Thursday, May 12, 2016

Continuing German entanglements...

It was a deja vu kinda weekend in Greece -- strikes against more punitive legislation voted on late Sunday and angst about the meeting of European financial ministers (aka "The Creditors") that followed. I had been running around preparing to leave Greece after 3 months right in the thick of things. Eight o'clock flight to Munich, and I was going to sleep all the way.  But next to me sweet Kyria Despina of Mikrohori, Dramas, had other ideas. She wanted to tell me her story.

She wanted me to know that she was on her way to her son-in-law's funereal. He is German, she said, but was such a great guy. He met her daughter when he ate at her taverna in Munich. There were always lines of people waiting to get in, until the place closed on its 30th anniversary. The sign outside had extolled "Mom's cooking." 

Despina was not only "Mom," but had actually worked about 20 hours a day back then. Early AM at the Herta slaughter house in Dachau -- just across from the infamous Dachau concentration camp -- where 1250 pigs and 50 cows were processed every day. ‎ Then an afternoon stint at her husband's coffee house. Followed by a shift at the taverna, from which returned about 1:30 AM only to start up again around 4:30. Kyria Despina is retired now, but she looked quite sad and worn out.

Too many people I saw every day in Thessaloniki looked sad and worn out ...resigned to whatever was needed to make Greece whole again, and trying hard to make do. But it is never enough -- now more pension cuts, higher taxes on many things like cigarettes and coffee (from 23 to 26 %), etc. Hey, Greeks need to stop smoking, but they will never stop drinking coffee.
Kyria Despina's story of hard work in Germany is a very common one. Many Greeks went there to work not long after the war in a country prospering because their wartime debts had been forgiven. Germany needed those workers, until they didn't. Now Germany & Co. is the boss of Greece, and Greeks have been labeled by some as lazy. You cannot make this stuff up! 

Yesterday, a Girls School grad and restaurant owner in my Dad's hometown Naousa told me: "Greece is a boiling pot." The press doesn't mention the thousands of suicides, she rasped -- and I was taken aback by her informed passion and weary anger. She was about to fill out papers registering the fact that the ridiculous spring weather -- which had included hailstorms -- had damaged about 80 % of their fruit trees. What's next?

Meanwhile, in Munich there is a funeral on Friday, and Kyria Despina will be there.

NOTE: There is a shred of hope for the Greek economy. For the first-time, the Germans have signaled some willingness to discuss debt reduction -- the only way that Greece can actually recover instead of continuously cutting pensions to borrow money to pay back the banks. That's what Tsipras was fighting for last summer...You didn't think these bailouts were actually helping the Greek people, did you?

(Published in The Greek American Herald, June 2016)

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network.

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