THE BLOG
11/20/2014 05:01 am ET Updated Jan 19, 2015

Yassou From Athens: Introducing HuffPost Greece

ATHENS -- As The Huffington Post has expanded around the world, I have used this space to introduce each of our new international editions. But none of the announcements I've made has had as much significance for me personally as what I have to share today: the launch of The Huffington Post in my native Greece. If I veer into some emotional territory (and spoiler alert: I will -- it's in my genes), it's because even now, surrounded by our wonderful team of editors in our office with a stunning view of the Parthenon, I'm overwhelmed by gratitude.

For me, this is the ultimate homecoming, not only because this is where I and my accent were born but because HuffPost is very firmly rooted in a Greek tradition of bringing people together and facilitating interesting conversations. When we began our international expansion more than three years ago, I knew that one day HuffPost's own odyssey (to borrow from one of my compatriots) would lead us to Greece. And I couldn't be happier that that day has finally come.

I'm also delighted that we are launching HuffPost Greece in collaboration with 24MEDIA, Greece's largest digital media publisher. And the realization of this dream would not be possible without the support of our partners Eugenia Chandris (who has been a dear friend and like a third sister to me for 40 years), Marianna Latsis, Dimitris Maris and Petros Pappas. I would also like to thank the CEO of 24MEDIA, Stavros Drakoularakos, for his great collaboration, and the president of the board of the Acropolis Museum, Dimitrios Pandermalis, for his steadfast support.

Launching HuffPost in Greece is, in many ways, about coming full circle. My father was a serial journalism entrepreneur who launched a succession of small newspaper ventures -- all of which failed. (It's no accident HuffPost is not in print!)

After my parents broke up when I was 11, I lived with my mother and my sister Agapi in a one-bedroom apartment in Athens. My mother was amazingly committed to making sure my sister and I had the best childhood possible. She would preside over long sessions in our small kitchen, guiding us through our daily problems by discussing Greek philosophy. And, of course, she was always cooking, clearly believing that if you didn't eat something every 20 minutes, something terrible would happen to you.

This was a time when Greek women still needed dowries to get married. So my mother would always say to me, "Your education will be your dowry." And to make that happen, she sold everything she had, including her last pair of gold earrings. That started me on a journey: college at Cambridge, a career as an author, marriage, motherhood, divorce, launching HuffPost. But Greece is where my story began.

Now HuffPost Greece will be telling the stories that matter most in Greece and, just as important, helping Greeks tell their stories themselves. The Huffington Post is both a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism enterprise with investigative reporters all around the world and a platform where people both known and unknown with something interesting to say can say it. And I'm so grateful to be able to bring The Huffington Post to Greece at this very challenging moment in the country's history.

As HuffPost has grown, I have returned over and over in my mind to the traditions and wisdom of my home country. For my Greek ancestors, philosophy was anything but an academic exercise. Asking the question "What is a good life?" was a daily practice in the art of living. This question had to lie at the root of HuffPost's mission to redefine success beyond the first two metrics of money and power to include a third metric, consisting of well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.

Still, like in many other countries, in Greece today the good life, by any definition, is up against steep challenges. Unemployment was at 26 percent in July, with youth unemployment at a staggering 49 percent. Austerity measures have crippled Greece's economy, while suicide, drug use and overdoses have risen dramatically. The vicious cycle of budget cuts has reduced Greece's ability to help its own most vulnerable citizens, even as their number has multiplied.

But Greece is moving forward. I've witnessed that Greek resilience firsthand many times in my life. In the summer of 2011, I spent many nights in Syntagma Square, directly across from the Greek parliament. The protesting crowd was mixed, full of young people and old, the self-employed, the unemployed, activists and pensioners, demanding the opportunity to live out their own versions of a good life.

That desire is stronger than ever, and the central mission of HuffPost Greece will be to open up the conversation about the ways we can tap into the inner resources we all have. Large-scale institutional changes are of course incredibly important, and we'll be covering those too, but we don't have to wait for them before we initiate change in our own lives right now.

To the Stoics, the most secure kind of happiness could therefore be found in the only thing that we are in sole control of: our inner world. Everything outside us can be taken away, as too many in Greece know full well, so how can we entrust our future happiness and well-being to it? Once we realize that, we can bring about a sense of imperturbability (or ataraxia, as the Greeks called it), and from that place, we can much more effectively and powerfully bring about change in our lives and the world around us.

And now from the Greek Stoic philosophers to our fabulous Greek team. Our editorial director Sophia Papaioannou is a highly respected journalist who brings decades of experience and expertise to her new role. She hosts the weekly show 360 Degrees on ALPHA TV and formerly co-hosted the popular investigative TV program Fakeloi (which translates to "Dossiers"), for which she traveled the world. Her passion for Greece and its history is beautifully captured in her book Hidden in the Aegean, which unravels a true-life mystery about the disappearance of a young Greek man in the 1940s.

