Diplomatic relations 60 years: Honorary Consul General Mr. Demosthenis Severis
The Honorary Consul General, Mr. Demosthenis Severis, has been working for Finland and the Finnish people for nearly half a century. Over the years, he has become a friend to the Finnish visitors and residents. He also knows many former Finnish Presidents and Ambassadors in person. The Honorary Consul General shares many memories with the UN peacekeepers who gave him his Finnish nickname ‘Timo’.
The Honorary Consul General, Mr. Demosthenis Severis, is smiling while telling about the origin of his surname. Despite his Greek Cypriot roots, since the days of his great-grandfather the late Christodoulos Severis, first Mayor of Nicosia (1882 - 1888), the surname Severis came from the Turkish word severim, which means the beloved one.
The Honorary Consul General speaks about his friends and relatives in a heartfelt manner. Over the years, sympathetic and sociable Mr. Severis has become a friend to many Finnish people, many of whom still call him ‘Timo’.
Demosthenis’ father, the late Zenon Severis, was appointed as Honorary Consul General of Finland in Cyprus in 1966. Demosthenis followed his father’s footsteps and started as Honorary Vice Consul of Finland in 1973, after his father was appointed as Minister of Health in Cyprus. Shortly after starting in his new post, Mr. Severis realized that along with the important geographical position and importance of Cyprus, the Consulate General of Finland in Cyprus was also destined to help and serve Finnish citizens living or working across the Middle East, Finns who had to flee to Cyprus in times of turmoil and violence in the area.
When the Turkish military operation, widely referred in Cyprus as Turkish invasion, started on 20.07.1974, Mr. Severis and his brother Costas enlisted in the army. Their father’s phone was ringing constantly from many Finnish people living in Cyprus who were trapped in the crossfire and requested for help.
“At this point, I would like to pay special tribute to my father”, Mr. Severis says. “I understand the agony he had when listening to bombings and thinking whether his sons were safe. Yet he was able to keep his bright mind. Costas and myself survived and all the Finns were saved, too”, he recalls.
Mr. Severis upgraded to the position of Honorary Consul in 1979 and his brother Costas was appointed as Honorary Vice Consul in 1987, the year when Mr. Severis was upgraded to Honorary Consul General, in succession to his father. Costas was upgraded to Honorary Consul a few years later.
One of the first problems Mr. Severis had to face was the issuing of Finnish passports. Until the establishment of the resident Embassy of Finland in Nicosia, passports from Finnish citizens living or residing in Cyprus were issued or renewed by the Embassy of Finland in Tel Aviv, Israel, and carried the seal of the Embassy of Finland, Tel Aviv. In 1970’s and 80’s there were many incidents of hijacking planes in the area and this constituted a serious security threat for the travelers at the time. The Honorary Consul General had to write a strict letter to Tel Aviv, and in the end, the place of issue on the passports was changed to Nicosia.
Within the years Mr. Severis became very friendly with the members of the Finnish Contingent (FINCON/UNFICYP). He has many stories to tell about those days. FINCON left behind an excellent reputation. Mr. Severis speaks with great admiration for his very good friend, the late Lt. Colonel Jorma Pullinen, Commanding Officer of FINCON during the events of 1974 who managed to withdraw his injured troops from the crossfire area. Mr. Severis believes that a written report or a book should be written of the Finnish Contingent in Cyprus. All its members were very well selected and respected, brave and unbiased. He praises General Ilmari Armas-Eino Martola, Commander of UNFICYP, and Mr. Sakari Tuomioja, who served as the first peace mediator in 1964. Mr. Tuomioja is still well remembered in Cyprus and his premature death prevented him from completing his work. Many people in Cyprus believe that if Mr. Tuomioja could have finished his work, the history of Cyprus would be different.
Mr. Severis speaks highly of the permanent link created between the police of Cyprus and Nordic countries – a collaboration that was established in Cyprus. This aimed at the cooperation of the two parties on narcotics, money laundering and crimes. The cooperation stopped in 2007, but all the Finnish officers who participated to the program left behind an excellent reputation and enjoyed mutual respect with the Cyprus police. The officers became close friends to the Severis couple, and they remain as memorable and capable colleagues of the Consulate.
Mr. Demosthenis Severis and his wife Daphne have also become close to the Finnish Presidents. When the couple visited Finland in 1997 they were warmly welcomed personally by all three Finnish Presidents, Mr. Mauno Koivisto, Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, and Mrs. Tarja Halonen. In addition, on her previous visits to Cyprus Mrs. Halonen used to go shopping with Mrs. Severis.
The Honorary Consul General Severis is a commendable man with many decorations. He is well respected in Finland. Mr. Severis expresses the family’s appreciation and gratitude for Mrs. Daphne Severis’ recent decoration of the Cross of Merit of the White Rose of Finland, conferred by H.E the President of Finland Sauli Niinistö as Grand Master. The Finnish Ambassador Harri Mӓki-Reinikka handed it to her on Finnish Independence Day 2020.
Behind the desk of Mr. Severis, there are two paintings of the family’s houses, which were left behind in the occupied north, Kyrenia. The Severis family has received compassion from the Finns for the properties in Kyrenia as many Finns share the same memories from their personal or family experience in Karelia.
In 2004, the former Ambassador from Tel Aviv, Mr. Pekka J. Korvenheimo, then in Helsinki, organized a trip to the north for the Severis family, through the UN. Under the Severis family house in Kyrenia, there was a store. The shopkeeper recognized Mr. Severis by his surname.
“I asked the occupant whether I could take with me some soil from the garden of the house to my grandparents’ and parents’ grave”, Mr. Severis says with a cracking voice.
The Honorary Consul General is ready to continue doing his best to help the Finns. “I am here to help”, he says.
The Embassy of Finland in Nicosia delivers the respect that the Finnish people have towards him and expresses the gratitude of the continued work to the Honorary Consul General Demosthenis ‘Timo’ Severis and his spouse Daphne D. Severis. Mr. Severis adds that the work continues; Finland and the Finnish people can rest assured of that.
The interview is being published as a part of the virtual celebrations of the diplomatic relations between Finland and Cyprus.