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Greece is boiling… with empty pockets

I am not going to talk about  the masses of municipality workers and policemen, civil servants, teachers and school guards who take to the streets every day protesting the upcoming lay-offs in the Greek public sector. I am going to talk about my friend Markos and my friend Giota. Two people in their 40’s.

Markos has a work, a responsible position in a private company. He gets in the hand no more than 900 euro net. But he hasn’t been paid since three months. His bank account is empty. A couple of days ago, he was shocked to discover that he had in his pocket just 29 euro and 65 cents.

“I was shocked!” he says “Not even when I was a student I would run around with just 30 euro in my pocket.”

Markos made this distressing discovery right there in front of a counter of a pharmacy. He needed a very specific medicine that that the Greek National Health Care System (EOPYY) does not prescribe anymore. Cost 34 euro. No generic available.

He left the pharmacy with a big questionmark on his face. “How could this happen?”

End of May, Giota found herself without a job – again. For the third time since the last four years. Her last job with a one-year contract had expired. She is still waiting her last salary: 980 euro. She walks around with a thoughtfully folded 20-euro banknote in her purse. Making a list of her top priorities: buy food for her and the cat, a shampoo, coffee, toilet paper. There is not much she can do with 20 euro. Paying utilities or rent is out of question before the salary arrives. Even borrowing money makes actually not much sense. She will have to pay it back, from what? She cannot apply to the unemployment agency. She has to pay her own medical insurance contributions. From what? From the zero income?

She needs work. Anything. One-time contracts, one-month contracts. Anything. She has sent more than  50 resumes in Greece and abroad. Even before her contract expired. She is willing to go everywhere in the world. So far, she had no concrete answer for a job opportunity. Neither inside nor outside the country.

We sit on bench and gaze at the sea. We sit and talk about the Greek reality: that more and more employees delay to pay their workers. Some on purpose, some because their businesses have just dried out of money.

That more and more sneaky people are wandering around trying to get advantage of your talent, of your needs. That they squeeze you and throw you away like a lemon without juice. That in best case they pay you half,  even  1/4 or even 1/5  from the agreed amount.

Hustlers who secure funds through connections and as their golden snap opportunity in times of crisis and money shortage. Game-players who deal other other people’s money. And they want you to do the job for a piece of bread. The Greek “λαμόγια” who came out of the dark holes now that there is no monet for everyone.

We gaze at the sea and talk about how defenseless we feel. We, people with university degrees, foreign languages, modern technology skills and several years of work experience. But we do not know the right people in the right place. Neither are we the cousin of…, the children of…, the newphews and nices of….

We are just lost in our pathetic anonymity in a country where favoritism and nepotism prevail. We also do not  trade blow jobs for real jobs. We are just too old for that.

We gaze at the sea and talk about that more and more people isolate themlselves socially. That they don’t have money to dine out, to go out for a coffee or a drink. That some have to turn a euro coin three times before they buy an ice cream for their kid.

We sit and wonder what force pushed us over here, to end up like this.

We talk with words that some times slip and turn into a joke. A good laugh over a screwed life.

We sit, gaze and talk  – and deep in our heart, we know that things have better chances that they will soon be worse.

We sit and talk and the real unspoken bitterness, the frustration, the anger… swell from the pores of our words and form misty clouds that raise and spead over the ripples of the blue sea. We send our message bright and wide over the sea…

But we don’t give up hope. We can’t.

* names have been changed.




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  1. Very sad and great article KTG..the real story..

  2. cyril mcdonnell

    sad story of everyday life for a lot of people everywhere in the world greed is a terrible crime against humanity” i have what i want so f…. you and yours” may those people responsible for these crimes rot in hell

  3. KTG- do you have payapl? I want to pay for Markos’ medicine, EMail me.

    • keeptalkinggreece

      thank you so much. however I do not collect money for anyone. no offence! it’s a matter of principle in the crazy internet world.

