Identifying the obvious

Two weeks of national celebrations brings about notions of identity, if not national, then personal.

As I sat out in the fields of Kornos on April Fool’s Day, not to refer to its national symbolism, I was put on the spot when asked where my national or historical pride laid with regards to the EOKA struggle that began against the British military and civilian installations on the island, on the very same day in 1955.

Irrespective of the historical implications and undenied respect towards the people that struggled for what they believed was a better future, I was faced with a person who was obviously, more Cypriot than I am. His ease in attesting to ‘his’ country, ‘his’ peoples, ‘his’ history had me seeking for some kind of rhetoric that I could also attach myself to.

I found that my identity as an expatriate couldn’t lend a hand to internalising history for more than what it was; what it is. And in all honesty, this is valid not only for the country I have adopted as my own, but for my birth country too.

What does that say about my identity? Well, it was when the conversation turned to the dozens of Kurd refugees that have been ‘locked up’ in the place which will, one day, host the Cyprus Cultural Foundation. Here you have people who, even though born in Syria, are not recognised by the Syrian government. Their arrival on the island has had our government give them a ‘free pass’ to remain on the island in the appalling conditions they have been enduring for months now, yet cannot go further than that. Precisely because their identity is not recognised.

This somewhat makes me want to shed the need of being able to embrace my multi-faced nationality and just accept my identity for what it is: a prerogative.

Anything beyond that can easily be taken for granted. I could also take the prerogative of celebrating Catholic and Orthodox Easter, just because I have one foot in both countries. But I choose to celebrate it this weekend, as a tribute to being able to feel at home wherever you decide to stay put. Happy Easter.

*** Published in the Cyprus Weekly Newspaper

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About Melissa Hekkers

I am freelance journalist and author, who has frequently been featured in mainstream news outlets and other publications in Cyprus. Recently, I've been focusing on developing my writing, promoting my own books and teaching creative writing to children and adults. My most recent publication (2020) - Amir's Blue Elephant- pushes the boundaries of creative non-fiction, and recreates the moments that marked me the most, whilst volunteering in refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece, and during her ongoing involvement with the refugee community in Cyprus. In 2018 I published My Capre Greco Mandala which is the third in a series, an interactive colouring book about the biodiversity of the Cape Greco peninsula in Cyprus. My Akamas Mandala, the second in the series, is a colouring book inspired by the variety of endemic plants found on the Akamas Peninsula. In 2016, I published My Nicosia Mandala, the first of the above series, an innovative, interactive colouring book about the historic fortifications of the old town of Nicosia. I also focuses on silenced communities in Cyprus: I writes about migrants and refugees, both as a reporter and a features writer; I profile them and teach them creative writing skills. In 2007, soon after graduating with a Communications degree, I published my first children’s book in both English and Greek entitled Crocodile, which won the Cyprus State Illustration Award. In 2012, I launched my second children’s book Flying across Red Skies (in English and Greek), using an experimental approach to literature, for which I was nominated for the Cyprus State Literary award. My third, similarly well-received children’s book was Pupa (Greek and English), published in 2014. In between the last two books, I published my first free-verse poetry book entitled Come-forth. In 2019 she was contributing author to the anthology Nicosia Beyond Barriers: Voices from a Divided City, published by Saqi Books, London