Failure by authorities to contain the illegal phenomenon of Easter bonfires forced two pensioners from a Nicosia village to hire a private security guard to watch over their property in the days leading up to Easter as they say their home is being vandalised every year by gangs of youths.
Every year youths from the area gather to an empty plot next to their house to light up ‘lambradjia’ or Easter bonfires for days at a time and stay all night throwing firecrackers and making noise.
But the biggest problem, according to one of the owners of the house, who did not wish to be named for fear of retribution, is that some of them jump the fence and enter the yard vandalising the house and terrorising them.
Despite repeated pleas to the police, the community council, even the justice minister, the same thing happens every year since 2014, one of the two sisters told the Cyprus Mail.
“The house each year becomes a ruin. If they could tear it down, they would,” she said.
She said that on Tuesday night for instance, she and her sister heard a loud bang.
“I believe they threw a firecracker on our porch. In 2017, they were there every night between March 26 and Easter Sunday on April 16. They had even switched off the electricity meter of our house.”
The group, she said, consists of teenagers but also grown men in their late 20’s and mid-thirties that gather each year in the plot next door to light bonfires. The damage to the house since 2014 has cost thousands, she said.
“They come into our yard, sit on the veranda, they broke tiles, pillars, they are peeing on the doors,” she said in despair.
She added that they put nails into lemons and oranges they cut from the trees and throw them at the house, “the juice is running down the walls.”
“In 2015 they burned a curtain, I had to change the kitchen door, they throw firecrackers around the house,” she said.
“You can’t even go outside the house when they are here,” the woman said adding that she saw them holding knives and screwdrivers. “Who in their right mind would go outside and reason with them?” she asked.
Their actions, she said, are aimed at humiliating her. “Is this tradition, a hobby, fun?” she asked.
But failure of authorities to avert this recurring phenomenon, forced the sisters to hire a private security guard last year for Good Friday and Easter Saturday to watch over the house.
“The man stayed outside the house the entire night until morning. Where are the authorities? I have to pay private security to protect myself,” she said.
She said she would do the same again this year.
In the past she gave some names to the police but nothing was really being done, the next year the same thing occurred, she said, adding that she even sent a letter to the justice minister but without receiving any response.
“Where should I turn for help? I don’t know what else to do,” she said.
The village’s community leader told the Cyprus Mail that bonfires are illegal and that the community council has repeatedly said it would not tolerate anyone lighting them.
He said that on the one hand the law forbids it but on the other hand, police ask local authorities each year to point out a space where such activities could safely take place.
“This is not all right. In the case of an accident, an incident, an injury the community council would be liable, therefore, we decided we will not designate such areas and we don’t organise bonfires,” he said.
“I understand the problem the two ladies face, they should address the police,” he said.
Police told the Cyprus Mail that the nearest police station has indeed been receiving reports by the woman near the Easter holidays for a number of years and officers have been several times to her house and were also planning on doing the same this year. Once there, however, officers might not find the things the woman reports, police said, adding that by the time they arrive, offenders might not be still around.
But since bonfires are illegal and the local authority has not given the green light for the lighting of bonfires in a designated area, how is this group still allowed to do so each year?
Another source within the police said that there is flexibility during this time of the year since lighting bonfires is an Easter custom.
The names of the woman and of the village have been omitted after expressed fears by the house owner that the group might retaliate if they find out about it.