A modern Greek tragedy

Greece is in shock and her mood has turned to melancholy. The country has severely metamorphosed over a very short period of time. In just two years the Greek economy has imploded and public debt has soared to €342 billion (£268 bn); this adversity is becoming inscribed in the nation’s social and physical landscape.

Crestfallen, like a tribe whose livelihoods have been ruined through natural disaster, the people of Greece have yet to come to terms with what they call the ‘crisis’: all dreams and hopes for the future are suspended. It is too soon to tell if this nationally-felt malaise is temporary, if all dignity will be restored, or if the country will flourish and, once again, prosper.

 

Ethnicity and pain | Maggie

Portrait of Maggie

Maggie is 20 years old and lives alone in Athens. She is struggling to survive on just €50 (£39) a month.

In 2012 her father died and a year later her mother fled the country to live with Maggie’s half sister in Britain. “She left because the apartment reminded her of my father, and now the bills are pilling up,”

Her mother is Ethiopian. African migration to Greece began in 1980, and the country is still a key transit point for African and Middle Eastern migrants today. Maggie was born in Abu-Dhabi because when her father, who was Greek, was alive, he worked as a diplomat.

“I used to paint my father blue. As he was dying my father lost all of his colour; slowly he was turning grey and then a pungent red – the colour of his wounds that were left unhealed.

We couldn’t afford to put him in hospital after his stroke. We kept him inside a room for six months while trying to aid him. I dealt with his death; however, every now and then, it all unravels and I explode. I wont stop crying for days, I just cant stop.”

© Isabelle Andarakis

She is lucky to have inherited Greek citizenship from her father. Since the crisis Greece has become a place of persecution for one million-plus immigrants and now, more than ever, people are being treated like criminals for their ethnicity.

Civil rights were revoked for immigrants in 2013; and for even second generation migrants like Maggie. It is beginning to resemble an apartheid state.

Maggie says she is finding it difficult to secure employment. Work is an area where discrimination is especially rife.

“My biggest fear in life is not having lived enough. My life isn’t what I thought it would be; but in my head, it’s entirely different. I find the easiest way, being a dreamer, is to try and turn my dreams into a reality, so I can become a realist within these times. I need to learn to accept things”

Portrait of a young man

Defeat and Despondency | The Greek youth of Athens

Portrait of a Greek buskerThe Greeks gave the world democracy yet its system is failing. In 2001 Greece became the twelfth country to join the Eurozone and adopt the single currency, ditching the Greek Drachma after almost two hundred years in circulation.

Soon after, its public spending rose too high and vast amounts of debt accrued from the cost of the Athens Olympics in 2004. Tax evasion was widespread, and before the crisis, public sector wages had increased up to fifty per cent. Youth unemployment has since reached fifty one per cent.

When photographer Isabelle Andarakis visited Athens she found many of the youths were taking to the streets to paint, busk and create art.

“To earn even €10 a day is an achievement; no matter how hard the struggle, they have no choice but to keep going. The poems, the songs, the artwork, it all resonates with the change and the struggle the Athenian youths are dealing with,” said Isabelle.

There are currently three million people living in poverty in Greece. As austerity increases so does the suicide rate, which has risen forty per cent since 2008. One quarter of Greek businesses have gone bust and a quarter of the shops in Athens now stand empty.

As soon as the economy collapsed the decades of secret money borrowing – concealed by the succession of Greek governments – was revealed. Money lenders, Goldman Sachs, were investigated for hiding the extent of Greece’s debts and for aiding Greece with its application to join the single currency.

 

© Isabelle Andarakis

For the people of Greece, the crisis came out of nowhere; they were unprotected and unprepared. The Greeks have since been left exposed and vulnerable, and stripped of all promises of a future. International investors now see Greece as a liability and very few will do business with Greek companies and its industries.

Street landscape

Fascist Politics | The ascent

Anti-fascism poster

Not everyone in Greece has been supine in the face of the crisis, however.

The politics of hate is currently tearing through the heart of its society; anti semitic and racist propaganda is permeating through Greek culture.

It has been reported that the Golden Dawn party can be heard singing songs of fascism outside the Parliament at political rallies.

They comprise white supremacists and Nazi sympathisers who feed on conspiracies such as an ‘interconnected banking system run by a Jewish cabal’, responsible for the crisis.

Greece is called the ‘eastern gate’ of the European Union, which is a critical factor in the country’s pattern of immigration.

This is a challenging issue for Greece and is causing much social contention and the polarisation of political ideology.

Newer cross-border movements of immigration is a result of increasingly global economic activity altering national demographics, for Europe in particular.

Greece is considered as the historical birthplace of Western civilisation; an ostentation now helping to consolidate far right beliefs enthused with xenophobic sentiments.

Human Rights Watch went as far as declaring Greece ‘unsafe’ for immigrants at the start of 2014.

 

Poem |  Jaleh Esfahani

“Where are you from? You ask,
I am a gypsy, a wanderer, born of pain and affliction.
Look at the map of the world,
Voyage across the glance.
Doubtless you will not find a land, where my fellow countryman has not drifted.

I am the mystified soul of a sleep walker at full moon,
Strolls across the cliffs of endless desires.
By asking me where I am from, you wake me up from my golden dream.
I fall from the heights of desire.”

Street landscape

Photography by Isabelle Andarakis