WSJ In Their Own Hands Greeks Look to Their Own Initiative to Rebuild Crisis-Racked Country

WSJ In Their Own Hands Greeks Look to Their Own Initiative to Rebuild Crisis-Racked Country

As Greece stages its second parliamentary election this year on Sunday, many Greeks have given up waiting for their politicians to find a way out of the country’s long economic crisis. Instead, national recovery and renewal will come about through the sum of ordinary people’s efforts, more and more people say.

Athens-based photographer Myrto Papadopoulos traveled the country in the week before the elections and asked Greeks from widely different walks of life how their country could finally leave its crisis era behind it. What she discovered was a mixture of resignation about Greek politics and belief in the innate creativity and resourcefulness of ordinary Greeks.

The obstacles to change are formidable, and include chronically fractious and unstable politics. Building a more functional Greek economy and polity will take years—perhaps a decade or even a generation, many Greeks say. But they insist they will get there. The marathon debt crisis since 2009, with its devastating effects on the economy and the social fabric, has its good sides too, many here believe. The crisis has revealed that earlier care-free prosperity was a mirage, and forced Greeks to reflect on their weaknesses and discover their strengths, at a personal and national level.

Greece is us. When the people leave the crisis behind, Greece will get out of the crisis.

—Father Athinagoras Loukataris, 37, Dendropotamos, northern Greece

Father Athinagoras Loukataris, a young priest working at an impoverished Roma settlement in Dendropotamos, northern Greece, is an unlikely candidate to spread the gospel of technology. But in the last three years he has taught robotics to Roma children, some of whom have traveled to take part in robot-building competitions around Greece. Last year, the settlement’s robotics team competed at the world championship of Lego robotics in St. Louis, Missouri. “I want to look back and see these kids changing the history of this place,” he says. “It is up to us make a change. It is up to me.”

 

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