Speech by the General Secretary of AKEL Stefanos Stefano at the memorial service of the heroes of Pygi village Famagusta district
Sunday 24 July 2022, Oroklini, Larnaka
We commemorate today the heroes of the village of Pygi Famagusta, another community that has paid its own tragic heavy price in the bloody history of our homeland, with dead and missing persons. It is still paying the price as its inhabitants are still refugees.
We are here again, to pay our due tribute to the people of the village of Pygi who sacrificed their lives for their homeland. To the people of Pygi who are missing persons.
Dimitris, Kostas, Christakis, Giannis and Klitos are an integral part of the modern tragedy of our country. A tragedy whose consequences we are still experiencing today, forty-eight years after the execution of the twin crime. The treasonous coup and the barbaric Turkish invasion.
Dimitris Vrakas, was a man of toil – a construction worker by profession. A modest and humble family man who struggled through the very difficult conditions of the time to provide his family with security and support. A patriot who answered the call to defend the freedom of our country. As soon as the invasion broke out he enlisted in the 181 Field Artillery Squadron. He left behind his family, his wife Maroula and their three children, Theodoros, Eleni and Artemis. Thirty-four-year-old Dimitris died on the battlefield in the village of Ovgoros on 21 July.
Kostas Fotiou grew up in a large family. A young man of unparalleled morals, a democrat, a champion of democracy, justice and progress. A graduate of the Evelpidon Military School, he returned from Greece as a second Lieutenant and married Kyriaki Theori with whom he had Theodoros. During the coup, Kostas was arrested by the coupists and detained until 18 July. His traces disappeared with the beginning of the second phase of the Turkish invasion when his battalion advanced to the area of Paleokythros – Mia Milia. He was just twenty-six years old. His family, relatives and friends for thirty-six long years anxiously searched for his traces. His remains were found in a mass grave in Agia. He was buried in the free regions with all the honors befitting a hero.
Christakis Sofroniou, when the invasion broke out, was serving in the 120th Heavy Weapons Company. Throughout the first round of the invasion, Christakis’ company carried out various missions. At the beginning of the second round of the Turkish army invasion, the unit was deployed in the area of Mia Milia – Trachoni – Kythrea – Koutsoventi. Christakis and his comrades-in-arms were captured by the invaders on 15 August at Voni and taken to the Turkish Cypriot village of Epicho. Their fate was unknown until 2005. Then the remains of Christakis, along with those of his fellow combatants, were found in a mass grave in the area of the Turkish Cypriot village of Bekioyou. It was then that it was revealed that all of them had been murdered in cold blood.
Yiannis Mbakas was a child of a family of seven from Genagra. A construction worker by profession, he lived in Pygi until 1974 with his wife Maroula and their daughter Irene. After the collapse of the defence line at Mia Milia during the second phase of the invasion, he ended up with his family in Avgorou. Under the weight of the chaos and misinformation that prevailed, he decides to return with other fellow villagers to get the bare necessities for his family. The journey back to Pygi was to be his last act. According to testimonies, he was arrested by the occupying troops and added to the crimes committed by the Turkish army of Attila in Cyprus. For years Yiannis was on the list of missing persons until 2013 when his remains were found and he was buried in the free areas.
Klitos Klitou was born in Lefkoniko. A quiet and humble child, from an early age he began working. A graduate of the Hadjikakou Hotel School, he worked in a hotel in Famagusta. Klitou joined the National Guard before his turn was even called. He wanted to finish his service in the army earlier so that he could then be free to make a life for himself. Unfortunately, the destroyers of Cyprus had other things in store for him. He was killed in action during the first phase of the invasion, at the age of just eighteen. His remains were found in an area between “White Peak” and Dikomo. He was buried with hero’s honors three years ago.
Friends and relatives of the heroes we honor today,
Friends and relatives of those whose fate is still unknown,
The loss of your own people remains to this day a permanent wound in your souls. In the souls of all of us. A wound that has been lingering and unhealed for forty-eight years. Almost half a century!
But how can the wounds be healed when we are still experiencing the consequences of the twin crimes committed against our country? When we face the flag of Turkey on the Pentadaktylus mountain range?
When we are still waiting to find out what happened to our beloved missing persons?
In honoring our dead, we must remember how we arrived at the Cyprus tragedy. We must preserve the historical truth because only by going back to the past can we draw the right lessons that will pave the way for the future.
History has written that in this country, the treacherous coup of the Greek Junta and EOKA B and the brutal Turkish invasion are two aspects of the same crime planned by NATO. A crime that found willing perpetrators within our country, who used nationalism, patriotism, fanaticism to lure them into the crime. They subverted the legitimate state, fought Makarios, attacked and murdered democratic citizens, tried to create conditions for a constitutional upheaval.
Such were the action of EOKA B, founded and led by Grivas, who became the destroyer of Cyprus. It is for this reason that our people are outraged when he government ruling forces not only make efforts to embellish his criminal activity, but also to erect monuments to honor him. The axiom that a people who forget history are doomed to relive their tragedies applies here. And in Cyprus, we have no such room for manoeuvre.
The Cyprus problem is in its worst phase ever. That is why we must definitively and irrevocably leave behind nationalism, the exploitation of patriotic sentiments, sloganeering and the cultivation of illusions. We must continue to fight fascism and the far right. And at the same time, we must sincerely focus on the efforts for a solution of the Cyprus problem.
We have little choice and time is running out. There is only one choice. To remain consistent with what we have agreed. On the basis of the solution, which is Bizonal, Bicommunal Federation with political equality. On the convergences that have been agreed in negotiations over many years.
We need to take concrete initiatives to break the damaging deadlock and to continue negotiations from where they had left off.
If this is not done, it will continue to suit Turkey and it will steadfastly pursue its goal of partition, taking advantage of the prolonged deadlock on the Cyprus problem. We must act by taking the initiative and not remaining inactive by passively watching the painful developments Turkey is creating in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus, in Famagusta and elsewhere.
Preventing partition is not just a task. It is a necessity. It is a need for the survival, existence and prospects of our people.
A free Cyprus, a reunited people, – Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, together in a common homeland.
This is the legacy we owe to future generations.
This will be the best memorial for all those who sacrificed their lives for our homeland so that we can breathe the air of freedom.
Honor and glory to our heroes!