COM­MU­NITY RAL­LIES BE­HIND FAM­I­LIES

Townsville res­i­dents in sup­port

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - RACHEL RI­LEY rachel. ri­ley@ news. com. au

THE Townsville Greek com­mu­nity is ral­ly­ing around their home coun­try rel­a­tives, of­fer­ing emo­tional and fi­nan­cial sup­port as they po­ten­tially look to flee Greece’s cat­a­strophic debt cri­sis.

Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras has called a ref­er­en­dum for Sun­day on cred­i­tor pro­pos­als for Greek re­forms in re­turn for vi­tal bailout funds and re­main­ing in the Euro­pean Union.

Greece has al­ready en­dured five years of re­ces­sion, un­em­ploy­ment has reached more than 25 per cent this year and pen­sions and ben­e­fits have been roughly halved be­tween 2010 and 2014.

Fit­ness trainer Tony Tsom­pan­el­lis re­cently re­turned from a Greek hol­i­day and af­ter trav­el­ling there more than 20 times said he had never seen so much de­spair among his fam­ily.

“The mood was the most pes­simistic I have ever, ever en­coun­tered be­cause all they can do is sit and watch TV from morn­ing to night, which is al­ways de­press­ing,” Mr Tsom­pan­el­lis said.

“My el­derly un­cles would tell me sto­ries of lin­ing up at 2am to get their pen­sions be­fore wait­ing five hours at the bank – and this is when

Greece had money. Ev­ery­body is hang­ing on to see what the re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum is but they are all look­ing for a way to get their kids out of the coun­try.”

Mr Tsom­pan­el­lis said some of his rel­a­tives had asked him for fi­nan­cial help. “My fam­ily has worked all their lives and ev­ery­body that I am aware of is very con­cerned,” he said.

“It’s such a happy place and peo­ple are gen­uinely so giv­ing, so just to see just about ev­ery­body so de­pressed and with no hope is a tragic thing.

“Greece was un­der slav­ery for 400 years and man­aged to get in­de­pen­dence, but this is one sit­u­a­tion where they will have to dig deep.”

Pol Ki­as­sos said he and his fam­ily in Townsville were con­sid­er­ing re­turn­ing to Greece to of­fer sup­port to rel­a­tives hit hard by the aus­ter­ity mea­sures.

“They are all con­cerned about what is go­ing to hap­pen af­ter the no or yes vote of the ref­er­en­dum,” he said.

“I know a lot of peo­ple and rel­a­tives who don’t have any jobs or they have lost their jobs.

“They are very frus­trated about all the pres­sure from the Euro­pean Union.”

The mood

was the most pes­simistic I

have ever seen

CRI­SIS LOOM­ING: Protesters gather in Athens and ( inset left) Tony Tsom­pan­el­lis on a re­cent trip to Greece to visit fam­ily mem­bers.

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