In the series “how expats experience the Greek crisis”, KTG received another personal expat story. The story is written by somebody who built up an existence here and decided to go away, unable to survive the economic crisis. Somebody who still asks herself three years later, whether “leaving was really the right thing to do.”
Below the story by Anke
“I remember that speech by Papandreou*… I understood what was happening, but could not fathom the dimensions of it. At the time, my business had just gone belly up, I was already packed and waiting to leave, while living with friends.
I am an Austrian citizen, who grew up in the USA, and came to Greece as a tourist in ’86. Like many, I fell in love with the country and quickly figured out a way to live there. I should have been going to college, but I felt that I could survive just as well, and I did very well, up until early 2010. I had always been self-employed, either in the professional sailing industry, or in the food service industry.
I created a life and a family and made many friends. I learned the language and the culture and truly felt blessed and lucky to be able to live there. In 2006 I divorced my first husband and decided to invest everything I had into a small restaurant. At the end of 2009 I felt that the business had finally caught on, and I would soon be in the “green”. I had also found an old friend of mine from the USA. We fell in love and decided that he would come to join me in Greece and help me running my shop. He gave notice at his job and put his house on the market to sell.
The crisis hit in February 2010. Slowly business around me started to close one after the other. My work came to a total stand still. It was like the population was waiting for a bomb to fall and everything was quiet. I owned no land, nor did I have any savings, so I couldn’t hold on for long. I realized I couldn’t allow him to leave his job and house to come to sheer uncertainty and financial pain and I needed to support my child.
I tried to sell my business, but of course it was impossible. I sold everything I had piece by piece and made just enough money to pay off my debts to the state (taxes and insurance), a plane ticket, and fund a small container with my remaining personal items to the USA.
Now I also know what all those Greeks all over the world feel like… the ones who dream of going back one day.”
* then PM George Papandreou addressed the nation on 23. April 2010 announcing that Greece had to seek the rescue by the International Monetary Fund.