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The exodus from Lurucina

Migration stories and early life in the UK.

The people of Lurucina are spread far and wide around the world. From being the largest Turkish village in Cyprus it has been reduced to a tiny village of only 400 people. The exodus began in the 1950s and within the space of twenty years a village that took centuries to evolve into the unique bi-lingual, land owning community abandoned their homes in search of a better life. This page or site does not have the capacity or space to analyse such an event, but what we can do is share the stories of our experience during the long, hard and often heart breaking journey that resulted in the decimation of an established way of life. No doubt our experience was shared by many Cypriots during the period between the 1950s-1970s. Though the departure was sad it was also full of hope, ambition, excitement and a determination to seek a better future.

We often remember the past with nostalgia. We dream of the past closeness of our relatives, while often forgetting the heartaches that went with it. We always talk about the large get-together's and yearn for a time bygone, but rarely remember the lack of warm running water, no electricity, the holes in the ground that were toilets and the sheer suffering of our parents who rarely had two pennies to put together.

Humans being what we are tend to glorify the hardship to describe how our families were tougher, more reliable and courageous in the face of adverse economic conditions. People were indeed tough, they had to be. Women carrying huge rocks on their backs that we cannot lift up today. Our parents and grandparents working in the fields in the scorching 100 degree Cyprus heat, that we cannot even walk in today. They carried the burden without expecting anything other then food on the table, and a shirt on their backs. Was it a surprise that when the opportunity to migrate was presented to them they took it with open arms. Their determination and courage became even more apparent when on reaching their destination in lands they knew little or nothing about they set about the task at hand. Many unable to even read or write other then sign their own names, with no English language or knowledge of their new environment, they gritted their teeth, worked ceaselessly day and night, and within a short period they not only integrated but went on to become new home owner's, establish business's, organised community centres and even supported families left behind in Cyprus.

This page is about our experience of what, and how it felt to journey 6-10 days by sea and rail. The passenger ships though seemingly large at the time were only 4-5 thousand tons in weight. The result was sea sickness, fatigue and tiredness, but at the same time it was fun, adventurous and the sight of new lands was an unforgettable experience. So why did our families choose to travel by sea, the answer is obvious, the cost. at a time when even the skilled workers in Cyprus only earned £1.350 mills (based on 1960 national records of Cyprus) and only £1.100mills for a labourer (1) the cost of travelling by air at £60 or £108 (2) return was simply unattainable. The sea and rail journey was around the £35-£38 mark (3). With ever growing numbers of families in the UK sending assistance, the pace of migration picked up and accelerated in leaps and bounds. This page is dedicated to that period, and the stories are personal accounts of the people who lived during that period of immense change. While we are grateful and confident that the future of our children and grandchildren will be much more comfortable, it is also our wish that they understand what, when and how their lives have been shaped by the experience and monumental efforts of our parents. One way to appreciate ourselves is to understand the trials and tribulations of a bygone era that was not in the too distant past.

(1) Cyprus, a pocket guide with Map published 1960. page 28. Published by Rusten & brother

(2) Cyprus, a pocket guide with Map published 1960. page 29 Published by Rusten & brother

(3) Ship prices from Mehmet Veli & Fatma Veli

The story as told by my father MEHMET VELI 'Kirlapo's, first journey to the UK in order to explore the possibilities of permanent migration which finally took place in 1962. Born 12,08,1929 -06.08.2020

It was the summer of 1957 when Mehmet Veli 'Kirlapo' undertook his first journey abroad. Leaning over the railings of the ship as the Filippo Grimani cut through the waves he was intrigued when something distracted his attention. A few metres away he noticed a young lady in her early 20s holding a baby 3-4 years old, she was arguing hysterically with a middle aged man when she frantically ran towards Mehmet crying profusely. Mehmet was the only person on the deck at the time. She began to ask for protection as the middle aged man was offering her £5 to prostitute herself. It seemed he was very insistent. In the 1950s, for a woman to be travelling on her own with a baby was no easy task. Mehmet annoyed at what he heard approached and told the other man to hide his face in shame and warned him that he would have him to answer to and in addition he would report his harassment to the ship's captain. It seemed the young lady's name was Erato and was joining her husband who had worked and saved enough money to bring his wife and son to the UK.

