A train ride into Greco-German darkness: Conversation with a Greek Military Officer.

Greece. Cutting through gorged mountains that rise steeply from the flat plains of Northern Greece I share a  table with George Ganas, 43, an officer who has served 24 years in the Greek Military airforce. George is a burly, buoyant character and as we talk he runs a well handled rosary of yellow kexrimpari through his fingers. His views are those of a military man with an enquiring intellect. History, he tells me, is his passion: "I have studied it for decades," he says as he pulls out a heavy historical tome from his bag. George's perspective is one that stirs old enmities, that speaks of dark fears of unfinished buisness from WWII. He believes the European Trokia (ECB, EU and IMF) with Germany as the economic driving force, is finishing the work the Third Reich didn't... 

George: I believe that during the second world war Germany wanted to occupy countries in Eastern Europe and Southern Europe…to be their….they needed room, but only to be their workers, without local bosses, to work only for Germans.

Perryeyes: (Looking astonished anticipating the next line as we speed through pine clad hills) 

The Mountains of Mid Greece.
George: Yes, that is what I believe and this situation here in my country is repeated after seventy years, because history continues to repeat. It’s the same history without guns, bullets, and military. That’s my opinion.

Perryeyes: So the European economic system is enslaving Greeks to Germany?

GeorgeNot only Greek people are the victim, to be punished…. Italians, Spanish Portuguese, Irish. I met a lot of German officers on NATO bases in Greece. They hate us, (with emphasis), they hate us. Can you imagine that?

Perryeyes: Why do they hate you??

George: Because we have sun. Because we have islands. Because we talk to other people. Because we have oil.

I ask wether he means envy rather than hate, he says no. 

George: During the occupation here they (Nazi Germany) took all of the goods out of fields…all the animals and all the gold of the National Bank of Greece, and a good amount of money. The same way they gave us, but that money never came back. And never (did the politicians) make a letter to get it back…

Perryeyes: And they just ignore this?

George: Not ignore…They are friends!!...They are big liars! 

George suggests that disagreements between Germany and Greece displayed on TV are a charade. When the cameras stop rolling the politicians are friends... The conversation turns to a defence of that commonplace assumption the German media has been known to disseminate: that the Greeks are lazy.

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George: I don’t believe that here we work more or less than Germany. I believe that all the people throughout Europe, the world work very very hard. My own family work about fifteen hours a day on the farm. So I grew up with this way.

George goes on to describe corruption he sees amongst the political elite.

George: I think that we have not good leadership the last thirty/forty years. I believe that our democracy is not the real democray that they had in ancient Greece. I believe that the leadership here make money for them own selves, and all that money goes to Geneva Switzerland. To the big banks.

There are a lot of names –about 600- that the Government didn’t put outside (disclose) to the people, all the leadership.

George is out on the count, there are, in fact, 2000 names on a list - now known as 'The Lagarde List'- that apparantley crossed the desk unopened, of the current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. The list details the names of wealthy Greeks with HSBC Swiss bank accounts (i.e. read potential tax evaders). Inaction on investigating the list led to the resignation of PASOK minister Yiannis Ragousis who issued a statement underlining:  “the determination – or lack of it – to tackle tax evasion with the same strictness that was applied in reducing incomes and imposing new taxes”.

Perryeyes: Is the corrupt mentality one that continued after Greece's military dictatorship?

George: After the military government of '74-'79 there was a good democracy period. After '79 comes the collapse of systems, the problems, the faults. Half of the policeman now belong to Nazi organisations, the National Socialist part of Greece.
The Military branch of the Greek Police near a student protest in Thessaloniki. Photo taken without permission as non would have been granted. They have pistols,  motor cycle helmets, shields etc.
Yes even now, can you imagine (what it was like) thirty years before?! The money that they (the politicians) took from EU did not make jobs for the people, trains, roads….they hid it: Papandreou, Mitsotakis, Karamanlis...It's not the people who live well. The people in Athens work two or three jobs for less than 700 Euro. They live like rats. George discloses his darkest fear:

"Now in Athens there is a war.

A war that you don’t see on the cameras, except when the people go very close to the Government. 

In the very next months people will take their guns and kill each other. 

 There will be here civil war."

Work, consume, vacate, die. Graffiti,Thessaloniki.
Perryeyes: Do other people have the same opinion?

George: Yes,  everybody believes that. There is big poverty, very huge poverty, 80 to ninety percent of the people here. The cost of the money when the Euro came in ten years ago increased three times.The cost of the money, three times!  in one night!! There was no policy on price. Everbody put his own price on it, on coffee, beer, meat, honey, milk, there was no control. (Pointing at his can of beer) can you imagine in one night from 50 Drachma to 150!?

Perryeyes: But wages stayed the same?

George: They went DOWN. The troika wants  salaries to be down even from 700 euros...to 400 Euros per month. And the taxes. Last year they took 80 million Euros in intrest only.

The conversation is startling and continues on matters more personal when the train pulls in to Larissa, George's stop. As we part company and we both express our good fortune in having struck up such good company on our journey. As George leaves I contemplate that a lot of his words may be part fear, maybe this perspective is a little harsh on Germany... but as I take a closer look at the train, speeding through a darkening landscape, a dawning realisation takes hold. The train is German built.   

Bank sign, Thessaloniki.


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