Not a day seems to have gone by

Not a day seems to have gone by

It is always useful to refer back to old newspapers and realize either how different, how similar or even how timely things that were written years ago still are. I was reading an article by Kathimerini founder Georgios Vlachos, written on February 23, 1947. Different times, different conditions and threats.

“The present inhabitants of this land are divided into two large categories. They are not divided into communist and bourgeois, instruments of foreign powers and patriots, right-wing and left-wing, monarchists and democrats. They are divided into those who will stay and those who will leave.

“The latter, they may never leave, but that does not mean much. Now – and later, and in five years from now – as they are sitting at the cafe in the sun, with their suitcase in hand, they are planning their future migration to another place, to a quiet South American country. They dream of a small shop in a foreign harbor, living in places far away where they know no one and no one knows them, as the song goes.

“They make money, they hatch a thousand and two ways to send their money abroad, they make the country poorer with their dreams, they spread fear everywhere, they stop new work projects, they stand there in melancholy, always with their suitcase, in front of the other man’s shop, asking: ‘Are you crazy? Why are you tying up your money here? Don’t you see what’s going on? [Communist Party leader Nikos] Zachariadis will come tomorrow to kill you and take it from you.’

“And they move on to where a new shop is being cleaned up, and further down where a ship is sailing in from foreign seas, and they continue with the same old deplorable tune: ‘You’re going to work here? You will unload your products here?’

“Unfortunately, those people are not able to leave the country so we can be rid of them. They will remain here with us, constantly on edge, constantly in the waiting room, always with a passport and a consulate stamp, pessimistic, defeatists, sowing afflictions, always considering their trunk as their homeland, while emptying their trunk in the streets, in people’s houses, in neighborhoods: ‘You think I’m crazy enough to stay? I’m going to live elsewhere.’ Yet they stay. But what do we do to them? Better if they all left together quickly, these emotional passers-by, these ephemerals, those secondary Greeks.

“And what about the first Greeks? These, good or bad, are those of us who will stay here, one way or another. Those of us who grew up here, who lived here, who grew old here, who have deep roots in this land and want, when we die, to be buried here. Those of us – right-wing, left-wing, communists and fascists – who somehow have to come up with a plan that will ensure a kind of life in this place where we have permanently and irrevocably made our home.

“As the Robinson Crusoes of a terrible shipwreck, we have the right, since we disagree with each other, to argue, to avoid saying good morning, not to greet, to build our hut at opposite ends of our island, and even stab each other from time to time. This is not too bad. But to burn the forest? To live without a roof? To die in the cold of winter? That would be very stupid on our part. And yet, this is what we are doing, the secondary Greeks, with a plan, with perseverance, with stubbornness, all together. We burn! And we will die in the winter from the cold.”

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