Photo: Christos Mpampouras. By Abi Ramanan, Athens, October 2012.
This is the third transcript from the recorded interviews Abi Ramanan and I made in Athens last week. We interviewed people there about the economic crisis, service cuts and the rise of fascism. We’re publishing transcripts from the recorded interviews we made on this site over the next week.
This is a transcript of a recorded interview with Christos Mpampouras, 61. He is a drummer and was a farmworker. He told us that he has a small farmworkers’ pension. He is originally from Ipeiros and now lives in Athens. He visits the municipal soup kitchen in Omonoia twice a day for meals. There were hundreds of people queuing for lunch when we went to the soup kitchen at about midday on Friday 26 October. Many of the people in the queue were elderly.
On needing the soup kitchen
I’ve been coming here for about five years, for two meals a day. I have very good relations with the people who work here. If they need help with shipping or unloading things, I help out.
It used to be that maybe about 250 Greeks came here, but now it’s probably increased to 500 people for each meal. A lot people really need it, but there are also people who don’t need it. Most of the people who come for food are older people like me, but there are also a lot of young people who are drug addicts. There is no reason why they should come.
I used to work part-time with my drums. There wasn’t a lot of work and my [farmworkers’] pension is one of the lowest in Greece. A friend brought me here [to the soup kitchen]. I don’t have my own house in Athens. I rented one before the crisis. After that, I didn’t make enough money to pay the rent, so now I’m staying with a friend temporarily. Of the 500 regulars I know who go to the soup kitchen, maybe 100 have their own house.
On the rise of the Golden Dawn
I don’t have a problem with the Golden Dawn, because they’re Greeks and they’re also young people and they don’t have work. I don’t think they’re fascists. I don’t know why people call them fascists. The politician [communist party MP Liana Kanelli] who got slapped on television [by Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris] – I liked her and I used to vote for the Communist party myself, but she was very provocative on that television show. I think she was calling him a fascist, so it was not surprising that he got angry. The Golden Dawn – they’re not that bad. They haven’t hurt me and they’re Greeks and they’re young.
I’m okay with people coming from Syria, or Iraq, because they have war, but I can’t understand why people come from Albania and take my job and my pension. Albanians – go to Albania. Go to your country instead of here. I’m not a racist. An Albanian comes here, makes some money which in his country is a lot of money. He makes a fortune. If I work for five months, I won’t make that sort of money.
Drugs in Omonoia
There are lots of people here on drugs. They sell the drugs in matchboxes. Mostly, the black people sell them, but sometimes, when the police come, they give the matchboxes to Greeks because the police don’t search them. That means that the black people don’t get caught. When the police leave, they get back the drugs and they keep selling them. The blacks go [and wait] outside the hospitals for drug addicts, so that they can sell them drugs.
Everyone is responsible for the crisis, because everyone was living outside of their means. It is my fault as well, because I didn’t save enough money before the crisis. My father in the village used to have a phrase which roughly translated says “the river doesn’t always bring wood.” You can’t always expect the river to bring wood and now the river is no longer bringing wood.
I’m 61 years old and I won’t receive the pension I’m entitled to until I’m 65. I thought that I would be all right until I was 65, but now I’m unemployed, because nobody will hire me at 61.
I have a son. We haven’t spoken in years because I was divorced. I don’t want to contact him and I don’t really have anyone in the family who I can seek out and talk to.
The food at the soup kitchen
The food is clean. Monday, they have lentil soup. Tuesday, it’s chicken. Wednesday, it’s fish. Sometimes, there’s meatballs, so there’s a variety. The food is good quality, but I can’t put as much salt in it as I want. You can’t go there and say – I want to put more salt and pepper in. It’s not like when you make your own food.
When there’s chicken, it finishes very quickly. Usually, there isn’t a problem, but if they have something nice, it goes very fast.
They had a lot of soup here. Soup is fine for the morning, but I don’t like it when they have soup in the evening, or for lunch. Soup is very little for lunch. You don’t feel like you’re eating. You eat more like a person in the church foodbank, because you can add oils and spices.