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Anastasiia Deniz Mitchell

Oh, Cyprus, if only you knew how I love you! Y Kiprou mou, se agapo!

And my love for you doesn’t extend only to

my visiting you over and over again.

My love means that I am to devote my whole life to you.


Rhodes, 1821.

“Ermina! Come here! Your breakfast is served!”

That was my Mother. She always cooked meals for the whole family.

We were five in our family: Father, Mother, two my sisters and me. We were ordinary peasants. My family lived in Rhodes, in a small village called Archangelos.

We lived at the time when both Rhodes and Cyprus was under the Ottoman Empire. Although we lived a peaceful life, it was quite a hard time for common people. But something changed my life forever. As it’s said, one day can change everything. And I had to be grateful to this “something”. Because otherwise, I wouldn’t have become what I am now — the happiest person. I need to be thankful to this change.


Today, it was my birthday. I turned thirteen. But, even if it was someone’s birthday, they still had to fulfill their family duties.

For dinner, Mum promised to bake a meat pie for me today. It was my favorite one. I also liked tiroptita, which we ate in the summer. Now, it was autumn. So, why not try a delicious meat pie…?

“Ermina! Come here! Your breakfast is served! For how many times shall I call you?”

I was in the attic watching birds fly. Thirteen years! I was already thirteen! Almost an adult. Time flew, not just passed by.

I went downstairs. We had two floors in the house — the first floor included the living room and the kitchen. My sisters and me lived in one room, together with our parents: the second floor was the attic. We all slept on benches. Dad made them for us.

“Thank you very much, Mummy! Thank you very much!”

“And happy birthday to you, Ermina!” Mum hugged me. “Sa gineis dekatria hronon simera!

“Evharisto poli, i mitera mou!

“Parakalo, agapiti Ermina!

I ate my breakfast, which was usual milk and bread, and left to graze goats. That was my family duty. Each of us had their own duty. For example, Father was a market seller. He went to the neighboring town to sell the products: goat’s milk, cheese and bread that we made at home. Mother cooked and did housekeeping. My sisters, Nicoletta and Georgia, helped me. They were younger ones. I was the eldest. But, to be honest, I even liked this. I liked being responsible for someone else. You can do many things yourself and help others!

The weather was lovely, and the goats were obedient, as usual. The soft breeze was blowing. In fact, I loved watching how they ate grass, chewing it carefully and, maybe, thoughtfully. They are those innocent creatures whom you can tell practically everything; and — guess what! — they won’t tell your secret to anyone else but you yourself, and only because it is you that have delivered the message!

I also had a secret for them to tell. “Have you got any dreams?” I asked a goat, looking straight into her eyes. “I’m sure you have! Now,” I looked at the sky, “you see, I’m already thirteen years old. And one day, I want to do this. I want to fly away like a bird. A free bird. Birds are always free. And we, people… No, we aren’t. We’ve got a lot to do. A lot of things. You know, my family duties… I’ve never been free from them. Every day, I must do something for my family. Even if it’s my birthday,” I sighed. “So, do you know what I want most of all?” I looked at the goat I was talking to again. “I want to be free. Just free. And happy.”

The goat seemed to understand my words perfectly. She munched the grass like-mindedly. I thought she even meant to say something like, “I totally agree with you. When you’re eighteen years old, you’ll find your husband. And you’ll be free. And happy. Because you’ll fly away like a bird.”

Maybe. Life is long.

The sun was climbing to the zenith, and I felt sleepy. I mustn’t have fallen asleep, though, because I had to watch the goats. I decided, “Well, let me take them back to the shed and then go for a walk. No one will notice anything. I’m far away from my house now. Father has left for the town. Mum won’t see me. Nicoletta and Georgia are helping her.”

So I did. I got the goats to the shed and went to the meadow again. Fortunately, no one saw me.

This time, I was without my animals. I jumped with joy at the thought of my being free all day long. I found a quiet place to sit down in. Now, I felt more than just sleepy. I felt exhausted. It was so peaceful and calm there…

I lay down and… fell asleep…

I woke up already when the sun was about to set. My family would start to worry about me! Fee mou!

Where was I, by the way? In the middle of a tremendous meadow, which was getting dark now!

I looked about and saw nothing. Just nothing but grass. What should I do?

