Lucas Charalambous was born in June 1938 in the tiny village of Ineia which is in the hills between Paphos and Polis. He was the eighth child of eleven, two of whom did not survive. He was brought up on his father’s farm and he recalls that back in those days, life was quite hard. Unlike these days there was no electricity, and no farm machinery to help with the hard work. Furthermore, there was the constant need for water for the farm animals and for personal use. The village well was about 2 kilometres from the farm, and Lucas recalls that it was quite normal for him to make the round trip there 15 times a day. And each trip meant carrying a big stone pot or a gourd which would be filled with water on the return journey. Even more trips were required during harvest as the oxen became very thirsty when working in the fields in the heat. However, in spite of all this, he was happy, and he fondly recalls riding around on the family donkey.
In those days Cyprus was still a British colony, but by 1955 the Greek Cypriots wanted the British out and to have the island become part of Greece. As a result crowds were gathering and demonstrating against British rule. Most of those involved with the demonstrations were the island’s male youth, and therefore the British ‘encouraged’ over 20,000 young men to leave their homeland and go overseas. Lucas had an uncle in South Africa, so at the age of 16 he left Cyprus and worked in his uncle’s supermarket. After doing this for a few years he decided to do something with better prospects, and he obtained a five-year apprenticeship with a local master watchmaker.
Although life in South Africa was challenging for Lucas, it provided him with many fresh opportunities. When he left Cyprus he spoke only Greek, but over the next few years he was able to learn to speak English, Afrikaans and Zulu. In 1972, Lucas started his own watch repair shop near Johannesburg.
His new business had been prospering for a few years, so in 1978, Lucas took a short holiday back to Cyprus. However, things did not go as he had planned. His passport needed renewing, there were some lengthy delays in this process, and he could not leave Cyprus. He found himself stuck back in Ineia with his family on the farm. His mother stepped in and organised his marriage to a young lady from the village, and the result was that he ended up staying in Cyprus for good.
This turned out to be good news for all the watch owners of Paphos. Lucas set up his shop in the Old Market in 1979, and he has been there ever since. You can still see him there in his shop today, hunched over his desk with a magnifying glass attached to his spectacles. These days his main customers are those who have an old watch which has a sentimental value. As many people now either have digital watches or use mobile phones, there is not so much call for his intricate watch repairing skills. However, this has freed him up to spend a bit more time back on the family farm where he uses his time to tend grape vines, tomato plants and olive, carob and almond trees. Life has indeed gone full circle for Lucas Charalambous.