SOCIETY

Documenting Greece’s new emigrants

Nicolas Stamboulopoulos left Greece in October 2009, just as the country was about to be thrown into economic and political turmoil. He moved to Amsterdam, which seemed to offer the ideal multicultural environment for a documentary filmmaker seeking to hone his perception. At the time, he had no idea that Greece would come back to haunt him during the process.

“In Holland I met a large number of Greeks who went there to study and then decided to stay,” he said in a recent interview with Kathimerini.

“After 2010, things changed. Hordes of Greeks began to arrive, mainly young people looking to escape the crisis. I realized it was a historic moment. I was witnessing a new wave of Greek emigration that had to be documented,” he said.

And that was the start of New Diaspora (www.newdiaspora.com). The online project, a series of documentaries about young Greek migrants directed by Stamboulopoulos, is an ongoing experiment. At the same time, it works as an online platform that collects the stories of Greeks who have left their crisis-hit homeland. Participants get a chance to tell their own side of the story – an interactive experience that redefines Greeks’ collective identity.

“We are faced with an unprecedented brain drain. If they had a chance, these people would stay in Greece and work wonders. These are brilliant minds but they have little support from outside,” said Stamboulopoulos. He says the profile of the average job applicant has changed. The days when high-qualified expats would vie for high-paying posts at big multinationals are over.

“Most of them have skills, but they may well end up as waiters. Also older people and entire families come here. Some of them have made a conscious decision, others had no alternative.”

Each story on New Diaspora is unique. Christina, 21, has been living in Rotterdam for the past couple of months. “Truth is, I rushed to leave Greece,” she wrote on the site’s blog. “I love Greece, but it scares me. When I visited my grandfather a few days before leaving for north Europe, he told me ‘Greece can’t feed its own children nowadays.’ So, here I am. My internship will soon be over and I hope to find a job in the design industry,” she said. Christina hopes the crisis will soon be over and she will be able to return. “I miss the sun. The craziness of Athens, the nights in the center of the city, the junk food (‘vromiko’) in Mavili Square, all these confessions at Lycabettus Hill, Plaka, my family, friends…” she wrote.

Another Christina writes from London, where she lives and works: “How can young people deserve what the previous generations have architected? Most Greeks I know are honest, talented, cultured and hardworking people who love life and respect other cultures and would happily stay in their country not bothering anyone, if they could.”

This migration wave is different to previous ones. One major difference is the whole new range of possibilities offered by new media. “Apart from communication, the Internet provides real-time news about developments in Greece, the ability to act and comment. You know it’s a strange feeling for Greeks abroad who are surrounded by prosperity while monstrous things are happening in their country. It’s sometimes hard to strike a balance,” Stamboulopoulos said.

Newdiaspora.com depends on microfunding to maintain its independence. Users are invited to contribute as much as they like to aid in the effort to keep the project going.