Eleftherios Iacovou

Eleftherios Iacovou

Eleftherios Jakobou was born in 1874 in Deryneia. His father was Jakobos Hadjilefteris (Koumatsos) and his mother was Ttallou Hadjiyianni Sotirou. He had two sisters, Fouregkou Dimitris Hadjilouka Lottou (grandmother of the former Mayor of Deryneia Flora Ioannou) and Fotou Paikkou Pieri, who died at a young age.

In 1895, at the age of 21, he was appointed teacher at the then one-teacher school Deryneia. He was the first official school teacher that Deryneia had spawned.

The first school of Deryneia was sheltered in a small house, located in the courtyard of the Panagia Church until 1881.

In 1881 this small house was demolished and with the voluntary work of the citizens of Deryneia a large two-classroom building was erected in its place, which was the first school complex built in the village. Next to the two-classroom building a few small rooms for housing guest teachers were built.

In 1916 the school was divided into a girls 'and boys' school, as the first girls began to attend the school. The first girls' school operated at the home of Giakoumettou. During this period mainly boys, who would come to school barefoot with shredded clothes, enrolled at the school.

For girls of the time it was not necessary to attend school. The majority of them stayed at home and looked after their younger brothers or sisters, who were quite a few in number at the time, while their parents worked hard in the fields, at the orchards and flocks, to ensure the necessities of life. Many boys had to take breaks from school, only to be thrown into the struggle for survival helping their families to overcome the great difficulties of life.

In 1919 the decision for a new school building was made. In the spot of todays’ 1st  Primary School a large hall was built, which later, when the school became a two-teacher school, was divided into two classrooms. The inauguration of the new elementary school, which the first Deryneian teacher, Eleftherios Jakobou, had dreamt of but did not live to enjoy, took place in 1923.

The founder of the Readers Club "Omonia" served the function of a teacher for a total of twenty-seven years, fifteen years of which he worked at the Elementary School Deryneia, nominally for the periods: 1895-1896 (first employment), 1902-1904 and 1910-1922. The remaining twelve years he must have worked in the neighbouring villages, most likely in Sotira and Avgorou. 

During the time he served in Sotira (1896-1902), he got to know and married Lozou of Sotira. His marriage with Lozou did not last for very long. They parted without having children. In Avgorou he seems to have served from 1904 to 1910. There he made many friends, who mainly came from wealthy families, amongst them many best men and godsons. In 1910 he was transferred back to the Primary School of Deryneia.

In 1912 he remarried. His wife was called Margarida Michali Psara of St Memnon. She was a tall and beautiful woman and the scion of a wealthy family from the neighbouring community of St. Memnon.

Together with his wife Margarida he was fortunate enough to have two sons, Jacobos (Vaki), born on 01.03.1915 and Michalakis, born on 30.07.1918. The eldest son, Jakobos, after graduating from Famagusta Gymnasium in 1935, emigrated to England, where he lived until his death in 1981. Their second son Michalakis Montanios graduated from high school in 1936. He worked in offices and at a bank until 1943. From 1943 to 1947 he worked in the trade union movement. He then worked for two consecutive years in the Municipality of Famagusta as manager for information disclosure and social projects, when the Mayor of Famagusta also was a Deryneian, called Adamos Adamantos. From 1948-1951 he studied law at the Middle Temple in London. Since 1951 until today he has been practicing the profession of a lawyer and together with his three sons, also lawyers, they run the law firm MONTANIOS & MONTANIOS in Nicosia.

Being employed at the school in Deryneia the upbringing and education of the young students was not the teacher Eleftherios Jakobou’s only concern. The illiteracy that prevailed in that era worried him greatly, so he went out of his ways to help the villagers to come out of the obscurity of illiteracy. He spent his time in the evenings at coffee houses to read the newspaper and broadcast the news to the illiterate villagers. Apart from the newspaper he also read books to them, helping them to socialize and understand telegrams related to the First World War.

His effort was much appreciated by the villagers and when he decided to establish the Readers Club "Omonia" he found great response and wide support. The following can be concluded from the texts that his student, Lefteris Hadjilefteris Telis, wrote later:

“And he said to his fellow villagers, I want before I die, 

that they built yet another school in the village, 

for the grown-ups, let’s say, a club, 

to gather and read papers, news 

and telegrams, for them to gain knowledge of the stories and of history 

and there were so many fellow villagers then who heeded his advice

and for the purpose that he defined, they understood the meaning 

and went ahead with the work, together with the priests, 

the cantor, the church committees, also the councillors

Hadjiadamos, Kkolias, Xiouros, Kotsonis,

my uncle Mr Hadjistyllis, there was Katsiantonis

Champourin and Styllin, there was Milikourin

Pavlos Karagiorki, Christos Katouris,

Christofouin Tziavi with Hadjianastasin,

Kogkolis, Fitiris the son of Hadjiliasi.

