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Yale 62


By Lee V. Bakunin

[Ed. Note: Lee, who’s living in Cyprus, is on the Y62 Communication Team which meets twice monthly via Zoom to plan what offerings we may provide to you, our audience, through our three vehicles – our Yale Alumni Magazine column, our ‘First Thursday’ Zoom Coffee Hours, and here on our website. When the October events occurred in Israel and Gaza, we asked him what effects he had witnessed in Cyprus. What follows is his reasoned answer to us, and to you.]

CyprusCyprus is an EU country with an inviting climate and a laid-back lifestyle with tourism — R&R being a major economic force which draws many visitors from diverse countries. It’s a melting pot of many nationalities and cultures: Brits, Russians, Chinese, Israelis, Syrians, Filipinos, Ukrainians, South Africans, and Germans, to name a few.

Life in Cyprus can be explained in a Greek phrase: sigá-sigá, meaning “slowly-slowly.”

Cyprus is a divided country with the Southern portion speaking Cypriot Greek and the Northern portion speaking Cypriot Turkish, like two quarreling lovers. English is the widely spoken second language. The capitol of Cyprus, Nicosia, is a divided city, with a dividing line maintained by UN forces, yet there is access, and checkpoints allowing most citizens entry. All foreign embassies are in Nicosia. Given the fact that reconciliation between the Cypriot Greek and Cypriot Turkish is still at an impasse, it’s like the classic back and forth exhibited in marital partners having disagreements with their respective in-laws.

Put sigá-sigá together with the Cypriot Greek–Cypriot Turkish disputes and you can begin to understand the reaction in Cyprus to the current Israel–Hamas war. Cyprus is pro-Israel and has many projects with the Israelis, including development of natural gas reserves. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has trained in the mountain areas and worked with the Cypriot military as well as the British. Part of Cyprus is British Sovereign Land containing three military installations and modern airfields. In addition, Israeli Jets often patrol and do maneuvers here.

The United States appears to have a small presence in Cyprus. That said, the American Embassy in Nicosia is heavily fortified and there appears to be very cordial relationships with the Brits, the Cyprus military and perhaps other European and Western Countries.

CyprusCyprus is one of the safest countries in the world – ranked fifth. It’s also a second home for many people of substance – from Russian oligarchs to European billionaires, wealthy Chinese and Mideast successful business folks. There are many foreign companies operating and having a presence in Cyprus, as the laws and taxation are favorable.

Note that if you do a quick history of Cyprus, other nations have come and gone, yet no one has wanted to make a lasting marriage. Thus, we have a mish-mash of cultures, architecture and traditions. The divergence of favorable climate, ease of establishing foreign business combined with safety for one’s family makes Cyprus a desirable place. With the number of countries and cultures using Cyprus as a playground, there appears to be a hands-off policy. Politics, territory and infrastructure need to be settled domestically, not where you vacation or have a second home. I’d characterize it as a check and balance situation and a hands-off policy, to let other countries settle their own conflicts on their own turf and leave Aphrodite (Cyprus) alone. Sigá-sigá.

We welcome your comments.

5 comments to Sigá-sigá

  • Tim Hall

    What a helpful story, and also fabulous pictures! I remember hearing about the Greek-Turkish conflict many years ago, but I hadn’t realized that the tensions are still today. Many thanks, Lee!

  • Bill Weber


    I imagine that Cyprus, being so close to Israel, must be experiencing increased activity with migrants, the British air base being used for action, and the food shipments going to Gaza. What effects have you seen in the daily lives of the residents?

  • Wyllys Terry

    Had my family there in 1970? When the Turks came ashore. We were on the north shore in what is now Turkish Cyprus. Remember painting a USA flag on the roof. The village we were in, cannot remember the name, was emptied on the first day. I went to see about getting food and the road I had just crossed was straffed by a Turkish plane. A few days later we were evacuated on to a British ship that took us to Beirut. Talk about going from the frying pan into the fire. We were evacuated the next day by plane to Paris. The family survived but our nerves were so shot that we could not enjoy the culinary delights in Paris. Glad Cyprus is now such a safe country. We really enjoyed our first 2 weeks there.
    By the way, I now spend 6 months a year in Guatemala. A whole other story. But, we love it.

  • Bill McGlashan

    Lee’s article & photos brought back fond memories of our final days in that wonderful part of the world — the start of adventure traveling through Asia for two months returning to our California home from a year abroad.

    In mid-1979, our family, including our two high school-aged kids (later two Yale grads ’85 and ’86), ended a great year on a kibbutz in Israel. That was the year Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty. Nonetheless, it wasn’t yet possible to travel directly from Jewish Israel to Islamic Egypt (that soon changed). However, we learned from our fellow kibbutzniks that the solution was to get to Cyprus (easy) and from there catch a once-a-week Soviet ship from Cyprus to Alexandria, Egypt. HOWEVER we didn’t discover until aboard leaving Cyprus that there would be a nerve-wracking stop in Syria, Israel’s arch enemy at the time, to effect an overnight offload of Soviet military supplies for the Syrian army (tanks, artillery, etc) seen out the porthole of our cabin come daylight.

    A fitting adventurous prelude to the Egyptian treasures along the Nile were those few days in lovely Cyprus followed by heart-pounding passage aboard ship in Syrian waters with our Israeli-stamped visas in our passports in the hands of the Soviet ship steward.

  • Haralambos (Harry) V. Botsis

    Harry V. Botsis
    I was really intrigued to see that Lee is living in Cyprus. I am involved with Cypriot companies and go there on business; I was in Cyprus a couple of weeks ago. In the past these companies were based in Limassol but now we have moved them to Nicosia. Greece and Cyprus are closely related because of our common ethnic heritage and language, although as Lee correctly points out, the Greek of the Cyprus Republic differs in some respects (usually the syntax) from the Greek we speak in Greece. I don’t know where Lee is living but I would be happy to meet again with him next time I will be in Cyprus. My e-mail is and my Greek cell phone number is 00306930330252. I would like to have Lee’s contact details. Incidentally, I was glad to see last year Rod Speer and his wife. Have a look at the recent issue of Yale Alumni Magazine about this.