Let’s not forget to whom we owe a debt

Let’s not forget to whom we owe a debt

We are marking 50 years since the dramatic events of July 1974 in Cyprus. We must never forget that the hours of great joy for the restoration of democracy in Greece were the hours of great sadness and tragedy for Cyprus. And also we must not forget to whom we owe a debt. As memories fade, the danger of forgetting is visible. Knowledge of history has already begun to decline and, more dangerously, to fall prey to easy-to-digest conspiracy theories.

So, first of all, we owe to all those who saved the honor of the country and lost their lives in Cyprus that dramatic summer. Those young men from Mouzaki or Palamas who were loaded onto ancient aircraft to go to war, but were killed by friendly fire due to the criminal disorganization of Cyprus’ defense. It was unbelievable that their bones were buried with the wreckage of an aircraft for decades, which was a product of this unjustified guilty silence about what happened. As if Greece had to prove – to whom, I wonder – that it had no military involvement after the invasion. 

I had the honor of being on a transport aircraft flight that brought the bones of some of those soldiers back to Greece. It was chilling to see siblings and other relatives anxiously waiting for a 40-year cycle of uncertainty to close. And it wasn’t just those young special forces officers who lost their lives that we owe a debt to – there were many more.

Looking back, however, it is clear to any objective observer of history that we also owe a lot to former statesman Konstantinos Karamanlis. He took the reins of the country during an unprecedented political storm and led it to safe harbor. The way he handled the transition from the military dictatorship, how he laid the foundations of the modern Greek Republic, but also how he avoided war with Turkey is worthy of admiration. Obviously there are questions that need to be debated, whether he should have left the military arm of NATO or what else he could have done before or during the second Turkish invasion. Let’s not fool ourselves, though, no one else could have handled that crisis so solidly and judiciously. We owe him, therefore, and we have the obligation to make sure this is understood by the younger generations so they preserve his legacy.

Finally, it would be good to break once and for all the guilty silence of the Greek state regarding what happened in 1974. There is no reason why the relevant files of the Greek Foreign Ministry, for example, should still be classified. After 50 years, we are ready and mature enough to look in the mirror and, along with the events to mark the anniversary, indulge in some exercises in self-awareness. 

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