By Janice Ruffle
It’s not just the vast community issues that intrigue us writers, it’s Cyprus’ interesting history of prominent characters (several activists) that significantly form part of this rich history.
A close Cypriot friend of mine, Lya, has introduced me to the character and history of Evagoras Pallikarides. Through an enthralling book of poetry written by him, an account of his life as a Cypriot striving for liberty to his own peril is revealed.
The story of Evagoras Pallikarides
Pallikarides was born in Tsada, Paphos district. He studied at the Greek High School of Paphos where, aged 15, he participated in his school’s boycott of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953.
Due to celebrations in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, the British raised the Union Jack at all schools throughout Cyprus. Paphos was the only town where celebrations were not held. Why? Pallikarides took down the British flag. He knew full well what the consequences of such an act would be.
But he carried out his act of resistance with other secondary school pupils by forcibly bending, during the night, all British flag-bearing iron posts along the main street entrance to Paphos.
In November 1955, on his way to school, he saw two British soldiers mercilessly beating a friend who had been arrested and tied to an electricity pole. He was refusing to say who had lowered the British flag during the previous night in the grounds of Paphos Hospital. Pallikarides attacked, struck the two British soldiers and, freeing his friend, escaped the scene.
Anticipating imprisonment in the special internment camps set up by the British for mere suspects, he decided to take to the mountains, where he joined one of the many EOKA guerrilla groups that operated throughout Cyprus. Pallikarides was arrested on December 18, 1956, because he was caught red-handed with his guns loaded on a donkey. The police had privately reported that he had murdered a man, considered to be a British collaborator by EOKA, although there was no evidence for this claim of murder.
Speaking during his trial where he was sentenced to death for the possession of a non-working firearm, he said: “I know you will sentence me to death, but whatever I did, I did as a Cypriot who wants his liberty”.
He was sentenced to death by hanging for firearms possession on February 27, 1957. He was hanged on March 14, 1957, at the age of 19.
Pallikarides was buried at the Imprisoned Graves in the Central Prisons of Nicosia.
The question of the lawfulness of his execution remains inconclusive.