Friends hold gathering in memory of familiar face Kostas

Oxford Mail: The Excelsior cafe’s Kostas Hajiyiani. Picture: OX50315 Richard Cave Buy this photo The Excelsior cafe’s Kostas Hajiyiani. Picture: OX50315 Richard Cave

FRIENDS of a well-known Oxford waiter who worked in a city cafe for nearly 40 years are gathering in his memory at the weekend.

Kostas Hajiyiani, in his 70s, of Cowley Road’s Excelsior restaurant, has passed away in a hospital in Lanarca, in his home country of Cyprus, following a brain haemorrhage.

Better known as Kosta, he was owner Andrew Koumie’s right-hand man. A familiar face to anyone who has gone to the cafe in the last four decades, he worked for 10 to 12 hours a day, cooking food, washing dishes and serving customers.

He was well respected by the customers, many of whom are gathering for a celebration of his life in the cafe on Saturday from 1pm.

Mr Koumie, 79, said: “He made quite a few friends with customers. He saw the same people every day and with the length of time he was here probably got to know their offspring as well.

“He was popular, always a person who could communicate with other people. That’s why his friends want to gather here and have a coffee in his honour. I do sincerely hope they will enjoy themselves in memory of Kosta."

Mr Hajiyiani had worked at the greasy spoon since 1973 and retired in May this year due to his ill health. Before moving to the Excelsior, Mr Hajiyiani had worked in the Town and Gown bar in High Street.

Born in the village of Koma Tou Yalou, he moved to London from Cyprus around 50 years ago.

Customer Robert Gillard, 62, from St Clement’s, has been using the cafe since 1980 and paid tribute to Mr Hajiyiani. Mr Gillard said: “He was always a busy man but he was sensitive and considerate.

“He was dedicated to the job and was an expert, he knew it so well.

“He always looked so healthy.”

Other customers enjoying their lunch at the Excelsior yesterday said that he was kind and that they considered him more as a friend.

People have been logging on to Facebook to pay tributes to him – saying that it is the day real coffee on the Cowley Road died too.

Two groups have been set up, one titled In Memory of Kosta, another Raise a Cup of Coffee to Kosta.

David Allen, 40, from Oxford, said: “He was a really good person – you don’t realise what you have got until it’s gone.

“My mum used to take me there when I was a baby and I’m 40 now.

“He was consistent, always there and a very gentle man, a very good listener and he cared about people.

“Kosta was unique. He spoke about how the world was changing and he was quite resourceful with the change, but he had been there so long he was like an institution at the Excelsior

“Everyone fits in there, you are not judged and people are accepted as they are. It is a social resource, a cafe and a community centre.”

Some of his friends are now signing a petition asking if Oxford City Council can put up a memorial to Mr Hajiyiani, asking for suggestions for a fitting tribute.

Mr Hajiyiani passed away on November 29, and his funeral took place in Lanarka, Cyprus, on Saturday.

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