Transatlantic troubles mean Greeks left without family help

St. Philothea Greek Orthodox Church in Athens, Ga.

Kai Ryssdal: I'm in Athens today, Georgia, because there's a simple truth about what's going on over in the other Athens and all over Europe, in fact. If things go bad over there -- slowly or in a hurry -- Athens, Ga., and other towns in the United States are going to be vulnerable despite the fact that Europe seems so far away.

The handful of Greek families that live in Athens, Ga., attend St. Philothea Greek Orthodox Church, most of them every Sunday. Lambrini Cain is one of them. She came to the U.S. more that 20 years ago. She's 66, she worked at Atlanta-based but completely global UPS for most of the time she's been here. Until, that is, her hours were cut a couple of years ago.

We had a quick chat over lunch today at Athens' famous 24-hour diner, The Grill. At one point, Lambrini says, she was working three hours a day and spending four in the car commuting to and from.

Lambrini Cain: Pay $400 babysitter and $400, $450 gas money. I cannot afford it.

Ryssdal: Did they tell you why they had to cut the hours?

Cain: There's no work, there's no work. They cannot pay people when there's no work.

No work at a global package delivery company. That's even before a Greek default and ever-fewer things being shipped to Europe. Cain does have her house, a nice place in a nice neighborhood and schools for her 9-year-old.

Cain: It's a good place, I love my house. I put a lot of work, everything into it, and I'm still doing it. It's a good place to live.

Until the bank came calling. She still owes $140,000 on a house that's now worth $60,000. Her interest-only loan means her payments have ballooned.

Greek families normally take care of each other, she told me. They'd send money back and forth if one or the other needed some help. Right now, though, that just can't happen.

Cain: My sister lost her job. I mean, the business closed the doors. And she moved to my mother's house because they don't have to pay mortgage there, or rent. They applied a year ago for retirement and they still don't got it.

Ryssdal: So what do you think is going to happen in Greece?

Cain: I don't know. I have so much in my bag, for myself, I cannot even think on everybody else. I cannot be thinking of everything. If I sit down and think on everything, forget it.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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