With Cyprus’ border opened, a grassroots healing begins

With Cyprus’ border opened, a grassroots healing begins

POSTED: May 21, 2003

ARDAHAN, Cyprus — A pair of German shepherds barked furiously as the Mercedes pulled up to a limestone house high above Famagusta Bay. Although the visitors arrived unannounced, a woman stood at the gate, as if she had been waiting for them.

She had dreamed of this moment six months before.

In Husniye Gulersoy’s dream, a white-haired man came to her home and said it was his. He had lost it when the Turkish army invaded northern Cyprus in 1974 after a short-lived coup backed by Greece. The Greek Cypriots fled to the southern part of this Mediterranean island, divided ever since by a border, two armies and U.N. peacekeepers.

Take care of my house, the man told Husniye in her vision, and handed her an orange, a peace offering.

Charalampos Orphanides, 86, did not bring an orange when he went to see the home he had built for his bride in 1948, squaring the stone blocks on a windy field in the village of Ardahan, where his family had lived for seven generations.

For 29 years he had been forbidden to visit the other side of his island. Then on April 23, the government in the Turkish north announced that its border was open. Since then, 300,000 Cypriots – a third of the population – have swarmed in both directions. It is a rare moment, when people’s hunger to heal ancient divisions is pushing politicians who have been unable to resolve bitter disputes over seized property, outside interference and missing persons.

The Orphanides family was among the first to cross from south to north that afternoon. When Kika Orphanides, 54, a textile designer, heard the border was open, she called her brother and father.

“We’ll go for lunch,” said her brother, Michael, 56, an architect.

They brought no maps, knowing the land by heart, but the terrain looked strangely unfamiliar. For a territory recognized only by the Turkish government in Ankara and supposedly strangled by trade sanctions, there was a surprising amount of development, Kika recalled. The signs along a new highway were in Turkish. Her father had trouble remembering the Greek names of villages.

An old chapel in a neighboring town had been turned into a museum. They each paid a pound – $1.90 – to view the icons, then hurried back to the car to see how the town they called Ardana had fared.

Their first views were painful. The house of Kika and Michael’s grandmother was gone. The cemetery had been desecrated. The church where their great-grandfather was priest had no doors or windows, and smelled of hay and urine.

It was a Mercedes full of mixed feelings that climbed the hill to their property.

Kika wanted to walk the land and feel the hot breezes she remembered. Michael was busy photographing everything around him; he took nearly 200 pictures. Their father said little.

With the dogs tethered, they approached the woman in the yard. She did not speak Greek or English, but the old man knew some Turkish. He said who they were, but she knew.

“She was afraid because she was on her own,” Michael recalled later. “She didn’t know how we were going to react, whether we’d be aggressive.”

They hungered to see the inside, but the woman showed them an addition her husband, also a builder, had designed.

Then Kika broke down.

She stood sobbing, and the Turkish Cypriot wrapped her arms around Kika, making a gesture that Kika read as saying “it was not in our hands.”

Then Husniye, 56, put on some coffee and showed them around the rest of the place, so changed that Kika realized “it was not my home.”

Husniye’s husband, Sami, would be home by 6. Until then, they made small talk, the Orphanideses asking about Sami: where he was from, what he did, who his people were.

A kiss

He came from the next village, which they knew as Ayios Andronikos. He was 58, the son of Celal Gulersoy.

The old man brightened.

For six years, he and Celal Gulersoy had served together in the British army, one Greek Cypriot and one Turkish Cypriot fighting the Nazis in northern Africa and Italy.

When Sami pulled up in his truck, the old man rose. “I have to kiss the son of my friend,” he said, and planted his lips on both of Sami Gulersoy’s cheeks.

The Gulersoys said it was as if they were part of his family.

Then cognac and stories flowed. Lamb was grilled. For six hours they feasted.

The Gulersoys told how they had come to the house. Sami’s father was killed in 1974, fighting the Greek Cypriots. After the cease-fire, the Turkish Cypriot government offered his mother her pick of houses. She chose the one that Charalampos Orphanides had built. The Gulersoys raised three boys there.

