As people take a stroll along the Finikoudes embankment in Larnaca, they often stop to admire the anchor monument, whose arms form a heart shape. This anchor is a small piece of Ukraine in Cyprus, gifted to Larnaca by the sister city of Odessa in 2019.
Нe full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, the anchor has become a meeting place for the Ukrainian community in Larnaca. In the midst of despair and confusion during the initial days of the Russian aggression, Ukrainians living far away from their homeland searched for a place that would connect them, even if only slightly, to their motherland. The anchor-heart, donated by Odessa, became a psychological anchor, a site for rallies and meetings of Ukrainians, a place to grieve, mourn the dead, support each other, and find a shoulder to lean on. Unsurprisingly, the anchor soon became an informal memorial. People brought and lit candles, children painted stones in the colors of the Ukrainian flag, and artists created symbolic illustrations depicting the most shocking events of the war, including the strikes on residential high-rise buildings resulting in the deaths of entire families, the atrocities of the occupying army in captured territories, and the brutal Russian massacres of prisoners of war.
This Ukrainian memorial attracts significant attention from passers-by and tourists. People stop, read inscriptions on stones, remember the events in Ukraine, and offer their sympathies.
But it turned out that in addition to normal human empathy and support, the memorial is capable of evoking the opposite emotions. The anchor-heart became a bone in the throat for pro-Russian residents of Cyprus, who are quite numerous on the island. Mentions of the war crimes and atrocities of the Russian army are scarier for followers of Putin than sunlight for vampires. More than twenty times, the informal memorial at the anchor has been vandalized and destroyed. Under the cover of night, lovers of “Russian peace” steal Ukrainian flags, smash candles, throw stones painted by children into the sea, tear up posters and drawings, because the truth depicted on them is too painful, it cuts their eyes. Ukrainians appealed for support to the Larnaca municipality, which despite repeated appeals, has yet to respond to the request for support, leaving those seeking official recognition and protection for the memorial frustrated and disappointed. In response to the complaints to the police, Ukrainians received sympathy, words of support and assurances that the anchor would be patrolled even more thoroughly. The police also confirmed that the issue of official recognition of the Memorial, along with it the installation of video surveillance for the protection of the anchor, is within the competence of the municipality.
Vandals have not been wary of possible punishment. In open posts on Facebook, sometimes under fictitious names and sometimes under real ones, they boast to each other about how they contributed to the destruction of the memorial, mock the monument by calling it the “anchor of the European Titanic,” and express a wish for this “European Titanic” to sink to the bottom, despite living in a European country and enjoying its hospitality.
The one time the abuse of the memorial was particularly shameless – the vandals pelted the memorial with feces and used condoms. Larnaca municipal services cleaned everything up early in the morning, but photos of the unprecedented desecration appeared on the local news page. The police, like a dozen times before, express deep concern.
However, Ukrainians never give up and surrender. While Ukrainian soldiers on the front line are giving a worthy rebuff to what was until recently considered the “second army of the world,” Ukrainians in Cyprus continue their unwavering support with rallies, fundraising, and reminders that the war is ongoing, even when thousands of kilometers away from their native land. Every time after a night of vandalism, Ukrainians restore the memorial, replace the broken candles, have children paint new stones, and hang a new Ukrainian flag on the anchor. Fortunately, in Cyprus – a civilized European country that unequivocally supports the struggle of the Ukrainian people against Russian armed aggression – buying a Ukrainian flag is not a problem. Every morning, the memorial at the anchor-heart is reborn, rises from the ashes like a phoenix, and greets a new day. Recently, Anchor-Heart has even got its own Twitter account, where it tells its story – the story of unbreakability.