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Alternatives in Italy, Spain and Greece December 15, 2014

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In the last few years in southern Europe historical parties are losing acceptance and many movements  are replacing them.
This is happening specially in Spain and Italy, where Podemos and Movimento 5 stelle achieved to be very rappresentative in the political scene.

After the European elections Movimento 5 stelle in Italy and Podemos in Spain received a big responsibility from their electors. The first movement achieved more or less the 21% of the votes and the second one about the 8%. The italian movement wants to change radically the structure of the European Union and its “levent_20744404eader” Beppe Grillo also proposed to organize a referendum to “let the italians free” to choose if they still want to be part of this international partnership.The opinion of Pablo Iglesias is quite different from Grillo’s. Podemos and its leader prefer to fight for a different Europe, more social and less financial, more democratic and less bureaucratic, but they still want to be part of it.

These two parties are also subverting the structure of the national political system but Movimento 5 stelle was not and is not strong enough to transform it totally and right now is losing the support of part of its voters. Abo8122_630_354ut Spain the situation seems different. Podemos now is the first party in its country and in 2015 the national elections will take place in Spain. Now in the polls Podemos has not a big majority and if this scenario will be the same in few months it will be difficult for Spain to have a strong government.

Also in Greece in the last few years the situation changed drastically but is not comparable with Italy and Spain. Indeed the power of traditional parties is still very strong and they control the political system. However we have to underline a radicalization of politics. Syriza and Golden Dawn are two parties that represent it. The first one was originally founded as a coalition and in 2012 became definitively a party. Syriza initially was a radical left party but now is composed of many groups, also more moderate. The party was the first in the european election in 2014 and now is still the most popular. For this reason the situation in Greece is particalexis-tsipras-syrizaularly complicated after the decision of the Premier Samaras to move up the elections of the President of the Republic.

Movimento 5 stelle, Podemos and Syriza have also another peculiarity in common: a charismatic leader. These “parties” consider very important a strong participation but the role of the leader seems essential to keep unified the various groups taking part in the life of the parties.

As we can see these countries are sharing a period of transformations. Now we’ve to wait to understand where these changes will lead them.

Tommaso Sartori

“Should I stay or should I go? Youth and migration in Greece” November 26, 2014

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Promoted by Thessaloniki European Youth Capital 2014 and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung academic foundation, the event “Should I stay or should I go? Youth and migration in Greece” was presented on Monday 24 November at the Thessaloniki City Hall.

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The fishbowl discussion was concerned on the experiences of four young Greeks that faced this question with the aim of the event was to analyze the pro and con of migration as solution for escaping from economical crisis consequences.

The discussion was opened by Maria Pashalidou, President of Thessaloniki European Youth Capital 2014, that stated the great success and enthusiasm of Thessaloniki Youth Capital that has involved many young people but also raised the question: “ but then do what?”. The economical crisis brings the young European generations, especially those of the southern Europe countries, to face great difficulties to enter in the labor market and to ask themselves: “should I stay do what? Or should I leave and go where?”. “The crisis gives you the possibility to refuse the easy life long comfortable job, that represents the Greece of the past, and to live an experience abroad as an opportunity to grew”, affirmed Maria Pashalidou. But this brain drain phenomenon risks to transform itself from a spontaneous question to an obligation forced by a disadvantaged condition, as Thomas Papakostandinou, Phd in Social Antropology said.

The fishbowl was divided in two main groups, the “stay” one leaded by Vicky Tarnana, owner and manager of the Youth Hostel “Little Big House”, and the “go” one represented by Leonidas Karapanos, young doctor emigrated for joining a scientific research team in Germany.

“ I decided to stay and keep fighting for my dreams” said Vicky. After having spent some years in UK she decided to come back and to start her entrepreneurship. She felt the homesickness during her staying abroad, she missed her family and her culture, for these reasons she preferred to return back home and to fight with bureaucracy in order to realize her dream. “Who decide to stay has to proof his willingness on transforming this decision from an obligation to a choice of freedom” affirms Vicky.

Very different was the opinion of Leonidas about the opportunity to emigrating: “ I am among those who decided to leave as soon as they could”, he said. Leonidas has 29 years old, he graduated in medicine in Greece and then decided to move to Germany. Behind his choice to leave his country there was the willingness to increase his professional competences in medical research, a field that in central government provisions has found little space due to European Union austerity measures. If on the professional ground Leonidas has never experienced lack of respect, on the social one the situation was more complex: “ I was surprised when, by speaking with acculturate German people, I discovered that in Germany there was a superficial approach to Greek situation” – he affirmed – “I have felt social racism on my skin” Living abroad can be an interesting opportunity but sometimes it happens to face with stereotypes and narrow minds.

