'I'm not sure when things will be better again'

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The Independent Online

Pro-government Greek newspapers are openly blaming Europe for not acting fast enough.

The opposition papers are screaming blue murder. But on the streets of Athens people take a different view. "They're slashing our pensions, those cheats," said Anestis Athanasiou, 77, a retired coach driver. The situation has never been worse in Greece, he believes. "I've never felt this way since the katohi," he says, referring to the country's Nazi occupation between 1941 and 1944.

Spiro Ilia, 33, arrived from Albania in 1993 to seek a better future in Greece. "I've been here legitimately since 1997," he says. "Two years ago, they said my papers were not in order because I hadn't paid my social security. The people I used to work for lied to me. They weren't paying my social security contributions as they were supposed to," he says.

Thimios Kalamoukis, 42, is the co-host of Ellinophrenia ("Crazy-Greece"), one of the country's most popular radio shows. Thousands of listeners every day call him to voice their opinions. "I do sense the anguish," he says. "On the other hand, people are not totally convinced by the so-called crisis which is being shoved down their throats by the Government and the television media.

"But I do not see a way out. Not all Greeks stole or profited from EU funds. It would be like saying that all Germans are Nazis. Greeks have a strong sense of justice and it has not been catered to for the past 35 years."

Despite the financial gloom, George Pavlakis, 30, decided to open a stylish hair salon in Eksarhia, the neighbourhood where the killing of a youth by police sparked the December 2008 riots. "Of course it's the fault of the previous government. I am not sure when things will be better again," he said.

Efthimis Filippou, 33, works as an advertising copywriter. He also wrote the screenplay for Dogtooth, a film about a dysfunctional Greek family which won an award at the Cannes film festival.

"I am scared of what I hear," he says. "Maybe people will become more creative. Fear does that to you. The middle classes will have to adjust their ways. I used to go out and see people drinking coffee in the daytime. I see fewer now."

Konstantina Alexopoulou, 23, graduated last summer but has only found work in call centres. "I was making €780 to €900 a month working eight-hour shifts. I lasted four months," she said. "Things are hard here. You can't make enough money to live decently. But it has been like this for a long time. It's just been highlighted now because of the crisis. Things will get worse."