23 April 2010: Many Greeks did not quite understand what then prime minister George Papandreou was telling us from the remote but picturesque island of Kastelorizo. The houses were bathing in the sun, the deep blue sea was sparkling. It was all set up in a perfect scenery, but the message was dreadful. Perfect wrapping for an ugly gift inside the box. Damn the communication strategists. Between the words, the lines, the voice intonation and the sun-light games, the Job’s message was crystal clear: Greece is bankrupt and has to seek the aid of International Monetary Fund.
Greece was just about to seek a “rescue” loan-package of 12 billion euro from the IMF and thus for a top-spot interest rate of 2.64%, sun-bathed Papandreou told us.
“We know the road to Ithaca and we have charted the waters … Our ultimate goal, our final destination is to liberate Greece from supervision and tutelage.”
Six months earlier, in September 2009, Papandreou had won the elections promising the heaven on earth: There was enough money to get the country out of the crisis. And shortly after climbing on the PM’s chair he even dared a bold promise: That he would turn Greece into “Denmark of the South”.
I had started my blog just three weeks earlier, end of March, in an effort to tell our Greek story through personal experiences and offering some insight views on what was really going on in Greece.
23 April 2013
Three years later and the country has taken three more loan packages with interest rates at 5%-7%, Greek bonds losing 50% of their value and millions of households pushed below or just above the poverty line. three years later, the only common thing we have with Denmark is the TV-series Borgen. Then in these three years, Greece slipped in exactly the opposite direction and turned into “Nigeria of the North”… It became “a remote island” like Kastelorizo. How prophetic of Papandreou and his communications team.
Three years later:
- many Greek households are forced to live without electricity because they cannot afford to pay the exorbitant bills extra property taxes included.
- chronic-ill cut on food to buy their medicine
- low-pensioners pick up foo from garbage bins
- shops are closing one after the other
- school children faint because of a hungry stomach
- 3,000 people committed suicide
- 20,000 became homeless
- nobody can make a living with the minimum wage down to 500 euro gross to boost ‘competitiveness’
- 1,300,000 people are without work and income
- unemployment rose to 27.2% with six in ten Greek youth being without job
- the number of those having no access to public health care is growing
Three years later the only sector that flourishes seems to be that of ‘soup kitchens‘ offering a meal to the thousands of needy.
For three years I have been writing, translating and posting personal stories of despair, grimy future outlooks, and political promises that fly like bubbles in the air. For three years I have been experiencing the collapse of my surrounding, the impoverished the middle classes here and the struggle of people to stay afloat until the crisis is over. For three years I have been struggling myself to not let the depressive mood to swallow me.
It can fill your eyes with tears to see your neighborhood turning into a waste land. Four shops closed down since the beginning of April. The owner of the last souvlaki-grill told me, he considers closing his tavern too. This tavern has been standing here since I can remember myself. all these years the ownership went from generation to generation, but now it seems it cannot survive the crisis. Even if the family owns the building and pays no rent.
“What will you do?” I asked Vasilis, a father of two. “I don’t know,” he replied with the head down, adding “I cannot keep a business anymore that I have to inject money to pay the bills. I’ve been doing it for three years now, I cannot do it anymore. My savings are gone.”
Where is the bottom?
My friends, my relatives, the kiosk man, the baker, the grosser, the hairdresser consider “2013 as the worst year of the last three.” And it’s still the beginning of 2013.
I almost could not believe my ears listening to me saying to a taxi driver the other day “Once we reach the bottom, we will start going up again. It can’t be we remain like that, can it?”. I wish, I had some mathematics formula or a law form the physics to verify my argument. “But where is the bottom, madame,” the taxi man asked. “When I have no money and home, and I live on the streets?”
I was surprised myself to say what I said, implying “somewhere, somehow, there could be some …hope.” Maybe these three years of deep economic crisis and pain taught me to be more patient and force myself to see a tiny shine of potential light in a room full with darkness. I had to learn this as well….
As I learned some very great people through exactly this blog. With 4,000+ “Likes” on Facebook and 4,000+ “Followers” on Twitter. One of the few positive things that came out of this crisis.
PS three years later, Papandreou jets around the globe giving lectures on how he saved Greece. *sigh*
Attention! Foreigner living in Greece? Greek living here? Greek who immigrated due to the crisis?