Editor-in-chief Nikos Agouros comes to HuffPost Greece from the monthly magazine VimaMen, where he served for six years as editor-in-chief. He has lived in Tel Aviv and London (where he studied global media at the London School of Economics and Political Science), has a passion for modern Greek and Middle Eastern history and recharges by hiking in some of Greece's smallest and most remote islands. Pavlos Tsimas, a renowned political journalist with a 35-year career in print and broadcast media, will be editor-at-large. Despina Trivoli is overseeing lifestyle and culture. Anita Stefanou is the site's general manager, and Tassos Argyros is its sales director. In fact, our site begins with Cosmote, AIG, Neff, Glenfiddich and Honda as our launch sponsors.

HuffPost Greece kicks off with an interview with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

At the same time that we will be covering relentlessly all the economic problems that Greece is facing, we will also, just as relentlessly, put the spotlight on its new entrepreneurial fervor for creating jobs, spurring growth and forging new connections. As we launch, we'll be highlighting a series of Greek startups, starting with DoctorAnytime, a medical database that helps patients find, compare and review doctors; Skroutz, an Amazon-like online marketplace that helps shoppers compare prices; and Spitogatos, the Craigslist of Greece, with apartment-rental listings and other items for sale. We also ask if Greek startups are fully taking advantage of what has traditionally been one of the key drivers of the country's economy -- tourism -- and look at several new startups that are experimenting in that realm, including Dopios, which connects tourists with local residents who can serve as tour guides, and TripinView, which provides virtual tours of Greece's wonderful beaches.

As HuffPost Greece will also be a place to explore the intersection between modern science and the ancient Greek wisdom about living life with greater health and fulfillment and less stress and burnout, we are delighted to be covering, for our launch, a remarkable exhibition at the Museum of Cycladic Art showcasing health in ancient Greece. We will also be considering the many things Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, can teach us about well-being today, including the benefits of homeopathic medicine. We are also spotlighting the growing number of yoga retreats in the Greek islands, which are attracting people from all over the world, and looking at how austerity is fueling burnout, along with expert advice on how Greeks can reduce stress.

And while HuffPost Greece will be reporting relentlessly on the impact of austerity and all that is dysfunctional and not working, we'll also be telling the stories of what is working. To start with, we are spotlighting three organizations throughout Greece that embody the Greek spirit of hospitality, giving and looking out for one another. There's Boroume (which means "we can" in Greek), a nonprofit food bank working to reduce food waste by connecting those with food to give with those who don't have enough to eat. We have a story on O Allos Anthropos, a mobile community kitchen serving the poor and homeless. O Allos Anthropos exemplifies the Greek spirit of hospitality, not only serving food but inviting people in for conversation and connection. Kostas Polychronopoulos founded it at age 52 after he lost his job in advertising, which he'd had for 25 years. He was inspired to start a community kitchen while he was walking through the laiki (a local farmers' market) and saw two children fighting over a bag of rotten food. And there's the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which, since 1996, has been committed to improving thousands of lives in Greece with initiatives addressing issues ranging from homelessness and pediatric health to prison education and youth unemployment.

We kick off with blog posts from EU Commissioner and former Greek Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos, from the New Democracy Party, on the importance of European cohesion and solidarity; Rena Dourou, Governor of Attica and SYRIZA member, on the geopolitical challenges in the Middle East; Olga Kefalogianni, Greek Minister of Tourism, on fighting unemployment through tourism and relying on Greece's cultural legacy as a model for entrepreneurship; Konstantin Kakanias, an artist from Los Angeles, on growing up gay in Greece during the '70s and '80s; Panagiotis Vlahos, a young activist, on his NGO Vouliwatch, which is dedicated to promoting transparency in the Greek parliament; Nadina Christopoulou on Melissa, the organization she co-founded to take care of women refugees in Greece; and Yiolina Brousali, a mother and blogger, on why kids shouldn't worry about success. Yiolina's post first appeared on her own blog, (Not) Just Mums, an example of cross-posting that allows bloggers like Yiolina, who are already writing and publishing, to reach an even wider audience on HuffPost.

Growing up, my favorite poem was "Ithaka" by the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy. Agapi and I had memorized the poem long before we could actually understand what it means. It opens, "As you set out for Ithaka hope the voyage is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery." And so it has been. I'm so grateful to the many, many people, both now and through the years, who have helped bring us to this moment and the launch of HuffPost Greece. If I had a plate, I'd smash it. Please join me in welcoming Greece to the HuffPost family. Opa!