By DAN BILEFSKY, The New York Times
FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus — Snakes slither inside dilapidated houses in the abandoned seaside resort of Varosha, a ghost town of decaying vintage cars and crumbling villas where time stopped in August 1974.
That was the year when Turkey, in response to a Greek-inspired coup attempt in Cyprus, invaded the island, dividing it into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish-occupied north. Of the roughly 15,000 residents of Varosha who panicked and fled — most of them of Greek origin — nearly all expected to be back in their homes in a matter of days.
Instead, they have been subjected to a decades-long exile in which the Turkish Army has guarded Varosha, enclosing it with barbed wire and allowing only nature to reclaim it.
“I lost everything after the Turks invaded: my home, my factory, my orange groves,” said Harris Demetriou, 71, a Greek Cypriot whose family fled their handsome villa and left behind an ice cream business in Varosha. “I try not to dwell on the past or my misery. I have given up.” Mr. Demetriou has since rebuilt his life in a suburb near Nicosia, the Cypriot capital.
After the invasion, hundreds of thousands of people on both sides were forced out of their homes, leaving a legacy of resentment and mutual recrimination. But the numerous other Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot villages that were abandoned were resettled or occupied. Varosha is an anomaly, kept like a petrified urban museum, enclosed, boarded up and frozen in time.