The apartment is small, measuring 60 square meters and housing four brothers and their aging mother. The semi-basement where they have been living since 2003 has a separate entrance from the other tenants of the two-story building in the Athens neighborhood of Makrygianni, near the Acropolis Museum. It has two bedrooms, a small lounge, a kitchen and one bathroom/toilet. The rear side of the apartment looks out to a communal space, giving the illusion of a yard.
For years they experienced joys and disappointments there. They adapted to cohabitation. And if sometimes they got a bit snappy with each other or there was a need to seek out a remote corner, there was always the option of going out. A stroll to clear the mind, a change of scenery.
The quarantine of the past weeks found them in the same apartment in which they now have to live under different terms and conditions. Far from the scenes observed on videos on social media and the digital catwalk where influencers seek to boost their virtual follower numbers by posting images of their verandas and gardens, there are apartments like this one occupied by Alexandros’ family.
“We have learned to live like this,” he says. “It’s a bit hard when there’s one toilet for five people, but we are patient. When many people live under the same roof, they sometimes find it hard to get along, but we grew up in a home with a large family, and that makes it easier for us. We have learned to adjust, we have been through a lot.” He was 20 years old when he left Albania for Greece in 1993. Now, at the age of 47, he works for a coffee company while his younger brother works in construction. They are the only family members with steady jobs.
“You have to stay home. It’s particularly hard during the day, but we try,” he says. They fill the time with phone calls, books and movies, but they try to limit their exposure to the news on TV. “We want to know what’s going on out there, but we feel that too much news is not good for us,” he says. “So far, we haven’t had any problems and we will hopefully get over this isolation in the same way, with patience and love.”