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09.09.05: Theodorakis's statements in Chios

Theodorakis during his speech - Photo: Chios News
Two concerts were helt in Chios (Greece) and in Tsesme (Turkey) with the exceptional participation of Theodorakis's friend, the Turkish, composer, singer and politician Zülfü Livaneli.

On 8 September, Mikis Theodorakis made the following statements at the opening of the Theatre Kastromina that was named after him. He spoke about the relations Greece-Turkey, Cyprus and his own roots.

Dear friends,
My dear compatriots,

Perhaps one of the reasons why I have planted roots throughout the whole of Greece is because I had no roots. On my mother’s side I was from Asia Minor and on my father’s side I was from Crete. I have learnt to live as a foreigner in old Greece, where my father’s frequent movements from town to town took me. Of course what saved me in all those critical years was Music, which helped me not only to come into harmony with people but also to establish bonds with them. Until I reached the point to gain not only one root but thousands and thousands of roots, until they all came together to become the present single root which ties me to Greece. A root, which goes even deeper and which embraces all the people throughout the world. So I became a citizen of Greece and a citizen of the world and that I believe is the most beautiful thing that can happen in the life of a man.

As I am nearing the end, the places where I have lived have remembered me and in one way or another they have decided to honour me. Until they were also joined by those who are connected to me through the ties relating to my own origin and those of my parents. The Crete of my father, Tsesme of my mother and Chios where I first saw the light of day.

However, the thing that moved me especially was that these celebrations do not just refer to the facts of my origin but in wanting to honour me, they also honour my work: in the field of Music as well as in the field of Ideology. Besides, as it is well known, my life has been shared between Music and Ideas. Between Culture and the struggle for a better tomorrow. My ideological arsenal can be summarised in three words: FREEDOM, PEACE, CULTURE, which represent the object of the struggles of people throughout the world from ancient times right up to this day.

I am particularly pleased because the Mayor of Chios and his colleagues, who took the initiative of these celebrations, had the very nice idea to connect this anniversary with Greek-Turkish friendship. And I am even more pleased their proposal for the holding of joint celebrations found a response from the side of Tsesme. Therefore, I extend a great thank you to both sides for their inspiration as well as for their belief that this institution will root itself and bear fruit. This is the greatest, the dearest present for me, because it vindicates the difficult struggles of a whole lifetime, but also because it proves that the work, the bitter experiences and sacrifices of all those such as myself, who believed and believe in Peace and in the Cooperation of Peoples, were not in vain.

For me the presence of Zülfü Livaneli is also very moving because it both symbolizes and reaffirms the conviction of the other side too to put aside all the obstacles which divide us so that we could live in peace without the fear and dangers which divide us and without having to waste our meagre money on buying deadly useless weapons.

At this point, I should call to mind that from the very first moment, when we founded the first committee of Greek-Turkish friendship in 1986 in Istanbul we underlined that it was not our job to replace the role of governments. We departed from the position that the ordinary people from both sides had nothing to share. Besides whichever criteria we use to examine the issue, the two peoples have no outstanding issues separating them. Neither the Greek nor the Turkish people have any claims to the detriment of the other. This is the reality.

As far as Cyprus is concerned I think it is a mistake to face the present with the negative experiences of the ‘past’.

We see on both sides that a new generation of citizens is developing and gradually becoming dominant, which has its eyes on the present and the future and not on the past. The older generation is also adopting this attitude in the great majority; I believe that they are mature enough all together, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, to build a united Cyprus. A state with two communities in which they will be cooperating as brothers for the common good of their island. Problems such as equality, the safeguarding of the rights of the minority, democracy and freedom for all, as well as the right of prosperity, are already taken for granted since Cyprus has become an equal member of Europe.

Therefore, the adaptation of the future single Cyprus to the model “Europe” is a sure fact. The Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots are obliged to live in the conditions of Europe. That should mean that at all levels the relations which characterize the states which make the European Union should be applied.

We should even look at who in the short term will benefit more from the formation of the united Cypriot State, since one of its first consequences will also be the extinction of the economic differences between the two communities. Of course it is the Turkish Cypriots whose standard of living today is very much lower than that of the Greek Cypriots. Finally, despite of what I have said, that the conditions and mentalities do not resemble the past any more, nonetheless, an answer should also be given concerning the question of security, in the name of which dividing walls are still there.

I put the following question: Isn’t the fact that the united Cyprus of tomorrow will be a member of Europe enough? Isn’t the guarantee of Europe, which, it is known, is vigilant as to whatever goes on even in the smallest village of its “territory” enough? So much more are they vigilant over what is happening on the major issues, such as the democratic freedoms, human rights, equality of rights, eradication of all kinds of differences (religious, linguistic, race) and, finally, the safeguarding of the integrity and security of citizens.