I started wandering along the field. Finally, the sun was down. “Don’t panic,” I said to myself. “Everything is going to be good. You’ll soon be found and rescued, Ermina.”

By saying this, I cheered myself up. Anyway, nothing bad had happened. I just got lost. At least, I was alive.

However, an hour or two passed, and I still couldn’t find my way home. “Ermina,” I went on talking to myself, “don’t panic anyway.”

Why had I gone so far? Why did I fall asleep?

I didn’t want to excuse myself. Sleeping during the day was all right, but not to that extent!

“There, there! Calm down,” I patted myself on the shoulder.

I went another hundred miles, maybe. I didn’t count them. Now, I became so exhausted that I couldn’t move at all.

“Poor Mummy! Poor Daddy! I hope they aren’t worrying that much about me!”

But, in fact, they were. And a lot. If only I had been able to come to them right now and tell them I was all right! But I couldn’t. Now, I was stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Finally, when I walked a little bit more, I saw the sea. It meant that my home wasn’t that far from me!

The sea! I got closer to the coast, for me to breathe in the fresh air. I thought it would put me in good heart.

Suddenly, I heard two voices. Men’s voices. They were speaking the language that I couldn’t understand in any way. The Turks…!

I hid behind the tree standing on the beach. The men didn’t see me. They were coming closer to the tree and talking loudly. Judging by their voices, they were quite young. I looked out from the tree. The men were soldiers — they were wearing the uniform and boots.

One of them began heehawing, the other one following his example. Were they drunk…? If they were, I would better not betray myself and wait for them to go away.

But the matter was that they didn’t want to go away. They sat by my tree and started a fire. I couldn’t wait for the moment I’d go for the whole night!

I was afraid.

Maybe, they would fall asleep sooner or later?

I hoped so. Anyway, now, it was definitely not time to spread panic inside myself!

Could I run away so that the men wouldn’t catch sight of me? I still had to go along the beach to reach my home! My relatives were waiting for me!

I had to make an effort and try to escape. So, I already took the first step when I… tripped over the root that was sticking out of the ground and fell down.

Both the men turned their heads.

“Bah!” said the first man in Greek. “Who’s that? Look who’s here!”

“It’s a little girl!” the other man grinned. “She’s appeared here not in vain. We can do something with her.”

“Yes! What a pretty one!” the first man stood up and started approaching. I was still lying down. I had to get up as fast as I could and run away.

I began raising myself onto my knees and elbows. But it was already late. The first man came up to me and seized me by the arm.

“Here you are, pretty girl,” he broke into a grin. “You’ll come with us!”

“No!” I shouted and tried to free myself out of his grasp. The man was holding me tightly. “What do you need from me?”

“What do we need from you?” he broke into laughter. “A lot of things, my pretty young girl. A lot of things.”

I hoped that they wouldn’t do something they meant to.

Then, the first man picked me up in his arms. I squirmed, trying to free myself.

“Calm down, little girl! You’ll go with us!”

What? I wanted to go home! I wanted to be with Mummy!

Why did I go away in the afternoon? I could have got back home as soon as I took the goats into the shed!

“I won’t go with you! You’re bad!” I cried.

The two men laughed even more.

“And what? We’re bad, but you’re pretty! We could keep you an amazing company, my dear!” a nasty smile appeared on the other man’s face.

I was scared. I didn’t know what to do.

“Well, my beauty,” the first man smirked, “we’ll give you a lot of pleasure! We’ll take you with us.”

“No-o-o!” I cried louder. “Please, let me go! I want to see Mummy! They are looking for me!”

“Who do you want to see? Who’s looking for you?” the second man asked sarcastically and then said: “You won’t see your family anymore! You’ll go with us.” With these words, he turned to his mate and said: “Ramazan, tie her hands! And shut her mouth! We don’t want to be noticed! Quickly! Be quick! Be quick!”

I tried to distract them somehow. I said, “Hey, and don’t you have any relatives?”

Both the men laughed coarsely.

“Of course, we have! But it’s none of your […] business, you baby doll!”

“But…” I tried to squeeze something out of myself. “But do you want to please them? Don’t you want to make them happy?”

“Well, how to say that?” the second man squinted. “They’ll be happy if we finish off the girl like you! Ramazan! Have her done! And quickly! We can’t waste our time here on this island anymore!”

Ramazan tied some rag around my mouth. At least, I could breathe through my nose.

