From growing trees to raising sheep, all the family pitches in

Elpiniki Lako, an ethnic Greek from the village of Dermi, Himara, arrived in Elassona, Larissa, 17 years ago with her Albanian husband and their three daughters but never felt as if she was in a foreign country, nor did she have any problems with the language. However, the language difficulties faced by her husband, Costantin Lako, almost caused the family to return to Albania. She first worked as a chambermaid in a hotel and as a house cleaner. «In Albania, being a chambermaid was seen as lower than a farmworker, which I was, and so I was ashamed at first. Fortunately everyone stood by me and I realized it was a respectable job,» said Elpiniki, who has studied tree cultivation and worked on tree plantations before coming to Greece. The family was soon able to rent 1.5 hectares on which they grew tobacco for four years. «In order to supplement our income, the whole family worked on the tobacco farm. We would go at 2 a.m. and leave at 8 a.m. for our jobs; my husband as a construction worker, I worked at a hotel and the girls went to school,» she said. Their next big step was to go into livestock breeding, with which Costantin was familiar. They bought their first 50 sheep in 2000 and now the flock has grown to 200. «The whole family worked very hard,» she explained. «To succeed in a foreign country you have to be even better than the locals.»