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oC
Michalis Costa: Appreciate Your Life!
Michalis Costa:
Appreciate Your Life!
284
Pantelis Theodorou Panteli
Author: Pantelis Theodorou Panteli
Translation: Jordan Worsley
14.05.2020

Hello again, friends! Today I’d like to introduce you to a fascinating person who has been a good friend of our family for 30 thirty years.
His life, as they say, has had its ups and downs… its trials and tribulations, but he has never betrayed his “joie de vivre”, always maintaining the smile on his face, and the kindness in his heart.
Please meet Michalis Costa — a car mechanic and a man who never gives up.
Country: Cyprus

My name is Michalis, and I’m 67 years old. I was born in Afania (a village 20 km north-east of Nicosia, in the region of Famagusta; today under occupation).

I remember my childhood well: my friends and I would spend all our time together riding bikes. What I remember most from those times, however, is how difficult it was to buy the things you needed. So, from a young age, practically all of us knew how to make things ourselves by hand. Just imagine, when we needed bike wheels, we would sometimes even carve wood and smooth it into a round shape!

When I was 9, I took great interest in observing how a mechanic repaired my father’s car (a British “Morris”) — there was an issue with the gearbox… The man dismantled it, then while trying to reassemble it and put the “stuffing” back, I noticed he had done something wrong and attempted to tell him so. Can you imagine his reaction? He began to shout, wanting to throw me out of the workshop. He had really annoyed me, so I said to him: “fine, fine, carry on with your “botch repair”!”

My father was also there helping with the job. And what do you think he did?

Yes, they reassembled everything, but the car could only move backwards! My time to shine had come, and I told the adults where they’d gone wrong. That’s a moment I’ve remembered for my whole life!

As I’m sure you’ve figured out, I’m a car mechanic by profession, something which I’ve officially been doing since I was 13 — immediately after finishing my core curriculum at school.

My father, of course, insisted, in every way possible, that I continue my education, but I refused and always gave the same reply to his perplexing questions: cars are my calling! I have many amusing stories concerning this, one of which happened with my friends and me. One time, after we’d grown up a little, we decided to quietly “nick” my parents’ car to go for a drive somewhere and have some fun: together, we rolled the car out of the garage with the engine stalled. We then got in and went in search of adventure… one day after setting off for Nicosia, we found it.

It was evening time, and we had been stopped by the police. Without a driver’s license or any documents whatsoever, I still somehow managed to beg the officer to let us go, swearing that this was the last time. Suffice to say, I didn’t hold to my promise that time round!

My study of mechanics began… along with long years working as a crane operator, devoting my only free time to my favourite activity — cars.

I also began a hobby working as part of the technical team at the Cyprus Rally [1]. One of the jobs, for instance, was to prepare cars for Savvas Laos and Costas Theocharides — two very famous racers in Cyprus!

In 1976, I left Cyprus, setting out to make some money in Oman and Muscat. Then, in 1982, I moved to Libya, where I worked as a crane operator for the company J&P (Joannou & Paraskevaides) — in those years, they were erecting a lot of sites in these regions. I sometimes had to drive through the desert — nothing but sand and sky!

I remember my experiences there: I would drive through the desert for around 9 hours. During our journey, we workers would never make any stops, even to rest! We would also have a spare tank of petrol with us to top up while moving. The sun was scorching, casting an intolerably bright light on everything around us. In such a setting, it’s easy to lose your bearings and get lost: you’re on your own there, as the dunes are always in motion, with none of the customary landmarks you can always find in other locations. It was unforgettable!

In 1988, I returned to Cyprus, continuing to work on a crane for many more years. My final employer was J&P.

So, you see, the mechanic trade was in high demand on the island: the only issue was that when talks turned to salaries, employers didn’t want to pay well!
And so, my “hobby” became a profession, and I’m still doing it today! I adore my work — that’s the very word for it! You know, it’s not even the cars that interest me, but what I can do with them and how to go about this: the mechanical aspect, so to speak.

My family is rather large and a very friendly one: my wife Nina is always by my side. We have two children, Dinos and Yanna, who gifted us with three grandchildren: a little boy and two girls. Thank God that I was able to use the salary and pension I had at the time to help my children when they were both getting on their feet and starting a family!

Even today, I can’t just sit around idly, I’ll always find something to do and keep me busy — he turns to Pantelis — you know me after all!

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What does Cyprus mean to me? For me — it’s everything! There’s no place I’d rather live: you know everyone; the people here are somehow all tightly interconnected with one another…

For example, I once visited Australia, where I spent three months. Not once in that time did I even see my neighbours, never mind meet them. They would all leave for work in the morning, and in the evening you didn’t see each other. Therefore, being a Cypriot is far easier. We’re a friendly bunch: and this lets our guests feel welcome on the island. Besides, while working at the Cyprus Rally, I drove through many villages in the Paphos vicinity: the locals would warmly greet us and treat us to food and drinks. Even the years of the crisis didn’t have a significant effect on the Cypriots, as they have remained the same, especially in the island’s rural localities.

