was not through research but
through kinship. It may also have had something to do with kısmet (luck,
destiny). Soon after I met Mehmet Yashin in Istanbul in 1995, he took me
to Cyprus, his homeland, and to the childhood home left to him by his
deceased mother. Little did I know then, on this first trip, that this, one
day, would also be one of my homes.
The Cyprus we were visiting in 1995 was carved in half, with a border of
barbed wire running right through its middle. We were on the ‘‘Turkish
side,’’ but the ‘‘Greek side’’ was visible in the distance. As evening fell over
the Mesarya (Mesaoria in Greek) plain, one could distinguish the electric
lights on the other side from those on ours, as they glittered in a different
color. Crossing to the other side was forbidden. The border was heavily
guarded. On my first visit, I was struck by the bullet holes in the side of a
hotel building in Ma˘gusa (Ammochostos in Greek; Famagusta in English)
and discovered that it had previously belonged to a Greek-Cypriot and
was now empty. Southward along the Ma˘gusa seashore was an entire city
of high-rise apartment blocks and hotel buildings that looked like a ghost
town: broken windows, dangling gates, decrepit stairs, decaying walls. I
was to learn that this city, to which no access was allowed, was Mara¸s; for
the Greek-Cypriots, Varosha. It was a thriving tourist destination in the
1970s, until the war of 1974 and Turkey’s invasion of the north of the
island, including the town. The Greek-Cypriots of Varosha had escaped
from the invading Turkish army, and the town was blocked off from
habitation after the war. This is where the seashore of Ma˘gusa stopped.
Running across the end of a beach facing Varosha was a barbed-wire fence
and military signs forbidding access and photography.
After Ma˘gusa, we were to visit Lefko¸sa (Lefkosia in Greek; Nicosia in
English), which is Mehmet’s home town, both his parents being original
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