I still call Greece home: Australians ready to stay put during debt crisis May 16, 2010Posted by Yilan in Australia, EU, European Union, Yunanistan.
Tags: Australia, Greece
ATHENS: Come what may, Australians of Greek descent living back in the country of their forebears say they want to ride out the financial crisis that has Greece teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
”I think we all want to tough it out,” says Amalia Travasarou, 64, president of the Greek Australian Society of Athens.
”It’s hard enough for the family when they emigrate the first time,” Ms Travasarou told the Herald. ”Then to move back to Greece again is also difficult. So the idea of packing up and going back to Australia – again – I think we all prefer to just visit from time to time.”
Ms Travasarou, who has three uncles living in Melbourne, says that after the Greek and Australian governments agreed on a way to share pension payments for dual citizens, Australians of Greek descent have felt more financially secure.
”My son, who is 24, wants to move to Australia to work, but not because of the crisis. I think he is just interested in seeing another part of the world and experiencing something different for a while,” she said.
Stavros Orthanoyiannis, 62, a former Sydneysider who studied engineering at the University of Sydney, moved back to Greece in the mid-1970s after the fall of the military junta.
”I thought to myself, ‘Is this it?’ Am I going to remain in this corner of the world or go and do something different?”
After setting up home in Athens, Mr Orthanoyiannis worked as a high school teacher.
Today he is a senior mathematics teacher at the prestigious Douka School in Athens that provides tuition from preschool through to secondary school. Despite facing a cut to his pension of up to 25 per cent after the passing of new laws aimed at reining in Greece’s massive debt, Mr Orthanoyiannis says things are not as bad as they seem.
”I’ve had several emails from people asking me, ‘Is it safe to go to Athens?’ From all the media coverage you would think we were living in Beirut or the Gaza Strip.
”The situation is being presented as a choice between two roads. One is financial devastation for all citizens, the other is national bankruptcy. But I don’t believe in such stark choices. I feel very strongly that Greeks can find a way through this.”
Not a supporter of one political party or another, Mr Orthanoyiannis says he was one of tens of thousands protesting against the introduction of the austerity package. ”The main thrust is cutting back on the state sector and, ultimately, that means cutting back on democracy,” he said.
Dentist Penny Andreopoulos, who moved to Greece from Sydney when she was 25 in the mid-1980s, says she hasn’t visited Australia since. ”Occasionally my husband and I think about going there for a holiday. But it’s so difficult to find the time.”
A former president of the Greek Australian Professional Association, Ms Andreopoulos says she is unaware of any growing panic in the tight-knit Australian Greek community.
”Yes, there is a financial crisis, but who says there is a guarantee of a job waiting for you back in Australia?
”Of course, we Greeks have done some silly things in these past years but I think we can climb out of it. Everyone said we couldn’t stage the Olympics and look at how that turned out. We made it happen, and I think we will make it through this.”