Abandoned Villages - Vretsia
Cyprus has more than it's fair share of abandoned villages. The troubles caused the displacement of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.The environment itself has caused other villages to be abandoned for reasons of safety. Whatever the reason, the abandonment caused emotional pain and suffering to the affected people. So is it right to right a series of blog articles on them? I thought about this for a while, but decided that yes it was. Cyprus is a land built on antiquities, and these villages are just the latest example. I had no problem blogging about a Necropolis after all.
However, some of these villages, and especially Vretsia, do still get visits from the displaced families. So if you do decide to visit these places on the strength of these articles, please bear that in mind, and treat them with respect. Remember the urban exploring motto: "take only pictures, leave only footprints...".
Vretsia is best approached from the Statos road. If you are in a 4x4, you can also come from the direction of Pera Vesa. Hard core 4x4 drivers can also try the approach from Salamiou, though by all accounts that can get very treacherous.
From A Distance
From a distance, Vretsia looks an idyllic Cypriot village, nestled in the foothills of Paphos Forest.
An Earlier Shot
Even this closer view, taking by Max, a forum regular, seems to depict a pleasant scene.
The Old Village Square?
However, by the time you reach this flagpole, which was presumably in the old village square, you can see that the place is abandoned.
An Old Mosque
The mosque explains why the village was abandoned. The following excerpt was taken from the PRIO Website on Internal Displacement:
As may be seen from the chart above [see table shown on map above], the village was predominantly inhabited by Turkish Cypriots from the 19th century. Throughout the 20th century, the population of the village fluctuated and eventually increased slightly, from 305 in 1891 to 386 in 1960.
No one was displaced from Vrecha during either the emergency years of the 1950s or the intercommunal fighting of 1963-64. However, during the latter period Vrecha received many displaced Turkish Cypriots from the nearby village of Galataria/Yoğurtçular(305). Richard Patrick recorded 33 displaced Turkish Cypriots still living in the village in 1971. He also put the total population of the village at 456 in that year.
During the war of 1974, the Turkish Cypriot Fighters of Vrecha refused to surrender their guns to Greek Cypriot forces who were trying to disarm the Turkish villages. After a ceasefire was declared in late August of that year, many villagers took their weapons and fled over the mountains to the north, then under Turkish control. During this period, the village also became a transit area for Turkish Cypriots who were trying to get to the Turkish-controlled north through the mountains. The 160 persons who remained in Vrecha were eventually evacuated to the north under UNFICYP escort on 1 September 1975. They were resettled in many different villages such as Lapithos/Lapta(237), Neo Chorio/Minareliköy(073), Zodeia/Bostancı(047), and Katokopia/Zümrütköy(048), as well as in the towns of Famagusta(140), Nicosia(074), Kyrenia(236) and Morphou/Güzelyurt(072). The number of Vretcha/Dağaşan Turkish Cypriots who were displaced after 1974 was around 500 (498 in the 1973 census).