Posts from the ‘Athens’ Category

It has been a long while since my last post. I have no excuse. The situation in Greece, social, economic, political has been such that a general feeling of insecurity and uncertainty is prevalent.

I chose to tell you  two stories that have slightly changed my mood today:

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  One of Shedia’s vendors

A. The Greek street magazine Schedia (the raft) is now on its 6th year of publication and continues to come up with new events and activities to render our homeless compatriots visible again. The magazine is its first care and main source of revenue. In addition to the Homeless Soccer team they organize literary evenings, a cafe -network all over the country where homeless people can find a coffee waiting for them paid by other customers, thematic city tours and exchange visits with homeless fromuother countries who publish their own magazines.  They have a site but there is not much in English. For those of you who can read  Greek  http://www.shedia.gr/

B. Idomeni – the make-shift camp refugees have set up on their own near the Greece-FYROM frontier,  saw a gleam of light and joy today. Two young Syrian refugees decided to get married inspite of the difficulties and hardship they are facing. Friends and volunteers chipped in for the preparations and the women managed to form a heart of red rose petals on the newly weds bed in the tent they will share from now on. Does love conquer all? I don’t know but it sure made our hearts a little lighter today

 

 

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All the President’s women – part two

TsarouhaThe Ministry of Macedonia-Thrace of previous governments has become part of the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform, a “demotion” according to right wing politicians, has been given to Ms. Maria Kolia – Tsarouha. Ms. Tsarouha was first elected in her home town, Serres, in 2000, with New Democracy. In 2012, after refusing to sign the second mnemonium, she was ousted from New Democracy and joined the Independent Greeks Party. It is considered common knowledge that Ms Kollia-Tsarouha belongs to the close circle of ex-Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, former President of New Democracy.

KountouraMs Eleni Kountoura is Deputy Minister for tourism. She has followed more or less the same route as Ms Kollia: from New Democracy to the Independent Greeks and now to the ministry. She is a graduate of the Gymnastics Academy of Athens and a champion athlete. True to their reputation Greek mass media concentrate on her international career as a top model….We are looking forward to her efforts to boost Greek tourism.

Rania Antonopoulou, deputy Minister for the reduction of unemployment comes from the academic sector. She gave up her teaching post in Bard College to offer her services to the most difficult task of this government: unemployment. Due to her long stay abroad she is not very well known in Greece.

antonopoulou

The percentage of women in the present Parliament is 23,5%, higher than in previous Parliaments but still not as high as the goal of 33% set by the Greek women’s movement.

Five causes for resistance and solidarity in Greece today

We need to resist the totalitarian attitude of the Greek government who, in the name of an elusive “development” has started a war against anyone who disagrees with its measures. We need to express our solidarity and support to the many people suffering by this attitude.

  1. A modern Bethlehem has been set up in Syntagma Square: Syrian refugees, among them children and one pregnant woman, have started a hunger strike to be given traveling documents to reach other parts of Europe. A SYRIZA MP has expressed his decision to join them.
Syrian refugees on hunger strike

Syrian refugees on hunger strike

 

  1. Nicos Romanos, a 20+ armed robbery convict, has passed his University Entrance Exams while in prison but is being refused permission to attend classes. He is on hunger strike for over two weeks now and his health is in danger. Romanos first came to the limelight because he was with Alexis Grigoropoulos the night he was shot and killed by a riot policeman. In spite of the police efforts there is no proof that the young man was ever involved in terrorist activities.
Nikos Romanos at the time of his arrest

Nikos Romanos at the time of his arrest

  1. In Northern Greece the attacks on environment and on the populace trying to protect it continue. Largely ignored by the mainstream media the resistance of the people of Chalkidiki goes on.
Skouries demonstration

Skouries demonstration

  1. Police brutality is on the increase. After the uncalled attacks on the Disabled people’s demonstration last week there was further proof of it last night.

young girl attacked

  1. A trainer in the police Academy has come forward andstated that while teaching one of the cadets stated “I am a fascist and proud of it”. The most disturbing feature of the incident is that it was applauded by the rest of the class.

The bet for Greek society is how to resist efficiently, how to stand next to the suffering citizens without taking away their dignity.

One example by the newly elected regional government: Ms. Rena Dourou suggested to the Minister for Interior Affairs Mr.Dinopoulos to use 2.5 billion marked for festive activities to re-electrify poor households in their area. The proposal had been put forth by the audience in a popular tv show and became a reality. We could do more

Greece: Good news for a change

On Sunday, 2 November, 18 small Athenian Museums will be open to the public free of charge. The museums are situated in central Athens and will be open from 11 to 16.00.

The initiative is called Open Walk Athens 4 and is organized by the Atenistas group (you can find them at …http://atenistas.org/2014/10/27/owa4/)

tzisdarakis-mosque

The Popular art Museum

I have to admit that I was unaware of at least half of these museums and have visited only one!!  They cover a wide variety of subjects but are within easy reach of each other making visiting more than one easy and comfortable. A map of all the participating museums can be collected either in the Athens Jewish Museum (Nikis 39, Syntagma Square area) or the Popular art Museum in the Monastiraki area.

