I cannot imagine any sadder sight or sound than this, the Greek National Symphony Orchestra playing Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma Variations at their the farewell concert.
The whole lot of them are being sacked, after 75 years of unbroken tradition. Yes this is austerity or, to put it another way, this is what the Greeks are having to do to stay in the euro-currency. The latest round of cuts includes not only closing down their national TV station but also firing the whole of the country's leading classical orchestra. These professional musicians are all now going to be using their freedom of movement to seek jobs elsewhere in the austerity-stricken EU, with unemployment rates of 20 -25% in most places, and if they can't find another job...they will be busking.
If you notice any very talented buskers in the London Underground in the near future, playing core classical repertoire, well...thank the European Union. Because of the determination of the EU commission to keep the Euro-zone intact, and not allow Greece to exit from the single currency, everything that can be cut has been cut. Salaries, pensions, benefits (non-existent now) and all public services have been cut to the bone. Hospitals cannot afford to give treatment and they have virtually no medicines. Schools are surviving with minimal lighting and no heating. Books have been replaced with online learning materials.
Meanwhile prices of virtually everything have soared. The country is full of people trying to live on in houses where the water and electricity have been cut off for non-payment.
I remember Greece before it went into the European Union and I remember a country of sturdy, hard-working, proud people with a weak currency that brought in fantastic trade and tourism. A moussaka in a typical island restaurant cost 500 drachmas. I also remember their elation when they went into the EU and the optimism that accompanied it. Then came the wave of apparent prosperity. Grandparents could not believe what the younger generation was spending... and they were right not to believe it. The illusion of riches, all based on subsidies and loans, and a low interest rate, soon melted away and now the country is worse off than it has every been in my lifetime. People are leaving en masse and those who stay are struggling to afford the most basic food.
I have still got a handful of Greek banknotes from the old drachma currency, tucked away in a drawer. I hope that one day I will be able to go back to Greece and use them to buy a moussaka again.
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