Feeling safe with Mehmet she sat on his dinner table and stayed with him throughout the journey and only left her room after a glance from her cabin door that the coast was clear. At 4.000 tons and only 150-200 passengers the Filippo Grimani though seemingly huge at the time was a tug boat compared to today's cruise liners.

On arrival to the UK, thank you's and goodbyes were said, and everyone was picked up by relatives at Victoria station. It was a hard 6-7 days journey but at last the trip was over.

A few months later Mehmet returned to Cyprus. Once his employment in Melusha to Ahmet and Nebile ended. He was helped by Ahmet find a job in Meneou village, near Larnaca. This meant that he would be away from his wife and 3 children for 2 months. On recommendation he contacted a middle aged family to rent rooms for his family. Unfortunately Yorgo & Angela only had one spare room and indicated that a family of 5 would be too much for them. Cypriots being what they are nevertheless offered coffee & cakes. My father started to explain that he had met a young lady from Meneou with a baby a few months ago on his journey to the UK. At a time of strict rules of conduct Yorgo and Angela were startled at this, they explained that Mehmet was talking about their daughter. Mehmet quickly explained the circumstances and Yorgo shook Mehmets hand, thanked him for helping and protecting his daughter and grandson. He called him a 'Balligari' ( a brave/hero in Greek). Yorgo and Angela then immediately told Mehmet that his whole family were welcomed to stay at their home for as long as they needed to. As it turned out the father later contacted his daughter Erato to tell her what had happened. Naturally she was shocked at the amazing coincidence and told her family to do their best for Mehmet and his family as she owed him her respect and security on her long journey.

My parents have always spoken in high regard for Yorgo and Angela. As a mark of respect for us being Muslims Angela was always eager to point out to my mother if there was any pork being cooked. She ensured that the food was cooked in separate pots. I've been told that she cared and played with me for endless hours. Though our stay was short my parents, Yorgo and Angela had become very attached to each other. The ladies in particular were crying when we departed.

Sadly after leaving Meneou they never saw each other again. Communication facilities were primitive and the massive migration from Cyprus and Lurucina in particular were immense. though I was less than a year old at the time I have always wondered what happened to Yorgo, Angela and in particular to Erato and her little son. If he is well and alive he would now be about 60-62 years old, possibly with grandchildren of his own.

If anyone knows this family I would be more than delighted to have information that could lead to me getting in touch with them. It may be a tall order, but as we have seen from our friends in Melusha it is not an impossible dream. Yorgo, Angela and Erato came from a very small village, and I feel certain that if someone from Meneou reads this article our re-union will become a foregone conclusion

The migration story of ISMAIL MEHMET VELI 'Kirlapo' Born 05,02.1956

Arrived in the UK 25.09.1962

It was 19 September 1962 when My mother, sister and I left Lurucina for a new life in the UK. The weather as always was hot and all the family, relatives and neighbours were in the Street outside İsmail 'Giçço' dede's house in order to see us all off. Boarding the bus, the drive to Larnaca would be short. I clearly remember that on either side of the Road there were high trees which gave the impression of a natural tunnel. The next thing I remember is boarding a small boat to take us to the Ocean liner Messapia. At over 5,207 tons and a capacity of 236 passengers it seemed more gigantic then anything I had seen in my 6 years of life. Leaving the small boat to climb the shaky stairs which seemed more of a ladder than steps was a bit scary, but soon enough we boarded. 

With us there were three other village members. Emine Yusuf 'Taogori', Mehmet 'Babi' and 'Gordonbihdi'. We all felt safe, sad, apprehensive but excited at the same time.

The ship soon blew its horns and we were underway. Larnaca got dimmer and dimmer in the distance. We were leaving our homeland, but a part of us was left behind. Soon the only thing around the Messapia was the massive Mediterranean sea. It cut through the waves leaving great swathes of white tides behind. Our rooms were tiny but it was nothing that we were not used to. The food was excellent and with a cinema on board it seemed like a luxury cruise. It was not until the next morning that we realised what sleeping on a ship was like. The sea sickness was nothing like we knew and this would carry on day after day.

