'Why I'm leaving Greece'

Police clash with demonstrators at a protest in Athens.

Kai Ryssdal: A lot of our coverage of the Greek debt crisis this week has been big picture. Macro, in the economic sense. Trying to explain why we ought to care.

On the ground in Greece, it's a lot more personal. It's individual, because that's where the crisis is being felt. Unemployment there is 16 percent. And the search for work has a lot of Greeks looking to work somewhere else.

Theodora Oikonomides is one of those people. We called her in Athens. Welcome to the program.

Theodora Oikonomides: Thank you.

Ryssdal: Why are you leaving Greece?

Oikonomides: I'm leaving Greece because I've been unemployed for a year and a half and I haven't had paid employment for two years. So I don't really have a choice, I need to have a job.

Ryssdal: And where are you going to go?

Oikonomides: I work in education and emergencies, so I will be going back to my old job, which is education programs for refugees and displaced people. That's going to be in Kenya and the three areas of Somalia.

Ryssdal: This is going to sound funny when I ask it, but Somalia is a war zone, you know?

Oikonomides: I know, it sounds nuts. That's what I know how to do, so...

Ryssdal: So you know what you're doing over there?

Oikonomides: Yes. But at least I'm going to have an interesting job there.

Ryssdal: Yeah. If you could find a job in Greece, would you stay or is the economy just so bad?

Oikonomides: I would stay. If I could find a decent job here -- I'm not talking about a well-paid job because that doesn't exist, but a job that is paid, I would stay.

Ryssdal: Tell me about your friends and whatever colleagues you might have had. How do they feel?

Oikonomides: Everybody thinks that the situation is very bad, that economically, of course, it's awful -- but also politically and socially. Today is a national holiday in Greece. It's the anniversary of the day Greece said no to Mussolini at the beginning of World War II. And we celebrate this as the anniversary of the day we said no. So today, where there are supposed to be parades in every city of Greece, there were protests all over the country with people who had banners saying no. And the no was meant for the government and its policies.

Ryssdal: You know, people are going to hear this interview and they're going to say, well what do the Greek people expect to happen? You have to have spending cuts when you can't pay the bills.

Oikonomides: What the Greek people can tell the rest of the world for a fact is that spending cuts is not helping anyone pay the bill because we are not producing anything. We have 16 percent unemployment. We are not consuming either, so the entire economy is collapsing and that is not helping us pay the bill.

Ryssdal: Theodora Oikonomides, leaving Greece for Kenya and Somalia because she can't find a job. Theodora, thank you.

Oikonomides: Thank you very much.

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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