Maria Chira (Yaya Maritsia) was born in Cyprus.
We meet on the promenade in Larnaca, near the Castle. She is accompanied by her daughter-in-law Ualentina, who is from Khazakhstan, and will be translating.
Yaya Maritsia has brought flowers - the most astonishing bouquet. “They’re for you, from her garden”, explains Ualentina. I’m not used to being brought flowers by anyone, let alone strangers. I’m very touched.
I’ve decided that we should do the shoot in Larnaca Castle as it’s historic and shady.
Maritsia doesn’t seem keen, but obliges. Once we are done, Ualentina tells me that it’s because the castle was built by the Ottomans. Yaya would have preferred somewhere with Orthodox Christian significance and, as luck would have it, the church of St Lazarus is just a couple of streets away, and has a shady cloister. We decide that that’s probably where the best shots will be made, and Maritsia does seem a lot happier there.
I apologise for my insensitivity, lack of planning and taking up lots of their time, and am told not to be so silly. I buy coffee for all of us. I had offered to buy lunch, but Yaya is having none of it. I’m the guest, after all. She had, it seemed, planned to invite me back to the family home to cook for me. Sadly, I have another shoot that afternoon, and have to decline, but have promised to go back and visit, to make amends for my faux pas.
This means that we didn’t have time to do an interview on Maritsia’s views on the benefits of Free Movement, so I asked her granddaughter Dr Maria Spyrou to fill in a questonaire with her, and this is the result.
Many of her grandchildren have studied in other EU countries - the UK, Greece and France - and some of them now live permanently abroad.
Yaya Maritsia doesn’t travel for work (“I’m retired!”) but does travel to see her family around Europe, for holidays and, especially as a proud grandmother, to her grandchildrens graduation ceremonies.
For her, a loss of free movement rights would be inconvenient, but for her family it would be severely restrictive. No longer would her family be able to live and work freely in Europe, they would be restricted to life in Cyprus or, as before Cyprus joined the EU, to permanent emigration if they wished to live abroad.
Loss of Free movement could also mean that her family in the UK could be directly affected by, for example, being treated unfairly. But she thinks we all lose if we restrict travel and immigration: Freedom of movement allows people to experience other countries and cultures without the need for a visa. It allows you to study and work where you will be most needed. Some of my grandchildren have decided to emigrate but I’m happy that they are happy and achieving their best potential.