Anthony manages the restaurant in the uber posh hotel in which we are staying. He is a nice guy and last night, off his own bat, drive us to a superb seaside tavern so we could eat out. As he drove he told us his story…
When he was a boy in the 70s he moved to Germany with his parents who were Gasterbeiten – Greece was poor then, that is what folks did. Hence he speaks fluent German as well as Greek and very decent English.
As a teenager the whole family moved back to Crete as Greece won the Euro lottery and times improved. He now lives in a local town with his wife and two daughters. Aged 23 and 25 they live at home because, despite being well educated, there are just no jobs. 65% of Greeks their age are on the dole. Antony knows that they will soon have to leave Greece for good on a one way ticket to join family in the US, Canada or Australia or perhaps to London.
A noticeably old country will get older still. And his daughters will no doubt marry and stay abroad. Their kids will grow up Greek Americans/Australians/Canadians. Greece will get older still.
Meanwhile Anthony has made decent (not good) money this summer. But the season ends in six weeks at which point he will be on 500 Euro a month welfare. Due to Greece’s corrupt legal/political system the price of fuel, milk, anything here is higher than in London. This educated, clever, charming man would take any job: painting, cleaning, whatever. But there will be no jobs. He will just have to sit it out on welfare until next March struggling to pay basic bills to support him and his family.
He blames the corrupt politicians, the EU, the rich business elite tax-evaders. Whatever. In reality all of Greece took part in the fiddles in the good times. All are partly culpable. But that was then, this is now. There is just no way out for Antony. He is too old to leave. The best he can do is to kiss his daughters goodbye as they emigrate and struggle on. That is Greece for today. And for the foreseeable future. Except that as the population ages, it will get worse.