Ismail Veli – the life and times of Lurucina in Cyprus

If you were to meet my friend Ismail Veli in any given social situation and you were to ask him to tell you about himself, I have no doubt he would say, ‘oh I am just an average guy, getting on with my life the best way I know how’. Well that certainly would not be how I would describe him and I have only ever met him through the internet.

Ismail a Turkish Cypriot was born in the village of Lurucina in Cyprus in 1956. Lurucina was the largest Turkish village in Cyprus. Ismail is the third and youngest child of his family. He lived in Lurucina with his two sisters and his parents in the home of his great grandparents because they had no home of their own to live in. Indeed Ismail is named after his great grandfather as a token of respect for his loving care of Ismail’s family.

Ismail’s father became ill and had to travel to the UK for life saving surgery at the age of 29, indeed he had to endure two further serious operations whilst in the UK and was hospitalised on and off for the next eight months. When he was well enough to travel, Ismail’s father returned to his family in Cyprus. It was decided by Ismail’s father to take his family to live in the UK. This decision of course caused great distress to his great grandparents and on the day of their departure, the emotional wrench was so great for Ismail’s great grandfather he wept uncontrollably at their going and indeed only lived for a further two years after their departure.

Ismail’s family departed on the 19th September 1962 by ship from the port of Larnaca and after 6 days of travelling arrived at Victoria Station on the 25th September 1962. Ismail and his famly have never forgotten their family in Cyprus and their great love for each other. One of their fondest memories is when the first sweet shop was opened in the village of Lurucina by Ismail’s great grandfather; it was called ‘ Gicco dede ‘ which was his great grandfather’s nickname, the sweet shop is still remembered to this day.

A long term ambition of Ismail’s has been to leave a lasting legacy as a tribute to the village of his birth.. For the last two years he has dedicated all his free time to research and has created a website comprising not just his own but all the family trees of his village. It covers every family of the the village from the mid-1700’s to the present day. A massive undertaking, an ambitious undertaking, nevertheless after many hours of intensive work he has achieved just that. As Ismail says, it is hard enough to do one’s own family tree, but this has thousands of names, the history, the local areas, even the ‘nicknames’ of over 400 families and individuals Ismail has discovered. He has recently started to add photos of the family members onto the site.

Please go to this website, Ismail has brought the family tree, and the history to life for us and for all of those who live or have lived in Lurucina.

It took hundreds of years of work and struggle to create a village the size of Lurucina as it was when Ismail was a boy. Of course now because of all the events that have taken place in the intervening years the village population is much smaller than when it took part in the 1st British Census of 1881.

Nor is it the village he remembers where most of its inhabitants could speak fluent Greek. Its traditions are now dead. New generations in the diaspora know little of their fore fathers. Ismail hopes that his research and his website will create an interest by its present population to help keep the unique culture of Lurucina alive.

Ismail now lives in the UK with his wife whom he married in 1976. He has 2 sons, a grandson aged 5 and is happily awaiting the birth of his next grandchild.

Ismail’s parents first lived in rented accommodation when they arrived in London but after two years of hard work were able to buy their own house in Highbury. Within a year of being married Ismail himself bought a house in Enfield.

This speaks volumes of the Turkish Cypriot people, their ability to adapt to a new and different culture, to integrate and become useful and productive citizens of wherever in the world they find themselves. Ismail has not mentioned the ‘troubles’ in his bio notes to me but I know he has not been untouched by them.

Ismail now co owns and runs an off licence with his son and wife. His hobbies are many, amongst them collecting books and creating dioramas with miniature figurines which he hand paints. Ismail also speaks Turkish, Greek and Italian. He has worked as a volunteer in Embargoed! for six years as a community relations officer. He probably also holds the record for the largest petition with over 16,000 signatures calling for Direct Flights to Cyprus which he presented to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office after the Annan Plan was rejected by South Cyprus.

From all the notes Ismail sent me I think one simple sentence of his describes the way Ismail feel, “After all I’m just a great lover of my family and heritage”. I think Ismail will forgive me for adding, Ismail you are also a true patriot, let us hope your beloved TRNC appreciates you and all the other long suffering patriots.

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