Austerity Europe: Greeks driven back to the land
19 October 2011
As strikes bring the country to a halt, and politicians dither over the fate of the eurozone's most stricken economy, Greeks are being forced to turn back the clock to make ends meet. A report from the island of Naxos, in the Cyclades.
"People are coming back to farms around here that they abandoned years ago so they can grow potatoes, cabbages and vegetables to help them survive the crisis," says Petros Citouzouris, as he pruned his vines high in the mountains of Naxos, the largest island in the Cyclades. The financial catastrophe in Greece is engulfing the most isolated parts of the country. Pointing to newly cultivated terraces close to a long derelict leper colony at Sifones, Mr Citouzouris says that since the crisis began "unemployed builders, miners and pensioners have started returning to family farms they inherited a generation ago, but never worked". He reckons that 10 out of 20 nearby farms belong to the new arrivals. "They don't see any light at the end of the tunnel," he says. "They won't be able to grow enough to live off farming alone, but it will help them get by." He says he is happy that he himself never left the land during Greece's boom years. Economic disaster affects every part of Naxos, creating a mood that varies between half-hidden anxiety, open despair and a general dread that, however bad things are today, they will be a great deal worse tomorrow. The island remains extraordinarily beautiful, filled with ancient Greek remains and Venetian towers, its whitewashed villages and well-watered terraces clinging to the sides of mountains that soar above deep green valleys. Olive trees and vineyards flourish in the fertile soil that for 5,000 years has attracted settlers.
Tourists still came this year, much to the relief of the owners of hotels and tavernas, but the rest of the economy is shrivelling by the week as Naxiots prepare for the worst. Katarina Sideri, who runs vocational training courses in the mountain village of Chalki, says: "People here think that their children will be worse off than they are." She has 48 places in her training course and has received 200 applicants, many of them highly trained people speaking two foreign languages, but who have not been able to find a job. Read full article in The Independent...