Cyprus honours WW II dead, veterans
Nicosia, May 9 (CNA) -- As world leaders commemorate today in Moscow VE Day (Victory in Europe Day), marking 60 years since the end of World War II in Europe, war veterans in Cyprus held a somber gathering to pay tribute to the millions of people who were killed during the six year war.
Some 30,000 Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, joined the British regiment (at the time the country was a British colony) to fight against fascism, 2,500 were arrested, about 600 killed and buried in 49 cemeteries in 18 countries.
Addressing surviving war veterans on Sunday, House President and Acting President of the Republic Demetris Christofias said victory against fascism was the result of a very harsh and bloody battle which left 55 million people dead, 27 m. killed in the battlefield and millions of injured and crippled with massive destruction.
''The Cypriot people did not hesitate at all in siding with the colonial power at the time, Britain, to fight the threat against humanity. Cyprus paid a hefty price for this in the number of those killed,'' he said, pointing out that the joint anti-fascism effort by Greek and Turkish Cypriots is proof of the common battles they have fought and peaceful coexistence.
Christofias said unfortunately the euphoria that followed victory against fascism for Cyprus did not last long, as another war, the cold war, broke out between east and west.
''Cyprus has not been vindicated. Britain denied the country the right to self-determination and after an anticolonial war it gained conditional independence,'' he recalled, and went on to point out that it did not survive for too long either.
He said chauvinist elements in both communities have undermined the state and in 1974 Turkish troops invaded and continue to occupy 37 per cent the island's northern areas, after the junta then ruling Greece staged a military coup against the legal government of the Republic.
Addressing surviving veterans, he expressed ''deep appreciation for the invaluable contribution to the civilized world.''
''Your generation carried on its shoulders the heavy burden to save the entire world from fascism and you have achieved this with great success. We take lessons from you and draw strength to continue our struggle for peace, cooperation and justice in the world,'' Christofias said.
The president of the Cypriot Veterans Association Loizos Demetriou, now in his 80s, has said that efforts are underway to compile a registry of Cypriot volunteers in WWII, which included 800 women in auxiliary services and 10,000 Cypriot living outside the country.
Former Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides is among the war veterans and today he will be honoured, along with many others, for his contribution to the war effort. He was a gunner in RAF, was shot down, arrested but survived.
Demetriou said that efforts are also being made to record information from witnesses for posterity.
''During the draft, we believed that fighting with the Allied forces meant fighting for our freedom and that of Greece, which at the time was under German occupation,'' he said.
He said the fact that London did not keep its promises to Cyprus does not detract anything from the sacrifice of all the volunteers who fought for the prevalence of freedom, democracy.
''Cyprus should feel proud,'' he concluded.