By Constantinos Psillides
AMID applause, tears and the sound of a 21-gun salute, Glafcos Clerides, the fourth president of the Republic, was laid to rest in Nicosia on Tuesday, next to his beloved wife Lila, who died in 2007.
Thousands of people crowded the area outside the church of Ayia Sophia in Strovolos, where the funeral service was held, to bid farewell to the former president.
They lined the road leading to the church, to salute the casket, draped with the flags of Cyprus and Greece that was carried by a gun carriage, throwing flowers, olive branches and laurel leaves at it.
As the carriage rolled by people cried ‘axios’ (worthy) and ‘athanatos’ (immortal), interrupted the steady rhythm of applause that accompanied Clerides all the way inside the church.
Toula Zampakidou, 42, placed two roses on the casket. One was white and the other was spray-painted blue, the colours of the Greek flag and the DISY party, which Clerides founded.
“I cut these from my garden. I brought them for him. He was a great leader,” she said with tears in her eyes.
The funeral procession was led by a Second World War veteran, waving a large Greek flag, followed by a military vehicle towing the gun carriage on which Clerides’ casket had been lain.
Military policemen then carried the casket to the church entrance as a huge crowd watched a military guard of honour present arms and a band play the national anthem.
The men of his guard carried Clerides the rest of the way inside the church, which was packed with politicians, foreign dignitaries and other officials.
NEDISY, the youth branch of ruling party DISY attended the funeral service in specially made t-shirts. Black, with golden lettering on the back that read “ideas do not die” and “you were a proud pioneer, thank you father.”
Stavros, a university student, described Clerides as a “father to us all, a great politician and a remarkable human being”. A sombre expression on his face, Stavros added it was their duty to be there “to escort him to his final resting place”.
Upon arrival at the Constantinou and Eleni cemetery, where his body was interred, people broke into tears and applause while the casket was being carried by his guard.
Shouts of ‘axios’ once again filled the air, as the casket was lowered into the grave and guard of honour fired 21 shots in the air.
The large cemetery was again crowded with people.
Alexandra, a pensioner, rested on a nearby marble cross saying that her legs would soon fail her. “My doctor told me to stay in my wheelchair but I couldn’t.
I want to be standing when the casket passes through. It’s the least I could do, after what he did for us,” she said.
Once the priest concluded the ceremony, people sung the national anthem and applauded for a last time as Clerides was laid to rest.