Will Vrahassi begin to grow again?
Crisis-hit Greeks leave the cities for a new rural life
Uprooted by a national debt crisis and a deepening recession that has eaten up their jobs, incomes and pensions, many Greeks are now returning to their families’ rural past in search of a future.
Just as young graduates are moving abroad rather than risk joining the 18 percent of Greeks who are out of work, families struggling to maintain their living standards are looking for a simpler life away from the city.
Elisabeth Kokoreli and her husband Vanguelis Tsaprounis quit Athens earlier this year to live permanently in their second home on the island of Evia, where he grew up.
Although they had long been thinking about a change of lifestyle, they were forced to act after the cost of raising a family in the capital, at about 3,000 euros ($4,000) a month, far outstripped their earnings.
Now, their two daughters are settled in the local school in Vassilika and Tsaprounis, a 42-year-old painter, has set about learning the farming skills needed to make the most of the land that he has inherited.
”I am very happy,” said Kokoreli, a 40-year-old dance therapist. ”We have a better chance at a future here. In Athens, it was a constant struggle.
”It has been a big change for me, but I like this new way of life.” Her family is part of an increasing exodus from the cities to the villages, reversing a trend dating back to World War II which has seen the population of Athens triple to four million -- two-fifths of all people living in Greece.
Agricultural labour has surged seven percent since 2008, while people who work on the land now make up 12.5 percent of the active population, compared to 11.3 percent in 2008.
Many of these new recruits are middle-aged, like Ambroise Santamouris, 50, and his partner Adriana Flores, 52.
They are both journalists but have seen their industry decimated by the recession, which will next year enter its fourth year.
Santamouris lost his job at a private radio station in 2010, and in January they decided to move to the island of Tinos in the Cyclades, where he has inherited a house by the sea.
For the couple, the move was a ”question of survival”, he says, as well as an opportunity to change the way they lived.
”Most of the things that we thought were important, and which reflect your position in society, turned out to be worthless. And we couldn’t afford them anyway,” Santamouris said.
Although he would rather have retired to the island when he was ready, the prospect of finding another job in Athens, where a quarter of the 8,000 journalists in the city are set to lose their jobs this year, forced his hand.
I cannot let yesterday go by without mention of the fact that David and I once again spent the day at the Court in Neapolis. Of course it was he who shall not be named, rearing his ugly head. This time the case was thrown out. I think the words were to the effect that there was no case to answer. Still it was a bit of a strain on us. We did have a celebratory drink with friends after, and we were in bed by 8 o'clock. It was funny really, because by 3 a.m. we were wide awake. Back to normal today - whatever that is!
I am busy practising for Christmas Eve morning, when Julie (the flute) and I shall be playing Christmas Carols in Neapolis. So, back to it.
Love Jane x