KTG would gladly publish personal stories/thoughts/hopes/frustration about “Greece: 3 years loan agreements” if submitted by its readers. Maximum: 300 words. Please. submit via e-mail: keeptalkinggreece@gmail DOTcom
Well all I can say is that you’ve done a fantastic job and created a community of sorts through your blog. We are all going through all of this together and I feel and experience the same variety of thoughts, moods and emotions as you’ve shared. Hopefully the sense of communal shared experience will one day lead to a better world.
Three long and hard years. Yes, KTG, the only positive thing is the friends found through all this…
What galls me most about these years is that so many people were deliberately plunged into misery by their own countrymen just to safe those 1,5 – 2 million who were pillaging and plundering this country in the first place… Decent people, who always paid what they owed the state and their creditors are the ones who bore the brunt of these austerity measures. No real fundamental reform has taken place up to date. No civil servant has lost his job for life. The tax-system is still the same and just working for those in the know. Unions are protecting their own privileges over the shoulders of the workers they should represent. Red tape is still stifling every effort and creativity. What were those figures a couple of weeks ago? 20% of Greeks do not feel any real effect of this crisis… Unbelievable but so telling how things stand in this country…
Three years after Kastelorizo… My business did survive. No, not my Greek business. That we had to close and reopen it abroad. Not to avoid taxes. Just to be able to pay taxes in a legal way! To get health insurance and pension rights for less then half what you have to pay here. To be able to change a great idea into a profitable business without having to fight civil servants and their state all the way into ruin…
At the moment I am back in Greece. We have some jobs to do here. We will bring in money to local businesses and give our clients a once in a lifetime experience. One you can only get here in this wonderful country with so many wonderful people. But we will have to cross our fingers that no strike, no civil service, no idiotic action of the government will ruin that. (It took us a whole day to work out what the arrangements will be now May Day will be on May 7 and Unions still will strike on May 1st) We also have to work hard to pamper over the now blatantly open racism that seems to spill over in so many places.
Three years. For most of us who are not part of the nomenklatura things have changed dramatically. And still the nomenklatura fights for it’s privileges over our backs. And yes, with the apparent help of the foreign creditors. Papandreou is replaced by Samaras. He who was as guilty as the former in totally derailing this country manages to keep the status quo for his peers and pals. He is doing a great job for the oligarchs and we will have to pay more and more to keep their privileges in place.
You see, I am struggling to a positive end to this reply… but I just don’t see it. I just fear that the bottom still is not reached. And I see no clear road up. And yes, that brings tears to my eyes…
good to read how other people experience the crisis – especially when foreigners living here.
thanks for mentioning the ‘structural reforms’- I didn’t see any therefore I didn’t mention them at all. ‘non-existent’…
Thinking to ask more KTG-readers to add their thoughts on the issue.
Antoni, please note, May 1st has been moved to May 7 I think because of Pasxa.
You have 4,000 followers on Twitter and Facebook ? That’s impressive ! How many of them would buy your book if you were to publish it ?
Keep on believing. There is always hope regardless of how difficult the situation.
how many would buy my book? no idea. but we could come in contact if you want to publish it 🙂
You don’t need me to publish for you, it’s easier than you think. Do a search on self publishing. You already have all the stories and you have 4,000 potential customers out there. And I would buy it AND spread the word.
What I think is funny is how whenever KTG posts and article, then teh Greek Reporter all of a sudden posts the same thing. I wonder if the Greek Reporter and KTG are married to each other?
married? we have not even exchanged engagement rings, not to mention we didn’t meet for a coffee or a drink.
i was being silly. you know that it appears to me they copy you but i could be wrong
those that are in a position of power do not live up to their responsibilities in our countries either[ireland] we have just had a death of a young indian women in a maternity hospital who looked for an abortion but was told by a midwife that this was not possible in a CATHOLIC country politlcans have never had the balls to amend the laws in this country [this would have offended some electors and they might have lost a few votes her husband had to return to her parents and try to explain why their daughter had to die in a catholic country i feel ashamed to be irish these people are still letting us down
Thank you for this brilliant post that should be on the front page of every newspaper in the country! Thank you for your indignation, decency, humour & optimism too 🙂 – MUCH appreciated!
And take note – yours seems to be the only english language greek news site not taken over by trolls.
In fact the trolling is so bad now that one entire blog (I suspect) is written by a troll. It would be wonderful to ‘out’ this.
thank you, Eleni. trolls get banned here 🙂