I tried to call for help, but in vain. There was nobody but us on the beach. Besides, even if I screeched through the rag on my mouth, nothing worked. I only had to put up with my situation.

Then, Ramazan got me on his shoulder and carried me somewhere. His friend followed us.

“Shut up, you […]! We’ve hit the jackpot today!”

“You’re bad! Let me go!” I begged. “Please! Let me go!”

But it seemed like they didn’t even listen to me. I started to think that I would die sooner or later. Die in their hands.

“Are you dumb or what? Can’t you hear us?” Ramazan’s friend said. “We told you to shut up your […]! Ramazan, kick this […] in the muzzle! Someone will finally hear us!”

“But…” Ramazan stuttered, “she’s only a little girl! We’ll just get her to our boss, I think.”

“What boss? Don’t you want to play with her?”

“Well, let’s see. First, we’ll deliver her to Cyprus and then decide what we’ll do next,” Ramazan said. “We can’t waste our time here anymore. And then,” he grinned at me, “we’ll do something with you, little chick.”

What? Cyprus? By what means would they take me there? It was so far away from Rhodes!

I wanted to be with Mum and Dad. They would have protected me from the two villains. My parents wouldn’t have let them treat me like this. What a fool I was! I must have stayed at home that afternoon!

I thought, “What is to become of me? What should I do now?”

I tried to struggle. Ramazan didn’t pay attention to my movements. Suddenly, I was about to fall off Ramazan’s shoulder.

“Be quiet, you […]! Be quiet! Otherwise, you’ll fall down dead!”

I was drained.

In a few seconds, I saw a big steamship!

It meant that they were going to load me there! Like a slave!

What were they going to do with me indeed?

“We’ll get you to the ship and talk to our boss on what we’ll do with you, pretty chick.”

I gave Ramazan a kick on his shoulder. He gave a curse.

“[…] you! Can’t you keep still, ah?”

His friend shouted to someone:

“Man, we’re here! And we’re not alone! We’ve got good prey today!” he pointed at me. “Big loop!”

“Good job!” a man’s voice croaked. It was the captain of the ship. He spoke in such a loud voice that made my skin crawl.

The captain’s name was Izmir. He went down to the shore and came up to us.

“A really pretty girl, indeed!” he bawled. “Hey, you!” he shouted at me. “May we have the pleasure of your company?” he said sarcastically and then grinned.

Frankly speaking, I didn’t know exactly if I would survive in all that hell.

Tears streamed down my face. I began to sob.

When all the three men heard me cry, they laughed louder than the captain was speaking. It seemed like the latter was also drunk.

“Hey, the chick isn’t happy to go with us!” Ramazan’s friend simulated sympathy and pity.

“Throw her into the hold! Let her be there for a while!” Izmir yelled. “I’ll decide what we’d do with her next!”

“But… captain…” Ramazan muttered.

“What?” the captain grunted out the answer.

“We’d like to entertain ourselves with her…” Ramazan forced out the words.

Even through the darkness, could I see Izmir turn red and then flare up.

“How dare you, you disgraceful creatures, ask me something like that? The girl’s mine! Only mine! You got the girl — you get your payment and food! You’re working for me, so you do what I say! And if you don’t…” he looked at me furiously, “I’ll do something worse with you than with that girl!”

Why couldn’t I die right now? What was he going to do with them and with me?

The tie around my mouth became looser, so I was at least able to mutter something.

“Please, captain! Let me go!” I tried to beg. “I want to be with Mummy!”

“What? Which Mummy, you […] stupid chick?” he smirked. “You’ll go with us! We’ll put you in the hold, and then, I’ll decide what I can do next.”

With these words, he burst into nasty laughter, not to mention that the man was hardly able to stand. He reeked of alcohol, like his two subordinates.

This made me sick. Fee mou, why was I in a situation like this? Well, it was fully my fault: I should have got back home as soon as I took the goats into the shed.

I began to pray. “Feotoke Parsene, haire, keharitomeni Maria…” We all, the Greeks, were strong believers.

“Hey, you […]! What’re you saying?” Ramazan shouted. “If you won’t stop, I’ll […] kick your […] teeth out of your […] mouth!”

“Woah! Why swearing so much, Ramazan?” said his friend, whose name was still unknown.

“Because she’s irritating me!”

