Athens After The Vote

 

greek crisis

Empty shelves, handouts, food banks and scavenging through bins – the daily reality for thousands of Greek people after the vote.

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I have come to Athens to work on a production of Electra. Arriving here two days before the referendum, the city was buzzing. I came out of Evangelismos station and had to double take: I thought it was snowing, then realised thousands of ‘OXI’ flyers were choking the sky.

Crowds sang and shouted (mainly) ‘OXI’ throughout the city streets. There was a sense of hope and power, especially in the younger generations. This, I found myself thinking, is the Athens I’ve been reading about so avidly. This really is a place where radical change is possible.

Even before the votes were counted,  however, I began to understand that these protests and marches were not necessarily representative of hope or change. 

The celebrations after the vote lasted one evening.

Things are getting so bad here now – I went for a walk yesterday and didn’t go past a single bin that wasn’t being raided, by every sort of person. My friends neighbour is 91 and was living off cherries for 3 days because she had run out of money. 

It’s all so desperately bleak. After all this Tsipras has raised the white flag. 

Every day I witness more people crying in the streets. Yesterday the lighting designer for my show got her car broken into – they stole a plastic bag of her daughters clothes. 

The way that Greece is portrayed in the news is like it’s a rebellious teenager, not a country full of people who are starving in so many ways.

No-one I met was surprised at Syriza’s wholehearted defeat, I was expecting anger and tears, but there has been silence in the theatre. 

I realised that these people, my friends, are not looking at this in the same way as me. Since our budget was cut to zero on the 30th of June, we’ve halved our crew and everyone works for free. They are trying to figure out how they will feed themselves, and do not want to discuss their feelings. It is a question of survival rather than scandal.

We’re told that there will be a queue outside the theatre because people will want to exchange their €20 tickets for €20. Working on this show here feels like a strange Moon Palace, where I see what is happening in the city through my work in the theatre; right now it feels like everything is falling apart.

Amongst this chaos there is a central Athens bubble where tourists continue to enjoy their relaxing holidays, a necessary income for the country, but also pretty disturbing.

“Athens will burn”, a friend told me last night. In a way, it is already on fire. For the last 24 hours I have been repeating that ‘change is constant’ in my head. These events will become the past, change will happen, even if the how and when are terrifying. There is hope. Grief and pain are great motivators – especially when born from such a shared suffering. 

It feels like it should be raining but it’s sunny instead.

 

Meera Osborne
Montage: Claire Palmer

 


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