A letter to the prime minister from a frustrated citizen

A letter to the prime minister from a frustrated citizen

Dear Mr Tsipras,

I am aware you have more pressing issues that need your attention, however, I feel the need to express some concerns and advocate for the average Greek citizen who just wants to make an honest living with dignity and humility.

As a Greek Australian, I am very proud of my Greek ancestry; our traditions, our culture, our faith and the natural beauty of this country. But I am also very grateful for having been raised in Australia. Australia gave me and my family opportunities and taught me lessons in tolerance, justice, equality, a sense of community and a “fair go for everyone.”

After living in Greece for the past 10 years I have likened this country to a beautiful woman or handsome man who will charm you and sweep you off your feet. But when you are in need of their help, they will turn their back on you.

After a personal tragedy, I recently found myself running a small business here in Greece, as well as being thrown into the battlefield of the Greek public service.

My adventure with the public sector began with two months attempting to correct two misprints on my marriage certificate. I was shuffled between my local council, the prosecutor’s office and the Athens births/deaths/marriages registry, and back again, four times – with each department advising me that it was not their responsibility.

In order to get specific documents from a government department, I arrived early, at 8 a.m., so that I could return to work in a timely fashion. The only employee who was attending to the public was only able to provide assistance with the first document. With regards to the second, I had to wait until 11 a.m., when another employee would start their shift.

At OAEE (Social Insurance Organization of Freelance Professionals) in central Athens a sign on the door stated: “Inquiries regarding pensions: Open to the public 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. weekdays except Wednesdays.” Of course, I went at 8 a.m., on a Wednesday!

Today I took the day off work again to do something so simple that abroad we take for granted. I waited in line for an hour for the single employee to tell me I was in the wrong department and that I needed to go into downtown Athens! But there was a metro strike so it was all too hard.

The loss of productivity for Greece must be epic. I am weary of hearing “Den ginete” (It’s not possible), “Den to kanoume afto edo” (We don’t do that here), “Prepi na erthete pali avrio” (You need to come back tomorrow) and “Mono etsi ginete” (That is just how it’s done).

I don’t want this letter to be a witch hunt concerning the public servants. They too are under pressure. I have witnessed the daily verbal abuse (although some employees can give as good as they get!) they receive from Greek citizens due to the inefficient, disorganized and illogical workings of the state.

I am familiar with many people who have either given up or who continue for years through the maze of Greek bureaucracy in order to receive their entitlements. I am saddened to live in a country where to get things done and to achieve success, it’s “who you know” and not “who are you are” and merit.

Mr Tsipras, I am also perplexed as to why small Greek businesses and pensioners are bearing the brunt of the “Greek crisis.” Why do small businesses wait absurd lengths of time to receive European Union subsidies? Why must I draft letters to the local council and police in order to live and work in a safe and clean environment? Why are great Greek minds more successful abroad?

We use conspiracy theories as an excuse to tolerate our current situation. We exalt our past history and philosophers. We take pride in being the birthplace of democracy but we all have a skewed idea of what that is.

Greece could have been paradise Mr Tsipras…

With kind regards,
Toula Lorando

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