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Bulgarians in Athens and the economic crisis

24 May 2011 / 16:05:21  GRReporter
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"The percentage of those who have the luck to get a job dropped down," said one of the women whom I spoke with about the crisis. Almost every day of the week my way passes through Omonia Square and its surroundings where most of the shops selling products from Bulgaria are located, and the restaurants which have Bulgarian managers are gathering points of the economic migrants on weekends. I decided to finally ask them how they cope in the crisis, whether the number of their customers had decreased, whether Bulgarians are leaving or are they trying to survive somehow.

In two of the mini-markets, where I enter, there are queues of four or five clients, the Greeks are looking to buy milk and other products that they are familiar with, but Bulgarians also shop as they like - mayonnaise for one euro, pretzel sticks for 50cents, various types of cookies for about one euro, bread, juice, sausages and patties. I couldn’t tell if they have felt the crisis and how, because the sales assistants do not want to talk to me and refer me to the owners of the shops, but they were not there.

In a small Bulgarian shop with a "Welcome"sign written on the window, the owner was there and was arranging the merchandise. She was in a hurry when answering me because she had to arrange shelves and place the order for new products. "It is a crisis, people have no money. They come to the store and buy one sausage, two eggs, a banana, the most basic products," she says quickly and continues to clean. Nearby is the Hotel "Moka" where there is a veranda with a caffe on the top floor and some time ago it was a meeting place for Bulgarians, but now it does not work everyday, but only on weekends because the number of customers has decreased. The turnover of the "Gramos" caffe on Marni street has also decreased by 60% according to the words of its manager Krassimir Kirov. "There are customers, but no money. Those who used to come once a week now come once a month. Other people have moved and no longer live in the center, but they went in the suburbs of the city and no longer come as often. As it affects everyone the crisis also affects us," said Krassimir.

A few blocks away from Vatis square are located two Bulgarian restaurant - "Rupite" and "The tasty kebapche". In "Rupite" I turn to the customers and ask one of the women what has happened during the last year and how has the crisis affected her job. Sebat Dervisheva is from Belene and was a seamstress, but lost her job there, which 14 years ago led her in Greece. During these years she was cleaning houses and taking care of elderly sick people, exactly what thousands of other women do who came here in the country due to economic stalemate in Bulgaria. For ten years she had health insurance and until a year ago she earned really good money. "Of course I didn’t work eight hours a day, I worked much more, but I was earning about 2000-3000 euros per month. Now I get about a thousand a month. If you are looking for a job, you'll always find something, but now the percentage of luck has decreased. Those who did not work before don’t work now as well, because they are lazy," she said and smiled.

In a conversation with another woman aged 58 who has no social security and without sufficient work experience in order to receive a pension I learned that women continue to arrive from Bulgaria in order to find work in Greece. Elderly women, retired, who come without ever being abroad and without knowing any foreign language and coming for the sole purpose to find someone even older to care for him and earn a minimum wage . I an trying to think logically, that in Bulgaria they have a pension, and most of them have a home, but I grow numb because of the comment of the woman who says, "well yes, but the home you can not eat. Here at least the weather is warm, and the church gives food for foreigners twice a day. So if they are left unemployed, at least they won’t be left hungry."

It is strange that more and more often I hear the story of people who come to work in Greece while previously having a successful business in Bulgaria, but something wrong has happened. Usually their friends who are telling me about them are amazed by these decisions, by these twists of faith and at the same time worried that they can not do anything because they themselves are having a difficult time getting around here. Others say that to stay and work here you need to be tough and set a goal for yourself to follow, otherwise you can not manage. Those who cannot keep up with the pace of work go back. The rest do not complain, despite the difficulties. Are satisfied that they manage to provide education for their children with the money earned, because they say that Bulgarians are made this way.


Marina Nikolova

Tags: news society emmigrants politics Bulgarians in Greece economic crisis
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