Recently I visited my home country. While I was there my sisters and I took a trip to the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus. The borders have been largely open since 2004 when the southern part of the island became a part of the European Union and at that time I remember the huge lines of cars, packed with families waiting to cross after so many years of absence from their homes, their fields and their previous lives.
Today barely any cars cross. The initial excitement, for want of a better word, has passed and people are getting on with their lives which they rebuilt from scratch when they had to leave their homes following the Turkish invasion of 1974. The Turkish army still occupies some 30% of the island and even after 35 years of talks the two sides are unlikely to sign a solution to the problem any day soon.
So what I want to talk about today is coping with that sense of loss. We have probably all experienced the loss of a loved one with the loss of a parent or a grandparent or a friend. But coping with the loss of a life as you knew it is something quite different because this is a loss which can be visited and revisited. Is it all about coping with the present and making the compromises ? Is the anger and the resentment still there, seething under the surface perhaps on both sides of the border, are the memories of it all that is left of a life once lived ?
These are the emotions that I dealt with as we crossed the border and headed into the Kyrenia hills. The plains were a luscious green, it has been unusually wet in Cyprus this year and all the rivers and dams are full, and the mountains were slipping in and out of shadows formed by menacing clouds overhead. There was a brightness though in the sunlight that shone on us and warmed us in the cold wind, a clarity in the sky and a welcome return to our childhood when we would be out on these moutains for picnics and walks. I cant pretend that when visiting the desecrated monasteries and the stripped churches I was comfortable with what was before me and the scene that shook me most was a cemetery, largely abandoned and destroyed, with a cross which was propped up with a stick. Someone had bothered.
The anemones were like rainbows in the fields, the baby goats galloping on the scraggy hills, the trees unfurling green tips and the sea in the distance troubled and dark but also frivolously playful as it reached the beaches. There is a sense of loss and one that isn't easily reconciled with the present but as with all things in life we cope, learn to adapt and look forward using the past as building blocks of strength even if the sense of belonging has been snatched away.