transcribed by Elias Petrides
As published in In Focus, Vol. 9, No 1, March 2012
I was born in a village of Trabzon, in Pontus. At six I became an orphan, my father was killed. Don’t know who or why they killed him. Eight siblings we were, got sent to the orphanage. For six years I lived in the orphanage. Our anne couldn’t feed us naught.
In 1976 they told us come to Cyprus. Just a lad back then, I knew nothing of Cyprus. They said they gon give us house, lands, cows. Lots of Christians ran off from Karpass, them houses clear, they gave us a big house in Aghia Triada to live, all my siblings and my anne too.
At twenty I went in with Turkish army, kept watch at a sentry box in the Green Line. One night I fell asleep on my watch. They came beat me down bad, threw me to jail. How much to hold? I say I gon find way to run, cross to the other side. If they catch me, let them kill me. I did well and ran off, passed to the Cypriot sentry box at night, found the guard asleep. I did wake him, he took a fright, raised his shotgun. I said to him, “I want to surrender to your police”. The police came, they caught me, put me in a room in the polis station, got me beaten real bad, asking all the time, why I deserted, am I a spy, what do I seek? I said I want to go to Limassol, a man I know is there, and make a better life for myself. They kept me in jail one month, then sent me to Limassol, I got me a job and learned to speak Cypriot well.
As soon as I was paid a few monies, I craved for a female. A buddy brought me a woman, her I rented for a week. This same buddy put me up to marry her. I fancied her, she said yes, took me to her parents. Later I found out she was not their own, they only raised her. Her father kept asking, where I come from, what I do, what I have in mind. I say I am a Turk. He goes hemming, eye askew, but her mother is jolly, she wants to see her daughter marry, not bum around with all sorts of men.
Fine, I say, I become a Christian. Once I was Hassan, then I became Marios. I learned “I believe in one God, the Almighty Father…” There’s Allah and there’s Christ. It’s all the same to me. God is one. They married us, we went on to have three babies, had good days. But my father-in-law, he couldn’t stomach me being a Turk. A good man, but sharp-tongued, he called me Turkish bad seed, didn’t let my babies sit on my lap… I said to my woman, let’s go find a house of our own, live alone. She said yes. We rented an apartment. A few days go by, then the father-in-law discovers where we live and works over the owner to throw us out.
Limassol was like heaven to me, I had my wife, my babies, I worked, I made good monies. What more to ask? But some of them, they made me feel like an outsider. Not just the father-in-law with the sharp tongue. Say they found haschich; who brought it here? Hassan. Each time something got stolen, they said “There’s a Turk close by, he must be the thief”.
I decided to take my woman and my babies and slip to the other side. We went to my anne’s house, she met her daughter-in-law, her grandkids. My woman couldn’t bear the village, she wanted to leave from day one. Next day we went to Varosi, to the United Nations, and they brought us to the English bases in Aghios Nikolas. My wife and babies, they let them cross back to Limassol. Me, they handcuffed, dragged back to the land-rover, handed me over to the police. The police handed me over to the Turkish army.
Sometime later, I managed to get leave and cross the Green Line to see my woman and my babies. For three months they put me to prison, saying I am an outlaw, they took me for a spy. More interrogations, more beating. A month or so later, they released me and I returned to Limassol. I went back to construction works and lived well. Until my backbone started hurting; we went to the doctor, made X-rays, they showed great damage, the doctor said I must stop working.
Then I realized something was amiss with my woman. Each time I went home, I found her with a gentleman, the two of them sitting and drinking their coffee, laughing. I drew the line, if someone wants to come visit, then they come when I am at home, I told her. I was jealous, looking at her chit-chatting with all kinds of men. I got the idea. Perhaps all of them did sleep with her? I told her a thing or two, so madam kicked me out of the house and went to the police to complain she didn’t want me. The police put me on a plane and exiled me to Turkey through Greece.
But the next day I took the boat, reached Kyrenia and went straight to my anne’s, at Karpass. I had nowhere else to go. My anne whipped me up to get me a woman from the village and forget the other one. She brought me this girl, she was not pretty but seemed sweet-tempered. We came together and had two babies. I set up a coffee-shop in the village, but I wanted to make it better. I tell her, let’s sell a cow. She says no. She thinks I mean to squander her monies and possessions. Fine, I tell her, stay here with your monies and possessions. I’m gone. I go find me a small house on the edge of the village, mend it and settle in by myself. I make a few bakır from the coffee-shop and scrape a living. I have two dogs for company, they keep me safe. At night I shudder out here in this wasteland. You can’t know who’s your friend and who’s your enemy.
When I came to the village, the villagers mocked me, calling me “giaur”. But I took no heed of them. The Turks call me Marios, the Romioi call me Hassan, others call me Hassan-Marios. They know I don’t go to the cami, I never did go to the cami after I became a Christian. To this day I remember “Our father, who art in heaven…” Sometimes they ask me, they tease me, do you feel like a Christian or a Muslim? What can I tell them?
Up here in Karpass life is really hard. My big complaint is that I cannot see my children. I cannot cross to the other side. I don’t have a Cypriot identity card. I married a Cypriot woman, became a Christian, had babies, lived in Limassol for six years, but they say I am a Turk. They won’t let me cross the Green Line, say I am an outlaw. They put me in the black list. I have five babies, grown men and women now, but none of them comes to see if I’m dead or alive; say a good word, offer me a glass of water. Only recently did my eldest son come. He married in Limassol, took the car and drove up here on his own. He tells me, I pulled five thousand euro on my wedding day. And while counting the monies, he goes fifty or a hundred euro is missing. I say, maybe you didn’t count right. He leaves, goes back to Limassol, a couple of days later, his mother-in-law telephones me. “Did you take money from your son?” “I’m no thief”, I tell her. Then my daughter wrote me a message asking the same thing. “Canim”, I tell her, “the last thing I will ever do is take monies from my child”. This whole affair hurt my feelings very bad.
Many troubles fell on my head. Sometimes I think it’s my sorta, my kismet. Sometimes I say, if it was someone else, he would lose his mind with so much. Unless I am half-mad and don’t feel it. Still, life is sweet. I go to the coffee-shop, see people, Turks and Romioi, I can’t tell them apart. We talk, I keep busy, pass the time. Now I may seem like a külhan-beyi, but my heart is clean. I never hurt no man. People ask, “Are you a Turk or a Christian?” I tell them, “I’m a person”!
Translator’s note: The original has been acquired via oral transmission in a heavily idiomatic language. The translation intentionally contains grammatical and syntactical errors in an effort to reverberate the original’s many hued structure. Still, for the most part, the narration’s improvised linguistic features have been impossible to reproduce.