This article originally appeared on VICE Greece
In 2004, while trying to exercise his democratic rights, Yiannis Diamantis was surprised to learn that he was dead. In fact, without realising it, Diamantis had already been dead for about a year by then.
Yiannis lives, breaths and walks the Earth, but due to a bureaucratic mix-up that somehow involves a deceased person with a similar name, the Greek government has not recognised this for the last 13 years. No matter how hard he tries to circumvent it, governmental bureaucracy has made it impossible for the State to official regard him as a living citizen. I spoke with Diamantis about what it's like to be legally dead.
VICE: How did you find out that the government thinks you're dead?
Yiannis Diamantis: I found out in 2004, when I tried to vote and they couldn't find me on the electoral roll. At the Town Hall where I'm registered, they told me that I had died – and showed me my own death certificate. Since then, I've been trying to resurrect myself – it's been a complete nightmare.
Did the guy who died have the exact same personal details as you?
No, not exactly. We're not related, but our parents had the same names. Apart from that, our dates of birth were different, obviously our addresses didn't match and he was single, while I'm married. I can't understand why we got mixed up. The registry admitted that an employee who didn't do his job properly had deleted my record. However, they claimed that it could only be fixed in court.
How is this fuck up affecting your life, exactly?
I don't have a driving licence, so I can't drive. I can't travel abroad – I live like a prisoner in my own country. My family is uninsured because I can't insure them under my name, and my wife is unemployed. When my father died, I couldn't claim the inheritance on account of me already being declared dead. This year my daughter graduated high school and will go to university – if I'm asked to produce a family certificate, I can't. Finally, if I happen to die, my wife can't legally bury me.
What steps have you taken so far to be considered a living citizen again?
I've tried everything, but so far, nobody I've talked to is willing to take responsibility for the mistake and fix it. Initially, I was sent to the Town Hall registry in Athens, which was where my death certificate was signed. The town hall referred me to the local prosecutor, who referred me to the court, but the court claimed it didn't have the power to change it. I have no idea what to do next. I'm desperate – I've been struggling with this for 14 years.
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Have you got a lawyer?
I wanted to try the legal route again, but my lawyer asked for €500, which I can't afford. Most days I'm unemployed, and so is my wife, and we also have a child. In a previous court case, I lost €700, which I had to borrow. I can't afford to lose any more money, so I made one last move: I sent an email to some TV shows, thinking that publicising my case might make attract the attention of the authorities. Only one channel responded – a morning talk show – where I talked about my case and now, fortunately, their lawyer agreed to take on my case pro-bono.
Have you spoken with the family of the deceased?
No, and we do not know what steps the other family have taken to correct the error. My wife found out that the guy is still considered alive according to police records.
Do you have an ID card?
Yes, but it expired years ago. Once, the police stopped me, and when I showed them the ID card and explained what happened, I was told that I needed to get it changed or I'd be arrested. So I went to the police station in my area and I told them that I have to change my ID card. I had to show them my death certificate. The police did not know how to handle my case, and they couldn't give me a new ID.
How do you make money?
I work for a building company, and occasionally I do odd jobs. I might be legally dead, but I still have to file a tax return every year because the two services are not connected.
Has this changed your philosophy on life?
I joke about the afterlife and all the dead friends I have made on the other side. But that's mainly a coping mechanism.