“Despite all I suggest to young Greeks to study as much languages as they can and to leave, trying to integrate themselves really in the hosting country. We live in the technological era, homesickness can be easily won”. But what are the problems that a young Greek meets entering in the labor market? According to Faye Orfanou, lawyer and co-founder of AELIA working life lab, they are mainly four: the little job demand due to the fulfillment of the labor market, low wages, difficulties on professional improvement, bureaucracy. “Travelling! It opens your mind! It is not necessary to go abroad, you can do it also in your country and , with the help of the social networks, it can become global”, Faye says.

The experience of Sotirios Stampoulis recalls Faye’s suggestion. After having obtained his degree in European Studies, in 2009 Sotirios found himself in the middle of the protests against the austerity measures but something was not working, he tells: “I became aware that I should have look further than just demonstrating in the streets”. It pushed him to start “Artivist4change’, a project focused on new and alternatives protesting ways related to the social media. “There is not a black or white solution, the answer is inside a great variety of grays. I want to stay here in Greece and I hope that in future young people will do the same trying to find opportunities for their future”.

And you? Will you stay or will you go?

Michela Sartini

Μετέωρα November 26, 2014

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The Monasteries of Meteora are located in the nord of Greece, in Thessaly (Περιφέρεια Θεσσαλίας ), and the meaning of their name is “monasteries suspended in the sky”. UNESCO World Heritage since 1988, are inhabited since the XIV Century and is one of the largest and most important complexes of Greek Ortodox Monasteries. In total six monasteries built on natural and particular sandstone pillars. The nearest village is Kalabaka, peaceful village with 11,000 of population.IMG_9230 copy

In the location of 10670136_10152832183953363_7353910058273345934_nthese towering rock masses stood, hundreds of thousands of years ago, a large river flowed into the sea of Thessaly. When this river found a new outlet in the Aegean Sea, under the action of erosion and earthquakes where collapsed and gave birth to this strange landscape.
The rock formations where monasteries were built would be the earliest Christian writings as ” the rocks sent by heaven to earth ” to allow the Greeks to retire and pray.

Kilometres of peace and fresh air, is an attractive place for thousands of tourists every year. It’s one of the most clean and protected places in Greece, with a full of different species of fauna and flora.

Incredible and gorgeous place.10401520_10152832189383363_2856824842070868231_n

Post: Aurora Real

Photos: Mustafa Akman, Aurora Real

The hopeful seeds, story of Kostantina and other Greek students in Italy November 7, 2014

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It is an unexpected rainy day here in Thessaloniki and the city is getting ready to host the great national event of the “To Oxi day” that commemorates the rejection by Metaxtas government of the ultimatum made by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on the 28 of October 1940, few hours before the starting of the Italian military occupation in Greece.

After the second world war the re-building of relations between Italy and Greece started formally by the signing of Paris Peace Treaties that assigned Italy, the invader country, to pay her duties towards Greece through the ceding of the Dodecanese Islands and $105000000 war reparations. But this is the well-known side of the story. The hidden one tells about a treaty signed in 1954, the Cooperation agreement, that had the aim to facilitate: “the cooperation and the exchanges, the most complete entente on the intellectual, artistic, scientific field, and the mutual understanding for what concerned their respective institutions and social life”.

Briefly, inside this treaty was given the possibility to foreign students of Greece and Italy to join the educational system of the other country with several benefits as: the reduction of the registration fees if these were higher in the other country (article 3) and the provisions of subsidies and scholarships to enable students and holders of degrees (article 5).

This the reason why I am going to meet Kostantina, named Dina, a woman born and raised in Thessaloniki, and ask her about her studying experience in Italy when the Erasmus project didn’t exist.

I arrived in Padova in 1986 for studying Psychology and Pedagogy at the University” – says Dina – “it was a beautiful city in which I have enjoyed a great time meeting people coming from all over the world”. I am quite surprised by her perfect Italian influenced by northen-Italy accent. I wonder if she learned the language on the ground or if she studied it somewhere, when I ask her she replies: “thanking to the historical heritage we have a lot of places in Greece where old people still know Italian, especially on the islands; I took Italian lessons at the Italian Cultural Institute before leaving for Italy and when I arrived in Padova I already spoke a bit of Italian”.

According to the study “Una diaspora adriatica” made by the researcher Kostis Kornetis, the main reason that led Greek students to move to Italy was: the difficulty that a huge number of students met trying to enter in the universities of Athens and Thessaloniki because of limited number that regarded some faculties, especially Medicine, Engineering, and Architecture. On the second field there was an historical and cultural bond that the memory of the Italian occupation during WWII didn’t affect. Thirdly the existence of the Cooperation agreement.

