Her front door is always wide open. And if you were to visit her every day, every day you would find flowers in her vase. She offered me coffee and told me to sit next to her: 'Let's sit here, by the door, for fresh air'. 'Will you share some lessons life has given you, will you talk to me about the strange experience called life?', I asked. 'I can only talk about my life', she said. 'Would that be enough?'. 'That would be more than enough, Mrs. Potamou'. So she opened her soul and out came tales of love and heartache, of blessings and adversities, of peace and war, of God and evil. Out came the tale of life.
I am sitting here today, alone. But I don't feel lonely. My children and my grandchildren visit me almost every night. My heart is calm. My soul is peaceful. My mind is full of all kinds of memories.
I was born and raised in the village of Prastio, Morfou in the island of Cyprus. I got married when I was only 19 and had three sons. Just before the Turkish military invasion in Cyprus, I lost my oldest son - he died from a kidney malfunction. He was only seven--the brightest pupil of his school. For 40 days I was praying for his life every moment, but God wanted him by His side, I guess. Raising my other children is what kept me going strong. Then I also helped in raising their children and their grandchildren.
I didn't marry out of love. My marriage was set up by my father and my brother-in-law. Nevertheless, I grew to love my husband a lot, along our common road. But now, that the times and societies are different, I always advise people to let their children decide who they want to spend their lives with; to let them make their own choices and take the responsibility of their decisions. Responsibility makes us try harder to make things work because there is no one there to blame.
My happiest moment in life was when I saw my first granddaughter getting married. She was so happy that day! I have a very soft spot for her in my heart, maybe because she was the first girl in my family after my three sons. And life has it that we, people, love our grandchildren twice as much than we love our children, for some strange, strange reason. That is a whole lot of love!
So I don't feel lonely. But I do feel nostalgic. I miss my village, my home. It was taken so brutally and suddenly away from me one dark summer day back in 1974. I was 42 years old when they invaded Cyprus. Some of the best years of our lives were spent in refugee camps and confusion. Τhose were the days of uprooting. Those were the days of total chaos. The worst part is that when they told us to leave the village, they didn't tell us that there was no return. I didn't have the chance to say goodbye. No chance to bury it in my soul and get over it. Sometimes hope is not a good thing.
Kazevera was a village nearby our village. Lots of Turkish Cypriots were living there, they would come and go, trade with us, and they were very friendly. There were no real problems between the people of the two communities. We were co-existing in peace, at least in my community. I still don't understand how it all escalated to that great conflict, and it feels strange to read all these lies, because I was there when history was being made, you know? I was present in that piece of history. So my instinct tells me that it was all set up by the great powers of this planet. Who knows. It was all about politics and international relations conspiracies. We are just a small island, my dear. We don't have the power.
I have not travelled to faraway places. One day though, while my younger son was very ill, I had a vision of Mother Mary entering my home from the front door and exiting from the back door. That moment I knew, or better say felt, that I had to make a pilgrimage to Panayia tis Tinou. So I travelled as far as the Aegean Sea, but not further.
My whole life has been dedicated to God. Even when I lost my child, I did not lose my faith to Him. My son has surely gone to Paradise because he was an angel, his heart was very pure and good. I don't know why bad things happen to good people, but I still have faith.
I have been blessed with a loving family. Happiness in life is nothing more than exchanging love. Some people look for love, but they cannot find it. They are fighting against very powerful demons who try to stop them from reaching or creating a state of love, I guess. There is an evil force too, I am afraid. I believe that evil forces exist too.
My advice to my children is to put love and family unity above everything else. 'Love each other and dine together', I say to them.