Linguistic tricks

I was quick to jump to conclusions as I entered the village of Meniko in the Nicosia district during the week.

A road sign at the entrance of the village displayed the words ‘The community of Meniko welcomes you’ in Greek and Russian.
I’ve gotten used to the Chinese signs in Paphos advertising real estate opportunities — but that’s business related. Why would the suburbs of Akaki welcome people in Russian? Was it another trick to entice foreign interest?

Visiting the Meniko elementary school, it was the headmistress who explained the village was visited primarily by Russian pilgrims to see the church of Ayios Kyprianos and Ayia Ioustini.

Worshippers from Russia and other Eastern Orthodox countries treasure this 16th century site. I shied from explaining my initial reaction; it’s been a while since I have been pleasantly surprised by anyone using the name of religion to inspire actual pride.

Of course, this event comes at a time when Russian military cooperation on the island may also be burgeoning. We may soon be witness to more signs in Russian that will once again depict some form of opportunistic move by our leadership to exploit the ‘benefits’ of our international community.

We’re selling our land, we’re exploiting our cultural heritage and it seems we’re adamant to grasp whatever we can to apparently make our country a better place to live in.

I’m dubious about what this holds for the future. Sure enough, we need all the help we can get to be able to walk on the tight rope we are treading on.

But dismissing our own identity in the process may just as well be the biggest mistake we are making. Just saying…

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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