For Dina it was the cultural bond that pushed her to come to Italy: “ besides the occupation we have kept a good memory of the Italians, my father shared the jail experience with an Italian” – she tells me- “ I have chosen to go to Italy because of our common cultural heritage: the era of Magna Grecia, Byzantium empire, our people have a lot of ties”. While she is talking I start wondering how it could have been, the first impact, as student in a foreign city. I ask her if she knew the cooperation agreement and his benefits: “I was the first on winning the scholarship, I lived in the “Casa dello studente”, the college of the University, and when I told this to my Greek friends they remained astonished, they believed that those of benefits were reserved to the Italians”.

On the contrary, the upper-class young Greek students usually moved to Northern-Europe (Germany, France, UK), while the middle and lower class young Greek students decided to come to Italy. During the 1960’s and the 1970’s, in the face of political and social tensions that both countries were facing, Greek students became politicized and started taking part to political movements inside the Italian student movement and, especially between the 1967 and 1973, creating Greek pressure groups against the military government.

In those years various newspapers were born, for example “Grecia libera” or “Eleftheri Ellada”, they had the aim to sensitize public opinion about the political situation in Greece. “I remember when we occupied our faculty in Padova, for some of us it was a moment that recalled the experience at the Polytechnic of Athens in 1973”, says Dina with a smile on her face that betrays the memory of funny moments.

According to Kornetis’s study until the collapse of the Greek military government, the Italian society was empathic to the claims of the Greek protest movements: the Italian intellectual, Oriana Fallaci, was engaged with the Greek poet and activist Alexandros Panagulis until his murder in 1976 and a Greek actress that in those years was working in Italy, Irene Papas, became the voice of the Greek movement against the military government. Furthermore, during the 1970’s Greek became the second main language inside Italian universities: the units of Greek students passed from 3.500 units of 1957 to 4.971 in 1970 and reached the maximum level in 1977: 16.042 units.

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a frame of the graphic novel “Le straordinarie avventure di Penthotal” (1977) . It is visible the written “Οι Ελλενες δημοκρατικοι”, the writer decided to include this frame of the social life because in those years at Bologna’s University there was a great Greek community joining politic and social claims. © “Le Staordinarie Avventure di Penthothal” Andrea Pazienza, Fandango Libri 2010.

At the end of the decade things changed, the political situation in Italy was getting harder with the break out of terrorism, Greek communities started to close in themselves and, slowly, the units of Greek students decreased, in the 1980’s the number soared the 8000 units.

The main reason was the approval of a law in 1982 by Italian government that introduced for first time quotas about foreign students in Italian universities, beside this, the new generations of Greek students preferred to move to Eastern-Europe universities or remained in Greece joining a more favourable context pushed by the Dracma devaluation and the opening of new universities.

The entry of a women and her child into the shop stops our conversation. Dina goes to listen their requests and I watch her moving between the desk and talking in Greek. After few minutes she comes back and I ask her about her life in Italy, she replies me that she stayed ten years in Veneto (italian region, edit), working inside disease communities and as interpreter for institutional events. In 1997 she accompanied the Patriarch of Thessaloniki in a meeting with the Bishop of Venice during the ceremonies for Thessaloniki Capital of Culture.

I ask her if she has still got some ties with Italy, she says: “I go back to Italy, when I want to visit friends,the “mamma” of my friends, and when I have to follow cultural exchanges”. After she returned in Thessaloniki, Dina started to teach Italian through private lessons: “some students want just to learn the language, others are looking for doing the Erasmus project in Italy”, she says.

Two more clients enter the shop and Dina leaves to assist them. I have to go and search for my umbrella because outside is still raining. I thank her for her kindness and for the pleasant chat. I start walking to the bus station thinking about the great circle of life where some things may repeat themselves despite the changes and how, from bad situations, can born hopeful seeds.

Michela Sartini

Armenian community of Thessaloniki October 31, 2014

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The Armenian diaspora started many and many years ago. From the Antiquity Armenian people emigrated abroad but their emigration grew in size at the end of the 19th century from the Ottoman Empire and Russia Empire. Right now the Armenian population around the world is estimated around 10 million.

If we talk about Armenian community in Greece in 1890 there was a small community of Armenians in Athens and in Piraeus. They were about 150 people which turned into 600 after the incorporation of Thessaloniki and some cities of Macedonia after the Balkan Wars.

After the Hamidian massacres some Armenians escaped and they arrived at the port of Piraeus. They were more than 1,000  but, after the genocidal campaign of the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians and Greeks, Greece welcomed about 80,000 Armenians. The refugees mostly came from Cilicia, Smyrna, Ionia, Constantinople and other regions of Asia Minor. The Greco-Armenians were very active in art and commerce. A lot of Armenians came to Greece also to build the railway from Istanbul to Thessaloniki and after the completion they stayed in the area.

