Ensconced in a new land, foreigners run for office

Back in the 1960s, when the Cretan village of Kokkino Horio was seen in movie theaters around the world as the location for the movie «Zorba the Greek,» no one could have imagined that 40 years later the village would almost be an international community. Kokkino Horio (at the local cafe, they still talk about Anthony Quinn as if he were a long-lost cousin), in the prefecture of Hania, now has the largest number of foreign residents in the prefecture, and some of them are running for office in Sunday’s local elections. Janet Salter, 51, from Kent in Britain, is running for office as the village’s local councilor in the Municipality of Vamos, to which the village belongs. Slater moved to Crete with her husband Michael some two years ago. «We had come before on holiday and fell in love with everything here. I remember when it was time to go that we used to cry. So did our Greek friends here,» she told Kathimerini. «In September 2004 we packed up our things and came here to live permanently.» Their decision was partly because of something that had happened a few months earlier, in February 2004. «We were in Kokkino Horio. If you remember, that was the year that Crete had a lot of snow, and we were trapped in our house. The help we got from the local people was really touching. It was because of them that we came here,» she said. Back then Salter had no idea that one day she would be involved in local politics. But in Kokkino Horio, foreigners are in the majority; there are 200 of them compared to 80 Greeks, Salter said. They are mostly Britons, with some Germans, Norwegians, Danes and French who all love the place and chose to live there permanently. Of course their settling in the village has not been without problems. «The main problem is that the foreigners have not fully assimilated, and they themselves are mainly to blame for that,» she said. «But we have to understand that although we might be living here, it is (the Greeks’) village. So I want to help bring the two groups closer together.» Eva Maria Albutz, 54, is running for election for a different reason. Albutz, who is German, has lived for 26 years just outside the village at Kaina. «I had studied ceramics and couldn’t work at it in my own country, so I came to the country where the art was born,» Albutz said. Albutz has been an active member of an environmental group since her youth and produces organic olive oil from the 2,200 trees that she rents and hopes to develop organic cultivation on the island. These two women are anxious about the election results, though things look good for them. «In the whole of Hania, there are 400 (foreign) voters, of whom 200 are in the municipality of Vamos,» said the Mayor of Vamos, Stelios Michelakis. «Naturally, there are many more not registered on the electoral rolls.» Throughout the country, 8,921 citizens of European Union member states are registered to vote in local elections.