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Would you ever move back to Cyprus?

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More than half a million Cypriots live abroad. Thousands of expats once called this island home. Alix Norman asks why they would or wouldn’t return for good

 

There’s something about Cyprus!

While those of us who live here are quick to condemn the rising cost of living, low salaries and searing summer heat, people abroad often have a different perspective. But is it all nostalgia and rose-tinted spectacles, or is there something more?

We asked a selection of people with ties to the island the all-important question: Would you ever move back to Cyprus? Their answers were surprising, shocking and heart-warming in equal measure…

“I was born in the village of Genagra, in the Famagusta district,” says 73-year-old Skevi Louca, who now lives in Ontario.

“In 1971, my husband and I moved to Canada, where he lived. To this day, I miss the traditions of my homeland, and the proximity to relatives and friends. I miss the sea. I miss the flowers. I would,” she admits, “love to move to Cyprus for maybe a few months a year; live in one of the beautiful villages; experience a Cyprus spring once more.”

Sadly, there will be no permanent – or even temporary – return for Skevi. She’s destined to remain one of the half a million Greek Cypriots living abroad. “Our children and grandchildren are here in Canada, and my husband doesn’t want to be away from them even for a few months. But I still dream of Cyprus…”

Family is a big issue for those who have emigrated. And also for Cypriots born abroad: the second- and third-generation who hanker for a return to their roots.

Born in Melbourne to Cypriot parents, Koraly Dimitriadis won’t move to Cyprus without her daughter. “If I ever did, both she and I would need to take that decision together.”

Though the 40-something author and poet has never lived on the island, she visits regularly, and sees herself as “Cypriot. Maybe even more than I see myself as Australian.” And she speaks fondly of the island’s freedoms. “I can be more myself there. Here in Australia, you have to be politically correct and there’s far more fear. In Cyprus, I feel free to be myself.”

43-year-old Pavlos Pavlou sees it differently. Apparently, the lack of freedom is exactly what drove him to leave. And he doesn’t plan on coming back!

The legal consultant nearly joined the mass exodus after the economic crisis (2013 and 2014 saw Cyprus’ highest emigration for 15 years), but stuck it out for another few years. Then in 2022, he finally relocated to Berlin, citing “Cyprus’ closed mindset” as the main reason for his move.

“Of course there are better job opportunities abroad, along with salaries that actually reflect both one’s work and the cost of living,” he suggests. “But here in Germany, people are open and I can actually be myself. No, I won’t ever move back. The circle of Cyprus has closed for me – there’s nothing left for me there.”

William Goodall is another who has no plans to return. An HR specialist, the retired Brit has lived around the world, and was based in Cyprus between 1990 and 2010.

“Cyprus will always hold a special place in my heart,” says the 65-year-old. “I still visit several times a year to see friends. But while living there was a great both for me and my family, the island seems to have changed almost beyond recognition

“30 years ago, property was cheap, the cost of living was low, and the people were warm and friendly. I’m not sure much of that is left. And I can’t help but notice there’s rubbish everywhere you go.”

While William still appreciates the Cyprus weather, he admits he’s now far happier in his native Norfolk: “The older you get, the more you appreciate your own culture. My Cypriot friends who once lived abroad tell me this is why they moved back to the island. But a lot of them have also added that they’re shocked by what time has done to Cyprus.”

50-year-old IT specialist Matteos Mavrou is undeterred by such changes, and plans to return in the future.

“I feel the island has navigated the passage of time well,” says the IT specialist, who has lived in California for 20 years. In his eyes, “Cyprus offers a reassuring balance: both a much simpler, more familiar world and yet satisfyingly progressive and modern.”

77-year-old Kemal Erdem disagrees. Again, it’s change that’s the issue. And this Larnaca-born Londoner doesn’t think he could ever return.

“I’m not racist at all, but the small numbers of Turkish-speaking Cypriots are overwhelmed by these new immigrants – people from Turkey, from Africa, Pakistan, Russia and its satellite countries. Cyprus’ imported immigrants have made the land I love unbearable, unrecognisable.”

According to the foreign ministry, the majority (76 per cent) of the island’s population is Greek Cypriot. But the foreign population (14 per cent) now outnumbers Turkish Cypriots (10 per cent).

Mary Anglberger was one of those foreigners. She lived in Cyprus for seven years, finally returning to her native Austria in 2018.

“It was time,” she says, adding that the final straw was when her neighbour slashed her tyres for feeding the street cats. “But I’d also turned 50 the summer before and, after 30 happy years of travelling, I wanted to be home.”

Although the former teacher misses “cafés by the sea, and the warm Mediterranean breeze” she admits she prefers the four distinct seasons of Salzburg, along with “five weeks of paid holiday, paid sick leave, two months of extra pay each year and free access to a fantastic health care system.

“Even five years after my return, I still marvel at the comforts of Austrian life,” she adds. “Public transport that works; affordable museums and concerts; and central heating that keeps you warm and cosy all winter long – and is included in the rent!

“Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t leave Cyprus sooner.”

 

Some names have been changed to protect privacy

 

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