Carolina Blyth, 55, says the ongoing assault by Russia reminds her of escaping the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

The north of the island was invaded following the Cypriot coup d’état amid growing tensions between the Greek and Turkish populations.

Carolina became a refugee at just seven years old after her family escaped Famagusta when Turkish forces landed.

Less than a month later, Turkish aircrafts would bomb the city.

Almost 50 years later, Varosha – a former resort in Famagusta – remains abandoned.

Fleeing into the night

Now living in Glenrothes, Carolina says the Russian invasion of Ukraine reminds her of the invasion of her homeland.

Recalling the day her family fled their home, she said sirens in the early hours of July 20 1974 prompted the Greek Cypriot population to flee into fields.

Her parents rushed Carolina and her two younger sisters, aged three and five at the time, into the car dressed in their nightgowns.

“For me it feels like a parallel universe 48 years later,” she said.

She added: “There are a lot more Ukrainians than Cypriots trying to get out and be safe but still, it’s also a tragedy.

“I was just a small kid at the time.

“I did not really understand what was happening – I could only sense my parents’ stress but didn’t get the reason behind it.

“We didn’t pack much to wear or eat. We survived on whatever was available at the fields nearby.”

The children would sleep in the car, while their parents slept on the grass.

‘We were refugees’

Thousands died during the long-running conflict and more than 1,000 are still considered missing.

Carolina said: “Seeing the incredible reaction of everyone to the Russian invasion of Ukraine impresses me but also makes me wonder.

“Forty-eight years later, the rest of the world is ignoring that invasion of Cyprus.”

Currently more than a third of Cyprus is occupied by Turkey, including half of the capital city, Nicosia.

The de facto state is called the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and it makes up the north-eastern portion of the island. However, it is only recognised by Turkey.

The two parts of Cyprus are separated by a buffer zone known as the Green Line.

After fleeing, Carolina’s family travelled to Lebanon for a couple of months, where Carolina’s mum came from, before returning to Cyprus.

They could no longer return to the occupied northern area, so they moved to the south coast.

“I think the day after New Year’s Day we came to Limassol,” she said.

“It was very strange because we went to school in Limassol where they gave us rations, cheese and underwear because we were refugees.

“That was the strange thing – I didn’t know why they were giving me sandwiches and underwear in school.

“My family is still in Limassol.”

Father’s broken heart

Carolina’s parents were slowly able to rebuild their lives once back in Cyprus.

She said: “You realise how hard it has been for them, and how lucky we are that we managed to build a business all over again and they managed to become financially independent again.

It’s a big achievement.

“They opened the borders so you can go across to the other side of Cyprus now, but my father doesn’t want to go, although he has a lot of Turkish Cypriot friends.

“It broke his heart.”

Carolina married her Scottish husband in 2004, and the pair eventually moved to Glenrothes in December 2020 with their two children.

She visits Cyprus occasionally, but says it always feels “strange”.

“It’s very disturbing,” she said.

“The first time I went (to Famagusta) I just felt numb, I didn’t feel anything.”

She added: “I only remember the beach and the square where my house was and the church.

“I’m allowed to go to the beach, but I’m not allowed to go to the square where my house was because it’s in the ghost town.

“There is barbed wire all around and you can see trees growing through the windows (of buildings).

“The street names are still in Greek. It’s very hair-raising.”

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