Sylvia Michaelides obituary

Other lives: Physiotherapist and nurse awarded for her work in Cyprus

My mother, Sylvia Michaelides, who has died aged 93, established, in 1951, the first physiotherapy department in Cyprus. She overcame many obstacles to build a loyal and dedicated team in Nicosia and the unit thrived for many years after her departure in 1960.

When my mother and I visited Cyprus in 2003 we met some of her old colleagues and it was clear that the esteem she had built up in the 1950s still survived. In 2008 she was invited back to receive an award in honour of her achievements half a century before.

Sylvia was born in Kingsbury, Middlesex (now in the London borough of Brent), to Nellie (nee Locke) and her husband, Arthur Linford, a branch manager for Sun Alliance Insurance whose sister, Madeleine Linford, was the first editor of the Manchester Guardian’s women’s page.

After attending Downhurst school, Hendon, Sylvia qualified first as a nurse and then as a physiotherapist at Middlesex hospital, going on to work as a physiotherapist at the Churchill hospital in Headington, Oxford.

Eventually, wanting a new challenge and excited by the lure of an overseas posting, she moved to Cyprus, which was then a British colony, and where she took on the task of setting up the new physiotherapy department at the Nicosia Jubilee hospital.

She faced hostility from some of the doctors who were resentful of another claim on their budget and the language barrier did not help. She found early support from a Greek-Cypriot civil servant, Michael Michaelides, who helped to steer her through a dispute about money and within two years they were married.

After five years running the department Sylvia left her post to raise a family. When Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960 she and Michael made the difficult decision to move to the relative safety of the UK, away from concerns about possible anti-British reprisals following the independence campaign.

They settled in Worthing, West Sussex, where she worked as a part-time physiotherapist at Worthing hospital and developed a specialism in treating back pain, lecturing on the treatments she had developed and on ways of diagnosing its root causes.

Three years after Michael died in 1995, Sylvia moved to Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, quickly establishing herself as a presence in the town through work with the museum, the theatre, an old people’s day centre, the local hospital, the Women’s Institute, Chipping Norton News, Probus and the Labour party.

She was quick to judge whether people were suitable as companions; her usual yardstick was whether they read the Guardian and especially whether they could complete the cryptic crossword.

Sylvia is survived by her two children, Anita and me, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Nicholas Michaelides

The GuardianTramp

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