A Coventry woman has recalled arriving in Britain on the day of King Charles’ birth. Maria Tzirki, who was just a little girl when she left Cyprus to move to the UK with her family, remembers ‘large booms’ and the ringing bells of Westminster Abbey as they heralded the arrival of the future King.
The then-Prince Charles was born at Buckingham Palace on November 14, 1948, during the reign of his grandfather, George VI. He was three years old when his mother, Queen Elizabeth, acceded to the throne in 1952.
King Charles’ birth came just a few years after the devastation of the Second World War, and Maria, whose maiden name was Kyriakou, remembers her mum asking if the loud noises as they arrived in London meant bombing had recommenced.
They arrived at Waterloo station and found large parts of the city destroyed by the Blitz. “We left Cyprus and a month later, arrived in England on the 14th of November,1948, the day bonnie Prince Charlie was born,” she said. “People were so excited that Princess Elizabeth had given birth to her first child, it was a historic day and our very first experience of England.”
After fighting in the war, Maria’s father Kyriakos was given passage to England and was later joined by her older brother Iacovos. With food scarce in Cyprus after fighting had ceased, the whole family moved in search of a better life.
Maria travelled with her mum Eleni and sisters Evanthia and Olympia, and little brother Costa on the Escania ship. The journey took a month.
“We weren’t scared, I think because we were so young and we saw it as an adventure,” Maria said. “For our parents it was horrendous, wondering whether they could survive. Mum couldn’t speak a word of English.”
The family met friends from their village in London who took them to their home to stay overnight before Maria’s uncle came the following day to take them up to the Midlands.
When they first settled in Coventry, Eleni Oratisa, as she became known, worked in Kensington Laundry in Stoney Stanton Road and husband Kyriakos worked in a well-known cafe – called The Milk Bar. It was a decent start but they were a large growing family. After a short stay, the couple, with five kids in tow, relocated to Birmingham because the wages were better.
Years later, Maria moved back to Coventry with husband Stelios after the couple bought a chip shop. She told her story as part of a book on migration, Queens of Amathus.
Source: Coventry Telegraph