Only civilian woman living in Cyprus’ buffer zone dies at 104

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Elsie Slonim, the only civilian woman living in a buffer zone in the largest city of divided Cyprus, has died at the age of 104, according to a statement by Turkish Cypriot police authorities.

Having lived a life of adventures for more than a century, Slonim died from a respiratory failure at her house next to the Turkish military unit on the Dereboyu border in Nicosia.

Born to a family of Jews in 1917 in the U.S., Slonim spent much of her childhood in Romania and Austria due to her father’s business.

In the late 1930s, following the Nazi dominance over Austria, she had to leave both her school and the country due to increasing harassment and attacks on Jews. She got on a ship where she met David Slonim, whom she would marry later.

Settled in Limassol town of Cyprus in the early 1940s, the couple could not get rid of the harassment done to Jews, and in 1941 they were hurriedly put on boats by the British authorities and sent to Palestine at midnight.

With the end of World War II, she returned to the Mediterranean island again, but later found out that all her relatives except for her immediate family members were killed during the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews along with them were massacred in concentration camps.

Starting a new life in Cyprus, the couple built a house in Dereboyu where they would reside for years but woke up on a July morning in 1974 with Turkish paratroopers landing in front of their house.

Following the island is divided into two, the couple’s house remained in the buffer zone.

“We said we didn’t want to leave our house. A plain-clothes man next to the soldiers recognized us because of his father’s closeness with David, and they let us stay at home,” she said in an interview in 2018 with Nezire Gürkan, a Turkish Cypriot journalist.

“We have stayed since that day, and we have never had any complaints,” she added.

Until the 1990s, Elsie went through troubled times, losing her children first and then her husband. With no insurance and no income, she spent penniless days and even thought of suicide.

Her husband had refused the pension given to Holocaust victims, but after David’s death, she applied to the Austrian government, and her only income was this salary that she had survived on for the last 10 years.

As the only civilian residing in the buffer zone for many years, she was given a special permission by authorities to enter and exit both sections. Elsie hosted her guests using this special permission.

She passed away in her sleep on the morning of Jan. 26, after 104 years full of bitter and sweet memories.

Hurriyet Daily News

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