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Street stories: “My childhood dream was to come back in Greece”

02 April 2010 / 12:04:14  GRReporter
4654 reads

Emanuela Karastoyanova

Before dawn, at 5 o’clock in the morning, while the Athenians, still covered with the blanket of the night and comfortably laying in their beds, are dreaming their sweetest morning dreams, the lights of the “Kafedaki” café located on No. 5 Papadiamandopoulou str. are turning on. The preparation for the day, which will soon ring the door bell, starts. Careful hands are preparing food for the sleepy sleepyheads of the town who will start getting out of their beds in an hour or two and in their heads there will be only one thought: “Coffee! Breakfast!”. And they will start coming in… And because the café is only few meters away from Vasilis Sofias Blvd., they will enter in the subway from here and begin their day…

“Kafedaki” is a café where you could not just meet, but also see the day go. Regardless of the hour you come here, you could always find something good to eat – crispy sandwiches with salmon or prosciutto, fresh cake, apple pay you could fall in love with, salads, coffee, cappuccino, hot and cold chocolate, an orange juice just now prepared and many other things. The artists from the “Ilisia” theater nearby have also appreciated the café.  

The story of the place is the story of its owner – Hristos Kolios. You could often see him sitting on a table with… a client.


About himself:

“I am born in Germany as a second generation immigrant. At the age of 24 I said to myself why don’t I leave Germany and go back to Greece. And that is exactly what I did. After some time passed by I decided to open this café. I have always been related to the gastronomy and the food, I just like this. I have always been working in places like this, even as a student in Germany. At the age of 24 I decided to go after my dream and come here in Greece. We all were carrying something inside of us and we wanted to come back to our native land. Native land, native land, native land, we were always repeating this”…

About his return to Greece:

“It was very hard. If I didn’t have the support of my wife through the first years I wouldn’t have stayed here. She is Greek, and we met in Germany. We all wanted to come back. However it is difficult when you are going back. You have to adapt to a different style of living. I wanted however to check out my dream, to make an effort. I wanted to erase this dream from my mind if I didn’t like it here and then go back. However I wanted to know that I had at least tried. I know that if I hadn’t tried I would have never been able to erase Greece from my mind. I wanted something clean and clear. I didn’t want to wait.”

About whether he thinks of his staying in Greece as a mistake:

“No even though Greece is a difficult country”. 

About the biggest difficulties he had in the beginning of his residence here:

“The country. The whole procedure of opening a business of your own and developing it. To create something… services, municipalities, police offices – all these things are hard for a person who is used to another way of living. In Germany if in the morning you decide you want to open up a business in the afternoon you already have it”.

About the café:

“The café has already been working for 9 years. I opened it in 2001. I decided to open exactly a café because I know how it works and I know I can do it. I studied sociology in Germany, however I didn’t graduate. But I like the contact with people. I really do. While I as in Germany I was trying to work other things as well – I was a dental mechanic and electro technician for example. However these are not the kind of professions I enjoy. You sit in an office and you have no personal contact with people. That is why later on I chose to study sociology. However I fell in love and my study was left unfinished… I came in Greece, I opened the café and for right now we are fine Thanks God”.

About the Greeks today and his memories from the past:

“I have noticed one thing – people are very nervous at the end of the month. When it is finishing they become very tense… May be it is because this is exactly the time when the monthly payments are coming… Or may be the difficulties they have in their life makes them like this. Once upon a time they were a calmer nation… When I was younger – about 8 or 10 years old I saw Greece as an adventure. I come originally from Preveza and I remember how every summer when we were coming back the fact that in the kiosks there was almost nothing – just some red candies, hazelnuts, two types of cigarettes and 7Up made some impression to me. We were taking this as a joke. In Germany we had everything. I remember how the world was changing once we were reaching Belgrade… A whole different region was starting from there. At that time Greece was poor. However since 1994-95 the things changed and now there is no such a big difference if you are living in Greece or in Germany”.

About whether he would like his kids to go back to Germany one day:

“I wouldn’t like that. I am scared even to think that one day they might blame me for leaving Germany and coming to Greece. Nobody can understand what it means to be an immigrant if he does not become one. When I came here in the beginning I had opened a kiosk in Papagou neighborhood. I remember how women immigrants were coming and calling their children in different countries and they were crying… They were crying outside and I was crying with them inside the kiosk. And when they were asking me why I was wondering what to tell them – my mom was suffering just like they are...”

“Each morning I go in Wuppertal. I watch where I have gone to school, where I have played football, where I have ride my bicycle and so on. This is something one could never forget”.

Even though he is born in Germany he believes Greece to be his native land:

“Greece was the dream of us all. In Germany when we were listening to the national anthem we were crying. When we had a parade in school we were crying again. Here may be I am not such a big patriot as I was over there”.

About the café and his future dreams:

“I stared the café from an area of 20 sq. m and it is currently 80 sq. m. I would be happy if I could expand it a little more and finish some details. I want my clients to leave happy. I only have one café, but I want it to be good.”

About the coffee and the Germans:

“In Germany you can only see the pensioners drinking coffee in the morning in the cafes”.

About the Greek as a phenomenon:

“Look, we the Greeks can not be easily put in a pattern. Recently various attempts are made to do this, however with no success. The Greek does not enter in a pattern. He has a special character. He wants to progress, to learn things, but also to have a good time. He wants a bit of everything. I also do not want to live like the Germans. They know that they will have dinner at 20:00 and at 20:30 they will go to bed and at 20:45 they will already be sleeping… In the morning they will wake up at 6:00 o’clock, at 6:25 they will be walking towards the bus and go somewhere… I wouldn’t like to live like this. Here everyday is different from the previous one, while there all days are the same”.

About the crisis:

“The crime bothers me most of all. About the crisis I am not worried, the Greek will be fine. He is tough. We also have a slight decrease of the turnover here, however I don’t think that this is related to the crisis… I believe that the moment came to make the difference who is a professional and who is not. The ones who are not professionals will close down and the ones who have build their businesses on lies and with other people’s money as well. The crisis definitely does not scare me. It is just not giving me the chance to develop my business further… And the secret of the trade is in the supply and demand – what you offer, at what price you are offering it and with what quality. What is very important is also the attitude towards the client – something we have forgotten a bit in Greece. The client wants you to pay attention to him, to spoil him. He wants you to tell him a word, to tell him “Good day” and “Good bye”. And here we cannot see this any more. The Greek believes he is doing you a favor by serving you. And it is not like this. In Germany even if you had only purchased something for 10 cents they will tell you “thank you”. Here however this is considered to be humiliating”.

Tags: Destinies Athens immigrants Germany
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