I heard the bad news on a cold November night. 17th November 2015 to be exact. Two friends had gone to see him at Croydon Hospital. They rang to tell me in floods of tears that we had lost him. I had visited him a few days before, and was planning to go and see him again the following day. Alas, it was not to be. My friend had left us.
Tözün left a huge void in the lives of a lot of people. Needless to say, his family will feel his loss the deepest. I and many, many of his friends miss him dearly too.
I first came across Tözün when he was a musician. He was among the founders of the original Kıbrıs Dörtlüsü. I was desperately looked for their cassette that I knew I had. “They call us Cypriots. We love molohiya” went one of the songs. Alas it was nowhere to be found.
Tözün played the bass guitar, while his brother Bülent played the drum. He later worked with another great guy, our first music ambassador, Artist Mehmet. They and their friends tried to ease our yearnings for our beloved motherland Cyprus with their nostalgic songs.
“They call us Cypriots. We love molohiya”
He was a cheerful man. Smile and laughter never left his lips. He did not take life too seriously. When I got frustrated with him, I asked him: “Be ama, are you a bloody saint?”
He came from Nicosia, the capital, where I spent my formative years. As we both loved this magical city, it was a talking point whenever we met. We would talk about our memories of Nicosia of old for hours. We greatly missed the city of our childhood and youth.
We told each other those famous anecdotes between Dr. Küçük and Çoronik. One, a Turkish Cypriot leader, the other a delightfully eccentric Nicosia resident.
We talked about other colourful people of that city. We reminisced about going to the open air cinemas in the Çağlayan area, the Children’s Play Garden, the funfair assembled during Bayram (Eid) on the ancient fortress, our schools, and teachers.
For the last two years my work place was not far from his university. We sometimes met to have lunch at the Turkish kebab restaurant opposite the university. We had named this restaurant “Anibal”, after a famous Nicosia restaurant.
We would ring each other to ask “shall we go to ‘Anibal’ today or have a take-away from ‘Paraşut’?” a takeaway kebab house we re-named after yet another famous old Nicosia restaurant.
Erdal, our young friend from Turkey who always accompanied us, would sometimes not grasp our Cypriot Turkish dialect. This entertained us no end.
We also talked about politics of course. Tözün was a Socialist. A true one, not a slogan socialist. Some in the community were hesitant in their attitude towards him. He was frequently shunned by some people.
“Be ama, are you a bloody saint?”
He hated boasting, and talking about himself. On hearing about his achievements at work, I always rebuked him for not telling me of these himself.
He did a lot for his community, especially in the fields of multi-lingualism and supplementary education. He got on with serving academia and his own community in his own quiet, unassuming way, unlike others.
Ha was never after awards or recognition. But he tried very hard to get community activists to be rewarded. Six years ago he organised an award scheme aimed at Turkish language and culture schools founders.
It was also he who suggested we give a recognition award to Osman Balıkçıoğlu for his services for art and theatre.
No one in the community thought of rewarding Tözün for his important contribution. I hope now the education circle will seriously think of ways of ensuring his legacy lives on. We owe this to him.
Why oh why do we appreciate people after they have gone?
You left us too early Tözün. We had a lot more to do together. I will dearly miss you. And I will never, ever forget you.
On the first Thursday of every month I will frequent ‘Anibal’ and have a kebab on you.
Main photo: Ertanch Hidayettin (left) with Dr. Tözün İsa
T-VINE columnist Ertanch Hidayettin is a Cypriot Turk of African heritage who came to the UK in 1970. A qualified teacher he chose to pursue a career in local government, working for local authorities in a variety of posts including as an Equality Officer for Islington Council, before retiring in 2007. Since then he has worked with the National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education (NRCSE). He is a community activist and a commentator in Turkish and Cypriot media.