We are living in special times in Greece. We have had great difficulties in recent years, but the virus is the culmination. The situation has become a Greek tragedy, but unfortunately there is no “deus ex machina” to put everything in order again.
We are a Belgian couple and have lived in Pinakates for 18 years, a small village on the slope of Pelion mountain, in mainland Greece, where we are used to a constant quarantine, since there are only 100 inhabitants in the village. From our mountain we have a unique view of Greek society and we have been surprised by the positive with the way our Greek friends have reacted to this crisis and the measures taken to contain it.
The word discipline exists in the Greek dictionary, but according to a friend of ours here, it is only there to enrich the vocabulary. But now the country was one of the first to institute very strict guidelines, and everyone followed them. Normally, we would have seen a lot of imagination exercises on the part of citizens to avoid them, but not this time.
The result is that life in Greece has come to a complete stop, with deserted roads and beaches. Only strictly necessary trips were allowed and it was necessary to be provided with legal documents that showed where you were traveling, and why. As there were so few violations of the rules, the situation remained very controlled, with a low number of infected people and only 190 deaths caused by Covid-19.
Sometimes the enthusiasm to fight this crisis has become a bit exaggerated, as when the army closed the roads and we had barricades every 500 meters to reach the supermarket. But so far, the effort has paid off. The downside is that the economy, especially tourism, has suffered a lot. Tourism accounts for 20% of GDP and on the islands most people depend on it. Since many of them worked on the black market, they suddenly ran out of income. Thus, the health crisis has become an economic crisis. There is enormous pressure to reopen all sectors of the economy and in early June measures began to be liberalized gradually.
It is also important to note that, as in other Mediterranean countries, Greeks are very tactile people: kisses, hugs and gatherings are part of society’s way of life. We therefore hope that the reopening of tourism will not lead to a reimportation of the virus and that the liberalization of the rules will not lead people to let their guard down.
But we believe that Greece has enough resilience to fight this misfortune, as it did during the last decade, during the deep economic recession, and that we can overcome this obstacle. The creativity, talent and inventive capacity that we saw developing during the pandemic surprised us. Everything becomes more fluid under pressure.
Perhaps in the end this is the positive consequence: that, as human beings, we depend on solidarity and creativity to form a better world.
* Wies and Ward Renders-Liekens are Belgians and have been retiring in Greece for 18 years.