In the area, there are empty tombs (cenotaphs) and tombs of the Greek and Greek-Cypriot Officers and Soldiers who were killed in action, during the Turkish invasion of 1974 and during the Turkish Air Force raids in 1964. There are currently buried 152 soldiers, whose bones have been identified with the DNA method. In addition, there are 308 cenotaphs of which 6 are common graves, which correspond to 460 fallen soldiers.
In order to commemorate our heroes, the state erected this modest monument where we now stand.
At the entrance of the cemetery you can see the monument of the Mother of the missing persons. The monument consists of a natural size statue of the Mother, made from volcanic rock (lava) from the island of Santorini. It is surrounded by 42 and 1619 volcanic stones, each bearing the name of a missing person from the period of 1964 and 1974 respectively.
The volcanic material was selected in order to link the black colour with the mourning Mother.
The statue via a specialized mechanism rotates slowly, thus giving the impression that the Mother is seeking for her missing child at the four points of the horizon. Her right-hand rests on her forehead, and her left hand holds flowers which are offered in times of joy or sadness.
The area is related with 2 historical events which took place during the Turkish Invasion of 1974:
The shooting down of a Greek transport aircraft ‘NORATLAS’, at this exact point, during the night of 21st to 22nd of July 1974,
Nicosia Airport battle on the 23rd of July of 1974.
Crash of the Greek NORATLAS aircraft.
On the night of 21st of July, 15 NORATLAS type aircrafts took off from Souda airport in Crete, carrying the 1st Greek Special Forces Unit to Cyprus. The operation was named “NIKI” which means “victory” and its main characteristics was the mission’s level of danger, since the aircrafts were flying at an altitude of 500 feet, with an absolute radio silence and all their power lights switched off.
Following a dramatic flight, 13 of the 15 airplanes arrived in Cyprus without being detected by the enemy. The Greek Cypriot Forces that were located at the Makedonitissa heights, were not informed in time for their arrival, and as a result they were interpreted as enemy aircrafts and fired upon.
Consequently, one of the airplanes was shot down. The passengers, crew and commandos, were all killed apart from one who jumped out desperately just before the collision, suffering multiple fracture wounds. 31 men were killed in total.
Another 3 airplanes suffered damages upon their landing at the Nicosia Airport and could not take off, resulting in 2 deaths and 9 injuries among the passengers.
In 2015, after a decision of the Cyprus Government, an excavation was contacted in the area of the monument in order to identify the bones of the servicemen on board the NORATLAS shot down aircraft. The work was split in three stages. The first stage involved the preparation of the site, which included demolishing the entire monument and its surroundings. The second stage was the excavation and identification of the bones and the third stage was the full restoration of the site. Finally, the bones of 15 passengers of the aircraft were identified and returned to their relatives after an official ceremony.
In order to honour our brave fighters, a similar NORATLAS aircraft has recently been placed at the Makedonitissa Tomb.
Nicosia Airport Battle
The Nicosia Airport Battle was one of the most glorious in Modern Greek History. On the morning of the 23rd of July 1974, the 1st Greek Special Forces Unit was ordered to move into the Nicosia Airport and keep it under their control by all means. At the Airport there were men of the 33rd Special Unit Forces and a platoon of ELDYK (Greek Forces of Cyprus). The Turkish Forces attacked in vast numbers with Infantry and Armoured Corps. The menacing Turkish attacks were not successful, because of the bravery, stamina and courage shown by the Greek defenders of the Airport.
On the same day and after an order given by the General Staff of the Cyprus National Guard, the Airport was delivered to the UN Peacekeeping Force, which is still in control to this day. Our losses were 1 dead and 1 wounded in action. The Turkish Forces suffered much greater losses although the exact figures were not reported.
It is the greatest Honor for the National Guard to safeguard this holy place of our Nation where our predecessors stood firm in the modern Thermopiles of the farthermost ends of Hellenism. This is a place infused with a breath of freedom, a place of rebirth and encouragement of all free willed men. A symbol of the ecumenical principles and ideas and a symbol of the Christian faith.