Nicolas Skourides, the first Greek Cypriot to settle in the occupied north of Cyprus after the Turkish invasion of 1974, passed away according to an announcement on Tuesday in the Turkish-Cypriot daily, Yeni Duzen.
The story of the brave Cypriot made international headlines in 2018 when in a rare decision the Turkish Cypriot authorities allowed him to reclaim the land he and his family fled forty-four years earlier at the village of Larnaca of Lapithou on the south side of the Pentadaktylos range.
Architectural plans were submitted, and the construction of the building commenced in the place where his father’s house had once stood, despite opposition by some Turkish Cypriots in the area.
Skourides’ family was among some 160,000 Greek Cypriots who left homes and property behind in the summer of 1974. The invasion split the island in two, and an agreement between the two sides a year later saw more than forty thousand Turkish Cypriots relocate to the Turkish-controlled north.
Until 1911, Larnakas of Lapithou had a Muslim minority. They are said to have relocated to nearby Kampyli. In 1973, the village had an estimated population of 873, consisting entirely of Greek Cypriots.
All were displaced to the south of Cyprus in 1974. Today, it is inhabited by displaced Turkish Cypriots from various villages in Paphos District.
“Yearning” to go and live in his village in occupied Cyprus
“I was yearning to go to my village to build a home that I can live in,” Skourides told The Associated Press in 2018, adding that he wouldn’t have pursued the matter had Turkish Cypriots been living on his property.
In 2011, he applied to the Turkish Cypriot Immoveable Property Commission, a body set up in 2006 and endorsed by the European Court of Human Rights to arbitrate such claims.
Six years later and according to Skourides after much prodding, the commission gave him back 349 sq. meters (3,757 sq. feet) of land.
The questions that he was asked all the time are whether it feels safe to return and whether he is afraid or not. “Afraid of what?” Skouridis would respond.
“To be honest, I’m not afraid,” he continued. “Come what may. If I survived wars and dangerous situations and it is now the time for me to go, let me go…I do not mind,” he said.
The idea of return, as he says, came when he managed to visit his village at some point after the checkpoints were opened.
“When I went there, I saw that the situation did not seem dangerous,” he revealed. “So I decided to go because it is my village. The weather is good, it helps me with my health.”