Moving stories of Birmingham’s Greek heritage community feature in a ground-breaking documentary

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The Queens of Amathus – credited by the Queens of Amathus book

The historical documentary, Queens of Amathus, featuring moving interviews with women who fled Greece to Birmingham due to war and poverty, premiered in Birmingham last night. 

A range of special guests, including local producer/presenter and Birmingham Live journalist, Christina Savvas, and the 22 woman featured in the documentary attended the event with their friends and family.

The documentary follows each person’s journey through time from the EOKA (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston) rule in Cyprus during the 1950’s up until the Turkish invasion in 1974, where thousands of people were tragically separated from their families and forced out their homes.

The lack of opportunity led people to leave their homeland in hope of a better life in England and many were traumatised from the horrific events of the time.

The turmoil between EOKA and the British

Throughout this moving documentary, every ‘queen’ shares a remarkable yet emotional story of what they have witnessed and been through in their lives, this allows viewers to gain an insight into what it was like for people living in Cyprus.

Christina Savvas explained “Family heritage is extremely important and I want people to ask questions and talk to their families more to understand about where they come from by looking into roots and to learn about the island and how it is still a divided capital and finding out more about what both the city and people have gone through”.

It was difficult to find people as I had to try and get these women to sit down and open up to me about these stories, as they felt they weren’t worthy of sharing as it was just a part of them and finding out more about what these women have gone through was emotional and also very exciting’

Chrissie Savvas, Producer/Presenter & Journalist

“I have always wanted to work on a project based on my family history and heritage but never really had the opportunity due to working at Birmingham Live. I was approached by Pankias Panayiotou from Birmingham City Council to help write a book with him and produce a documentary with him as he wanted to start looking into the Greek Cypriot community, as he is also connected with Greek heritage and this was a great way for me to get involved in something I’ve always wanted to do.”

A divided island before and after 1974 Turkish invasions

The rich history, culture and diversity was vividly portrayed throughout. The film reflected the difficult times during World War Two, the Turkish Invasion and the times of EOKA, which impacted thousands of lives, as people suffered living on rations.

Men and woman fled Cyprus to England in the 1930’s with suitcases full of lace and, to help earn more money, they would make clothes out of the lace to sell. 

The Cypriot community played a huge part in the development of the second city, particularly through the fish and chip shop trade which is something that has become very popular over the years.

Early years of lace and embroidery pre and post WW2

Queen of Amathus has been shortlisted along with many other entries at this year’s Birmingham Film Festival, which is on this week.

A charity named LGK Community has been set up by the makers of the documentary, with all proceeds made from ticket sales from the premiere being donated to help support those who are suffering from poverty, war and other causes in Cyprus.

Producers are now looking at developing a new programme to celebrate the Commonwealth migration to Birmingham to showcase those of different backgrounds and cultures from countries such as the Caribbean, America, Europe and Asia.

The film will be screened this Thursday at the Festival, and you can also view the book online. For more information check out the official Queens of Amathus Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

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