  4. Ευχαριστούμε πολύ KTG for your thoughtful articles. We do read every word you write. We live in Sitia (where the recent dog poisoning incidents happened) and life here is nowhere near as bad as Athens. However, we see the slow fall in living standards, closure of businesses, shortage of work… The other thing we notice is more people moving back into the villages, more idle land being brought back into cultivation, and a lot of people helping friends, family and neighbours to get by.

    Please keep up the good work!

    Alan & Jean

    • keeptalkinggreece

      thank you so much Alan & Jean and the feedback from the area. yes, one good thing is people’s solidarity & starting to cultivate land again – if one has some, of course.

  5. as a Greek living in Australia it makes me sad to think of my brothers and sisters suffering. But before the govt blames the people for the mess it is in maybe if they looked at the big financial institutions brought down by USA and EU you will see exactly were Greece has gone.This is a German/US ploy to make Europe one country. They did it to Africa and look at that mess. We are Greek we have fought for centuries, we will fight now, not for the bloody politicians but for our children and their children. Next time Merkel is in town you should ask her why she and the US spy on Greece and what information she herself has passed on to the US govt. Ask her why payments are made straight to the banks of the world and no money to help the economy. I will be returning next year and i intend to fight for my country, the birth place off so much, most importantly democracy. Bless you all.

    • keeptalkinggreece

      thanks for the solidarity. Merkle’s finmin is due to Athens. we may ask him these questions.

    • alan and jean i know your beautiful island well and some of the proud people who have been given a raw deal community is part of the answerand looking after the less fortunate as we have had to do in ireland best wishes for the future

  6. Elliness iparhoon doulies sti Germania se zeitabeit eteries san GVO, Schumann, Missen-plus, Urban Staff. Me misto apo 8 me 11 Euro tin ora.

  7. We need a government a totally new uncorruptable government that will work for the people and with the people. And any personal favours and bribes should be listed as a crime against humanity and against the people and be punishable by high penalties and imprisonment.

    Stuff what the outside is dictating and squeezing us dry in order to buy us on the cheap.

  8. The red tape should be cut and allow people freedom to regenerate and work for themselves and be inventive. No more of this over regulated German style of control.

    People should use their skills and knowledge to make and sell their own products and services with a minimum of government interferences. Yes we know we should all pay taxes, but reasonable taxes. Because we need them for our schools, hospitals and security.

    People should go back to the villages to their roots and start from there. Start producing your tomatoes, potatoes, etc and take to the market and sell them or exchange them with your neighbours for something they have you need.

    Produce your olive oil and cheeses, we are a rich country with a lot to offer.

    • keeptalkinggreece

      I think I will soon have to write a post about how much it cost to start growing your own olive sand vegetables especially if you don’t have the skills and land of your own.

      But the state could very well create incentives for people wanting to start their own business (of any kind). I know a lot of unemployed wanting to start something but discouraged by the high taxes (also to be paid in advance), social contributions and trade fee.

  9. Great article well done. Greece is a classic example of capitalism gone bankrupt. They will not recover from this for another 20 years.

    • Recovery is only possible with a change in attitude and policies by the government. What the Greek government is doing is making the average and poor pay for the crap the rich and the politicians did and took.

      The way they are behaving and doing things is that they are against the Greek people.

      For God’s sake if there is a decent and patriotic Greek politician do something. Show and do things that is good for Greece, in a positive way.

      Immigrants are not the problem in Greece, they are the scapegoats. The real problem is the current policies. Firstly establish a fair taxation system. Then by natural attrition reduce the number of public servants and retrain others to do other jobs. I am sure that every year there will be about 10,000 retirements from the public servants.

      The government has public work shops that repair their public transport vehicles, make them make their own parts in the machinery work shops, instead of ordering them from abroad.

      Get the country moving, it is a must.

      For over 3000 years we have doing business and now the government wants to sell Greece off. Why?

    • I’m not sure that this is capitalism anymore. I think we are in the era of corporatism. Big corporations and big banks rule the world.

  10. I would agree with everyone who commented what an outstanding and insightful article you have written… but I do not want you to become over-stimulated!

    Great job!