By Evie Andreou
THE Remembrance Day ceremony held in Nicosia on Wednesday honoured the more than 40,000 Cypriots who volunteered to fight in World War I and II and the more than 600 who were known to have died.
The ceremony, which is held every November 11 to mark the day in 1918 when the armistice signed between the Allies and Germany went into effect, took place at the monument to honour those who fell in World War II and began with the customary two-minute silence.
“Today we honour the millions of men and women who sacrificed their lives for freedom in both world wars,” said the secretary of the association of World War II veterans Nikos Christodoulides.
Christodoulides, 92, who participated in the remembrance ceremony along with a small number of other World War II veterans, said that 20,000 Cypriot volunteers – Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Armenians, Maronites and Latins – participated in World War II and another estimated 10,000 were enlisted in the countries where they resided.
“It is estimated that over 600 Cypriots were killed, we only have data for 374 of them through their tombs or cenotaphs at 72 military cemeteries and war monuments, both in Cyprus and in 23 other countries,” he said.
Some 2,500 Cypriots, he said, were held captive in central Europe until the end of the war. “Of these, some died of privations and hardships, while some were executed.
“We owe an eternal debt to all those who fought and who by their sacrifice saved humanity from Nazi tyranny.”
House speaker Yiannakis Omirou said that more that 12,000 Cypriots enlisted voluntarily during World War I and most of them served at the Macedonian front, mainly as mule drivers and translators.
In World War II, he said, Cyprus was the first British colony to send men to the war, as early as the autumn of 1939.
“In the Cyprus regiment, established in February 1940, 12, 216 Cypriot soldiers and officers were enlisted. In the Cyprus Volunteer Force, founded in June 1940, for the purpose of mainly civil defence, 4,466 men were recruited. Also remarkable was the number of Cypriot women during the Second World War. They served in ancillary services of the army and air force mainly as nurses,” Omirou said. “Cyprus offered its own small contribution to the victory over fascism and Nazism.”
At the ceremony the poem ‘In Flanders’ Fields’ was recited in Greek and English and wreaths were laid, from state, church and military representatives, former President Demetris Christofias, parties, local government, the heads of 21 diplomatic missions, UNFICYP and the British Bases.
By Evie Andreou