Greece is in the spotlight again and the topic is as hot as potatoes. Will we go bankrupt, will we not? Will we stay in the EU, or will we go? But is this really news? In Greece people have been living with uncertainty and fear of Grexit for years. Five to be exact.
Greeks have seen their income squeezed and stretched out of any possible proportion. They have seen their jobs dissapear overnight, 31% of businesses shutting down in the first 2 years, health care going down the hill and the young abandoning ship with hopes of getting a job abroad and having a life. All this, in the ugly soundtrack of restarting growth through taxation alternating with that of Greece leaving the eurozone, the famous Grexit.
When it all started, the news found me really far away. It was a muted TV screen with the face of Papandreou breaking the news to the world, in a cafe in Siem Reap. Needless to say I had no clue what was going on, neither did people around me. I characteristically remember silly conversations in French and Spanish with a cheeky 7 year old. He was very curious to find out where I was coming from, for all his wit, he couldn’t locate Greece on the map.
Then I returned to London, I became obsessed with the news, a proper news junkie. It felt like I had to report on a daily basis to friends and strangers alike. I was dead with worry on how things are going to roll out. Greece’s debt was unsustainable, the country was about to default. Many approached me with genuine concern on how my family was doing, others were cracking jokes on not letting the Greeks near the till. A silly generalisation, if you were Greek you were automatically suspicious of con, having robbed the bank, being corrupt and living at other people’s expense.
The first three years, protests and strikes was a daily affair. In case demonstrations shock you, I have to inform you Greeks have a strong culture of voicing their opinions out in the streets. It used to be peaceful. Athens went up in fire on the 5th of May 2010, with the loss of 3 lifes at Marfin bank. People were shocked from the violence and tragic outcome. The trials are still ongoing.
In September 2012, yet again, Athens saw some of the worst rioting with 45 buildings on fire, amongst them the historic cinema Attikon. You can still see the remnants and smoked walls on Stadiou street, two blocks away from the Parliament. It brings shivers down my spine every time I pass by. At the time, the videos and pictures of the destruction were played on the media over and over again. I felt numb, it seemed the situation was out of hand. Again there was a lot of talk of Grexit paired with social unrest. In London I joined protests at Trafalgar, alongside Spanish and Portuguese crowds. We were comparing notes, it felt, you were not alone. We were not quite heard neither here nor in London. The best thing that came out of the riots was Loukanikos, the riot dog, not longer with us.
There was worse to come though for Greece. The rescue plans didn’t seem to be working (still don’t), social unrest intensified, unemployment and immigration issues being at their worst, it brought up many different voices. Leftist voices as well as far right voices. Amongst them, the far right party Golden Dawn, preaching national autonomy and rascism. For a country with a detestable past of Junta regime, abolished only 1974, the rise of a far right party makes your blood freeze.
Back then, in 2013, I was visiting home in the few scattered days I had for holiday leave. The news were going mad with break-ins and detestable murders. Grannies afraid to cross the street in fear of being muged. These are news that don’t always reach international press. It seemed the entire Greek press had found a scape-goat, it’s the immigrants, that’s how the fear of uncertainty materialised. I was watching in disbelief. And guess what, I was an immigrant myself, along with many others who had left Greece and were working abroad. There was more and more tension building up in small incidents and the echoeing of the Grexit in the background seemed a little duller than before. To top it all off, Greece had to experience another detestable crime: the hip-hop artist and anti-rascist activist Pavlos Fyssas was stabbed by a Golden Dawn member. Following investigations, Golden Dawn leaders were to go on trial in the beginning of May (2015), adjourned for September, under the allegations of murder, attempted murder, carrying out explosions, possessing explosives and robbert. After the January elections that saw Syriza, the left party, coming to power, Golden Dawn still has 17 seats in Parliament, holding third place.
What has been happening since Syriza came to power? Not much, in everyday people’ terms, I can assure you. In the beginning there was hope. Fresh blood, fresh ideas, the new finance minister Y. Varoufakis rocked the media. Let’s see if these guys will manage to do things better, make things work, that’s what we were all mumbling about. Because it’s heart-breaking opening your shop and idly waiting for a customer to come by. People are fed up of having to pay emergency taxes that seem to be appearing overnight and out of nowhere. Wrecked by the constant uncertainty, will their employers keep playing ball and pay their salaries due sometimes for months? If pensioners at the end of the month will still have money to get by.
Yet again, Greece is in the spotlight and Grexit is not a whisper, it’s thundering down upon us. There are many publications and tens of pieces that come out in the light of an imminent disaster. Some balanced, others not so much. Assumptions of going back to the drachma put fear in holiday makers with publications exaggerating the potential event, spitting out doomsday scenarios of people making a run to the banks and money evaporating. To that note, I would like to mention that we are still pretty civilised. In case you are worried, check out the BBC guide with all you need to know about traveling to Greece here.
Greek Press similarly managed to spread panic, this run on the banks was a popular scenario. We are still keeping our cool. Patiently waiting to see how things are going to roll out. Possibly immune to the brainwashing we get daily. We also treat it with humour. A facebook page cropped up satirising the situation: only Greece stays in the EU. Alongside with the article of Waterford whisper news seeing Angelina & Brad adopting poor Greece. And Juncker, side by side with the gollum: one coin to rule them all…
As to what it will happen, well, let’s wait and see. There are talks as I write this. And since you made it so far down this post, I have to say you are quite brave reading through my rantings. It also seems you are interested in reading more about the Greek crisis. I handpicked these two:
I know it’s very unlike me talking crisis, but fear not, I am still loyal to my cooking sprees. Since you made it so far down, you will be rewarded with courgette fritters, one of my favourites and they smell definitely better than crisis.
- 5 large courgettes, grated
- 150 gr feta cheese
- 2 spring onions
- 2 eggs
- 5 tbsp of flour
- ½ cup basil,
- ½ cup dill,
- ½ cup mint
- salt and pepper
To fry: 1 cup of olive oil
What to do:
Once you grate your courgettes, add salt generously and leave aside for 30 min.
Squeeze out any excess liquid and transfer in a large bowl.
Lightly beat the eggs and add to the courgettes
Add all your ingredients: finely chopped herbs, spring onions, feta cheese and flour.
Let the mixture sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and then you are ready to fry.
Prepare spoonful of courgette patties and tranfer in the heated oil.
Leave each side to cook for a couple of minutes, until golden.
with love from Athensby