Remember the Value of Freedom

Basti Schnorrenberg

“We live a privileged life”.

“The current situation in Europe is historically unprecedented”.

Phrases like these ones which are often repeated tend to lose their meaning over time. We simply get used to them and, sooner or later, just like the sound of the crickets here in Cyprus make, they become a kind of background noise.

As some of you know, I like to spend part of the summer in Cyprus with my family. Today we visited a beautiful village in the Troodos mountain range which is home to a picturesque monastery founded in the 4th century. In between this cultural treasure and the many cafés swarming with tourists, the small museum of the anti-colonial struggle of the 1950s could easily get lost. Without my grandfather, who participated in said struggle against British colonial rule, I would never have noticed the museum. What a loss that would have been. Inside, personal belongings of fallen resistance fighters were accompanied by the stories of their lives and deaths.

Although I had heard similar stories countless times before, this time was different, because I had now spent two years studying abroad in London, and developed a deep respect for British culture. The historical continuity and constitutional civicism which are pillars of British identity have left a strong impression on me. In a way, I’ve even started to identify with London and its unique way of life. The stories of colonial oppression and state sanctioned cruelty clashed with the Britain I know and appreciate. The incredulity I felt in the face of such gruesomeness was only magnified by the courageousness of young men and women around my age 60 years ago. No matter whether they were studying to become teachers or working on their families’ farms, they were prepared to give their lives to gain freedom. Life is a price we cannot fathom paying. What is freedom worth to us today? Do we even know what freedom is? I am afraid that my generation is indifferent to its freedom, because it has never itself experienced the absence of self-determination. Like a toddler that has been told not to touch the stovetop, but nevertheless proceeds to burn his hand, we struggle to evaluate the unknown.

I am telling you all this, because we do not need to be indifferent to our privileged position. We can become aware of the incredible luck we as a generation of Europeans have. The stories of people like you and me who paid the ultimate price for a good cause are a way to do just that. We, my friends, are responsible for preserving the gifts that previous generations have handed to us through their sacrifice. We should not forget that they, just like us, were human beings. We, like them, need to think carefully about what is most precious to us and what we are willing to pay to protect it. In a poem he left behind when leaving his classmates in order to join the armed struggle, the 17 year old high school student Evagoras Pallikarides wrote:

“I’ll take an uphill road

I’ll take the paths

To find the stairs

That lead to freedom


I’ll climb the stairs

I’ll enter a palace

I know it will be an illusion

I know it won’t be real


I’ll wander in the palace

Until I find the throne

Only a queen

Sitting on it


Beautiful daughter, I will say,

Open your wings

And take me in your embrace

That’s all I ask…”

These lines express it better than I ever could. All I wish is for us to not be afraid of that uphill road when we find it.

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