In Europe, alongside the identity of every Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot citizen, the even more important identity of the European citizen will be added. Therefore, instead of perpetuating the debates by having foreign arbitrators (some of whom have a notorious past) to watch over us as if we were immature young children, why then don’t we, the Greeks and Turks, offer our help from here to our brothers and sisters in Cyprus to become “European” – in other words a realistic perspective that can bring tranquillity to the island and make them all happy?

Does anyone doubt that the Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, know better than anybody else what is the best way for Cyprus to be administered in a just and proper way, so that the country can move forward for the benefit of all? Are they not themselves in a better position than anybody else to determine which are the differences and solutions?

Therefore, what should really be done is to find the framework so that once and for all the Cypriots themselves can sit around the table and map out the future of Cyprus. They are the ones living together, they are the ones who live there and they are the only ones in a position to decide how they can build in a brotherly way the common future of their common homeland.

Of course, amongst every people there are minorities – in some places insignificant in others strong – who continue to live in the past, whose thinking and mentality are permanently blocked. It is for this reason we see for example that, whilst we, the ordinary citizens remain firm in our views – such as Livaneli and me, together with thousands of others – there are ups and downs in the relations between our governments. This should not scare us nor discourage us. Because we all know what strategic interests of the foreign forces mean. Hence, the road towards the complete normalization at a government level is perhaps still a long one. However, for us the main element should be, if the two peoples are truly mature in moving forward, not just simply because that is what they want but above all because that is in their interest.

Therefore, our own initiative, that of the ordinary Greek and Turkish citizen, is based firstly on the objective conditions and secondly on the maturity of the two peoples. It is for this reason that it is positive, lively, realistic and pioneering, because it expresses the real interests of both our peoples. Especially today, when a number of all-powerful international forces have set in action a scheme of military conflicts in our wider region, we the Greeks and Turks are in danger of becoming a part of the problem and of getting entangled in the webs of these international plots. We are experiencing the pressures, which were exercised on our neighbour country to make it participate in the Iraq war. The same great pressures were also put on Cyprus to say YES to the Annan Plan. One wonders why. What do they have in mind concerning the role of Cyprus in their future plans?

Under these conditions what is in the interest of these planners of death? The understanding between Greece and Turkey or the escalation of tensions? Because I believe it is the former, that is to say escalation of tensions, which is in their interests, I am expecting new difficulties at the highest level.

That is one more reason which makes our effort even more useful and beneficial both for our peoples and the defence of peace.

I would also like to thank you, my dear Mayor, for the opportunity you have given me to visit my mother’s birthplace. It was something which I always strongly wished. It was a great personal need and as long as I didn’t get around to doing it, it was as if I was flying with one wing. From 1933 up to the war in 1940, that is between the age of 8 and 14, I used to spend my summers here in Chios, where my parents and my mother’s relatives lived. That which was deeply implanted in my soul was the daily ritual when my grandmother Stamatia with her two sisters, Erofili and Marigaki, and her two daughters, Froso and Aspasia – my mother - opened the window in the afternoon from where we could see Asia Minor. It was closed the whole day, precisely so that it could be opened as long as the ritual went on, which used to begin with the singing of hymns in front of the icons. Then, the shutters would open and as the women looked across, they would all start crying together, embracing and kissing each other. Afterwards, they would close the windows again and go to the trunk where they kept the property deeds which the then-government had given out as a consolation to the refugees. Aunty Erofili would take out the papers and hold them tight to her chest. Then she would start crying again, this time quietly… They were all so involved in the tragedy of their souls that they did not notice at all the young child, who was following them in awe, trying to understand what was going on around him.

This daily ritual naturally caused a deep wound in my heart, which up until yesterday was bleeding. Yesterday, when I set foot on the holy lands, I felt the shadows of the women inside me calming down, being at ease and along with them I too felt at ease.

You might ask me, why do I now need the two wings, with my eighty years. Indeed, the fulfilment of the Duty, whenever that might come, is a great present for someone who wants to keep his integrity.

These are the few things I wanted to tell you, and I want to finish by extending words of love for all of you who are listening to me, for all of you who have believed and have worked so that these celebrations could take place and for all of those who have embraced the great idea of Peace, which represents the only guarantee for the prosperity of the generations who will follow. Besides, our struggles and work were carried out, so that our children and grandchildren should live happily and enjoy the presents of life without wars and catastrophes. Firm faith and continuous struggle is needed in order that we can achieve this, so that the three great values: Freedom, Peace and Culture can be safeguarded.

Mikis Theodorakis

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