Rural areas, especially mountain villages, suffer a shortage of local brides

If mixed marriages seem to be becoming quite common in the capital, then in the provinces they are even more common. In most cases, suggest Kathimerini’s enquiries, the reason is that there appears to be a shortages of brides, especially Greek women and this, coupled with the influx of migrants, has compelled Greek men in the provinces to seek marital bliss away from home. Then there are all those summer romances to consider, where a tourist has met the local man/woman of her/his dreams while on holiday here and decided to settle in Greece. «The first wedding between a Greek and a foreigner took place 10-12 years ago when our region saw the first arrival of migrants from Russia and Ukraine, as well as from the Black Sea,» explains Mayor Yiannis Papaconstantinou, of Petra in the northern prefecture of Pieria. «Since then,» he continues, «we have had many mixed marriages, especially between Greek men and women from the former Eastern bloc: Ukrainians, Russians, Serbs and Albanians. You see, most of the villages in our region are in the mountains and our young men have trouble finding women to marry. Most of the Greek girls move to Katerini or the villages on the plains to find work or study and then they end up staying there.» The foreign women who have married Greek men, says the mayor, had no trouble becoming assimilated into the local community. «These girls are hard-working and they are fully assimilated. They participate in all community events and have never been a problem.» A considerable rise in marriages between Greek men and Albanian women was noted in the villages of the Kalavryta Municipality in the prefecture of Achaia, in the Peloponnese. «When there’s a shortage of young women, the parents and family of young men try to find them a wife, even it means them marrying a foreign woman,» says Kalavryta Mayor Thanassis Papadopoulos. «These women, just as all the Albanians who have moved to this area, have adapted fully to local life and community and are well liked by the locals. And often the foreigners are not that foreign because one Albanian woman working here or married to a Greek, may bring over her sister or cousin and introduce her to one the local bachelors. But we don’t have caravans of brides here.» Mixed marriages are also frequent on the Greek islands. On Santorini, for example, they account for 15 percent of the marriages recorded in the Thera Municipality registry office. Again, most are weddings between Greek men with women from Albania, Ukraine and Moldova, who came to the island in search of employment. But there is also a fair number of northern European women married to local men. In Sifnos, furthermore, mixed marriages in 2003 accounted for 8 percent of the total number and in the first eight months of 2004 for 6.5 percent. It is also true that quite a few mixed nationality couples choose to get married in the foreign spouse’s country rather in Greece. «Many of the locals have traveled to Albania or Ukraine to get married,» said one official at the Sifnos registry office.