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I decided to interview elderly Cypriots living in Melbourne starting with my dearly departed father Miltiades Neofytou back in 2010. He has 88 years old at the time and I am so glad I was able to capture and record his stories and recollections about his life in Cyprus before he passed away 16 months later.
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 visit the home of elderly Cypriots and gain an insight into a bygone era was extremely humbling for me. I soon realised that my impromptu visits to these beautiful people had somehow helped them feel validated and important. I had made an impact. They mattered. Their tales 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 Christian and Turkish Cypriots,