April 1 is an occasion to “remember with gratitude the freedom fighters, the ordinary peasants, workers, the church and the two great leaders of the struggle” who fought an unequal but just battle, successfully bringing freedom to the people of Cyprus, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Friday.

After attending the eulogy at the Apostle Varnavas church, the president visited the graves in the prison of the EOKA fighters hanged by the British.

Also marking the anniversary, Nicosia mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis said that today “the heavy shadow of war and refugees which hovers once again over our wider neighbourhood” is a revival call for continuing the cause.

A statement for the occasion by the Green party, said that in the years following the freedom struggle, foreign intervention within the framework of the Cold War, as well as the actions of self-proclaimed ethno-saviours, led to a coup d’etat and the Turkish invasion, and, unfortunately, the vision of those striving in 1955-59 was not realised.

“We uphold the vision and values of our ancestors and will fight to ensure the human rights and security of the Cypriot people,” the statement added.

April 1, also known as EOKA Day, commemorates the start of the uprising by Cypriots against British colonialism.

Cyprus was leased to the British Empire and had been formally annexed by Britain at the end of the First World War.

On April 1, 1955, EOKA (National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters) whose aim was unification with Greece, started a guerilla war, targeting British military installations on the island.

The campaign against the British lasted for the next four years. On August 16, 1960, a cease-fire was reached and Cyprus attained independence after the Zurich and London Agreement between the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey.

Speaking on Friday, Commissioner for the development of mountain communities Costas Hambiaouris highlighted the contribution of the Orthodox Church to the cause of freedom.

“The spiritual and national empowerment and awakening of the people emanated from the church,” he said, adding that the church had “prepared the fighters for freedom.”