Talking the Cyprus Problem

The launch of a bilingual dictionary of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot dialect a couple of weeks back argued the common denominators of both communities and prosperously indicated the wish of many of us, for a united island.

I felt so privileged to be part of the event. Admittedly, it is more than often the usual suspects that attend the cultural endeavours of the capital.

But this time around things were different. I think it’s the first event I attended where both Greek and Turkish were spoken by the hosts. It was also the first event where there was a common understanding or, should I say, nostalgia from both communities.

Of course, talking about words made this easy. The inside stories of how words where used, and in some cases still are, where, as many expressed, a reminiscence of an era gone by. Of a time when both communities lived together happily. Admittedly this was more true for the older generation.

But there was also awe from the younger generation, who for so many years may not have known the true meaning behind words they still use in their everyday lives, most of these being related to food; the likes of sheftalia, soutjoukkos (the sweet), palouzes (grape must reduction), kolokassi (taro), halloumi cheese or Zivania.

Ironically, the Cyprus problem relies on words in order to be solved. Perhaps it should be solved in the Cypriot dialect, using the words that mean something more than the erosion of our common language, culture, land and country.

Words that depict an essence of living together whilst respecting our core identities, not dismissing the time and progress that has elapsed in between , but bringing them back to the future, just like this dictionary affirms.

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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