My dad Ibrahim Sitki Musa was born in Lefkoşa, Cyprus, in 1934. He was the son of Musa and Emete, one of their four children – Emine, Muazzez, and Akif being the other siblings.
During his childhood, he went to school and also worked part-time to make money for the family.
His first love was football and he played for the local team called Yeni Cami Spor Kulübü. He also boxed and wrestled. He loved cars and decided to be a mechanic, working for Fords in Cyprus.
This new job gave him a steady income, and enabled him to marry young – just 18 – to Şerife Abdi Mehmet. Their first child Haluk was born in 1954. Bulent & Bilgen, followed a year apart in 1958 & 1959.
Ibrahim’s Greek Cypriot boss at Fords had warned him a conflict on the island was brewing, which came to pass. By the mid-50s, Greek Cypriot terror group EOKA had started attacking British officials and Turkish Cypriots in a bid to push for Greek rule on the island and union with Greece (‘Enosis’). The fighting intensified in the late 50s.
Cyprus at that time was under British rule, so dad applied to the British authorities and got his family British passports. Armed with a reference from his boss, dad decided to uproot the family and move to London.
At the end of 1957, they travelled from Cyprus by boat to Britain, and then by train when they reached Britain. They arrived at our auntie‘s house on Graham Road in Hackney, East London, in 1958. Within 24 hours dad had a job at Fords. He remained there until 1962.
Home for Ibrahim, Şerife and their three young sons Haluk, Bulent and Bilgin was a single double bedroom. It was hard, but they made it work. Şerife was a stay-at-home mum with a sewing machine.
Sadly, tragedy hit the family when Bulent and Bilgin died of cot death within months of each other in 1960 and 1961. My parents were naturally devastated, and mum went into a deep depression.
Ibrahim decided it was best for the family to return to Cyprus. All seemed calm on the newly independent island, and it would allow Şerife to be supported by her family.
At this time, Şerife had a dream, which initially no one could decipher. Eventually a Turkish Cypriot psychic told her that she would have two more children, a boy and a girl, and the names for the children came from the dream.
Muhammed Yaşar (me) and Sultan Belgin were born a year apart, in 1963 and 1964. Both biblical names the family decided together with our grandmother Ayse to return Dad went back to work as a mechanic and mum worked on her sewing machine, while Ayse nene helped bring us up.
Our first family home was a house on Foulden Road, Stoke Newington, in North London. There were garages at the top of Foulden Road, which my dad rented out. He was among the first Turkish mechanics in London.
Dad loved to travel and every year he drove us to Cyprus. We would travel as a convoy of cars: uncles and first cousins picnicking along the way through Europe and Turkey. We have unbelievable memories, which thankfully we captured on 8 mm camera.
Ibrahim decide to move to a bigger garage on nearby Balls Pond Road, in Islington, and then onto Green Lanes, in Harringay. He worked in his garage behind the old Shell petrol station on the grounds of the greyhound dogs racing track & Banger car racing until 1976, when the area was up for redevelopment and the landowners sold their plot, which included dad’s garage. Today, it is a McDonald’s drive-through.
By this time, his wife Şerife had started to work at a ladies dress factory. Şerife’s boss Mr Şinasi sold the business to our family around 1975-76. Dad took charge of the vans and the cutting table, while Haluk ran the office. I left school went to London College of Fashion and later joined them.
In the 1980s, the British fashion industry became overwhelmed with cheap imports. It became harder to compete, so dad decided to close the factory.
A relative of Şerife, uncle Burhan, had been running a dry cleaners since 1973. He suggested to dad to join the trade and we did.
I saw an empty shop in Oval, near the tube station and Oval cricket ground. Mum and dad purchased the building and I still run the shop today. This was in 1985.
After another ten years of hard work, mum and dad started to build their retirement villa in Zeytinlik, Girne. Unhappily, mum had a stroke in 1996. She was 60 years old at the time. Their villa had just been completed, but instead of retiring to North Cyprus, the couple opted to remain in Britain and Ibrahim ended up becoming his wife’s full-time carer.
Another big change came in 1999, when the family moved from Stoke Newington to the leafy North London suburb of Enfield.
In 2006, Ibrahim and Şerife’s eldest son Haluk died in Turkey. To lose one child was hard enough, but to lose three sons was an unbearable pain, but somehow my dad, my superman, managed to keep going and keep us all going.
Ibrahim lived for his wife, and his remaining children and grandchildren. He was made of superhuman stuff, and it enabled my stroke-victim mum to stay strong too.
I have been fortunate to spend more quality time with dad in the later years of his life. Especially after the death of my older brother, I became very close with my father. We were more like friends, always talking openly and honestly to each other, man to man.
Every weekend, he would cook with his grandchildren. He loved teaching them all the beautiful Turkish Cypriot foods and cooking techniques.
He taught me so much: how to be a good husband and father, and a good Muslim whilst praying together. He would always re-correct my cockney accent Turkish and Arabic words. He hated my pronunciations. My only answer was, “I’m a London boy, what can I do?”
Dad’s death came after a series of events that left him increasingly fragile and later breathless. He slipped and fell. I had rehabilitated him within a few weeks, he was back on his feet, back to his usual self, cooking and making a big family breakfast on Sundays.
When he lived in Stoke Newington, every Friday dad would go to Shacklewell Lane Mosque for lunchtime prayers. He remained a spiritual person all his life.
He regularly had visions of angels appearing in the middle of the night, waking up my mother and I to tell us of the angels inside and outside of the house. The week before he passed, he saw visions of his three sons and many other angels walking beside me, past me, and sitting beside me. I told him, “Dad, tell these angels politely to leave you alone and come back in 10 years’ time. We have many things to do together,” but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
On Thursday morning, 21 January, I called the ambulance, but my dad told the paramedics as soon as they arrived that he didn’t want to go to hospital because he was worried of coronavirus. They assessed him and due to his serious breathing difficulties, they convinced dad it was essential he came with them to A&E.
As the paramedics wheeled dad out of the house, he looked at mum and I and said, “Don’t worry, I’m coming back home tonight.”
The miracle that followed is too painful to explain but God is merciful and great. Within a few hours, my father did indeed come home to mother and me and the grandchildren. We spent the whole evening and morning at his side.
The doctors at North Middlesex Hospital told us he barely had a couple of hours to live. Yet he survived the journey home and spent another 10 hours with us.
On Friday 22, at 5:02 am, my father stopped breathing on a blessed Friday (‘hayırlı Cuma’), two days before his 87th birthday.
I’m here to honour his wishes. I’m here to tell you all that my father was superhuman. A romantic, a philosopher, a provider, and a man that this world will never, ever duplicate or replicate. If I can be half the man he was, I will be happy.
There is no one on this earth who can say anything other than they had love and respect for this legend. Rest in eternal peace dad.
Ibrahim Sitki Musa was born 24 January 1934,and died 22 January 2021. He was laid to rest in his native Lefkoşa on 29 January 2021.
He leaves behind his wife Şerife, two surviving children Yaşar and Belgin, eight grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren.
Article by Muhammed Yaşar ‘Yash’ Musa. All pictures courtesy of Yash Musa, including main image, top of him with his father Ibrahim Sitki Musa.