After a day or two the Messapia reached the port of Piraeus, and the day trip in Athens was an amazing experience. The Acropolis seemed to tower over Athens, and seemed majestic. The departure led us through the narrow Corinth canal. The Messapia had to turn off its engines and the tugboats were pulling the liner. There were many people above the canal's mountain top cheering and yelling their greetings. The ship's propellers turning as it was pulled made an awful noise that sounded like breaking bits of metal rolling down a hill. The purpose of the Corinth canal was to save precious journey time. The next stop was Naples in Italy. Our group wanted to hire a taxi and visit Mount Vesuvius towering over the region. My mother, having run very low on her meagre £2 spending money, declined the trip. Emine aba who was on a return trip to the UK and the other 2 friends would have none of it. They dragged us along. The only thing I remember of the day was that my sister Melek wanted a dolly. My mother simply could not afford it. She refused and my sister still talks about it after 50 years.

Next stop was probably Genoa in North West Italy. From there the train would take us to Calais travelling the length of France. As I recall it was a long night ride. One of the things that stick in my memory was the silhouettes of deer on the low slopes adjacent to the rail lines. The rest is blank. Our train drive into Victoria is as clear as yesterday. Exiting the train on the 25th September it felt very chilly. My father, auntie Sadiye and uncle Kamil were there to pick us up. Noticing that I was shivering, Sadiye auntie wrapped her coat around me. Our car drive took us to our first place of residence which was 31 Mackenzie Road, just behind Caledonian Road, London.

The story of Sabriye Veli (Sabriye Ali)

16.12.1938 - 24.03.2006

Sadly as Sabriye Ali died on the 24.03.2006 her story has been written posthumously as described by her in numerous conversations.

Sabriye was only 18 years old when a marriage was arranged for her to Mehmet-Salih Ali, who was from the village of Dohni / Tashkent. The problem was that Mehmet-Salih was in the UK. He had just finished working in Egypt at the Suez canal during the British French invasion in 1956. On finishing his work contract he decided that settling in the UK offered him a better life.

Sabriye's older sister Rahme was married to Mehmet Salih's cousin Cemal. As was the common practise in those days arranging a marriage to a person of good character was considered an act of goodwill. The poverty in Cyprus at that time was immense and migrating to the UK was a dream to a better life.

Sabriye often talked about her fears, apprehension and excitement about marrying a man she had never met, but was convinced by the family that a better future lay in her accepting the arrangement. Though arranged marriages in Cyprus were generally not forced, pressure to accept a good match was often heavy if not immense.

On 25 September 1957 Sabriye, together with her sister in-law Sadiye Osman 'Gato' (married to Mustafa Veli 'Kirlapo') left Lurucina. All the family and friends were gathered in the village centre where they would board the bus to Larnaca. Wailing, excitement and sadness was an obvious outcome. People in those days knew that it may take years to see their loved ones again. Letters would take months and most often were written by a literate member of the family, then passed on to anyone who happened to travel back to the village. News of their arrival would take months to reach back to the family.

The Bus drive from Lurucina to Larnaca port was 13 miles and Sabriye cried all the way. For Sadiye it was not so bad as she was joining her husband who was already in the UK. The arrival at the port and subsequent boarding of the Fillipo Grimani was tense but a little exciting. They had never been out of the country before and the outside world was completely unknown. Being used to the outside life, Sabriye found the rooms a bit claustrophobic but reasonably comfortable. Within a day or two Piraeus harbour was in view. Taking advantage of the day in port they visited the Acropolis which she often described as "ÇOK GÜZEL". It was a bit of a relief as the time spent on the ship was uncomfortable because of sea sickness. The tension was now beginning to ease and the site of the ship cutting through the waves provided some relaxing moments. The food was unfamiliar but still found to be rich and varied. Exploring the ship was interesting enough, but the highlight of the voyage was their next stop at Naples on the 29th September. The mountain of Vesuvius in the background was breath-taking. Sabriye often explained how beautiful she found the view, but could not always remember the day's events.

Their disembarkation at Genoa meant that their journey with the Fillippo Grimani was at an end and the next phase was about to begin. The train ride was long and the crossing at Modane into France took place on the 1st October. Six days had passed but another 2 days of travel lay ahead. Sabriye described the train journey as long and uneventful. Sadly like most people she could not remember the ferry ride from Calais to Dover. The final destination to Victoria station was better remembered.