Like schoolboys

They talked about barbarities on both sides, how each had been taught in school that the other was the enemy. An old friend of Charalampos’ was produced from the village and the two men talked like schoolboys.

Neither family is certain what will happen next. There are calls on both sides to resume the talks that ended last month after the northern government rejected a U.N. plan to reunite the island in time for its May 2004 entry into the European Union. Now that Greek and Turkish Cypriots are remembering what they shared – even the bad parts – few think things can return to the way they were a month ago.

Sami Gulersoy said he was renovating the house and wanted the Orphanideses to return for a proper visit. He doesn’t rule out returning the property if he, in turn, is compensated. “If the man wants his house, he can have it.”

Michael Orphanides said he would like that. His sister, who owns no other property, savors being able to walk those fields: “I was just hoping I could be there again in my lifetime.”

And their father, who for three decades yearned to return, bitter at the loss of land and history and memory, now talked of moving on.

“I think it is good to mix together,” he said. “Maybe it is time all this stopped. I went in their house. I want them to come to mine.”


Home Is Springsteen’s Promised Land

Home Is Springsteen’s Promised Land

POSTED: September 12, 1999

The locals look, but there’s a zone of privacy they afford the uncommon man in their midst.

Lillian Africano did a double-take, not because she was surprised to see Bruce Springsteen in the video store, but because of his wheels. As a rule, rock stars don’t drive ratty station wagons.

As usual, no one at Video on the Ritz bothered the Boss – though Africano did note what her famous Rumson, N.J., neighbor was renting. (It was A Night to Remember.)

“He’s laid back,” says Meredith McHeffey, 21, a clerk at the Fairhaven store. “He wears the same baggy pants as my boyfriend, as opposed to Geraldo, who comes in with dark glasses and a hat.”

Maybe their respect is out of gratitude that he’s returned. After a fling with Beverly Hills, Springsteen married the girl from the neighborhood, singer Patti Scialfa of Deal, N.J., and has reunited with his boys, the E Street Band, whom he fired in 1988. Their six sold-out dates at the First Union Center and Spectrum, which begin tomorrow, will be the guys’ first in Philly in 11 years.

These days, when you go searching for Bruce Springsteen, you don’t look for Madame Marie’s booth in Asbury Park (shuttered) or clubs like the Stone Pony (a failed swing joint) and the Student Prince (now a go-go bar).

But you might try the Victory Market in Red Bank, where the proprietor has been known to push frozen Italian bread by saying, “Bruce just bought some.”

And you’d have gotten lucky had you attended Jim and Donna Andreen’s wedding last September. Their guests spotted Springsteen at the American Hotel in his hometown, Freehold – escorting his mother to her high school reunion.

A note was slipped, and soon Springsteen was posing for the photograph now displayed in the Howell, N.J., couple’s living room, the bride between her husband in a tuxedo and Springsteen in black.

“I was thinking of cutting my husband out of the photo and sending it to the National Enquirer,” says Donna, 39, a travel agent. “Bruce’s Mystery Wedding.”

For most of the decade, Springsteen, 49, has called New Jersey home again. Though he still owns what one of his songs calls that “bourgeois home in the Hollywood Hills,” the $14 million mansion from his former marriage to actress Julianne Phillips, he’s rearing a family in Rumson, a town of old money and occasional celebrities such as Geraldo Rivera, Jon Bon Jovi and Heather Locklear. When school’s out, the Springsteens – including their children Evan, 9, Jessica Rae, 7, and Sam, 5 – are on their 378-acre horse farm in nearby Colts Neck.

“What you see and what you hear is real, not a pose, not an image-builder to support the working-man ethic that runs through his songs,” says Robert Santelli, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame official who is writing a book about Springsteen and the Jersey Shore scene.

“The rock-star posturing that others have to enforce and live up to, he’s free of that. As a result, he’s probably a freer man than certainly most rock icons – and he is indeed that, especially in New Jersey.”

It makes you wonder about the burden of celebrity that seems to weigh on other stars.

