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Austerity Calling: Portraits of the New Greece

  1. Austerity  Calling

    Austerity Calling

    The Greek government’s approval of sweeping austerity measures in late June may have averted a default, but it hasn’t yet saved Greece. European governments have agreed to provide Athens with at least €12 billion ($17.3 billion) to help Greece meet its obligations for another month. What happens next is anyone’s guess. Under a French proposal, private creditors holding Greek bonds would roll over €30 billion of bonds maturing in 2014 into longer-term securities. Although the proposal has the backing of other euro zone governments, the Standard & Poor’s rating agency says that if the plan goes ahead, it will declare Greece to be in “selective default.”

    The most severe consequences of the crisis are being borne not by bondholders but by ordinary Greeks. The economy shrank 5.5 percent in the first quarter. Unemployment has hit 15.9 percent, compared with 11.7 percent just one year ago. Some 30 percent of Greeks under 30 are jobless. On the pages that follow, a cross section of Greeks, photographed on a single weekend in early July, details the impact of the crisis on their jobs, businesses, families, and livelihoods—and reflects on the uncertain future of a proud, battered nation.
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  2. Petros Kobothekras

    Petros Kobothekras

    Protester, 68
    “I have been coming to Syntagma Square every night for the last month. I try and tell people how much worse life will be next year and so on. We must remove this government. We are trying for the real democracy as it was in Athens 2,500 years ago.”
  3. Angelos Aggelou

    Angelos Aggelou

    High school student, musician, and protester, 17
    "This government does not represent the people—the poor, women, minorities. The policies they are making are to benefit those people with money. I came [to Syntagma Square] to become more politically active and educated because the politics of this country has to change."
  4. Stefania Petritsi

    Stefania Petritsi

    Partner, Mali Veni Organic Farm, 35
    “The crisis helped me change. I left an office job and did something on my own, something sustainable for the environment as well as financially. It is the only way out. … I want to stay positive about the financial situation, but if things don’t change it will become very hard.”
  5. Titos Theonas

    Titos Theonas

    Greek Orthodox priest, 48
    My annual salary has gone down by the equivalent of two months. In the church, there has been a reduction of about 25 percent in offerings. There are more people coming to the church—mostly businessmen who have lost their businesses and are in economic need.”
  6. Ahmed Farid

    Ahmed Farid

    Shop owner, 55
    “Business is so down. Sales are very slow. People have no money. Their salaries are cut, and the prices are higher. There hasn’t been industry in Greece in the 25 years I’ve lived here. … Whatever industry is left is going to Bulgaria. This is the way people become jobless.”
  7. Alexandros Romas

    Alexandros Romas

    Real estate agent, 43
    “Greece needs to reduce the uncertainty and create a more stable and lower tax system. There is less liquidity, but there are also deals to be found. There’s more room to negotiate prices. With keen investors who know what they want, there are more opportunities to find deals.”
  8. Achilles Pappas

    Achilles Pappas

    Tavern owner, 60
    "I think whoever was in charge during the crisis, it would be the same result. The politicians are responsible because they knew about Greece’s problems and they didn’t do anything about it. They shouldn’t have raised the sales tax. Sales volume has fallen because of this. Cutting wages was also harmful for businesses. They should focus on development. They should have cut wages for higer earners and left the lower earners alone."
  9. Maria Stasini

    Maria Stasini

    Taxi driver, 42
    “Last year we closed our restaurant because of the crisis. Now I have to find a solution. I have a lot of debt to pay off, and the only way I can survive is to drive a taxi 12 to 14 hours a day. There have been many mistakes made by the government. They should pay for most of the damage and not the people.”
  10. Christian Igbo

    Christian Igbo

    Homeless immigrant, 32
    “I worked at a supermarket warehouse. Because of the crisis, a lot of people were sacked from their jobs. I was one of the victims. Before, it was good for me in Greece. Now things have changed. I don’t blame the government. If God wants to change the situation, it will change.”
  11. Dimitrios Pandermalis

    Dimitrios Pandermalis

    President, Acropolis Museum, 70
    “We are working harder to offer our visitors another dimension from everyday reality. People need not only to concentrate on the crisis but to see this issue historically. Crises are something we expect in history. It’s not always good days and periods of prosperity.”
  12. Theodore Dourmousoglou

    Theodore Dourmousoglou

    President and managing director, Ducasco-Dourmousoglou, 60
    “I don’t think Greece will go bankrupt, but the general market will belong to a few multinational companies. Greek companies will disappear. That’s not only bad for the companies and shareholders, it’s very bad for employment and growth. Greece will not be bankrupt. Greeks will be.”
  13. Litza Psihas

    Litza Psihas

    Pensioner, 65 (with husband, Fani Psihas)
    “We are on a fixed income, and prices for food and heating oil have risen. We are more careful with our money. We think twice before going out for coffee or to eat. My daughter went to school to learn computers and still has no prospects. This is what causes me the most anguish.”
  14. Stefanos Alexopoulos

    Stefanos Alexopoulos

    University student, 21
    “I feel optimistic despite all these problems that conquered my country. It’s not only Greece’s problem. This situation, this whole crisis, has created new normals, for Greece and the whole world. It has marked the dawn of a new era that no one knows.”