were watching the sea and listening to the radio when suddenly at 1 in the afternoon, Archbishop Makarios made his historic announcement that he was alive and a coup d’etat was raised against him,” said Michael Hadjiloucas, who was only 6 years old at the time. Now a partner at accounting firm EisnerAmper LLP, the former president of the Panpaphian Association and former president of the Greek American Chamber of Commerce spoke with The National Herald and shared his memories of the tragic events of 1974.
“I grew up,” he said, “in Paphos and I lived through the coup and the invasion of Cyprus as a young child experiencing the horrors of war.
“The images of the absolute uprooting of so many people who have lost everything, their homes, their lives, will accompany me forever. In the first invasion, when the bombs began to fall, we left the house and went to my grandfather’s field in the village of Konia in Paphos.
“For days, from morning till night, we were hiding under big trees (taratsies). Me, my sisters Silvia, Natassa and my brother Loukas, we ate bread, halloumi and olives that our mother brought in a basket in the hours before dawn. All the fields were full of frightened families, terrified little children, and helpless elderly people.
“Anyone who wore a red shirt had to take it off because he was a target. Only my grandfather, Michael, as the oldest, could leave the fields to bring water.
“In the second invasion in August, we went to my father’s village, in Episkopi, Paphos, which due to its geographical position is located between mountains, not easily seen from above, and you could stay in a house instead of in a field without fear of bombardments.
“I vividly remember the anxiety about the fate of our relatives. My father was a policeman and would return home late at night without our knowing whether or not he was okay.
“At the camp near Kyrenia, where my uncle Demetrakis served, Greek officers learned about the plans of the Turks just one week before the invasion and left the base, leaving Cypriot soldiers alone to defend it.
“My uncle in order to escape from the Turks walked along with another soldier on a shepherds’ trail and returned to Paphos, a distance of 50 miles. For two weeks his fate was unknown. Andreas Ioannou, husband of my first cousin, Maria Argyrou, was 16 years old when the invasion took place.
“He was arrested by the Turks in the village of Yialousa and they were taken to prison in the Adana area of ??Turkey.
“Every day for two months he lived with the fear of death. For food he had a handful of chickpeas with worms and a piece of bread.
Michael Hadjiloucas at a Greek-American Chamber of Commerce event. Photo by TNH/Kostas Bej
“I also remember with excitement and admiration Mr. Yiannis, who was employed at the Kyrenia Castle.
“I met him in the summer when I worked in the archaeological section of the castle.
When the invasion took place, his Turkish colleague lowered the Greek flag and raised the Turkish flag, even mocking Mr. Yiannis, who told him, ‘You see the blue sea, with a few white waves becoming my flag. You see the blue sky, with a few white clouds becoming my flag. As long as there is sea and sky whatever you do, I will always see my flag.’”
Hadjiloucas continued, “Something else that I also remember strongly was a family of Turks living in Paphos. They were good people and good family friends. For many years, they helped my grandfather and my father with our land.
“When the partition of Cyprus and the exchange of people began, they had to leave to go to the occupied areas. My father, though he could have said goodbye to them on his own, felt the need and the respect to go together as a family.
“It was a very moving and human moment between people of two countries in a state of war that sent a message of peace and love. Unlike the governments that often operate in the wake of evil, as was the case with the use of the land by Turkey.
“After the partition of the island, the land that belonged to Turks, the Cypriot government gave it temporarily against a small rent to the Cypriots who came from the occupied areas so they could maintain the property provided they give it back to the Turkish owners when they return.
“On the contrary, the Turkish side permanently seized the Cypriot homes and fields.”
Asked by TNH what he expects for the future of Cyprus, Hadjiloucas believes that the economy and investment are the only options to solve the Cyprus problem.
“No Cypriot,” he said, “will ever forget what has happened and we all together continue the struggle for the liberation of our island and the restoration of its territorial integrity.
“Our big mistake was that at the time of Makarios we gave two military bases to the British and none to the Americans, if we had given a base to America, I believe the invasion would never have happened.
“Aside from this, today what Cyprus needs is investment that can bring unity and peace. If many billions of dollars are invested across Cyprus through energy, tourism, and other sectors, it is natural for investors and companies to want a united Cyprus to preserve and protect their financial interests,” he said, adding that “money can end the division of the island, create a new Cypriot state with a single National Anthem, not necessarily Greek or Turkish, and a new Constitution.”
After serving in the Cypriot Army, Hadjiloucas moved to the U.S. to study accounting in America. He is married to Catherine and they have two daughters, Rebecca and Josephine.
Michael Hadjiloucas, at right, with wife Catherine, and daughters Josephine and Rebecca. Photo: Courtesy of Michael Hadjiloucas