She often talked about missing the village and her friends, but was insistent that she never wanted to go back to live in Cyprus. Sadly it was not until the mid 1980s that she finally made her first trip back to Cyprus. She hardly recognised the changes that had taken place and often preferred to remember Lurucina as it was when she left it in 1957.


To write the story of Seyit Mehmet son of Mehmet Ramadan 'Sari' (Fgaga) and Keziban Seyit Kavaz would be a novel in itself. Having served in the British army during WW2 with his older twin brothers Hasan and Hussein was an event that left him with the tragic loss of his beloved brother Hussein. To him the tragic personal loss meant that every other memory and experience during that period was clouded with the profound grief that he carried with him to the end of his life. He knew more than most that every day we live and breath counts. He worked hard, lived well and became a dedicated family man. Perhaps one day someone will write his story and that of his family.

Though not actually born in Lurucina, (His father was a policeman which meant he worked in various parts of Cyprus) his roots and experience is a perfect example of the courage, determination and integrity that many of us associate with the people of our Island and village. This is his story from his perspective about the events that led to his migration and early life in the UK until he met and married his wife Gökmen.

Seyit's work career took him from humble beginnings to some of the most prestigious hotels in London and elsewhere. From the Cumberland hotel in Marble Arch to Grosvenor House (G.H). Getting a job at the G.H was an enormously difficult post, but he beat many applicants to the job where he stayed from 1960 until his retirement in 1988 (except briefly in 1963) working his way up to Managerial level and, even though he toned down his work in his later life and switched to Room service Manager, he was still responsible for the almost 500 rooms of the Grosvenor House. In 1963, he was head-hunted to manage the restaurant at The Royal Festival Hall - before it was opened, because they thought he was the best man for the job, but he only stayed there for 6 months, or a year, because he missed G.H. Ironically Filiz's (his grand-daughter) graduation ceremony was - at The Royal Festival Hall! In honour of his immense dedication and ability he finally received recognition for his contribution and war service by none other then heir to the throne of England Prince Charles. not to mention personal letters from Prince Phillip, the Queen and various Prime Ministers. To sum up Seyit's life one has to come to the conclusion that he was nothing short of a remarkable person. In addition he spoke seven languages all self taught, with an insatiable desire to better himself, not only did he more than made up for his lack of a degree by surpassing many people who did have degrees, but he ensured that his children would have the maximum support from him in their own chosen professions. That however is another story. No amount of words in a short article can do the man justice. Though he is no longer with us, I can safely say that his legacy is, and will remain in the hearts and minds of those fortunate enough to have known him. May he R.I.P


The story of Seyit Mehmet. D.O.B 04.12.1925- D.O.D 07.11.2007 arrived in the UK 1949

Courtesy of his daughter Tina Kemran, who has shared her fathers story posthumously.

I lived in Larnaca Cyprus where I was born. I was in the British army during WW2. I enlisted in 1942 I was demobbed in 1947. I spent some of my army service in Egypt, Palestine and Italy.

I always wanted to travel abroad as Cyprus was too small. I found Italy a big country and I wanted to see the world. I didn't really know much about England before I came. All I knew about London was Arsenal. All I remember in the 1930s as a child is that Arsenal was one of the best football teams in England. And off-course the King and Queen. In school we were taught about King George V before he died in 1936.

After being demobbed and because my father was a police man the family also wanted me to join. After five years in the army I didn't want to wear a uniform again, but just to please them I took the police examinations and passed. I decided to leave Cyprus instead and that's why I came to England. I came here by boat in 1949. It was a passenger boat, I think it was called Messapia, but there was also the Catania and Anthropy something like that (Seyit's wife stated that it was the Messapia). We went to Venice where we stayed one night. Next day we took the train and travelled to Paris. From Paris we went to Dover. The travel tickets cost £18 which I had saved while working. The boat had left from Larnaca and there were some friends. I only remember one Greek person from Larnaca and his name was Jumbo. We were the only two who spoke Italian. So when we arrived in Venice about 40 people or so stayed with us. As no one else spoke Italian. Jumbo and I arranged the hotel for the night.

After 5 days we finally arrived at London Victoria station. It was foggy and dark because it was winter. 3 months before Christmas (probably October) It was so misty and I really didn't like it at all. I had a sister who came to England 6 months before me and some other friends. In those days we had to have an invitation from someone in England to come. The invitation was sent to me by Mr Ali's wife. Ali was from Anglisides near Aytotoro which is only a couple of miles apart. We were also dünürs (in-laws in Turkish).

