A moving company mix up ten years ago landed a Norwegian man with a consignment of plastic Greek flags, an old toilet seat and a box of intriguing personal items from Cyprus
By Annette Chrysostomou
Last week the Sunday Mail received a rather unusual parcel from Norway. Although we were expecting it, we were still intrigued, and puzzled, when we viewed the contents.
Strange items they were: clippings from various Greek Cypriot newspapers from the 1980s, a folder containing obituaries, a doctor’s report, two TV magazines from 1999 and 2000, a typed 14-page paper on Cyprus history, a 1997 copy of the Times and – crucially – two sporting certificates from the 80s and a school photograph.
This apparently random collection had been on a long journey from Cyprus to Budapest to Norway and back to Cyprus again.
The how and why they ended up at the newspaper’s offices is down to a 64-year-old Norwegian man, Tore Svenning.
“While clearing out some old things in my house in Norway, I came across a small collection of items that do not belong to me, and I am sending them to you in the hopes that you might find the owner of the mementos,” he wrote in an email to us weeks ago. “I do not believe they have any monetary value whatsoever, but perhaps some sentimental. Quite frankly, I had forgotten about them a long time ago.”
He received the items when he and his wife moved from Cyprus to Budapest in 2009.
Having rented an apartment in Budapest, he was waiting for his furniture and other items after paying a moving company from Cyprus to transport it.
This is when things started to go wrong.
In the first place, Svenning told the Sunday Mail, the consignment was months late, and the Norwegian and his wife had to spend Christmas in a big empty flat in central Budapest.
“We spent Christmas in an absolutely naked flat, apart from some beds we bought locally, and a few tables and chairs borrowed from a meeting room at my place of work. And a splendid 4.5 metre Christmas tree!”
They nearly didn’t get their possessions at all. The firm’s labelling of the port of origin was confused, leading the Hungarian customs authorities to suspect the goods came from a port on the other side of the green line, in which case they would not have admitted them.
When they finally did get the shipment, items were broken and missing; 400 books never arrived.
But other things did. And the strangest things they were.
“The consignment, as delivered, contained somebody else’s goods: a large rack for displaying items at commercial fairs and the like; a second-hand toilet seat, and – memorably – boxes upon boxes containing plastic Greek flags, of the type fans use to put in their car windows at football matches. There were 4,750 of these, and they were a nightmare to get rid of. I have kept 5-6 of them as a memento,” Svenning explained.
There were also some personal items such as the newspaper cuttings, the photo, the doctor’s report and sporting diplomas.
These he could not bring himself to throw away not even when he moved back to Norway. He then forgot about them until he discovered them again recently.
“Why haven’t I chucked them out? Probably out of a touch of sentimentality: these are the sorts of things people keep for life, and which are disposed of by their children when they have passed away.
“But coming across them, I simply decided they should go back to Cyprus,” he said in an email explaining his decision to send them to us.
“The other items we received, and which did not belong to us, were ‘commercial’ ones – but what we found in the carton was someone’s memories, someone’s childhood, someone’s personal history.”
The small parcel arrived last week at our office, where he sent them as he remembers reading the paper during his years living in Cyprus.
And then it was up to us.
We really only had the history essay, the sporting certificates and the school photo to go on.
The undated, type-written essay on the Cyprus problem was written by someone called I. Nearchou, but we were unable to trace the owner.
But we hit gold with some of the other items. The name on the diplomas was unusual. I will simply call her Anna as she did not want us to use her real name.
Her full name matched only one mention during a Google search, luckily complete with a phone number of her workplace.
I explained what we had in our possession including a picture of a class of pupils at a local high school, with no date or any other indication which school it was or which year it was taken, though it seemed to be from the early 1980s.
When we emailed her photos of both the diplomas and the photo, she confirmed the certificates from 1981 and 1982 did indeed belong to her. She was 11 and 12 years old at the time she received them.
But even more surprising was that her husband is one of the children on the high school photo, which was taken in 1979, when he was in seventh grade at Nicosia’s Acropolis lyceum.
Yet the couple say they only met much later, and have simply no idea how the items came to be stored together or who might have had them. They say they have not been involved with any moving company at any time in the past, and don’t remember when they have last seen them.
“I really cannot figure out how these could be in a box sent to a Norwegian,” Anna commented.
As for the rest, they recognise neither the name of the patient who is the subject of the doctor’s report included in the papers, nor any of the obituaries which are part of the local newspaper clippings.
It is unlikely that the connection between all these papers will now become clear. Intriguing as the collection is, it is hard to fathom the links between, for example, the Times newspaper from October 16, 1997 – with no reference to Cyprus, so why keep it? – and ‘Eleftherotypia’ from September 19, 1987. And what connects clippings from Agon, Simerini, and Phileleftheros and a copy of TV Mania, all dated from between 1978 and 1993?
If anybody can figure it out, please contact the Sunday Mail [email protected]