The owner of Easebourne Stores, Alex Christou, has made an emotional trip back to Cyprus to bury his grandfather – 40 years after the Greek Cypriot was shot dead.
Christos Gounnou,was a victim of the war which broke out when the Turks invaded Cyprus in July 1974.
He refused to leave his village home when his wife Rebecca and children were evacuated as the Turkish troops approached.
Although the Red Cross registered his death and witnesses saw him shot, his body was never retrieved.
“Until eight weeks ago we never imagined we would be able to bury my grandfather,” said Alex. “But my mother suddenly got a call out of the blue saying his remains had been identified.”
Alex travelled with his mother and father, who now live in Grayshott, and his brother from Liss, to Cyprus for the funeral.
He was able to finally lay his grandfather to rest in the grave in Nicosia where his grandmother was buried when she died shortly after the war in Cyprus.
“It was a huge event with more than 1,000 people there,” he said.
“It was very moving and the biggest gathering of our family ever, with 28 of his grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren there.”
There are still some 2,000 Greek and Turkish Cypriots missing who vanished in 1974 when supporters of union with Greece staged a coup and Turkish forces invaded the north of Cyprus in response.
Greeks were evacuated to the south and Turks to the north in a division which still lasts today.
But several years ago, a unique partnership was formed of 40 forensic experts drawn from the island’s Greek and Turkish communities.
They began digging up and identifying islanders on both sides of the divide – soldiers and civilians who vanished four decades ago.
It was through their work that the remains of Alex’s grandfather were identified and they were able to finally say their goodbyes.
Full story and pictures in the Midhurst and Petworth Observer out Thursday, July 24