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Greeks in crisis

Greece’s economic outlook, from the streets of Athens

Kai Ryssdal and Hayley Hershman Jul 14, 2015
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Although immediate danger of an economic collapse has passed, Greece and its people have a long way to go before things feel comfortable, or even normal.

In Athens, the attitude about Greece’s future is a mixed bag. There are citizens like Olga Karastathi, on the one hand. Karastathi opened up Chemin Bakery in Athens just as Greece was getting into economic trouble despite the turmoil, and she’s still optimistic.

“We don’t have any profit, but we keep going and hoping for the best,” she says.

For Karastathi, staying in Greece was never up for debate. 

“I don’t want to leave, I want to stay and try to make things better,” Karastathi says. 

Nick Voglis, owner of Trends Subs and Salads in Greece, shares Karastathi’s optimism. He was abroad for 20 years before coming back to Greece 16 years ago.

“I came here to create this into a franchise,” Voglis says about Trends Subs and Salads. “Unfortunately we were not able to do this.”

Voglis says that his restaurant has downsized significantly in the past several years: “Our business has fallen since the peak of 2007 by about 40 to 50 percent. We are barely making money.”

Still, he too remains optimistic that things can return to a level of stability in Greece.

“This is the biggest experiment in the Western World,” Voglis says. “I believe it’s going to work eventually. Every time you have a major problem you find solutions if you want to find a solution.”

On the other hand, there are Greeks like Tonia Korka. She’s juggling multiple jobs to support her son. Unlike Olga and Nick, Korka’s view of Greece’s future is bleak. She has no savings or bank account. Korka says her thirteen year old son isn’t as shaken by the economic downturn as she is.

“He’s not complaining because he’s a kid of the crisis, so he’s used to it, let’s say. He knows that this is the way things have to be,” she says.

Korka wants to get a job outside of Greece to support her family. She explains, “I would leave right now. If I had a job outside of here…I believer that here we’re lost, we’re done as a country”

Then, somewhere in the middle there are college students like Efie Garavela. Garavela has grown up dealing with this economic crisis. She still has two years left in school before she enters the job market, but even now she’s doubtful of her job prospects in Greece.

“My dreams are kind of crushed right now,” she says. “I’m really nervous about my future, to be honest. I just feel that I’m so young and I have so many dreams, and I want them to come true. And this country doesn’t offer me the chance to do so.”

The people living and working in Greece aren’t the only ones thinking about Greece. There’s also the flocks of tourists. One tourist, Sangeeth Perui, brought his family to Athens for a family vacation.

“The main thing I noticed is what you see in the press is a lot different than when you get here. It doesn’t seem like people here are nearly as worried as the press. It’s kinda like in California, you know, you go anywhere else and they think we have no water and we’re dying of dehydration, but California things seem find when you live there,” Perui says.

Other tourists, like Gail Allen, noticed that the lack of crowds seemed unusual. “You can tell there’s something different because it’s not busy on the streets and stuff. I’m hoping the tourist season will bring back the economy a little bit.”

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