Standing Tall with an Ancient and Proud Nation
Greece is one of the oldest civilisations in the world. Yet our achievements are quite modest – democracy, the Olympics, architecture, juries, geometry, the theatre, and the humble screw to name but a few.
For the last few months (and even more so in the the last few weeks), the rest of the world has been focused on the fate of this ancient country and its people. A country that has, over its rich and varied history; been occupied, faced enemies, resisted them and lived through a coup. With everything this nation has suffered in its past, it feels like some sort of painful irony that this beautiful country is experiencing its own Greek Tragedy. With the future of the country now shaky at best, it seems the question on everyone’s lips is “Are the Greeks still proud to be Greek?”
Irrespective of whether you are Greek, have Greek friends, or perhaps you have visited this beautiful Mediterranean country – you will know deep in your heart that the answer to this question is a resounding, Yes! or Nai!
You see, the Greek people have a long history of being persecuted. In more recent years this beautiful nation has been bullied by bigger, richer and stronger nations but their resistance has always been absolute. The overwhelming vote of NO last weekend (to the acceptance of a bailout and more austerity measures) bonded the Greeks regardless of their political persuasion.
And here is the crux of it. When Greece and its population have been faced with hardship, war and occupation, they become stronger. They unite. Pride in their heritage, faith and country, bonds them together.
Generations on generations of Greeks have fought for their freedom and their (albeit small) voice. From an early age, they have been taught to have pride in who they are and the country they hail from. Greeks who have left Greece still refer to it as home.
Traditions have not faded, their language is still uncorrupted, their faith in their religion unfaltering. They celebrate their independence days with flag waving, schools parading and the National Guard marching together with pride.
Greece is a resilient nation with strong family values that have been tested to the limit these last few years. Whether pensioners are supporting their children and their grandchildren because jobs have been lost. Or simply because they just cannot afford to support their families on their reduced salaries, if they’ve been lucky to be paid at all. Yes, many Greeks are still going to work without the security of a wage packet.
Times are hard for all of the Greeks, from the middle classes to the lower and it is only a relative handful of the population who have tarnished the country with corruption, unpaid taxes and deals on debts that were doomed from the start. I’m not here to talk about politics or point fingers, Lord knows there’s been enough of that over the last few months! I’m neither qualified or well informed enough, but what I am here to say is that throughout my life I have witnessed all sides of Greece, predominantly good, occasionally not so good.
The Greek people’s immeasurable sense of pride in their language and their culture is often witnessed. You only need to experience the incredible response you receive when you try to speak their language, however bad your pronunciation.
A specific memory comes to mind of their generous hospitality on the picturesque island of Corfu, when a couple of English tourists spotted a small taverna up a mountain. They ate lemon roasted chicken and potatoes accompanied by Greek salad, washed down with local wine, sitting at a rickety wooden table with traditional woven chairs. The local couple spoke no English and when the tourist asked for the bill, the Greek lady and man refused to take any money. It transpired that what the tourists thought was a small taverna was in fact their home and they had finished off the couple’s lunch! There are many stories I have heard and incidences I have witnessed, that prove the people of Greece should not be judged by their governments.
Generations of Greeks have had to leave the motherland but their ties are rarely broken. During the recent events a pensioner was filmed crying outside the bank, unable to access his measly pension. The footage went viral and an old family friend, living in Australia, recognised the elderly man as a friend of his fathers. He thankfully tracked him down and promised to send him the amount of his pension, and something extra every month until the banking system was restored. This is what makes the Greeks proud to be Greek.
One of the most famous modern time Greeks, Aristotle Onassis said;
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see that light.”
The Greek people have been through many dark moments in their tumultuous history, but their fierce patriotism has pushed them through. They’ve fought battles that no one envisaged they’d ever come out of and have made it through at great cost. They look to their past to give them the courage that they need and they set their sights on a brighter future they deserve. They’ve a very long road ahead of them, but they’re still willing to put up a fight for their right to survival.
Last week showed that the Greek people, from the poorer corner of Europe spoke up, united in their voice. It was a small victory in retrospect, but for one moment, all talk of corruption and scandal was almost forgotten as the poor relation made a stand.
The Greeks will always be proud to be Greek. They’ve suffered worse and lost even more and yet they are still here. The country that gave us democracy, great thinkers and scholars, is still fighting.
In the words of the great Winston Churchill;
“Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but we will say that heroes fight like Greeks.”
(Note from the editor: Many thanks to Anna-Maria Athanasiou for being our first house-guest! Anna is the author of “Waiting for Summer“, read more about her here. To become a house-mate and contribute articles to The Glass House, click here)