Last weekend, the current Mrs L and I celebrated fifteen years of marriage. At least I did. She may have been musing that if she'd shot me when we met, she'd probably be out of prison by now. If she was thinking that, she hid it well. We travelled to Polis, a small town close to the northern coast of Cyprus. Most of the north is occupied by Turkey, and has been since the invasion of 1974. However, the westernmost part remains part of the Republic of Cyprus, (the Greek-speaking country.) On Saturday, we were booked on a sunset cruise to the blue lagoon, and in the morning we decided to take a drive along the coast towards a fishing village called Pomos.

Just beyond Pomos is an anomaly; Kokkina. Kokkina is part of the Turkish occupied North, but is entirely encircled by the Republic. The only access is by boat. This link is a simple search on DuckDuckGo - but I daresay "Map of Kokkina, Cyprus" will work on any search engine.

The village has its own UN buffer zone.

We could only overlook it from a distance. It's not signposted and there are no major roads to it. We could have got to the barriers off-road, but Mrs L is generally keener than I to avoid international incidents. These days, it's a Turkish military outpost. I imagine a posting there is a sign your career isn't going well.

In December 1963, Turkish Cypriots had become concentrated in "enclaves" as tensions mounted between The Greek and Turkish communities. Kokkina was the only port held by Turkish Cypriots and was used to supply Turkish paramilitaries. Consequently, the Cyprus National Guard attacked on the 6th of August 1964, further concentrating the Turks, who were pushed back, but dug in and resisted. The enclave was bombarded by artillery from land and sea, until on the 8th of August, Turkey intervened with fighter bombers dropping napalm. The UN brokered a ceasefire, and the village remained in Turkish hands. 600+ Turks lived in the enclave in 1971.

In 1974, Turkey invaded, but its army never got quite to Kokkina, which was cut off by the Greek Cypriot village of Pyrgos; so Kokkina remained isolated. Eventually, in November 1976, the civilians were evacuated and housed instead in Yialousa, a Greek village abandoned on the occupied side during the invasion. They remain there to this day.

I find the story fascinating. Surely there's a novel in there?

On the other hand, the situation is a pointer to the intense heartbreak that is Cyprus history, including very recent events. The invasion was within my lifetime. I know many people classed as refugees: Greek Cypriots displaced from their homes in the occupied north and forced to rebuild from nothing, often in properties vacated by Turkish Cypriots who fled north. For every Greek tragedy, there is a matching Turkish one.

Emotions still run very hot here, and the invasion and de facto partition are subjects best avoided with locals, particularly if seeking balance. Atrocities were committed by both sides, but that's not often the view that one hears.

I will write about Kokkina, but carefully.