When I first came I stayed in Roundel Avenue in Edgeware Road just before Cricklewood. As Mr Ali's sister was married to my brother I stayed at their flat for about six months. I got a job in a restaurant in Wardour St, Piccadilly Circus just making tea and coffee. I didn't like it at all so after a couple of months I left. Relations helped find a job for me. Mr Ali and his Italian wife gave me a job in their restaurant. They are both dead now. It was a place called Number 2 Park St, it was a hotel owned by the state. At that time Labour was the government and I worked in the steer room which was a tea room. There were many people from the Colonies and British Dominions representing their countries. It was a hospitality room and the government covered all the expenses. I was only there for six months and there was not much future in it, so I left and got a job in Clubman 2 in Bruce St, Piccadilly.It was a 5 star French restaurant and I was a 'comi waiter'. The menu was all in French, including 30 different soups so I found it difficult. I didn't know what to do at first as I could not speak French so I used to take the menu home and every-night I learned something new. Within six months I learnt all the menu writing and speaking in French. I stayed there for a year then I became a waiter in Mayfair hotel, soon after I got a better position at the Skindles Hotel in Maidenhead. Working very hard I became the head waiter after nine months. I have always been in Catering. When I married my wife Gokmen I was living in Jamaica Rd. We had a small wedding in a room on top of a restaurant owned by my sister. There were about forty people. We have been married for 49 years (Seyit's story was written in 2006) and we have two daughters Sylvia and Tina.

Gökmen Mehmet's story. Born 10.12.1936. Arrived in the UK 1954

Courtesy of her daughter Tina Kemran.

I lived in Nicosia and was a dressmaker and hairdresser. In any case my family were hairdressers.

I came to the UK in 1954 because my sister lost her daughter in London, and I came to be with her and keep her company. I also had a brother here. My family paid for my ticket to come here.

I used to get letters from my sister, so I heard a bit about London. My husband came on a ship named the Messapia an Italian boat, but that was in 1948. Mine was a different boat, It was also Italian. It was the first time I was leaving Cyprus and I was happy. I wanted to see London.

I travelled on my own. I was only 17 years old and very happy and cheerful so I made many friends on the boat and everyone also seemed excited about their journey. If I explain what it was like people would think I was a snob, because I wore a different dress everyday, most people did not do that but I really enjoyed being smart. There was a Turkish couple from Kofunye and I became very close to them. There were also English tourists on the boat. The journey was nine days long. We finally got to Victoria train station and my sister came to pick me up. To me it (London) didn't look different except the houses looked smaller. When I went to my sister's house in Bermondsey it was also very small with a very small garden. My father's house in Cyprus was very large and in the Greek quarter, but when I lived in Bermondsey our neighbours were Turkish. There were Turkish people everywhere. It was very surprising to me.

My first job in London was in a Jam factory and it was terrible. I only worked there for two or three weeks, because I wasn't used to it. I can't remember what exactly I was doing there. My sister's husband found me a job in Aldgate as a machinist (seamstress). I enjoyed that. My last job before I got married was for a Jewish firm called Adastra in Tower Hill making trousers. I enjoyed it there and I was doing piece work. There were also many Turkish girls there. It was better than the jam factory. I used to get on the number one bus from Bermondsey which took me straight to work.

My future husband's sister introduced me to her brother, who seemed to fancy me and they arranged a meeting. In those days we had arranged marriages. He was a handsome man and within two weeks we were married. He (Mehmet, her future husband) came with his father to ask for me. As was the custom I made him a Turkish coffee. I wasn't shy or nervous because I was very modern in my country (Cyprus). I was twenty years old. I was glad I got married. There was no pinning money in those days, just presents. My husband used to have a nice job in Grosvenor House. It was beautiful and once a year I used to go to a party there. We had lovely times. When you're young you enjoy life. I was looking for a man like him anyway. He was smart and different from most Cypriot people. He was very modern and loved life, parties and all that. The only thing he failed was trying to teach me to smoke. I'm glad I never did, and I'm sure he was also. We had two children together, both girls and we named them Sylvia and Tina.


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