Nicosia.-By Evie Mitsidou Phillips /CNA
They are not soldiers, but in 1974 they willingly found themselves in the line of fire. Members of the press, Cypriot and foreign alike, put down on paper or captured on film the dramatic events of the Turkish invasion and occupation of Cyprus and sent their messages across the world.
Forty years later CNA has tracked down some of them or those close to them and has asked them to take a look back in time and tell their own personal experiences from those tragic days.
The Turks are invading, we expected that
Foreign correspondent for the Washington Star, in the summer of 1974, Andrew Borowiec was with his wife Juliet in their home in Ampelia complex in Kyrenia district, near Kazafani village, and tells CNA of how he and his family managed to get away and how he was able to continue sending his dispatches from the war zone.
He was at Ledra Palace hotel with other foreign journalists covering the coup, he recalls. On the eve of the invasion he went home to see his wife and 14 year old daughter. In the early hours of July 20, he tells CNA, the family heard explosions and shooting. “The Turks are invading, we expected that”, he thought.
Through a telephone at the office of Ampelia village complex, which was in working order for a while, Borowiec was in touch with his friend Jack, who lived in Agios Georgios. He relayed to Andrew what he could see of the landing of the Turkish navy on the shores of Kyrenia. He then filed by telex the first news bulletin on the invasion to his paper.
During the day he would inform and at times correct the information his colleagues at Ledra Palace had on what was happening. “I knew this was it”, he tells CNA.
In the meantime, British nationals following instructions via BBC world service, started gathering at a specific point from where they were ferried by helicopter to the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, which had arrived and docked off Kyrenia`s shores, to evacuate people. The carrier took on board British nationals and others who arrived and sought help, including Greek Cypriots. They were taken to the British Base of Akrotiri, on Cyprus’ southern coast, and from there to London on board military aircraft.
After the cessation of hostilities he returned to Cyprus. He recalls he filed stories with the help of the Associated Press or from the Hilton hotel, where foreign correspondents had moved, as Ledra Palace hotel had become a dangerous zone.
Brorwiec remembers meeting with both Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktash. He describes Denktash as “triumphant” while he says that Clerides “kept a low profile”. Denktash, he says, did not want to rock the boat with Turkey. In fact, he tells CNA, “he did not know what their intentions were”.
It was raining mortars in Ayios Dometios
Veteran Cypriot journalist and correspondent of UPI and stringer for the Financial Times in 1974, Andreas Hadjipapas, recalls that between the coup and the Turkish invasion quite a few foreign journalists chartered a boat from Lebanon and arrived in Larnaca.
They settled in Ledra Palace and an unofficial correspondents’ union was in place, he remembers.
A few days after the invasion, when people were expecting a cease fire, Hadjipapas tells CNA that in his Nicosia neighbourhood of Ayios Dometios “mortars where falling like rain”. His house was hit but fortunately no one was hurt. His friend and neighbor, professor Costas Economides, died. Andreas Hadjipapas never returned to his house in Ayios Dometios.
He recalls that a Financial Times correspondent Dominick Coyle said to him “Andreas, I see that you are upset. I will depart and leave you to cover the events so that you can focus on the job and forget the drama”. This is what happened. Despite his personal loss, the Hadjipapas continued to file his reports from Cyprus.
As a result of the Turkish invasion Hadjipapas lost a close friend, and his sister`s husband`s fate is to this day unknown.
Stories from Ledra Palace
“From our east facing room we watched as about twelve lumbering transport aircraft flew in sedate circles before the backcloth of the Kyrenia range and began dropping paratroopers on the central plain”, “Observer” correspondent at the time, veteran war correspondent and military historian Colin Smith recalls of July 20 1974.
“There was a storm of fire from the Greek Cypriots on the Green Line but the paratroopers were out of range. The Turks drifted towards the parched earth with impunity”, he says.
He and his colleagues went downstairs “which was just as well because later somebody put a single bullet through our open window, presumably a Turkish Cypriot whose closest positions were 150 yards away,” he writes.
By that time, he notes, “the Ledra Palace was a legitimate target. The five storey building’s flat roof had become a Greek Cypriot stronghold with firing points at each corner, two of them accommodating heavy .50 Browning machine guns”.
The Turks, he adds, “responded with mortar fire which killed one man and saw another carried downstairs with a grievous head wound”.