Anthony DeCurtis, who interviewed Springsteen for Rolling Stone last fall, says it’s all in how artists present themselves.

“If you’re walking around with 20 models trailing after you, that generates a certain kind of energy, and that’s what comes back to you,” DeCurtis says. “If you’re sitting in a restaurant with the wife and kids in a city you’ve grown up with, that also comes back to you. People treat you like you should be there.”

As Springsteen himself said in 1997: “Ninety percent of rock star isolation is invented. . . . To me, I go to the grocery store. It’s not an issue. If somebody on the way there says to me, ‘Hey, I like your music,’ well, if that bothers you, stay home.”

* When Springsteen was growing up at the Shore, “this was the Park Avenue of New Jersey,” says Africano, a travel and romance-novel writer, leading a tour of Springsteen’s neighborhood of meandering stone walls and new construction made to look old. Rumson, half an hour and several tax brackets from Freehold, is a town in which a miniature backhoe picks up garden trimmings on trash day.

Like most properties in the area, Springsteen’s $2.5 million home doesn’t call attention to itself. A half-dozen SUVs are parked in the driveway. Springsteen is off this day, between the Boston and Washington legs of his tour.

A call to the security force on the property doesn’t yield an invitation to chat. “You want me to lose my job?” a guard tells a go-between. The security is necessary because fans have found their way onto the property, emulating Springsteen’s own flight over the Graceland fence in 1975. Elvis’ people put him in a cab.

Africano says that when Springsteen moved in, to discourage unexpected company, he would appear often at a local school, “just so they could look at him.”

He’s managed an almost-normal home life – dressing up to receive Halloween trick-or-treaters, attending functions at the children’s school (the name of which he prefers not to publicize) and driving himself around, such as to the Electric Factory in Center City four years ago, where he backed his old bar-scene buddy Joe Grushecky.

Loyalty and generosity are words heard a lot in Springsteen country.

In April, Springsteen donated a guitar to the Rumson Country Day School auction, and when the bidding wasn’t high enough, he threw in a 30-minute lesson. That brought in $27,000. Since 1995, low-income residents of Monmouth County have received $350,000 for home repairs, unaware that their angel was Springsteen until the Newark Star-Ledger reported on his charity, the Foundation.

The tale that most shows Springsteen’s soul resides with Steve Eitelberg, who owns a clothing store in Deal and who has known the man since he was a shy teenager who couldn’t even make eye contact.

Two and half years ago, Eitelberg’s wife, Lynn, was dying of lung cancer. One morning at the Monmouth County Medical Center, a nurse told him “someone on the phone says he’s Bruce Springsteen.” Springsteen asked if he could visit. He stayed the whole afternoon, telling stories, singing “Secret Garden” – her favorite song – just stroking her arm.

The next afternoon “there he was again in the doorway,” says Eitelberg, 53, over an extra-large cheese pizza in Neptune. Springsteen settled in and started doodling a stick-figure portrait of his family. “This is Bruce, this is me. Let’s put notes here, because I’m Bruce. Let’s put the kids here.”

Lynn motioned. “Oh, you want me to sign it. You want it to be worth 50 cents.”

He returned on a third day, with his guitar, but by then she had sunk into a coma. “He showed up at her funeral and sang ‘Secret Garden’ over her casket for me and my kids,” Eitelberg says.

Since then, on the same day each year, Springsteen has walked into Eitelberg’s shop, and they’ve polished off a few bottles. Last year, Springsteen noticed a set of congas that Eitelberg’s therapist encouraged him to take up after his wife’s death.

“You’re gonna play drums in my band,” Springsteen told him. When he came to pick up clothes for the European leg of the tour in April, he walked into Eitelberg’s office and asked, “You been practicing?”

Eitelberg made his musical debut on Aug. 9 before 20,000 people at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford. Calling “my haberdasher” to the stage, Springsteen had him join the band for “Spirit in the Night,” a song nearly as old as their friendship.

“He’s just what his song says,” Eitelberg adds. “He’s a local hero.”

* News researcher Frank Donahue contributed to this article.