In addition to the two mentioned above you can visit a Museum that houses a collection of the characters of the Greek shadow theater as used by Haridimos, one of the most famous players, painter Vassiliou’s studio under the Acropolis,  the History of the Athens University Museum, a Museum dedicated to  children and my favourite: the folk music instruments Museum. This last one is situated in the Plaka region, the old Athens, and has a minute garden, often used for performances during summer.

Culture cannot cure everything but it opens a window to hope…

Rain, disasters and politics

 

Yesterday winter paid its first visit to Greece and found it, once again, totally unprepared.

Flooded streets, cars carried by the waters for hundred of meters, damaged houses and destroyed businesses have become a common occurrence on Greek tv at every rainfall heavier than usual.

cars washed away by the flood

cars washed away by the flood

Anti – flood infrastructure, projects that have been announced and never materialized are the cause of the biblical catastrophe most acutely felt in Western Athens, the poorest area of the Greek capital and Nikea, a Piraeus suburb. Angry and desperate citizens who feel totally deserted by the central government explained that this is a repeat performance for the last 30 years or so.

The Prime Minister called an extraordinary meeting of the Civil protection Agency to coordinate the government’s actions on ways to face this natural disaster.

Unfortunately, once again, Mr. Samaras exhibited an affinity for petty politics. He excluded from the meeting  Ms. Rena Dourou, the newly-elected governor of the Attica region, the region most hit by the floods. Ms. Dourou represents SYRIZA, Mr. Samaras’ bogeyman.

Ms. Dourou was with the citizens of the region and thanked the fire department for their unstinted help. After being left out of the extraordinary meeting she stated that this is not the time for petty criticism; the communities suffering once again know that such petty political behavior is the root cause of the lack of flood protection infrastructure.

Interior Minister Argyris Dinopoulos, who visited some areas struck by the storms was booed by locals and blamed for the situation.

People left homeless by the floods are being housed by their respective municipalities.

A day in downtown Athens – August 31 2014

 

Today I have to go into Athens to renew my bus card (a card that allows me unlimited travel on all buses and the tram and costs 20 Euros), something I cannot do in my neighbourhood for reasons only the Greek state comprehends. I chose to go by bus and return by tram to do other chores too. After a 15 minutes wait the bus arrives. It is not the one I would choose since I have to walk another 10 minutes to reach my destination but it is better than waiting for the right one since no one knows when it will come. The official explanation is that summer time is the time drivers have to go on leave too and the services are erratic. I doubt it since when I asked for a bus timetable I was told that they run a bus service and not an airport!!ws-athenstraffic2

The bus ride is very educational. People are complaining to whoever is closest about the pension cuts and the announcement that bus fares will be increased before the end of the year. Paulina, a 65 year old retired high school teacher explains that since the beginning of 2012 her income has shrunk by approximately 200 Euros. She has no car and therefore depends on mass transport for her moves. Her only consolation is that after September, when she will be 65+ and officially a senior citizen she will be entitled to a half price bus ticket provided the reduction is still in operation. Another passenger explains that the bus service is bad today because of the rally organized by the “uniformed” forces. Who are they? The “uniformed” are the police and army employees who are threatened with major cutbacks and are protesting in Syntagma Square which is where our bus terminal is located. A young woman comments bitterly: “Civil servants protest and get their own way, like the employees of the State electricity company. It is left to us, the people in the private sector, to pay for everyone. If we strike we are sent home”.

Thank God the bus service booth is open and I renew my card. Now for the way back. This time I am going by tram: a means of transport that started operating during the 2004 Olympics and is criticized for being extremely slow. Its critics are proved correct today since it took 20 minutes to arrive! It is packed to capacity and there is no inclination to talk this time.

It is full moon tonight – time to make wishes and dream. People speak on their mobiles and arrange where and how they will spend the evening. Lots of free events have been announced and the mood is lighter.

In conclusion, courage and the ability to adapt and find ways to be well together with a sense of humour are the ingredients that help the Greeks carry on. Let us hope that the supply is endless…

Writer’s correction of herself: I have, since writing this note, found out that I could have renewed my card at any tram station – and that happens to be 10 minutes walk from home… Well, next month… unless I want to visit downtown Athens and need an excuse.

Midsummer night concert

Haris Alexiou sings in solidarity to the cleaners’ struggle

Yesterday night Syntagma Square was once more flooded with protesters but with a difference: last night was a singing protest! Haris Alexiou, one of the most popular and respected singers in Greece gave an open air concert in support of the cleaners’ struggle*. Wearing cleaning gloves she waved her hands in return to the audience clapping and singing along.  The Concert was organised and supported by the radio station “Sto kokkino” – it means “on red” , a left-wing radio. Haris sang old and new ballads and managed to refresh our souls despite the heat!

Haris Alexiou's solidarity concert

Haris Alexiou’s solidarity concert

*The cleaners’struggle has received great publicity and attracted much sympathy worldwide because in their case the injustice is blatant. They were found “redundant” and fired. They took the government to court and were justified but the government has appealed the court decision and they are still out of a job.  They belonged to the Economics Ministry employees – all 600 of them. The Ministry has had to replace them with private cleaning agencies which cost them as much as the full time cleaners.

The cleaning ladies  have been camping outside the Finances Ministry for the last two months. They have become a focal point for many other public sector employees who have been summarily fired in order to satisfy the Troika demand for a smaller public sector.

Tax evaders get gifts we get fired - The cleaners'banner

Tax evaders get gifts we get fired – The cleaners’banner