By Annette Chyrsostomou
Among those who received a Stelios award on Monday were couple, Michalis Michael and Sukran Ozerdem because theirs was the “ultimate form” of bicommunal co-operation, the philanthropist said, and their toddler “one of the first bi-communal babies” since 1974.
The couple met in 2004 when they both worked for the United Nations in Cyprus. They got married at the Nicosia town hall in 2013 and Denis was born in 2014.
“We are a living example that one can live without problems in Cyprus,” Michael said at the award ceremony, adding “we love the whole island, east, west, north and south with no limits.”
EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who handed out 31 prizes of €10,000 each, said the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot couple had been awarded in the ‘Life’ category, which he said was his favourite one.
Michael added that all of the award winners “are the living example that shows when there is a will there is a way… and there is no problem in Cyprus between people that love their country.” He said the award to him and his wife was “above all symbolic”. All partnerships “should be based on the same values of a wedding – honesty commitment, loyalty, generosity, peacemaking and sacrifice,” he said.
Another Greek and Turkish Cypriot couple, Larkos Larkou and Hatidie Ardost were also married just a few months ago and won their award in the ‘music’ category for creating the bi-communal music group “Kyprogenia”, which recently performed at Othello Tower in Famagusta, attended by President Nicos Anastasides who was also at the Stelios awards ceremony.
The audience was also introduced to the ‘sports’ team, Nazo Canitez and Tania Matsouka, who are doing rock climbing and yoga on the beach.
One winner, Aydin Mehmet Ali applied with two different Greek Cypriot partners, and won in two categories.
These were winners in new categories other than business. This year, Sir Stelios increased the amount in a bid to open up the definition of bi-communal cooperation, not just to business but also to arts, sport, literature and sciences. He announced that he would raise the amount for next year to €500.000. Total grants have reached €2 million so far over seven years.
“This is a charity project, not a political one. This is my way of giving back to the island that my family comes from. Both my parents were born on the island. This project is one of my ways of repaying my debt to society,” he said.
This year the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation, located in Old Nicosia, received four times as many applications than in other years. “The political climate has helped a lot, and also the operation of the bi-communal café,” he said.
After the ceremony Sir Stelios along with media and local dignitaries held a walk of peace from the one bi-communal cafe in the south to a new one under renovation in north part of Nicosia.