Portraits From Greece as It Endures a Crisis

Original post from The New York Times

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The country is no stranger to unrest. As the weak link in the 19-nation eurozone, it is struggling to repay billions in debt. If Greece goes bankrupt or decides to leave the eurozone, the situation could have a profound effect on its citizens and reverberate around the globe. Here is a glimpse into the lives of some Greeks, from residents of a small island to those in the country’s capital.


Christina Economou
Restaurant owner, 59

I am mostly sad from this situation because I have memories of growing up in a society where we were raised with strong moral beliefs and values. I feel that this has been lost through the corrupt political system we have. Politicians throughout the years have given jobs for votes and inflated the public sector because of this. We have learned to have things come easy and have become lazy as a nation.

Ms. Economou owns a restaurant named after herself on Hydra, a Greek island known for its tourism. She has worked 12-hour days there for the last 23 years.


Akindinos Dardanos
Greek Orthodox priest, 49

What concerns me most as I have five children is their future and the high levels of youth unemployment we are facing. Three of them are studying and I fear they will have no prospects.

Father Dardanos said that as a man of God he has faith in Greece’s ability to bounce back, but he also sees a long, slow recovery ahead for his country — whatever the outcome.


Yiannis Belegris
Vice mayor, 48

We cannot make plans for the future because we have been living in a state of uneasiness for over a period of five years. With more political conflict tourists will hesitate to come and this will make our situation harder.

Mr. Belegris thinks that the uncertainty of Greece’s future has been detrimental, because it has driven visitors away from a place that depends on tourism thriving.


Pantelis Lembessis
Harbor traffic controller, 69

For the Greek people this crisis came like a thunder out of nowhere. This was not created by us but by the politicians themselves. They knew why we went down financially and things they should have done years ago they are now trying to do overnight.

Mr. Lembessis said he is not afraid of exiting the eurozone, and has confidence in his country’s ability to rebuild after unrest.


Michail Kougioulis
Finance executive, 42

While emigration will provide a solution of sorts to those with internationally wanted skill-sets, what will happen to those left behind (including septuagenarians like my parents)?

Mr. Kougioulis worked for more than 10 years for a Swiss bank, moving around from Zurich to Geneva to London and New York, before returning to Greece a few years ago to join a boutique firm. He is now trying to start his own financial services firm, but a Greek exit from the eurozone could put a strain on the business’s ability to succeed.


Technology salesman, 32

Even through this crisis we wanted to get married, and of course we want to have a child as soon as we can because life goes on even in war.

Kostas, who declined to give his last name, has seen sales in his industry drop significantly. Nonetheless, he and his new wife, Thomae, also 32, did not want to put their life together on hold.

Credit Eirini Vourloumis for The New York Times
Credit Eirini Vourloumis for The New York Times
Anna Doufexi
Fishmonger, 47

If we leave the euro, we will be an isolated country and even weaker than we are now. I am afraid if we leave, I won’t be able to give my children the basics. Even now my daughter understands that we cannot buy extra things. She plays with the toys she has, and now that school is out for summer she comes with me to work as I cannot afford a babysitter.

Ms. Doufexi, seen with her daughter, Maria Eleni, 7, has worked for 25 years in the central fish market in Athens.


John Consolas
Innkeeper, 36

I honestly don’t miss the previous ‘fatter’ years so much, with the emphasis on cronyism and consumerism. Things are much more interesting now. My biggest fear for the future is that the fate of European citizens will continue to be shaped by financial and political forces that have absolutely no concern for our welfare.

Mr. Consolas, who is of Greek-Irish heritage, thinks the crisis has had at least one positive impact: It has forced young Greeks to think hard about what they want to do with their lives.



Nina Davi
Student, 21, Athens University of Social and Political Sciences

I believe we should not be only concerned about the fear of leaving the euro. But what we need to focus on is how the austerity policies have to change and this struggle is what we should be fighting for.

Ms. Davi joined the Syriza youth movement, which supports the current ruling party, and has been protesting outside of institutions like the Bank of Greece as a way, she said, for the people to put pressure on the debt negotiations.

More on NYTimes.com

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