Today is my fourth day in Greece. Since I came here last Saturday, I have heard a lot about the dramatic situation young Greeks find themselves in. On Monday, a professor from Thessaloniki explained to me that educated young people flock to other countries, such as Germany. They don’t see a future in their own country anymore.
Researchers call the mass migration of talent from a country “brain drain.“ And rightly so: Greece has lost some of its best brains in the last few years. Between 2009 and 2014 alone, 20,000 well-educated specialists left the country. Before the crisis, between 2000 and 2006, only 2500 left.
There is another side to the story, but it remains untold: stories of young Greeks who deliberately oppose this trend and don’t leave Greece, stories of young people who claim: We are staying -- now more than ever.
One example of this counter-trend is Eirini Fanarioti. Now 30 years old, she came to Athens 11 years ago. Her family comes from a village about three hours north of Athens. Her father grows organic oranges, and a majority of the harvest ends up in German supermarkets.
Eirini always knew that she wanted to work at the theater. Maybe as an actress or a director. When she entered law school in Athens, she quickly realized that she preferred reading stage concepts to reading criminal codes.
Eirini applied to the Drama School of the Athens Conservatory and was accepted. Suddenly her dream of a career on stage was within reach. But after her education, she experienced the same as hundreds of thousands of other young Greeks: She couldn’t find stable employment, and had to get by with odd jobs. She worked on a couple of productions, but was never really happy with that.
“Truth be told, I didn’t feel comfortable with my own life anymore,” Eirini told me, when we meet in a Falafel shop in Athens’ Pangrati district. “During job interviews, they always told me that there was no money for costumes or professional actors and that they couldn’t pay me a fee. I’d had enough of that,” she recalled.
In her late twenties, Eirini found herself without prospects. Without money. She shared the fate of many others in her generation: young, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
She decided to finally live her dream. Together with two friends, she founded her own stage company called “Terre de Semis“ (“Soil for Seeds”). She wrote her own play, “Megaloi Dromoi.”
“None of us had money. I was able to borrow some from my father to pay for costumes and set décor. But that was it. Nevertheless, we all worked very hard on the project. For two and a half months, we were practicing every day for five hours,” Eirini said.
“We have been performing for two months now and we’ve made the money that we invested in the project back a long time ago,” Eirini told me proudly. The money the project earned is actually even enough for new performances in Thessaloniki, Patras and Lefkada. And next year, Eirini wants to produce a new play.
“Today, I am so much stronger than before,” the young artist said. “Now I know that I can do anything. I also know that I can lose everything again, but at least I am feeling happy and fulfilled.”
This story was originally published on HuffPost Germany and translated from German to English.
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