[MGSA-L] CYPRUS - A precious past reclaimed

June Samaras june.samaras at gmail.com
Sun Aug 3 22:37:12 PDT 2014


August 3, 2014- 11 Comments
A precious past reclaimed
[image: A precious past reclaimed]
Lysandrou, the shepherd at the kafenion in Phlamoudhi 1972 taken by Ian Cohn

By Bejay Browne

THE TALE of a village in the north whose Greek Cypriot residents were torn
apart and displaced by the Turkish invasion has been eloquently and
lovingly resurrected by two foreigners with only indirect links to the

A book, and then a film containing photos of the residents of Phlamoudhi
before the invasion, have given the refugees a precious link to a way of
life which has now gone forever, and which they were forced to flee leaving
all their belongings behind – including photos.

Ian Cohn came first. The American photographer and architect came to Cyprus
in 1972 to take photos of an archaeological dig taking place near
Phlamoudhi, on the coast east of Kyrenia.

“I was invited to be the official photographer for the Columbia university
expedition for eight weeks. Everyone was very welcoming, even though I had
an outlandish appearance. We were the first foreigners who had ever lived
in the village,” said Cohn, smiling at the memory of his massive Afro

He fell in love with the village and ended up taking photographs of some
250 villagers. Little did he know that these pictures would come to mean so
much, becoming a sort of family album for a now diaspora community.

Cohn said he first photographed his assistant, villager Georgios
Hadjipapaphotiou and his family, and the project grew from there.
[image: Georgios Hadjipapaphotiou and Ian in 1972]

Georgios Hadjipapaphotiou and Ian in 1972

The detailed photographs show what everyday life was like in a traditional
Greek Cypriot village in the north of the island. Just two years after the
pictures were taken, the villagers fled, taking nothing with them and
Phlamoudhi was abandoned as Turkish forces invaded.
[image: Loizos Chrysostomou “Melas,” shopkeeper, in the doorway of the
co-op, Phlamoudhi 1972]

Loizos Chrysostomou “Melas,” shopkeeper, in the doorway of the co-op,
Phlamoudhi 1972

Cohn lost touch with his new friends and the photographs were stashed away
for almost 35 years until a conversation with Pavlos Flourentzos, the
director of the Cyprus Museum in 2005, resulted in the architect being
invited to hold an exhibition at the Cyprus Museum.

“I had made notes in 1972, but they were far from complete, so I began an
email correspondence with Savvas Georgiou, a villager I had taken pictures
of when he was eight,” said Cohn. “He was able to identify everyone in my
photographs and the locations where they were taken. In that sense he’s a
historian. I realised that this isn’t just a historical reference but
something deeper. It shows the special relationships these villagers had
with each other and the land they loved.”

One of the villagers Cohn had photographed died in the invasion, the
shepherd, Lysandros Lysandrou, who features on the cover of his book. “I
didn’t know this at the time and the villagers view him as a hero.”

The photographer said that he was overwhelmed by the response of the
displaced villagers to his photographs. Most people have pictures of their
homes, their parents, or grandparents, but they had left everything behind
because they thought that they would return, he said

“Savvas said that until he met me again, he thought his life in the village
was a dream, as his family was displaced to London. People talked about
life before but no-one had a photograph,” said Cohn

In 2009 Cohn was giving a lecture in London about his book, Faces of
Phlamoudhi. In the audience was the second foreigner in the story, British
filmmaker Rupert Barclay.

Barclay’s wife is Cypriot and although she grew up in the UK, both of her
parents are refugees. Her father is from a neighbouring village to

”The lecture grabbed my attention; I was really touched and felt a real
connection. The photos were compelling and subsequently one of the main
characters in my film is Savvas Georgiou, my wife’s cousin, who had also
helped Ian with his book,” said Barclay explaining how he felt compelled to
make a documentary.

A year after Cohn’s London lecture, Barclay asked Cohn if he could make a
film based on the book. The photographer agreed as he thought that there
was a story to be told. The film is a combination of reminiscences
the villagers about daily life and how it changed. The photographs also

Barclay began filming in 2010, having to fit it around his own busy work
schedule as a member of a TV production unit. He finished filming at the
beginning of 2013.

The documentary had its first showing to an audience of refugees from
Phlamoudhi this week at Verochino in Oroklini. The response was
overwhelming, said Barclay, just as it had been to Cohn’s book a few years
[image: From left, Ian Cohn, mukhtar Michalis Tziortas and Rupert Barclay
at the film showing in Oroklini this week]

>From left, Ian Cohn, mukhtar Michalis Tziortas and Rupert Barclay at the
film showing in Oroklini this week

Cohn features heavily in the film and says he was overjoyed at reconnecting
with the villagers and is honoured to have been officially declared as a
member of the Phlamoudhi community.

“They have all accepted me into their families with open arms and hearts
and it’s wonderful,” said Cohn.

“They say that I gave them back their childhood and their youth. Now they
can say – this is where I lived. These are my parents, these are my
grandparents. It’s overwhelming.”
[image: Gerolemos and Koula Papaphotiou with family in the courtyard of
their home, 1972]

Gerolemos and Koula Papaphotiou with family in the courtyard of their home,

Cohn added that audiences outside Cyprus should see the film as it’s
relevant to numerous current and historical situations, as there are many
significant global conflicts taking place, leaving displaced people

“The story can be viewed as a universal one,” he said.

The photographer has not only a deep rooted love for the villagers but also
a huge amount of respect for how they have managed to preserve their
culture and sense of community, despite all of the obstacles in their way.

“They frequently get together; they talk and try to maintain a set of
values they knew as villagers,” he said.

Most of the refugees still live in Cyprus, although some also reside in
London and Paris.

“It’s now a community that is based on common memory and not rooted in the
soil as it was 40 years ago. And that’s a community that can last for many
years to come.”
[image: Christina (H’Tinou) Charalambous, Phlamoudhi 1972]

Christina (H’Tinou) Charalambous, Phlamoudhi 1972

Barclay said he aims is to show his documentary at as many film festivals
as possible, in Cyprus, the UK and France. He is also hoping to get it
shown on Cyprus TV.

Barclay said he is particularly grateful to the community leader of
Phlamoudhi, Michalis Tziortas, as he was instrumental in helping him film
in Cyprus. He organised a schedule of interviews and accompanied Barclay to
the north to film at the village.

“This is my first film and I have undertaken the entire process myself. I’m
the producer, director, camera and sound man. I also did a rough edit but
had help with the final cut,” he said.

The editor is a Greek Cypriot who grew up in London and speaks Greek which
was a great benefit.

“His family members are in the film as well,” said Barclay. “There is a
real connection between everyone on so many levels.”

The film has both English and Greek subtitles.

To find out more about the book: –www.facesofphlamoudhi.com[image: Print
June Samaras
2020 Old Station Rd
Canada L5M 2V1
Tel : 905-542-1877
E-mail : june.samaras at gmail.com
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