And it wasn’t only them, many were with them…”

The progressive ideas of the teacher, as we have seen, were not only accepted, but found several supporters and thus their implementation was easier, which proves the strong personality and the many gifts of the teacher.

It is these gifts of the first Deryneian teacher, which are described in ample facets in the verses of the student Lefteris Hadjilefteris, late (1970).

"1920 -early December,

it was the first foundation of the Reading Club,

"Omonia" its first home was called,

50 years ago t'was like yesterday

like a dream it seems, now that I remember.

I still remember the shadow of our teacher, 

his work and efforts for the letters and his endeavour

for his students to come out immaculate everywhere.

There were eighty students and he taught them alone.

He protected and looked after them on every step they took

Was there anything he didn’t have passion and care for?

...for the village, the church, for his homeland.

He had it in his heart and soul.

When he raised his voice everyone was struck by his emotions.

And we, who still remember him and those who had the pleasure of his company..

We all are one voice, calling "In eternal memory of him".

Eleftherios Jakobou was the founder of the First Savings Bank of Deryneia, an idea that was to develop into a powerful economy market organization, presented today by the 'NEW COOPERATIVE CREDIT COMPANY DERYNEIA ", an organization that has contributed greatly to the improvement of the living standards of the entire community of Deryneia. In a private house, which today is known as the home of Tsoukkas, he separated a room, which he called “The Fund”. This room had its own entrance/exit on the west side. In recent years it has been used by Kostas Tsoukkas as a cobbler shop. The Fund was under the responsibility of the teacher Jakobou and accepted the savings of Deryneian citizens. It was the cause for spreading the idea of building up savings and the savings bank became a reality.

The relations of the teacher E. Jakobou with the church were excellent. From 1910-1922 he served as cantor in the church of Deryneia. He wrote several religious hymns, but they remained in the house of his son, Michalakis, in Famagusta. He also wrote lyrics for his beloved sister Fotou, whom he lost so early.

Regarding his political "opinion"; during that era two political trends existed in Cyprus, the Royalists and Venizelists, trends, which derived from the Greek area. Eleftherios Jakobou himself was a Venizelist.

The first Deryneian teacher was also a passionate nature lover, particularly fond of the sea. The sea has always been a gem for the Deryneians and they often frequent the beach for swimming and fishing. The teacher loved the lantern fishing by the seashore. After an outing for lantern fishing he came back with a heavy cold, a cold that unfortunately developed into pneumonia. Despite the best efforts of doctors of Famagusta, Cypriot and British, it was impossible to induce his recovery and so, on 19 March 1922, the first teacher of Deryneia, who had just turned 48 years, draws his last breath.

His student, Yannis Yannitsaros writes about the death of his teacher:

Until then the days of teacher Leftheris were counted,

‘cos death ambushed him on the road.

On March 19,1922 with a funeral wreath they carry him to the grave

Within the blink of an eye he was gone  

and the club remained a house with no column nor beam.

Like a little sapling, which had just sprung from the seed,

he thrived in the summer but was burnt in the winter.

" A body without a backbone " not only remained the Readers Club but also the school and the Savings Bank but moreover his family, his wife and their two minor children as the bereaved. His wife Margarita with her two orphans had to carry their own burden from now on, to pull through in those difficult times. To assure the safe upbringing of the two young children, Margarita, as a mother, was forced to gradually sell the gold jewellery that she was given for her wedding.

In 1930-1933 with her small son Michalakis, she took over the buffet of the Readers Club "Omonia", whilst struggling to keep the Readers Club alive, which was going trough a difficult phase at the time. To be able to help her children, she was eventually forced to sell her house. That was still followed by difficult times in the struggle to sustain the small family with her two sons without getting remarried.

As a gesture of gratitude for what this man offered to the local community, the Anagennisi Club Deryneia proposed to erect a humble bust of Eleftherios Jakobou within the municipality, the place where he taught the first letters to the barefoot children of Deryneia in the past, more precisely in the area of the paved square near the old church of Panagia where the classroom (Parthenagogiou) was situated, where this remarkable teacher used to teach.