INSTEAD of answering today to the Papadopoulos, Sizopoulos, Lillikas, Theocharous, Perdikis and the rest of those wandering salesmen of patriotism I thought I would leave three young women to answer through their deeds.
I was one of the traitors that went to Salamis to watch Antigone. There, I had the good fortune to witness a moving incident, which under the circumstances transmitted a message as powerful as that of the play.
Half an hour before the start of the performance with the amphitheatre already packed, a stream of people was moving through the aisle between the stage and the seats. They were all looking up trying to find an empty space to sit. At one point, I saw an elderly Turkish Cypriot (must have been around 80) with a disability, slowly negotiating his way through the crowd. He was using crutches and was being helped by a youngster, who may have been his grandson, to move with flow. The man had heard that a Sophocles tragedy was being staged at the ancient amphitheatre, took his crutches and his grandson and arrived to watch Antigone.
I saw him also looking for an empty space and wondered that even if there were an empty space high up it would be impossible for the elderly gentleman with his crutches to get there. As he passed in front of me, I looked to the right where there was a cordoned off area, with seats reserved for foreign diplomats, hoping to catch the eye of one of the stewards coming and going to ask them if they could arrange a place for the man to sit.
I did not see a steward and then looked left to see how the man and his young helper were progressing. I could not see them and asked the friend sitting next to me if he had seen what had happened to them. He pointed to him, sitting on the bottom step next to some young women.
What had happened?
On the bottom step, squeezed together were three young Greek Cypriot women, all wearing white dresses and no older than 25. According to my friend, as soon as they saw the disabled Turkish Cypriot they got up and offered their seats to him and his companion. They even helped him sit because the bottom step was rather high. Other people, sitting in the same row, having seen what had happened, pushed rightwards and leftwards to make room for the three young women to sit.
It was the type of scene that sent out thousands of messages, seeing those three polite, young Greek Cypriot women in their white dresses and between them the elderly Turkish Cypriot and his young helper, all sitting peacefully waiting for the performance of an ancient tragedy in an ancient amphitheatre to begin.
A strange thought went through my mind: Who knows if a grandfather of one of these women in 1963, or a father in 1974 had not been a soldier in some army trench with his gun pointing at the enemy’s army trench in which the disabled Turkish Cypriot or one of his sons was also pointing a gun at the enemy positions. Yet from that bottom step of the amphitheatre at Salamis, the three young women radiated – and with every bit as much power – the very message of the play acted on the stage six metres in front of them: “I was not born to hate but to love.”
Returning to Nicosia at midnight, I heard on the radio news about the ugliness outside the Greek embassy where Papadopoulos and Sizopoulos went to give their own performance, a performance of hatred. I thought of the three young women. They, I thought, had given the best answer to the two party leaders.
I am not very optimistic about the fate awaiting Cyprus when it has such political dwarves determining it, but I have to admit that that night in Salamis those three young women inspired a little hope. It was the type of behaviour which showed that in this country, apart from the politician-clowns, there are also good, young human beings.