A lucky ‘adoption’

Christos Kotsi, 33, came to Greece in 1991 on foot from a village near Elbasan, central Albania, to the outskirts of Thessaloniki at the age of 17. He knew no Greek or what to expect. «I walked for seven days through the mountains, and when I arrived in Greece it was like entering a tunnel – darkness everywhere. I didn’t know where to go or what to do,» he recalls. While looking for work he met an elderly couple with a small family business – a plant nursery. Apostolis and Despina took in the teenage immigrant and taught him the job. «They treated me like a son, even better,» remembers Kotsi, explaining that his foster parents had him baptized, and taught him about the Greek mentality and way of life. After Apostolis died and Christos acquired a residence and work permit – allowing him to go into business – he took over the family’s business. Today, Kotsi is one of the many exceptions to the rule that immigrants only work for other people. He has his own plant nursery covering just over 10 hectares and employs two workers. He had not come to Greece with any particular plan in mind. «I was young and impetuous, everyone was leaving Albania, so I thought I would try my luck as well.» «Things got harder when I took over the business. People would not lower themselves to buy from an Albanian at first. But when they saw the products, the prices and my reliability, the problems ended,» he said proudly.