Artists: Vasilis Kattos (the seated weeping mother and the oversized head; and the “Missing soldier” or “Quest” outside the “House”)
Michalis Papadakis (the mother and the missing soldier in the inner yard)
Kostas Ikonomou (the frescoes)
Location: “Alexander Papachristoforou” Foundation premises, adjacent to Agios Alexanndros church, Pyrga village. Larnaka district.
Dimensions: 3 meters high (the oversized head and the “Missing soldier” or “Quest”)
Category: Cypriot Women, Turkish Invasion
Photography: Evangelia Matthopoulou
The memorial belongs to the “Alexandros Papachristoforou” Foundation and was offered to the Cypriot state. The opening ceremony took place on May 22nd 1999.
Vasilis Kattos is the sculptor of the two artworks outside the “House”. On the left-hand side is located the “Missing soldier” or “Quest”. An oversized hand protectively embraces a soldier who bears the facial features of the missing Alexander, the son of the founders Christoforos Christoforou and Eleni Papachristoforou. According to the sculptor the missing soldier symbolically faces towards Pentadachtylos Mountain, in the occupied part of Cyprus.
On the right-hand side, the over-sized head of a Reserve Officer creates the central part of the composition. On his long hair is engraved a number of faces, and the number 1619 which corresponds to the officially listed as missing Greek Cypriots. The sculptor chose to depict only the head and not the body, as an implicit statement of the current unknown status of those soldiers. Next to the Officer’s head is an aged wailing mother. She is reminiscent of the familiar images of the suffering Cypriot mothers, and provides and instant glimpse into the experience of personal and social trauma.
In the inner yard the woman at the feet of the dead soldier who hangs from a pole could be his actual mother or, allegorically, motherland Cyprus. She screams in pain and horror while crawling on the ground. Her impressively intense grief deforms her face and the diagonal positioning of her body echoes her despair on the surrounding walls.
On those same walls a number of symbolic paintings narrate the tormented life of the missing and the prolonged mourning of their families. Flanking the entrance of the gallery Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection remind us of the strong relationship between Cypriot national conflicts and the Cypriot church, as well as the deeply rooted analogies between Christ’s and heroic sacrificial death.
On a plaque on a pillar at the entrance of the “House of the missing” is written:“The island of Cyprus was invaded by Turkey on the 20th July, 1974. Turkish planes, heavy armor, landing craft, and tanks were used. The invading forces numbered 40.000 troops. They captured 40% of the island. Of the half million Greek Cypriot population thousands were killed [..] thousands taken prisoner. Nearly 200.000 became homeless refugees. 3.000 prisoners were released, but 1619 are still missing”.
The western wall of Agios Alexandros church is paved with the black and white photographs of the 1619 missing, while inside the art gallery, which is the central room of the “House”, six oversize paintings are narrating in an eloquent way the suffering of the missing and their families.
~ Μαραθεύτης Μιχαλάκης (Maratheftis Michalakis). 2000. Πανόραμα ελλήνων Αγνοουμένων της Κύπρου (Panorama of Greek Cypriot missing). Nicosia: Alexandros Papachristoforou Foundation.
~ Φιλελεύθερος (Fileleftheros), May 15, 1999, p. 16.
~ Φιλελεύθερος (Fileleftheros), May 23, 1999, p. 38.