Family Ties – a conversation with Verena in Greece

March 7. 2023

Very sad to hear of the train disaster.

Thank you Geoff. It is a nightmare as it shows that NOTHING is working here.

Reprint of Facebook Post

Dear friends abroad, how can | tell you? Slowly,
as we overcome the first shock, | am trying to
find explanations for you, who don’t know what
it is to live in Greece in 2023 and what happened
in the night last Tuesday.

| don’t find words. It is unexplainable to
someone who is living in a functioning country
with politicians who are doing their jobs, with
money that doesn’t disappear in black holes…
and then you will say “but here also…” – and |
know | cannot explain it to you.

You cannot imagine the level of lack of
civilisation in the country that | chose to be mine
and in which definitely nothing is working.

No, it is not everywhere by chance if you
survive. This is the case in the so called ,,third
world” countries. Not in Europe. But in Greece.

We are in the streets every day, although we know nothing will change.
I hope the people will not forget as usually and will continue to ask for change.

It is a complete puzzle to me. I have Greek friends and when they go back to visit I hear stories of generosity and hospitality.  I know the economy has been bad for a long time. But in the birthplace of the modern world, why is good government so problematic?

I guess the Greeks you know even don’t know as they don’t live here in austerity and chaos… like Greek friends who are living for decades abroad. They just doesn’t know.

Here everything is based on family. So all the decades every problem (no money, no jobs, no hospitals, no plan) was saved by the family (when I was sick and did not have money to go to a doctor, I asked a friend and another brought me antibiotics he had at home). People don’t expect anything by the state and got lazy. Retreat into the family.

Family, food, coffee and beach instead of fighting for a common good…

Politics works the same: working for the family and not for a common good. Using the time in power to make as money as possible for the family.

Corruption on a highest degree…

No one cares for the people.

The train is the only train we thought is working. We all were using it very often. Now we know they played with our lives.

So it’s a kind of family selfishness. Maybe like I saw staying with friends in Italy – family first and fights for power between families. I’m so sorry. Thank you for a deep insight.

Verena: Like in Italy but worse!

Geoff: If you have time could you send me something for the blog?

Verena: I will try the next days. Until now I wasn’t able to explain something as it was too shocking and it is so deep and different to f.I. Australia, but I will see the next days!

Greece after 01/03/23

I am living since 5 years in Thessaloniki, the second largest city of Greece. I grew up, studied and worked the first 44 years of my life in Germany. 

I love this city, but there are so many things I don’t understand. I mean, I understand them by the context, but still.

I don’t want to offend anyone, nor Greeks in Greece, nor those who left the country because life here is so difficult. I just want to tell my observations during the last years as a foreigner who is living with Greek friends, colleagues and organisations. My thoughts I want to share about Greece these days.

Everything in Greece is working in and with the family. 

For me, living on my own, it was at the beginning confusing, later annoying. Now I am accepting it, but I see why the train crash in the night 28/02 – 01/03 is now (finally) bringing the people (and especially the young people) more than only a couple of days in the streets – and hopefully also to the ballot boxes in April-July (the day was announced but now we think it will be later).

Everything is working in and with the family. Nothing is working in and from the government and we have learned to make it with the help of our families.

I needed a surgery. I did not have the money to pay a private hospital, but in the public hospital I would have waited for a (too long) time. A friend had a friend who has a friend who is in orthopedics and I made the surgery for only a little percentage of the price it would have had cost without my “family”.

I had a sinusitis and when it got worse, I knew I need antibiotic. I wasn’t able to go to the hospital to wait 7-10 hours for it, neither did I have the money to go to a doctor, so I asked a friend who has access to medication. Only some hours later I had the pills I needed with the help of my “family”.

I had a problem with my car and a friend had a friend…

When there was a problem with the water bills, someone knew someone at the water company…

There was a friend of a friend…. There is family.

Everything is working in and with the family. Also in my life.

That’s why we somehow accept the lack of everything in Greece. That’s why we accept the lack of hospitals, of teachers, of firefighters, even of jobs and money, because the family…

When I used to live in Germany but the economic crisis in Greece already has been on its peak, I did not understand why everyone spoke about the pensions… Later I got it: Many families are living from the pensions of the grandparents as the children and grandchildren cannot find work. The family…

Now something happened that no one can solve with the family: the train system. A friend said the other day to me: “I still cannot believe that this happened.” It is unbelievable that we all were sitting many many times on the only train that (as we thought) was working well: Thessaloniki-Athens. It is unbelievable that every time we were sitting in that train, the train was conducted from station to station via radio, without any security system in between. No lights, no monitoring system.

One thing I am complaining since my first times in Greece is the indifference people have towards everything that is outside of their family. 

Towards climate change. Towards the public space. Towards the whole situation. Shouting for a day or two – and then again: family, coffee, beach (I exaggerate, but you get the point?!).

This time it is different.

I hope.

Today I read: “All the young people that did not leave the country to study or work were sitting in the train. All the young people who did not go abroad were sitting in the train. The ones who survived are going to the demonstrations in order to change something.”

… and then it went on “and you threw tear gas on them”.

From the first day special forces have been at the train stations where friends and family came to mourn. 

This is happening very often, but somehow it was the last drop for many people.

I don’t know how it will continue. I don’t know if the Greek people will have the energy to continue. I hope. I really hope.

I am walking with them at every demonstration these days. 

It is about us, about the next generation and about our future.

Photo: Craig Wherlock

Today again demonstrations.

Thanks Verena
It is so sad. But I’m glad I now know. 
Would you mind if I edit what you have written? I would send it to you first before posting. 
Today is International Women’s Day. Sandy organised a breakfast in Melbourne this morning. It went very well. I’m going to get some sleep now. Grandpa duties in the morning. We are a long way from Thessaloniki. G

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