“Shut up, you both! You, the two soldiers, whom I have hired! My ears are about to fall off my head! Get the girl into the hold and shut her there!”

I resisted, but in vain. Ramazan was still holding me. Now, he carried me first onto the ship, up the stairs, and then down into some dark room. Despite the fact that I beat him with my fists, the man didn’t react. He opened the door with one hand, holding me in the other, and then threw me onto the floor of the room. I didn’t have any energy left to do something to save my life.

I cried. It was simply unfair! I didn’t want to die in that room! Death in the hold would be the most terrible punishment.

“I’m sorry, dear Mummy! Dear Daddy, they’ve caught me! They’ve captured me!” I thought. In my head, I begged my parents’ pardon. I knew that I probably wouldn’t see them again, as well as my sisters. Poor Nicoletta and Georgia! How would they live without their elder sister?

“Shut her in there and don’t let her out!” the captain commanded. “Don’t let her out till I tell you to!”

After that, Ramazan shut the door, all the three men leaving. They didn’t come back anymore.

Not knowing what to do, crying, trying to calm down, exhausted after the today’s “events”, I lay down and fell asleep.


In the morning, I woke up. At first, I didn’t understand what had happened and where I was, but when I remembered yesterday, I cried again. Parakalo, soghorese me, Fee mou! Y mitera mou, parakalo, soghorese me! O pateras mou, parakalo, soghorese me! Me sighoreite!

And what about my sisters? Would they forgive me? I didn’t think so. They would be angry with me, of course. They’d say, “Why have you left us, Ermina? Why? What for? What did we do to you?”

At the same time, I didn’t want to think about that. I was hungry and thirsty. Moreover, I wanted to go to the toilet.

Where were the three men? Were they going to visit me, or what?

The sun’s rays slanted through the slots in the hold’s walls. My back was aching. And it seemed like my arms were swollen.

Anyway, was there any water…? There wasn’t. I had searched all the corners of the hold but found nothing. Just emptiness.

Then, it dawned on me. I had to look for the way out. There must have been something in the hold that would let me escape. So, I began to examine every cell of it.

I remembered the goat I was talking to the day before. It seemed to me that this day was just another reality. I told her I wanted to be free like a bird. Well, now, it was out of the question. What freedom was it? I was immured in the hold of the steamship, and only God knew when I would be able to get out. Probably, never…

Were the three men going to make me the Sultan’s concubine? Or, maybe, just a slave? I didn’t know exactly. I was at a loss.

After thorough search, I saw a hook fit into one of the walls. It was oddly shaped, though, because it didn’t look like a usual instrument. A pirate’s hook…?

I took a closer look at it. “Interesting,” I thought. Finally, I had found something for me at least to try to run away!

I took it, fingering it over, and then moved it. It drew first back and then forward. “Let’s see how that will come off,” I said to myself. “Let’s see…”

Suddenly, I heard steps from above. Those were the three evil men who wanted to do something bad with me. I started praying again.

“Feotoke Parsene, haire, keharitomeni Maria, o kirios meta sou. Eulogimeni si en ginaiksi, kai eulogimenos o karpos tis koilias sou, oti Sotira etekes ton psihon imon.”

“Hey, pretty little girl! We’re watching you!” there was a drunken voice behind the door. “What’re you doing there? Do you want to join us?”

Perhaps, it was Ramazan’s voice. Then, there was another voice, I think captain’s:

“Ramazan! What’re you doing, […]? Come here! The girl is mine! You’re only my worker! Can’t you understand that?”

“I’m sorry, my boss,” Ramazan said apologetically. “I won’t do that anymore.”

Then, the man left. I started pulling the hook more and more, with more intensity. Now, it moved only towards me. I didn’t know why it was moving like this. Suddenly, the wall the hook was on moved over. I did something! But what was behind the wall?

I peeped through the hole that was formed thanks to the hook. I was seized with terror. There was water splashing!

I stepped back. I had to look for another way out! I couldn’t end my life! I didn’t want to drown like this! I wanted to live, and live, and live!

What did I have to do to save my life? I needed to think, and think hard. I had no other choice but to get out of here by pulling the hook forward, so that it could destroy the wall!

I started to take action.

First of all, I strained. When I was a child, Daddy taught me to carry heavy things, because sometimes, he needed help to carry the goods.