Smith recalls that eventually the “Daily Mirror`s” World War Two veteran Donald Wise volunteered to make the dangerous drive to Nicosia General hospital with the wounded man and then chose to return. “Can’t leave the Express with the story,” Smith remembers him saying.
“It is as if the invading Turkish army had become some uncontrollable giant, unanswerable even to the promises of its own Government, slowly devouring Greek villages and spitting out a misery of refugees”, he wrote in the Observer on August 4.
Water in the bathtub
Economist correspondent at the time for the region, Godfrey Jansen was also at Ledra Palace, his wife Michael Jansen tells CNA.
As soon as the invasion started, he filled his bathtub with water, knowing from past experience that running water would soon be cut off, she says. Most of the hotel staff fled leaving guests to fend for themselves, she adds.
In her historical novel “The Aphrodite Plot” Michael Jansen also describes how the lives of journalists and civilians staying at the Ledra Palace came into harm’s way.
“The bar was cleared an hour later by a Turkish reply to the guardsman shooting from the roof of the hotel”, Jansen writes in her novel, adding that “it was a single bullet which lodged itself in the wall just above the cash register.” She later describes how the guests of Ledra Palace were evacuated. “The National Guard resisted, but were overborne and the civilians and journalists set off in open lorries for the British Base at Dekhelia for air evacuation to Britain”, Jansen`s novel reads.
Godffrey Jansen, who served, inter alia, as the Economist`s correspondent for 18 years and had his base in Nicosia since 1976 passed away in 1998. Michael Jansen, who is still an active journalist, lives in Nicosia, when she is not fleeting around the globe to cover her stories.
Cypriots did not lose their morale
Associated Press correspondent at the time and veteran Cypriot journalist Alex Efthyvoulou was abroad when the coup and the first phase of the invasion took place. He managed to return to Cyprus before the second phase.
“It was as though the invasion was a picnic for the Turks,” he recalls. There was resistance in certain parts but it wasn`t organised, he adds. Efthyvoulou immediately went to work. When he had any information, he would call army headquarters to inform them.
Foreign correspondents milled in his house, from where he sent his reports via telex. In between filing their stories, they would enjoy his mother in law`s home-made cooking.
Replying to a question of how he perceived people`s feelings at the time, Efthyvoulou speaks of everyone`s disappointment over the hypocrisy, as he puts it, of world powers.
At the same time, however, he remembers that “from the first days of the tragedy Cypriots did not lose their morale”. They hoped and they believed that things will change, he says, noting that this is indeed what happened and that Cypriots should be proud.
The drama of the invasion on film
Cypriot photographer and cinematographer Doros Partasides tells CNA that he was torn between his duty to serve his country and his love for his passion, photography. He had immediately enlisted but was called back to Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, where he worked as a camera man.
“I took photographs of what I saw, whether this was a child laying in a barn asleep or an old man sleeping between camping tents, surrounded by chickens and cockerels or an elderly person sitting on a bucket gazing at his village,” he tells CNA.
Partasides recalls the drama of missing persons and the mixed feelings captured on people`s faces. The joy of those whose relatives returned and the overwhelming sorrow of those whose loved ones did not.
He refers to the bombing of Mia Milia village and the tragic scenes that ensued. A shoeless mother, he says, holding four children from the age of one to four, carrying some clothes, fleeing the village, or the little kid who was killed at the hotel after the air raids.
“We should not forget everything that happened, we should tell the story to the younger generations. At the same time we should also build a happy, peaceful future,” he believes.
As luck would have it
BBC correspondent John Bierman was also in Cyprus, that fateful morning of July 20, 1974.
His efforts to be the first on the scene of the invasion are described in an article commemorating his life published at “The Times” online in 2006 after his death.
It speaks of Bierman and his crew attempts to drive to Kyrenia from Nicosia at dawn. On the way they happened upon their competitor, Michael Nicholson of ITN and his crew who had punctured a tyre and were changing it and overtook them in their effort to get to the action first.
Bierman, the article continues, often told the story of how it was his own “luck that had run out”.
Unwittingly, Nicholson found himself directly below the drop zone of Turkish paratroopers whilst Bierman was stopped short of covering the Turkish invasion of the Kyrenia shoreline by a UN roadblock.
Bierman returned to Cyprus in 1991 with his wife, also well known journalist Hilary Brown, where he lived and continued writing until he passed away in 2006.