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A brief encounter with a Greek banker

Iannis’s brown eyes twinkled when I told him my name.

“Many years ago”, he said, “when I was a student, I worked in hotels, for, what do you say, pocket money.

“It was 1971, 72, 73. I was in love with a girl from England who was on holiday with her family. Her father worked in mining, you know what Margaret Thatcher destroyed. They were not a rich family.

“I loved her. She came to Greece again to see me. I wanted to go to England to do my masters, and be with her, but I was offered a job with the Bank of America. A good job.”

He shrugged, then smiled. “Her name was Susan. Susan Brooks. See, I remember her name…I was in love.”

“I may be 63, but my heart is only 20 years old. I would love to leave Greece,” he added wistfully.

We met Iannis on the beach at Deprano, a coastal town in the Argoli district of the Peloponnese, a few miles down the coast from the beautiful city of Nafplio.

Deprano is not beautiful, it is a small working town, but its beach is, like most of the Greek coastline, stunning, and the area clearly attracts tourists during the summer months, judging by the number of closed up holiday apartments.

But by November most of the Northern Europeans have gone home, leaving the Greeks alone to enjoy the last of the sunshine.

“I swim every day from spring to the end of October,” says Iannis, “then I ride my bicycle. It is to keep my, how do you say?” He points at his belly. “Fit?” I venture.

Iannis is in the mood for talking, and it is a privilege to listen.

“I worked for Bank of America for ten years,” he said, “then for the National Bank of Greece for twenty-seven years.

“I was the head of a branch. The manager. I hated it. My bosses kept telling me to lend people money. I said they cannot afford it. They said, it doesn’t matter, make them the loans. So I retired early.”

He is an Athenian, but he and his wife now spend most of their time here in Deprano.

“It is cheaper here. And everyone in Athens is sad. Their faces are, they look ill. Here, I can enjoy the sea, I can swim. I can be happier.”

His pension has been cut by 40 percent to meet the harsh terms of the German-led bail out. He is scathing about Germany.

“We stood with Britian and the US and fought the Germans in the war,” he says, “and now, who stands with us?”

I struggle for an answer. The people of Greece have suffered more than any other Europeans for the careless greed of their elite.

Pensions have been slashed, food attracts up to 24 percent VAT and a quarter of the workforce is out of work.

Nearly half a million Greeks have emigrated since 2008, the third mass exodus since the beginning of the 20th century.

Iannis would vote to leave the EU if he had a chance, echoing the 52 percent of Britons who voted leave in June. “We would get back control,” he said.

As we turn to leave, we shake hands and I wish him good luck.

“I have two sons in their thirties,” he says. “They have economics degrees, like me. One has no job, the other one works in a clothes shop. It is a good clothes shop, but it is a shop…”

“I have a pension,” he adds, “I don’t need good luck, it is our children who need the luck.”

  • If you’re interested in finding out more about the economic and political crisis facing Greece (and Europe) The Greek Crisis website is worth checking out.

 

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