Bitter lemons

My mother, my neighbors and lost dreams
Dina Aletras
20.06.2022 06:00

I was born in London into a Greek Cypriot family (Cypriot mother, Cretan father) and understood at an early age the value of being «Greek»: learning culture, tradition and respect for my native land and with a distinct Mediterranean identity embedded in my blood. Because of unforeseen circumstances (Cyprus’s war in 1974, which split the island) my family made the choice to stay in the UK. In 1958 when they left Cyprus for business reasons, their plan was to return back to their lemon groves, but then life changed and as the troubles deepened it became clear that we would never be able to repatriate and lost everything. Forty-eight years later my mother still harbors dreams of going back. Now I watch families who have been displaced by war having to escape to unknown places, wishing the same. A Ukrainian mother with two kids recently moved downstairs to the floor beneath mine; upstairs lives a Russian lady and her children. We meet on the stairs in the morning when we take the kids to school, we smile at one another and exchange a gentle word. Kind affection that three mothers can relate to. We talk about the situation and both of the women know that to go back to their countries (Ukraine or Russia) is currently impossible. The conclusion is that we all want our offspring to grow up and feel proud of their origins and it is our duty to educate them with the idea that people cannot be despised just because of being on one side of the fence or the other.