That being said, if we’re to speak about the country I’ve liked the most out of all the ones I’ve set eyes on, it’s definitely Australia — it’s incredible landscapes and vast expanses! I once travelled for 9 hours in a trailer from Melbourne to Sydney. We made a lot of stops along the way, and I remember people asking where I was from. I was presently surprised to learn that they knew of Cyprus and the issues it had faced. What’s more — the Aussies were genuinely interested in how things were for us today!

They’re a good bunch.

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As for respite — work for me is a fully-fledged way of relaxing, as doing nothing is both tedious and tiring.

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I’d now like to tell you a story which not only changed my life and made me reevaluate it, but one which exemplifies the people who live among us.

In the year 2000, my life was categorically changed due to a severe accident which occurred on the 25th of June. Almost a month before, the wedding of my son Dinos had taken place. But on the 12th of August, he was in a motorbike accident: while perched on the curb by Deftera village, he was caught by a passing car. As a result of serious damage to his ankle, he was forced to undergo an operation. Such is “the irony of fate” — we were both in hospital at the same time: I had a problem with my arm, and he with his leg. Yet, we would actually look at each other and chuckle… I think it would’ve been funny to get a picture of the “family line” both in their casts!

…. That was later, but the month before was nothing to laugh about.

The company I was working for had begun a large project in Paphos, and I had to drive from Nicosia to Paphos every day for around three years.

Things were coming to an end.

One day, two of my fellow workers and I were on our way home. On the highway nearby Erimi, the car suddenly lost control: it was impossible to do anything or understand what was happening! The two left-side wheels had ended up in the drainage channel, the brakes weren’t working — at that point, I hadn’t realised that the other two wheels were circling in the air… Trying to at least slow down, I decided to direct the flank of our truck towards the concrete barrier along the road. Due to the angle of the car, however, it completely went out of my control, collapsed onto its side and skidded along the tarmac… finally stopping after around 100 metres. It was a complete trap: I was injured, and my right arm was pinned between the tarmac and cabin door. After managing to get out, our guys did their best to help lift the car, but it was no use. The only thing left was to call for help, but the road had already emptied come evening time. Still, a passing car appeared sometime later, and my colleagues signalled for it to stop. Due to the blood loss sustained, the thought even flashed through my mind that this might be the end.

But the driver proved to be tall and robust, and the combined efforts of him and my colleagues managed to lift the vehicle slightly, so I was able to free my arm. He dragged me out from under the wrecked car and carefully placed me in his own vehicle: as I can now remember, it was a brand new Toyota Celica, without a registration number.

Despite my condition, I was worried that I’d ruin the car’s interior. He calmed me down, saying: “that doesn’t matter right now! Your life is more important!”

After that incident, I’ve never met the person to whom I owe my life! I’m sure in my gut that he was an angel sent by God!

…. It later turned out that the tire had burst — such a small thing.

We rushed to Limassol hospital. The whole time, my guys wouldn’t let me drift off… Once there, I was immediately given a blood transfusion and the doctors began operating, as my arm was in a terrible state.

The doctors had stabilised my condition in general, but soon after, I was forced to hear some depressing news: they had little hope my arm would return to its normal state. I wasn’t going to give up, however, and once I was back in Nicosia, I messaged my friend, Doctor Alkiviadis, to get his verdict.

Another miraculous person in my life: a magnificent doctor and orthopaedic surgeon, who has saved so many people from permanent deformities!

As a result of the unfortunate accident, I had to undergo 22 operations over a year. Still, my doctor performed a genuine miracle: regardless of everything, including the prognoses I had received from other specialists, he managed to restore my arm and its functions by 90%.

I am immeasurably grateful to him! Today, after all these years, we’re now old friends!

You know, a lot can be done — even the impossible — when your primary motivation in life isn’t to seek profit and accumulate wealth but to have the sincere human desire to help! I’ve genuinely had to endure a lot in this life — and that incident was one of those tests.

Today, I’m just grateful to Life: for the fact I’m still alive, that I’ve kept my arm and that my family are still with me!

What else could a person need!

To all your readers, I wish that you all appreciate what you have!


[1] Cyprus Rally is an annual event which began on the island in 1970. The event managed to increase its popularity over eight years considerably. By 1982, it was already recognised as an event of high international standard.

In 2000, the World Championship was held here: www.cyprusrally.com.cy (editor’s note).