By Angelos Anastasiou
THE FIRST ever funeral of a Greek Cypriot missing person to take place in the Turkish-occupied areas was held on Saturday in Ayia Triada, Yialousa, and attended by family, friends and government officials.
Army reservist Yiannakis Savva Liasis,21, was killed during the Turkish invasion in August 1974, but was listed as missing when his body was not found.
His remains were finally uncovered in March 2010 in a mass grave in Klepini along with four other bodies, and his identity was confirmed via DNA testing in May. He was last seen on August 11, 1974 by his parents, who since the invasion have become part of the enclaved community in their home village of Ayia Triada. It was their wish that their son be buried in the village cemetery.
The government was represented at the funeral by the head of the president’s office, Panayiotis Antoniou, who gave a eulogy.
“After an unacceptable delay of 40 years, we direct our final farewell to Yiannakis Liasis, a brilliant and virtuous young man with passion and dreams for himself, his family and his homeland,” Antoniou told a congregation that included Liasis’ parents, Savvas and Maroulla Liasis, and his sister, Toula.
Liasis’ remains were discovered as part of the ongoing investigations carried out by the Committee for the Missing Persons (CMP), comprising representatives of the two communities in Cyprus and the United Nations’ Secretary General and aiming to ascertain the fate of all persons missing since 1974.
“The aim is to finally end this humanitarian problem that continues to hurt many people, Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike, especially relatives who demand and are entitled to answers with regard to the fate of their loved ones and have their funerals according to their religion and sacred traditions,” Antoniou said.
According to Antoniou, 331 out of 1619 Greek Cypriot missing persons have been identified, in addition to 64 from the special category of fallen persons. A further nine of 43 missing since the 1963-64 intercommunal strife, were identified, making a total of 404 Greek Cypriots.
With regard to Turkish Cypriot missing persons, the remains of 125 out of 502 cases submitted to the CMP were identified. Of the total number, 229 relate to the 1963-64 period and 273 to the 1974 period. An additional 36 cases were later submitted, of which two relate to 1974.
“As evidenced by the numbers, significant progress has been made on the issue of missing persons over the last few years, and yet the body of outstanding work is much greater,” Antoniou said.
He said there is much work to be done and spoke of the urgency of the matter, as many parents and family members are now elderly or pass away without having knowing what became of their loved ones.
The matter, he said, has been raised in meetings between the leaders of the island’s two communities in the hope that their decisions will facilitate and accelerate the work of the CMP, regardless of how the negotiations are progressing.
President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu agreed at a meeting they had on July 7 to jointly visit the anthropological laboratory of the Committee on Missing Persons on July 24, prior to their meeting on the same day.
“On behalf of President Nikos Anastasiades and his government, I extend my warmest condolences to Yiannakis Liasis’ parents, Savvas and Maroulla, as well as his sister Toula,” he said. “Their pain in immense, but I hope it is softened by the fact that Yiannakis will rest in his beloved land, where he was born and raised with all the values and principles his family and his school gave him, here in our beloved Karpasia.”
Liasi was born on May 5, 1953 and attended the Yialousa high school. In 1974 he was a freshman at the Economics Department at Athens University. The last time his family saw him was August 11, when he told them that he was heading for the village of Ayios Epiktitos.
Toula, who has been living in Holland for the last 34 years and works as an artist and art teacher, said last week that with her brother’s burial her family would finally find peace. “It’s a great honour for him, to be buried in his village,” she said.
“It has been 40 years since my brother went missing. Now he is back, back where he belongs, where he spent his childhood years, laughing, playing, not having a care in the world. This is the only place where he could rest. The only place where one can find eternal peace is his home.”
By Angelos Anastasiou