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We Asked Greece's Social Outcasts if the New Government Gives Them Hope

We asked four people living on the outskirts of society if they believe that Greece's new left-wing government can show them better days.
January 26, 2015, 11:50am
Photos by Dimitris Michalakis

A couple of days before last night's election, VICE Greece asked four people living at the outskirts of Greek society if they believed that a new left-wing government would be able to show them better days.

Here's what they said.

NIKOS PAPADOPOULOS, 61 YEARS OLD

"I was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. Treatment proved to be extremely expensive and within two years, I had lost everything. Without realizing it, I found myself knee-deep in debt. Some friends helped me out at the beginning but as the austerity worsened, I had to stop depending on those around me.

"Today, I am homeless. I worked as a nurse before I was diagnosed, but I don't qualify for a pension. At the moment, I have no income. For the first time in my life, I am helpless. For the past two months, I've been staying in a hostel in the center of the city and I eat in soup kitchens.

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"Most political parties have let me down but I will still be voting in Sunday's elections. Mine won't be a protest vote—there is something fundamental motivating me. The thing is, whatever difficulties come one's way, deep inside there is always hope that something will change for the better. This kind of hope is not egotistical—besides, I've had my share of good and bad times. But I strongly believe that we need to change things—that life in Greece can't go on like this.

"Austerity has destroyed us. I will go to the polls hoping that in the future no one will have to go through what I went through."

KOSTAS KARAHALIOS, 69 YEARS OLD

"I am Greek Roma—I was born and raised in Thebes. I don't believe these elections will have any real effect on my life and the way Greek society works. I grew into an old man listening to promises—promises that were simply lies.

"I live in a Roma camp like an animal; four times a week the police come over and drag us to the police station for random checks. They say we have to leave our tents because they are next to the Olympic buildings. Leave and go where? I have children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren—where are we supposed to go with no help from the state? Find my people somewhere decent to resettle and we'll leave that place immediately.

"I've been working since I was a small kid; I went to the army, then I had a family—I paid my dues to the country. Now all I want is peace and quiet. In the previous elections, I voted for Antonis Samaras but now I will be voting for Syriza. My entire family will vote for him and we'll see if things get better."

MACHI BASTIANOU, 44

"I've been receiving psychological support from a healthcare facility for a few years now. I am not fit to work so my family help me get by. In the past, I worked for a food company, but I've also waited on tables and cleaned houses and once I worked as a security guard. Last time I earned a wage was in 2006.

"Do I expect anything to change? I don't believe in politics—I believe in people and their intentions. What I would like, however, is for the next government to help those who somehow found themselves living on the outskirts of society to re-integrate. Minorities don't require charity—they need education, jobs, and prospects. Unfortunately, I never received an education.

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"I don't know who I'll be voting for yet. I was thinking about voting for [Syriza leader and new Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras, but I don't like that he's an atheist. I strongly believe in God—He's all I've got left."

Spyros Zafeiratos, 64

"I've spent most of my life working on ships—I've travelled all over the world. I learned foreign languages and walked in beautiful, exotic places. The last time I worked as a captain was in 2002. Since then, I have worked occasionally but it hasn't been that easy to find employment ashore.

"Today, I live off unemployment benefits—that comes down to 360 euro [$400] per month. I can't afford to pay rent, so I live in a housing complex run by a local NGO. I don't expect anything from the new government—whatever it looks like. I'm afraid that no matter how good their intentions might be, in the end things will only go as far as the powers that be will allow."

Photos by Dimitris Michalakis