By Lizzy Ioannidou
A ‘memory park’ in honour of old English School graduates who died or went missing in 1974, 11 of whom have so far been identified, will be built on the English School grounds.
The idea was that of an old boy of the English School, Elias Pantelides, after the recent burial of some of his fellow students and friends who were missing persons.
“This is a multicommunal, apolitical project to honour those killed during that period regardless of political affiliation,” Pantelides told the Sunday Mail.
The project isn’t about joining the blame-game: “It’s not about which side was responsible for the most deaths, but about learning how to grow and mature in a way that allows us to focus on the future,” Pantelides said.
With the English School headmaster David Lambon on board, meetings will be held at the start of the next school year in order to decide where on the school grounds the park will be located and the form the project will take.
Elias Pantelides, who attended the English School in 1966 and graduated just 12 months before the outbreak of the conflict in 1974, is an established historic researcher on the events of 1974 in Cyprus.
His book published last year, ‘Laconic Tales Cyprus 1974’, is a collection of individuals’ accounts of 1974, featuring academics, businessmen and journalists from both sides of the divide, including Turkish Cypriot professor Niyazi Kizilyurek and journalist Sevgul Uludag. Pantelides conducted five years of research for Laconic Tales.
The book was the precursor for his subsequent six-month search for his fellow missing classmates, the only criterion for which, he stresses, is their English School connection, with no other ethnic, political, or party interferences.
So far, 11 have been found and identified as English School graduates, with the valuable record-digging assistance of school secretary Souzana Anastasiou.
Though the project has multicultural aims, reflecting how Pantelides himself interprets the communities of both the English School and Cyprus, all 11 English School graduates that have so far been discovered are Greek Cypriots.
Pantelides explained the unfortunate reason why this is the case: “the onset of intercommunal violence meant that in 1964 many Turkish Cypriots left the English School and would only begin coming back around 71-72, so we had almost no Turkish Cypriots in our graduating class.”
Turkish Cypriot students were once again be forced to leave the school in 1974, and it was not until 29 years later, in 2003, that they could once again be readmitted to the school.
Pantelides had looked for Turkish Cypriot English School graduates who went missing during the intercommunal violence of 1963-64, which took place before he was even a student of the school, but found nothing.
“I’ve spoken to people in high places, to experts, to journalists. It’s not that there weren’t any Turkish Cypriot missing persons, especially during the intercommunal violence. It’s that I couldn’t find any who were English School students,” he said.
“Even so, the list is in no way exclusive or exhaustive,” Pantelides said. “I did my best, and found these 11, but anyone with any relevant information is very welcome to contribute.
The eleven people Pantelides found are: Antonis Efthymiou, Alecos Papachristoforou, Charis Constantinides, Kyriakos (Koullis) Demetriou, Nearchos Aniliades, Andreas Stivaros, Iakovos (Akis) Pittas, Michalakis Tyrimos, Antonis Kafas, Stavros Taliadoros (Alkis) and George Andreou.
He still remembers each of them.
He remembers that Alecos left the school a year early to join the army in 1972 and went missing in Neapoli in 1974 as a newly-wed, that Constantinides was quiet and charming, that Koullis played basketball.
There are many more to be found, however.
If anyone has any information regarding missing persons who were part of the English School community, “now is the time to talk, since things are being built everywhere, from highways, to hospitals to homes, and the people might never be found,” Pantelides pleaded.
Asked how this park will benefit the current generation of English School students, he replied that “memory motivates a process of searching, which is necessary for the acquisition of knowledge and finding light.”