Hunger takes hold in Greece

Published on Current Concerns, by Gerd Höhler, April 2, 2012.
Linked on our blogs with Greece: Protest of the day, and with The Choice for Greece: a Post-Modern Coup or a new kind of society?

Endurance rallying performed by their politicians sounds just cynical to many Greeks. After years of recession and countless austerity programmes they are disheartened and demoralised. Hunger and despair take hold. 

Sotiris Panagopoulos counts the money once again. This doesn’t help to change the result. 599.95 euro: this is meant to sustain his wife and two little children over the next 4 weeks. “How is this supposed to work?”, the 35 year old asks frantically. The rent alone takes 320 euro, not to mention invoices for energy and heating. “At the end we are left with 7 euro per day for a living.” He lost his job as a welder 5 months ago. All of a sudden his employer went out of business, 23 people were out on the street.

Panagopoulos is not the only one picking up his unemployment benefit from the Perama job centre. The queue of those waiting there keeps growing every month. Perama is situated at the Saronian gulf, about an hour’s drive to the west of Athens, the town used to be the centre of the Greek ship-building industry. Today the town of 25,000 inhabitants has an unemployment rate of 60%, one of the highest in Greece. Most of the factories have had problems for years because they could not put  up with the competition from the big Asian shipyards. The recession put them over the edge … //

… Athens’ biggest soup kitchen:

What is going on in Athens, Piraeus street, is also shameful for a EU country. House number 35, an old, two-storey building. Behind the blue wooden door the biggest soup kitchen of Athens is situated. Here the queue of people waiting for a warm bean soup or a plate of noodles keeps growing  day by day. Almost 15,000 people get fed in the soup kitchens of Athens alone, every day. The Orthodox church feeds another 250,000 people in need throughout the country. “Together we can make it”: with this slogan customers are asked to donate food in Greek supermarkets, an action of the broadcasting company SKAI. Next to the cashiers there are containers where those who still have plenty may leave tins or olive oil, potatoes, noodles or rice for the soup kitchens.

Chew your food as long as possible:

“Recipes of hunger” – that’s the name of a book which might become a bestseller in Greece. More and more Greeks are willing to invest 12.90 euro to buy a copy, many hoping they could use this information in order to save money. The author is historian Eleni Nikolaidou: “I got the idea when I stumbled upon a newspaper headline from the war years which read: ‘How to collect breadcrumbs’”, the writer recalls. Nikoladou spent 18 months in the archives researching Greek newspapers from the time of the German occupation (1941–1944). She collected useful recipes to somehow feed a family under harshest conditions. “Chew your food as along as possible, that way the stomach feels full longer”, is one of her suggestions.

In the winter of 1941/42 300,000 people died of cold or starvation in Greece, after the German occupation forces had confiscated fuel and food. Today the situation is far from being as desperate as in those days. But for the first time since the end of the war more than one in five Greeks are unemployed today. Among the youth, even one in two is without a job. Those burnt down ruins and soot-blackened facades which remind of heavy clashes in the inner city of Athens two weeks ago may illustrate the potential of violence lurking behind this piece of statistics.

Away from the EU:

Nine out of ten Greeks view their country to be on the wrong track according to a recent self-administered questionnaire. Greece enters the fifth year of recession. Because the economic output keeps declining, deficit and debt quotas rise. Consequently the minister of finances once again raises taxes and slashes the budget in order to satisfy the international debtees’ austerity set points. That way he drains the economic circuits of even more money and drives the country further into recession. This year the gross domestic product is expected to shrink by another 5%.

(full text and, in a window: Greek austerity measures at a glance).

Links:

Greek Political Leader Venizelos: A Long and Difficult Path Lies Ahead;

Photo Gallery on Spiegel Online International: Deep Sadness Followed By Blind Rage.

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