I (Daphne) am writing this post to tell you about a kind of melancholic feeling that I have had for the last couple of weeks. Skopelos is quiet, you have the chance and time to see and speak to friends, family and other Skopelitans. After the talks and stories I felt the need to express myself and write this post.
I promise that this is not going to be a whining sad story but more a peek into daily life here in the winter and what the crisis is doing to people’s lives here. It hasn’t affected everybody’s life here but quite a few for sure. I have the feeling that some people are walking on their last legs. The crisis has been going on for quite a few years.
In other parts of the world many people are far worse off but I want to talk about Skopelos and give you an impression.
What I hear in conversations is that people are tired, not only from the very busy summer (good!) but more from the endless new laws and rules implemented by the Troika/Greek government. It is unbelievable how many laws have changed the last couple of years. It is sometimes difficult to understand for people (and me) what the new law is exactly for and what it will mean for our/their lives.
Greeks are known homeowners and the last and latest property tax has hit many people. Homeownership is something very important here. But what do you do if you inherit 12 properties after your parent’s death? Can you pay all the taxes due, can you sell any properties in this crises?
Here on Skopelos, as a dowry present, a house is given to the daughter. Parents sacrifice a lot to provide that house (mortgages, loans, selling of properties, leaving their own house etc). It’s a question of pride in a small community like Skopelos to give that house to the daughter. I know a couple who have moved into the basement! of their house to give the rest of the house to the daughter.
In the summer many people were employed on Skopelos but after that almost all register for unemployment benefit. A lot of people are employed only for 5 months a year (that is our season here). These people are lucky if they find work in the winter and so many try to find other jobs; waiter becomes fisherman, cook collects garbage, electrician works in olive press etc. Lots of women have jobs in supermarkets here, some unemployed men are at home with the children and take care of elderly relatives. In many countries it is not unusual for a man to stay at home and take care of the children but not here!
Other families send their children back to family in other cities or countries (an Albanian acquaintance can’t stop talking about her 4-year-old son who is in Albania and she is not) Some move all together back to places where the family is close by and can act like a safety net. Parents with children end up living with their father and mother again. 3 generations in one house.
We haven’t collected our olives this year but some people asked me if they could collect our olives from the ground (hard work). I never heard that before. The weather is relatively mild so far but wood is being collected by many. Driftwood from beaches is collected. People remark on the amount of men sitting in cafe’s. I used to remark that those are pensioners but now I say, these are builders without a job.
In a small place like Skopelos you know everybody and the personal stories are hard to miss. It does not mean that all is bad. I see that people step up to provide services like sports training to kids. More people organize parties together for a good cause and volunteer when it is needed. The church plays a role in providing basic goods to families that are struggling and fortunately everybody knows each other here so hopefully when people need help it can be provided quickly. It is different in the city where a 17-year-old girl fainted when she brought her father to the hospital for treatment. The last 5 days she had eaten only wild greens and her parents, both unemployed, were too shy to ask for help.
I hope for many people (pensioners, unemployed, big families etc.) in Greece this is the last stretch.