GC and TC WW2 vets reconnect
A GREEK Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot who fought side by side in World War II only to find themselves in opposite camps in 1974, have reconnected for the first time after over 70 years.
Greek Cypriot Menelaos Kouzoupis and TurkishCypriot Kemal Salih (Pili), both from Paphos, joined the British army to fight in the war, which broke out in 1939 and cost the lives of 50 million people from 70 countries.
Mr Kouzoupis, now 92, comes from the village of Ayios Photios and Mr Salih, 95, from the Turkish Cypriot village of Falia, located in the same area and only three kilometres away.
When the war ended, they returned to Cyprus in the middle of 1946, and had since then lost touch. They met again after more than 70 years, and recalled their shared experiences which they still vividly remember, in a meeting that took place at the offices of the Cyprus Veterans’ Association in Nicosia which was arranged through mutual friends.10
They both recall joining up at the feast of Ezousas on June 29, 1944, in the Paphos village of Cholos, following a newspaper advertisement calling on the inhabitants of Cyprus, which was a colony of the British Crown at the time, to join the British forces in the war.
Mr Kouzoupis said that he was only sixteen-and-ahalf years old, and had not informed his grandfather about his decision join the British army for fear that he would forbid him to do so because of his young age. He added that he had to lie about his real age at the army recruitment office for exactly the same reason.
He said that after being ranked, they were transferred to the British camp at Polemidia for training and then moved on to Syria, Palestine and ended up in Italy. Mr Kouzoupis remembers that he shared a tent with Mr Salih, and still recalls their respective military numbers, 21139 and 21142.
At the time when the two veterans fought side by side, Mr Salih said that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots lived very well together, “they were like brothers”. Now things have changed, he added, but “what can we do”.
After 1974, Mr Salih left his village and now lives in Sirinevler. Despite the passing of time he still speaks Greek fluently.
According to the Cyprus Veterans’ Association, 30,000 Cypriots from all the communities of Cyprus took part in World War II.
Menelaos Kouzoupis and Kemal Salih