My first proper interview for Tales of Cyprus was with my father Miltiades Neofytou back in 2010. He was born in Tsada, Paphos in 1921 so I was keen to capture and record his stories and recollections about his life in Cyprus. Although I have had countless conversations with my father over the years it wasn’t until I sat and interviewed the man when I discovered the rich detail required from his living memories.
Since 2010 I have conducted over forty face to face interviews with elderly participants from the Cypriot Diaspora living here in Australia. I’d like to offer my most heartfelt thanks to all the Cypriots who allowed me into their homes so I could interview them about their past. This experience has had a profound impact on me. I always knew that my parent’s generation of Cypriots were unique – but I never imagined I would experience and witnessed such warmth, honesty, kindness, hospitality and openness.
It wasn’t until I had searched my own family roots and completed the first dozen or so interviews amongst aunties, uncles and family friends when I started realising I was in a race against time. You see, due to the time-frame I had chosen to research and analyse life in Cyprus, (namely the 1930s and 40s), most members of my target group were now aged between 75 and 90 years old. Sadly, some of my most sought-after candidates had either passed away or were struggling with dementia.
I was kicking myself for not making the effort to visit them sooner. I was extremely fortunate to have interviewed my father 18 months before he passed away as well as my mother before dementia robbed her of any lucid and accurate memories of her past.
To view a sample compilation of my interviews click here.
Visiting the home of elderly Cypriots and gaining an insight into a bygone era was extremely humbling for me. I soon realised that my interest in their lives had somehow helped them feel validated and important. I had made an impact. They mattered. Their stories mattered. Their past mattered. The overwhelming response was positive. More remarkable, and I might add, a little unexpected was how often I heard the same remarks, over and over again. Life was hard, we were poor – but we were content. The most common themes that I wanted to explore included the relationship between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, village life, rural life, food and wellbeing, education, health, recreation and leisure, work, money matters, family unity, community relations and migration.
My quest continues today. I am still keen to meet any Cypriot who was born in Cyprus before 1940. I also welcome anybody to help me conduct these interviews from abroad. If you are interested please do not hesitate to contact me by email here > firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here to view my sample interview questions.
Here of of beautiful Cypriots I was fortunate to interview: