A single man takes the initiative to feed the poor
By Ioanna Fotiadi
The life of 47-year-old Constantinos Polychronopoulos was changed in a single day a few months ago when he saw two children fighting over a few rotten pieces of fruit at his local farmers market in the Athenian neighborhood of Aegaleo.
“I went home, put together a few sandwiches and, with a friend of mine, distributed them to the people collecting the refuse from the market after it was closed,” he told Kathimerini.
When this happened, Polychronopoulos had already been unemployed for two years and admits that he felt like he had hit rock bottom.
“I would stay at home, reading the want ads, and thinking about how my life had changed so dramatically: from an independent and productive professional I was suddenly cast to the fringes and had to move back in with my mother,” he recounted.
After seeing the children fighting over the fruit, however, Polychronopoulos decided to take action and help those who were worse off than himself, marshaling a few friends behind his idea and establishing a group called Allos Anthorpos: O Allilegyos (The Other Person: The One With Solidarity, or just The Other Person for short, whose blogspot is at http://oallosanthropos.blogspot.com/).
The members of the group get together and cook in a different neighborhood every day, offering food to as many needy people as they can feed.
Kathimerini met up with the group one rainy day in the central Athenian district of Thiseio.
“This is our first time here,” said Polychronopoulos, as he hauled his gas stove over to the table where the group would be cooking. Everything was perfectly organized: napkins, plastic dishes, knives and forks, slices of bread, dessert, the herbs and finely chopped onion that would go in the stew, each had its place.
The ingredients used in the dishes are donated by local residents, meaning that basically one neighborhood feeds the next.
The usual haunts for The Other Person are at the refugee houses on Alexandras Avenue, Exarchia Square, Pedion tou Areos park, Koumoundourou Square, the Vyronas and Fylis farmers markets, Nea Smyrni and Davaki Square. On Sundays, the group sets up on Syntagma Square and occasionally it makes forays into affluent neighborhoods such as Kolonaki, Glyfada and Kifissia.
“We choose areas such as these because we want to raise awareness about what we are doing. We were surprised, though, to find that there were quite a few people who needed our services there as well,” said Polychronopoulos.
In Metaxourgeio, passers-by stop to look at what is going on as Polychronopoulos cooks up a massive pot of Neapolitan sauce for spaghetti.
“I had hoped that I would never have to experience the kind of hunger we knew in the 40s,” one elderly man said as he walked by, shaking his head sadly.
The aroma of cooking began to draw a crowd of hungry people: elderly men and women, as well as entire families with small children.
“Three month ago I felt completely disheartened,” said Polychronopoulos. “But I was reborn here.I can communicate, I can share my thoughts and feelings.”