Akincilar/Lurucina, looking back in time
By Ismail Veli
Lurucina has many myths and stories about its origins and ethnic make up. This may seem strange for a small village, but history and culture often has a hold on the psyche of most Cypriots. Lurucina is no exception, indeed it almost seems unique.
There are, or were at least 650 villages in Cyprus, but none to my knowledge have embarked on research of ALL THEIR FAMILY ROOTS. Lurucina seems unique in this respect. To record ones family tree is often arduous, painstaking and emotional to say the least, but to record the family trees of the entire village to the time when they arrived in the village is something that many places would not even think of, let alone undertake. Many people from Lurucina until recently believed they either originated from the Venetian Latin’s and had converted to Islam, while a few suspected that they were of Greek origins and had converted in order to benefit from a lower tax system for Muslims, therefore Lurucina was considered to be a stronghold of the ‘Linobambaki’ (cotton woollies). The term was a kind of insult to indicate that the people changed their identity depending on what suited their interest.
The origins of the village do indeed date to the 12/13 century to the Lusignan period. Historic maps list it as Lorthina and no doubt the population at that time was mostly Greek. The Greek Orthodox Church of Ay Epiphanios was built in the 15th century and the first Ottoman census of 1572 recorded only 27 tax paying adult men. The Venetian census of the early 1500′s also recorded some Latin worshippers. The Ottoman ‘Settlement book’ (Iskan defteri) also records that some Turkish people were settled in the village soon after 1572.
To confuse matters further a well respected Turkish Cypriot historian, Nazim Beratli, confirmed to me that he had come across an Ottoman document dating to the aftermath of the 1571 siege of Famagusta that “a few Latin Venetian families from Famagusta were settled in the village after converting to Islam”. To confuse matters more between the mid 1700s and early 1800s nearly all trace of the Latin group of people suddenly seemed to disappear and a new influx of Turkish families were resettled in Lurucina. Nearly every family tree that has been recorded date to 9/10 generations. Their origins were from Kofunye/Kophinou, Kalopsidya. Dali, Pirga, Silifke in Turkey, Manisa Turkey, Antalya Turkey and various other parts of the Ottoman empire. In spite of being in Lurucina for such a short period of time our families’ attachment and love for this beautiful little valley is second to none.
For many who know little or nothing about this village it was the largest Turkish village in Cyprus. The last English census of 1946 registered 1816 people. Sadly in the 1950s migration began and gathered pace. The influx of refuges from the surrounding villages during the 1960s swelled to over 3000 which more than made up for the constant migration out of the village. Sadly just when it reached its peak in 1974/5 the Turkish Cypriot political establishment in a policy of resettlement encouraged the vast majority to move to Akdogan/Lisi.
The result was catastrophic. The remaining 4/500 people were left in a ghost town. Ruin and collapse of the buildings turned the village into rubble. Today the population is struggling at around the 350 mark which is less than the first British census of 1881 which was 598. Just when all seemed lost the village Belediye Baskani (councillor) Hasan Barbaros and his sister Sultan Barbaros the village Muhtar (Mayor) together with the restoration committee led by Mr Ihsan Tozz embarked on a massive effort to bring the plight of the village not only to the attention of the TRNC government, but sought EU support to restore and reverse the fortunes of the village. Many individuals like Raziye Kocaismail spent immense time, effort and money to restore their family homes with an eye for authenticity. These resourceful people have found massive support in their endeavours. The restoration with EU and government funding includes assistance from the Cyprus International University and has now picked up and gathered pace. Our hope is that in 2/3 years the fortunes of this once bustling village will change. Naturally it is not expected to reach the level of population it once had, but with the right planning, infrastructure and effort there can be no doubt that more and more fellow Luricinians will begin to spend weekend trips, day trips etc. The aim is to revive the small local cafes and shops to a level of activity that has not been seen since the mid 1970s.
One thing is certain, no matter where they live the heart of every Lurucinali beats in the village of their origins. Of that there is no doubt.
To view a wonderful picture slideshow of Akincilar and Ismail´s family – click here