Over the last years, bookselling in Athens felt like being in a gigantic waterslide with no end. You are sliding and sliding, claustrophobic and – unfortunately – without ever knowing if and how you will ever splash in the cool water – and how much courage you will have to try again.
Unfortunately, the world economic crisis, the Greek economic crisis and the book world crisis coincided in our country at the worst possible moment.
Things are difficult. I participated yesterday at the huge NAI - YES demonstration on Syntagma Square - it was massive. Everything you see on TV is true. People queuing to get their "ration" of 60 Euros, the impossible prime minister and his colleagues... the - no words @#$%^& - Head of Parliament Zoi Konstantopoulou (who, as Thessaloniki Mayor Mr Boutaris said, "belongs to the zoo!").
People I know are stranded abroad with no money because their credit cards are not accepted. Sales of course have plummeted even more. I do not know if there is a way out. My biggest fear is the possibility of a NO on Sunday. I am 61 years old and was 13 when we got the Junta. So I know how bad things happen, when you live in a non-European country with no allies.
Former Minister Pangalos said years ago his famous quote: "Mazi ta fagame", which means that we all benefitted from this "feast", meaning money spent, taxes not paid etc. I believe he is true. We certainly did not "benefit" all at the same level. But politicians of all parties, the public sector and many oligarchs have become rich. Not all of them, but many. The rest of us accepted this situation and are to be blamed as well.
From the reckless driving, to accepting motorcyclists driving on the pavement, to demand from professors to "pass" the exams although undeserved, this has led us to a society of immature teenagers, who have never learnt to take a "no" as an answer or follow rules. This is often a good family trait, but not in our case and not constantly.
I hope that we will get to a YES on Sunday. I hope that the current government will resign, but doubt that they will do so, even if they lose at the referendum. I hope that there will be a new working government with representatives of all parties, good and capable people. I hope that there will be new negotiations with the troika and a will from everyone to help Greece help itself.
Outside my office window I hear a man shouting and demanding that the banks remain open also on Saturday and Sunday and pay full pensions to the pensioners (instead of the daily 60 Euros). They do not understand that there is not enough money available.
I spend a lot of time in the store talking to customers. Psychotherapy for free. A lady burst out crying when I told her “that it will pass”.
If YES prevails at this Sunday’s referendum, Greece is getting a chance to correct old mistakes and become the thriving European country it deserves to be. As for us, let us not forget that Eleftheroudakis has been through worse crises in its long history since 1898. Let us say that the fighting spirit is in our DNA and we certainly do not give up easily. We are quite sure that our partners abroad will support us in the future as they did since this crisis started. We can certainly assure them that we are looking forward to meeting them in the forthcoming Frankfurt Book Fair in order to start business again after this longer than expected drought.
These are very challenging times.