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Armenian Cemetery

About Thessaloniki the first stable settlement of Armenians in Thessaloniki was in March of 1881. They started celebrate their Masses in the Greek Orthodox churches. Once the community grew and became stable and stronger, they raised money to buy land so that they could build their own church. They also received help from others parish and contributions from other Armenian communities abroad. This is attested to by the inscription (in Armenian) which is set into the building above the door: “This Church was erected in the name of the Holy Virgin with the support of the community in Thessaloniki on the 16th of November of the Year of Our Lord 1903 and by the Armenian calendar 1352”. The church was designed by a very important italian architect, Vitaliano Poselli, who was one of the major figure in the architectural history of the city. The Armenian Father Michael Hovannesian also started to keep registers of baptisms, marriages and deaths, very important archives of the community. They are still in existence. In1887-1888 the community also builded its own cemetery, now close to the “Aghios Dimitrios” Hospital. In 1887 the Armenian priest also started to teach to the armenian children and in 1907 , next to the church was founded the first Armenian school. In 1896 in Thessaloniki there were around 320 Armenians and the population remained stable until after World War I, when it doubled to 500-600. During the initial phases of the community’s history the limited number of Armenian and its social composition permitted it to be not associated with the activities of the Armenian patriotic organizations and the revolutionary parties during the decades of the 1880s and 1890s. For this reason the Armenians of Thessaloniki escaped, in 1894-96, the terrible experiences of their brothers in Constantinople, Trebizond and in other cities and areas of the Ottoman Empire.

From 1910 to 1912 the community created  different institutions, one for example to relieve the orphans and other victims of the Cilician tragedy and another one to take care of Armenian prisoners in the First Balkan War. In the summer of 1915, with the news still branded on their minds of the systematic genocide practised in Ottoman Turkey the community of Thessaloniki organized many manifestations.

The biggest community’s growth occurred during the years 1920-1923, after the I World War, and the number of Armenians reach 10,000 in 1923.Thousands of Armenian refugees came from Eastern Thrace and in Asia Minor and a new phase began, marked by significant changes in its size and social character.The Armenians were determined to maintain their identities and they weren’t interested about greek citizenship and the majority of the population remained under the poverty line.  Starting in the autumn of 1924 and over the next three years more than 3,000 Armenians, or one in three of the total 1923 population, left the city. By 1929 the community numbered barely 6,500.

During the summer of 1946  began a real exodus of Armenian fellow citizens. The main destination was the Soviet Union, that invited armenian emigrants to settle in Armenia. By November 16, 1947, some 4,600 Armenian residents of Thessaloniki had left the city. A goodly number of Armenians also left Thessaloniki in the next five years. They went to Western Europe or Latin America. In 1953 the population was around 1100 people and the families were more or less 450.  This number has remained fairly stable and the current Armenian population of the city is about 1,200 but the community organize many cultural and political activities, especially after the creation in 1987 of the “Armenian Cultural Centre”.

(Tommaso Sartori)

Visual narrative October 21, 2014

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A Tuesday morning of October was the day which I chose to observe from the camera one of my favorites roads. The name of the street is Leoforos Nikis (Λεωφορος Νικης for the hellenic friends), and my route departed from the port to drop in the White Tower.

I walked since the blue left point to the blue right point.

Usually, I try to understand the environment from my own fact, but I took advantage of the chance to do an inverse way: understanding myself from my new landscape. The intention is to identify my reality although unavoidably it is influenced by the stories of the pictures. So, it’s a reciprocal building, the world affect us likewise we give a new sense that surround us when we discover it.

Undeniably, I have approached the city and with myself after that morning, as Apollo and Hermes did when he stole his oxen. They lived too an oncoming for some extrasensory event, so Apollo allowed Hermes to keep the cattle because he was attracted by the music he played with his lyre.

Alejandro Robles de la Vega.

16th LGBTQ Film Festival: Frames of freedom October 3, 2014

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The Thessaloniki International LGBT-Q Film Festival” was born in 1999 and still takes place each year in the Cinema Museum of Thessaloniki.
The society “SYMPRAXI – Partnership for Gender Issues” and the International Thessaloniki Film Festival organized the “Thessaloniki International LGBTQ Film Festival” of 2014, which started on 19th and finished on 28th September. (more…)

A GreenWave flood Thessaloniki October 1, 2014

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Welcome to Georgia September 29, 2014

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ANTIGONE: FOR A BETTER WORLD September 23, 2014

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Antigone is a non-profit organization started in 1993. Its full name has the key to understand what it does: Information and Documentation Center on Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non Violence.

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