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Greek immigrants facing uncertain times

Opa!

A Greek travel agent in Astoria, Queens, home to a large Greek community in New York City. Who wouldn't love a trip to the Greek Islands? Unfortunately the question facing many Greeks considering trips to the U.S. is tougher -- go or stay?

Steve Chiotakis: All this week, we're helping you understand why Greece is such a threat to the global economy and why you should care.

Today, young Greeks say there aren't many work prospects at home. So some decide to come to the United States, but the jobless rate is high here too.

That's why some Greek nationals in New York feel torn about whether to encourage their friends back home to come join them. Sally Herships explains.


Sally Herships: Ellen Athena Catsikeas is Greek-American. Born here, high school there, college here. After graduating in the mid-'90s, Catsikeas wasn't able to break into the film business. At the time, Greece was booming. So she went back.

Ellen Athena Catsikeas: We all actually had a very good quality of life. It wasn't too shabby to be able to go to Greek Islands for the weekend, you know.

But 10 glorious years later, the money started drying up. Catsikeas had been working as a freelance film director.

Catsikeas: What seemed to be a system that worked; you might wait two or three months for your pay but you knew you were going to get it. Suddenly you were up against companies that were maybe paying six months down the line, seven months down the line.

So she packed up her bags and headed for her second home: The states. Professionally it's worked out for her, but she was sad to leave.

Catsikeas: I think we all when we went there wanted to be a part of making Greece better. We all brought our degrees and our master's, or certain people brought their Ph.Ds, and we wanted to reverse the brain drain. But I think the brain drain is happening again.

As evidenced by all the calls New York City resident Larisa Antypa is getting from her homeland.

Herships: Would you tell people now to come here?

Larisa Antypa: That's a tricky question.

Antypa first came to the states to study drama. Now she works at the Greek Cultural Center in Queens.

Antypa: Sure, you can come to United States, but don't think this is heaven also, job-wise.

Antypa says America was more promising 10 years ago when she arrived. Then, you didn't need connections to find work. But now...

Antypa: When you first come here and don't know anybody -- right now at this moment, it's a big, big difference not knowing anybody and trying to find a job.

And Ellen Catsikeas agrees with Antypa. She says except for people who are willing to take big steps back in their careers, America may no longer be the promised land.

In New York, I'm Sally Herships for Marketplace.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

A Greek travel agent in Astoria, Queens, home to a large Greek community in New York City. Who wouldn't love a trip to the Greek Islands? Unfortunately the question facing many Greeks considering trips to the U.S. is tougher -- go or stay?

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