Lila Irene Clerides

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Lila Irene Clerides
Clerides in 1998
First Lady of Cyprus
In office
28 February 1993 – 28 February 2003
PresidentGlafcos Clerides
Preceded byAndroulla Vassiliou
Succeeded byFotini Papadopoulos
First Lady of Cyprus (acting)
In office
23 July 1974 – 7 December 1974
PresidentGlafcos Clerides (acting)
Preceded byVera Sampson
Succeeded byPosition vacant
Personal details
Lila Erulkar

(1921-10-31)31 October 1921
Ahmedabad, British India
Died6 June 2007(2007-06-06) (aged 85)
Meneou, Larnaca District, Cyprus
SpouseGlafcos Clerides (m. 1947; her death 2007)

Lila-Irene Clerides (née Lila Erulkar; 31 October 1921 – 6 June 2007) was the First Lady of Cyprus briefly in 1974 and again from 1993 until 2003 during the presidency of her husband, Glafcos Clerides.[1][2]


Clerides was born in Ahmedabad, British India.[3] Her father, Dr Abraham Solomon Erulkar, was a prominent Indian Jewish medical doctor in Bombay, President of the Medical Council of India, and personal physician to Mahatma Gandhi.[4][5] A supporter of Indian nationalism, Dr Erulkar was a close associate of both Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghani Khan.[4][6][7]

Clerides was raised in the Gujarati port city of Surat, as well as Bombay.[5][7] She lived and studied in Bombay until she moved to London when she was 11 years old.[8] Erulkar studied speech at the Royal Academy of Music and became a professional actress.[5][9]

Towards the end of World War II, Clerides was hired by the BBC World Service in London, where she worked with novelist George Orwell.[1] While working in London, she met her future husband, Cypriot Glafcos Clerides, a law student and gunner for the Royal Air Force (RAF), shortly after the end of the war.[1][2] Clerides had visited BBC's headquarters to see his sister, Chrysanthe, who also worked at the broadcaster.[2] Clerides met him in the office while he waited to see Chrysanthe.[2] The trio went out to the Vienna Café after work, and Clerides and Clerides began dating shortly afterwards.[2]

Clerides once recalled that she went on her first date with Clerides because he was a "craggy youth who had just been released from a concentration camp"[2] (Clerides had been held as a POW in Nazi Germany during World War II). After a few dates, Clerides proposed marriage to Clerides, who initially turned him down, telling him, "You were a prisoner of war and have seen no women, let's wait a little".[2] However, he persisted and she eventually accepted his proposal.[2] Clerides sent a letter to her father in India to ask his permission to marry Lila.[2] Dr. Erulkar replied to Clerides with a short telegram, but advised that the couple wait one year to marry, according to the account in Clerides' biography.[2] The couple complied to the request.[2]

After waiting one year, the couple married in a civil ceremony held in London in 1947.[2] Clerides converted to Greek Orthodox Christianity and chose "Irene" as her baptismal name.[2] The couple had one daughter, Katherine (nicknamed Katy), born in 1949, who would serve in the House of Representatives for the Democratic Rally party.[10]

Clerides became First Lady in 1993. Upon their elevation to President and First Lady, Archbishop Chrysostomos I of Cyprus, the head of the Church of Cyprus, suggested that Clerides and Clerides have a church wedding,[2] which they did in 1995 at the ages of 76 and 74 respectively.[1]

In February 1997, Clerides and Clerides undertook an official, six-day state visit to her native India, including Mumbai.[5][8] During her tour, Clerides explained that India's independence movement helped her understand Cyprus' move towards independence from the United Kingdom.[8] She also spoke of her admiration for India, saying, "I love India. I love the people. I love its history. I was brought up as an Indian and I have to admit that my pride in India is noticed by everybody. I have not changed in that in one iota."[8]

Clerides suffered from deteriorating health during her later years.[1] She spent several weeks in hospital during the summer of 2007, but was discharged about one week before her death.[1] Clerides died at her family home in Meneou, just outside Larnaca, on 6 June 2007, at the age of 85.[1] She was survived by her husband, who died in 2013, and daughter, Katherine.[11] She was buried in a family plot in a cemetery in Nicosia.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Indian born wife of former Cypriot president dies". Reuters News. 12 July 2007. Archived from the original on 28 June 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "'A most devoted couple'". Cyprus Mail. 17 November 2013. Archived from the original on 2 July 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  3. ^ "India–Cyprus Relations" (PDF). Ministry of External Affairs (India). Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 May 2017. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  4. ^ a b Jansen, Michael (3 July 1997). "Long-standing antagonists due to meet in New York for peace talks". Irish Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d "Coming Home to India". Outlook (Indian magazine). 26 February 1997. Archived from the original on 29 June 2019. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  6. ^ Pearson, Bryan (5 September 2018). "Sunbeds and snipers as President Kovind goes to the beach in Cyprus". News Nation. Archived from the original on 2 March 2019. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  7. ^ a b Jansen, Michael (28 October 2009). "President Pratibha Patil to cement close ties with Cyprus". Deccan Herald. Archived from the original on 29 June 2019. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d Ramachandran, Ramesh (20 June 2007). "India-born former first lady of Cyprus passes away". Ramesh Ramachandran. Archived from the original on 8 November 2018. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  9. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (15 November 2013). "Glafkos Clerides, Greek Cypriot Leader Who Sought Unification, Is Dead at 94". New York Times. Archived from the original on 1 November 2017. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  10. ^ "Profile Glafcos Clerides". BBC News. 3 January 2003. Archived from the original on 16 June 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  11. ^ "Glafcos Clerides - obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 15 November 2013. Archived from the original on 22 June 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  12. ^ "Indian born wife of former Cypriot president dies". The National Herald. 19 November 2003. Archived from the original on 2 July 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2019.