Funeral eulogy for Papalazaros by the General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL A.Kyprianou
AKEL C.C. Press Office, 9th July 2020, Nicosia
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”
The path for you Papalazaros is blessed, a path you have been hungry and thirsty for all your life, fighting for justice.
You saw the world with a different perspective even though you didn’t graduate from any big schools, even though you didn’t hold any high-paying degrees in your hands.
You were born a child of the poor, a child of the tormented peasantry. You began working as a boy with a herd and working with a plow. Your parents were trying to feed their eight children.
Drought and loan sharks ruined the life of Papalazaros’ family and for just 6 pounds the entire livelihood of the family was lost. The plow remained their only property. Papalazaros stood firm. A tireless fighter. A worker on the land, struggling to defeat the hunger and misery.
His consciousness was already beginning to take shape.
What kind of justice is it that decides that a whole family should remain on the streets?
What kind of justice is it that envisions wealth for the few and poverty for the many?
The war came to add to his suffering. “I knew why I wanted to go. I wanted to fight fascism,” said Papalazaros. And he did. He enlisted as a volunteer in the Second World War. At the end of the war, he returned, married Agathoniki and had nine children.
Papalazaros learned to read and write in the Church. He learned about life toiling in the fields and construction and building sites of the city of Limassol, where he had to work hard to feed his children. In 1965 the community leader of his village asked him to be the priest of the local church, since he had been close to the Church since he was a child, helping the priest and becoming a church cantor. His wages from working on construction sites were higher than the salary of a priest. But his love for the Church, his love for his village convinced him to be ordained and return home.
“Is it true that you are a member of AKEL?” the Metropolitan Bishop Gennadios asked him back then. “Yes, and that is not going to change,” replied Papalazaros, who told them before accepting the proposal to become a priest that he belongs to the Left and is a member of AKEL. He served the Church and God for over fifty years as a priest honoring his occupation through his own example. He served the noble ideals of justice and solidarity, the ideals serving his neighbor, the ideals of love for the people.
Papalazaros fought to save people, the country and the future of Cyprus. That is precisely why he now stands as a symbol in the hearts and minds of Cyprus and its people.
When the fascist junta puppet Metropolitan Bishops in the Church hierarchy were conspiring against President Makarios, Papalazaros saw the disaster that was coming and he chose to take a stand. He decided to defend the elected government and democracy. He choose the struggle for the just cause.
His son Kyriakos was a boarder in the Diocese and he told his father, “Father, the junta Ambassador of Greece Panagiotakos comes every day and talks to the Archimandrite. Gennadios is fanatically conspiring against Makarios”. They took Kyriakos away when he was returning home, insisting that he was needed in the Diocese and that they would take care of him as he would also take care of the Diocese.
The armed underground fascist EOKA B organisation was raging against every Democrat. Papalazaros was receiving warnings like “Your turn will come…” The puppets of the junta didn’t manage to find him, but they found his son Kyriakos. Firing a bullet in the mouth, they shot and killed Kyriakos, who wasn’t even 17 years old.
Until his final breath, Papalazaros was seeking justice for the murder of his son.
The file on the murder had been “lost”, the case was closed, no one saw anything, no one knew anything and no one could help. Papalazaros knew who the killer was, he named him. He knew that the killer of his son was implicated in other murders, that he was a member of EOKA B and that he continued to serve in the police force. The killer now a pensioner, is enjoying the benefits provided by the state.
“The history of this country has been written with the blood of our children,” Papalazaros roared from the podium of mass rallies (organised by AKEL to denounce the fascist coup and Turkish invasion of 1974). And he was reminding us of the treason committed, the invasion, the destruction and nightmare that the traitors of Cyprus sowed.
He, along with others, did not hesitate for a moment to take up arms in the resistance when the black day of the coup d’état dawned on the 15th July 1974 to defend the Republic and democracy. When asked how a priest could take up arms, he replied straightforwardly “to defend democracy, the village, my family.”
Papalazaros passed on this bravery and fearlessness to his children too. His other son Sotiris did not hesitate to boldly step forward and take part in the resistance to the coup d’état. He bravely resisted EOKA B. When the time came and the Turkish invasion commenced on the 20th July 1974, Papalazaros did not think of backing down. Papalazaros raised such courageous and stout sons. He rushed to defend his homeland, and when the bullet pierced him, Lieutenant Colonel Katerinakis shouted to the other soldiers around him, “Quickly take him to the hospital, because even though he is a communist, he fought like a lion.”
So tragicomic are they in their smallness, that even during the great disaster and crime that was unfolding, they could not understand that the communists were precisely the ones who always stepped forward in the frontline of the battle. The communists were the ones who rushed, without any second thoughts whatsoever, unarmed and betrayed to defend their homeland. When others were far away from the fighting, taking it easy and hiding in hospitals and offices, the “Papalazarians”, the communists, were sacrificing their lives to save Cyprus.
Papalazaros and his wife Agathoniki sacrificed two children for the Homeland. They drank the bitter glass, the most bitter that a human being can drink in this life. But they did not let their bitterness become poison. They turned it into a strength and resolve. They made it a consciousness and a struggle for Cyprus and the homeland. Justifiably, their children and their grandchildren today feel so proud of their incredible parents.
“The Cyprus problem must be solved, let no other parents cry and shed tears”, declared Papalazaros.
That is our duty today: to continue waging and to strengthen the struggle, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots together, to heal the wounds and reunite our homeland.
To vindicate the blood shed by Kyriakos.
To vindicate the sacrifice of Sotiris, to honor the memory of Papalazaros and Agathoniki, fighting for Cyprus and our people.
You left us in July Papalazare. The month when they burned and tortured your soul. The month they crucified Cyprus.
You left us in July and your memory will now become a hand that will bring us all here so that we do not forget.
To remember that there no murder can be committed without murderers, no betrayal and treason can be committed without traitors.
We will not stop demanding justice for Kyriakos in your place, we will not stop fighting to vindicate the sacrifice of Sotiris. We will not stop struggling for our Homeland to find peace and a rest.
Rest in peace Papalazare. You are a symbol. And symbols don’t die. Instead of fading, you shine! With your robes, your fiery example you will live on for generations to come.
*The speech of the General Secretary of AEKL ends with an extract from a poem in the Cypriot dialect referring to Papalazaros becoming a symbol of historical memory and the painful suffering of war, but also a symbol of the struggle for the construction of a new progressive and peaceful world.
We bid you farewell.
Intervention of Georgos Koukoumas, member of the C.C. of AKEL and the International Relations Department, at the Hearing “Palestine: What’s Next?” organized by GUE/NGL2015-07-1
- Feb26 2015-02-26
- Nov13 2014-11-13