The remains of seven Greek soldiers who lost their lives during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus were transferred to Greece on Thursday.
The handover ceremony took place in the presence of the Greek Deputy Minister of Defence Nikolaos Hardalias. Relatives of the soldiers traveled from to receive the remains of their loved ones as well as medals of honor.
The ceremony, held at old Larnaca airport, began with a blessing before the remains were loaded onto a C-130 aircraft headed for Greece.
The remains were transferred by plane for a proper burial in the places of their origin. Six of the soldiers were stationed in Eldyk, the Hellenic Force in Cyprus, and were killed during battles in the summer of 1974. The seventh was in Noratlas, the military transport aircraft shot down in Nicosia.
“Greek soldiers gave their life for Cyprus”
Presidential Commissioner Photis Photiou said the seven soldiers from Greece gave their lives for Cyprus and the Cypriot people are grateful to them and their relatives, many of whom are no longer alive and passed away without knowing the fate of their loved ones.
According to Photiou a total of 77 Greek citizens are included in the list of missing persons, of whom 47 are still unaccounted for.
Hardalias said their sacrifice proves the principles and virtues of Hellenism, adding that until the very end they remained focused and faithful to the military oath.
My brother is a hero, says sister of a fallen soldier
“I am here to receive my brother’s remains and take them back to Greece,” said Angeliki Karagouni, sister of reserve warrant officer Charalambos Karagounis, who was among the seven. “I am very moved, but also proud, that my brother is a hero,” she added according to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA).
Karagouni said that the last time she saw her brother was when her family waved him off at Loutraki on July 5, 1974, when she was 14 years old and added that it was very painful not being able to share any celebrations or happy times with him.
She also said she was content with the fact her brother’s remains were found, but that she wished there were more. “I learned that the remains I’m getting show he was taken as a prisoner, abused and executed”.
“I feel proud to be taking my brother home to his birthplace,” she told CNA .
Over 2,000 people in Cyprus were reported missing after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, when Turkish troops illegally invaded the island.
According to a list of 2,002 missing people that was agreed on by both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities shortly after the invasion in 1974, 1,510 were Greek Cypriots and the remainder of the missing, 492, were Turkish Cypriots.
In the years after the invasion, Turkey sent thousands of settlers from its own country, who had no relationship to Cyprus, to inhabit the homes and villages of the nearly 200,000 Greek Cypriot refugees who had been forced out of their homes. The UN has designated this an act of ethnic cleansing.