I turned the hook to the right and then to the left. It moved, so that I could pull it. Suddenly, the wall leant forward to me. This meant only one thing: the hook was a sort of key to open the wall! I looked out again. There was the sea, splashing. What was there to be afraid of…? Actually, nothing. There was nothing to be afraid of. Well, maybe, I had to fight for my life. But what was more precious for me than a chance to live itself?

What I had to do is to jump out of the hold and start paddling along the heavy current of the squally sea. I was already going to get into its depths, when suddenly, the door of the hold opened, and Ramazan entered.

He saw me ripping up the wall and shouted:

“Hey, you […]! What’re you doing?” The man ran up to me and slapped my face.

I cried.

“Next time, you won’t do it! You must be thankful that you’re still alive, you little […]!”

With these words, he untied my mouth. At least, I could breathe fully now — I had had my mouth tied for the whole night!

“Don’t you think that you’re going to eat now?” he grinned. “You won’t! I’ll lead you out of here, and you’ll be with us there! But,” he gave me a bad look, “you won’t be with us! You’ll be hanging above the deep blue sea!”

He put me up and threw me onto his shoulder. Then, he carried me out of the hold and shouted, laughing like a horse:

“She’s still alive! A strong one!”

“And what?” the captain growled. “Only a night has passed! What’re you doing? Shut her […] in the hold, you […]! She’s my loop!”

Shouting and crying, I tried to struggle. However, Ramazan was holding me tight.

“I want to go to Mummy! Please, get me there!” I begged again.

“What’re you saying, you little […]? Mummy?” Ramazan’s mate burst out laughing, the former dragging me away.

When would my tortures come to an end?

The man carried me back to the hold and shut me in there. I was desperate. I didn’t know if I would survive or not.

Finally, I was left alone there. Fortunately, Ramazan didn’t touch me — he was forbidden to.


Three days passed. The ship was moving somewhere. Obviously, the captain wasn’t drunk already, so that he could sail the ship.

No one brought me food. I did with water only. Ramazan sometimes looked in the hold to put a small jug of water by the door and then leave again. He didn’t say a word.

Maybe, they decided they would leave me alone?

Fortunately, my hands were free, so I could move them. This meant that I could try turning the hook again! But, whenever I made another attempt to do that, I saw the evil mad open the hold’s door, or something else stopped me from doing that. Something inside me said: “It is not time yet.”

In the morning of the fourth day, I heard the three men bustle about some stuff. They were moving some boxes somewhere above.

After some time, Ramazan got in the hold:

“Your days are numbered, you […]! Do you hear me?”

I pretended to be sleeping.

“Do what you want, […]! In a few hours, you’ll be dead!”

When would he stop swearing…? I wanted to cry again. But I tried to hold myself back. Now, it was more than necessary.

When Ramazan left, I got back to the hook. I believed that I would escape for sure!

I said the prayer again and set to work. That time, I had nothing to stop me.

Suddenly, I felt a jolt. It wasn’t me — it was the ship! What was the matter?

I ran up to the hold’s door. Nothing. I knocked at the door.

“Let me out! Please! Something’s wrong!” I shouted.

No answer.

“Let me out! I want to go out! Please! Someone! Help me!”

Still no answer.

What was going on? I didn’t know exactly, but, judging by the behavior of the men, who didn’t even react to my cries, something terrible had happened.

The hook! It was my way to salvation! I needed to be quick!

I turned it first to the right, then to the left. The wall moved.

I looked out. What I saw plunged me into shock.

The ship was slowly sinking!

What should I do now? I didn’t want to die, despite the fact that Ramazan said I would! I wanted to live! And live a long life!

I wondered where the three men were. Were they still on the ship?

A strip of land appeared in the distance. I thought I mustn’t have stayed here any longer. I had to take action.

The splashing sea. The sinking steamship. However tragic all this was, I had to save my life as fast as I could. Although I didn’t know what it would end with.

How could I reach the land? I was asking this question to myself because to swim such long distance without any help meant eventual getting exhausted.

I remembered that I had put on my best dress for my birthday, and I hadn’t changed it since that moment on. So, it had turned into rags now. However, it didn’t matter anymore. I would have never been able to put on a dress like this one. Perhaps, because I would be torn to pieces by one of these men or even the Sultan. Or I’d be beaten to death. Frankly speaking, I didn’t want to think about what was going to become of me.

I started praying again:

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