A country in do-it-yourself mode | TIME ONLINE

    
                        
                In eight years of crisis, many self-help initiatives have sprung up in Greece. Often, one resorts to old traditions, as our pictures show.
                        
                September 14, 2018, 6:04 pm
            
            
            
                    
        

    
        
                                                
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        Just two years after the crisis began, Greece's oldest and largest ceramic company went bankrupt. The former employees were not paid their wages, then occupied the factory and manage them since then even in the warehouses is now no longer just worked. There are also international conferences, information events and theater performances. The name, Vio.Me, has remained.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        Instead of making the chemistry-heavy tile cleaner for the parent company, Philkeram Johnson, as they did before, they are now producing, among other things, ecological soap, which is distributed all over the world. At the same time, they are struggling to be profitable on the open market. Before you earned 1,200 euros a month. The salary, which is now paid equally to everyone, is only around 400 euros – depending on how the business works.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        But the communist cooperative is still fighting. Marxist terms such as "class struggle" and "appropriation of the means of production" are constantly falling. This is not unusual in Greece, because the Communist Party (KKE) has a long tradition as the oldest political party in Greece.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        The lust for battle is also evident at the factory yard. Barricades separate him from the rest of the site of the former parent company, to avoid eviction, because the industrial complex is to be sold. At the beginning of the year, the police came with the State Agency for Electricity to turn off the electricity that the occupiers can not afford. Within hours, 100 members of the solidarity network were there to block the way for the police. The electricity remained.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        Nicole Logotheti (32) studied chemistry at the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki and came into contact with the Vio.Me collective through a solidarity network. When the old chemist quit, the transsexual woman filled his place after four years of unemployment. For them it is not an option to leave the country: "I have the feeling that if I leave Greece, I would abandon the whole society."
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        Dogs and cats are almost omnipresent in Greece. Also on the factory premises of Vio.Me. There the shrill whine of an old stray horse echoed across the yard, which had injured his leg. Although a "workers' clinic" was founded there, in which ten specialists treat financially disadvantaged people for free, it would have been difficult to help them.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        Stefanos Sakellaridis (64) was one of the first people to start growing their food in 2011 on the old military base just a few miles north of Thessaloniki. For example, the former programmer and graphic designer has become more independent of the food industry and gets by with his 200 Euro unemployment benefit a month. He can no longer work because almost all the small businesses he has previously cooperated with went bankrupt.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        The huge practice area is unused since 2006. To date, seven large gardens have been created around the vacant barracks, which feed around 200 families. Everyone who gets involved there comes from a wide variety of backgrounds. The common denominator is poverty. The aim of the Perka Cooperative is to find a common way out of the crisis through self-responsibility, egalitarianism, lasting education and communication.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        The wild growth attacks on the former military area around. The government wants to build a park there in which people from Thessaloniki can recover. But that would mean that Sakellaridis would have to give up his garden. "They want to have a green lung, but they already exist," he says.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        A church in the rural Krya Vrysi, about 70 kilometers outside of Thessaloniki. The consequences of the rural exodus are unmistakable here. Especially the younger people are drawn either to the city or abroad, where they hope for better future prospects.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        The surrounding farmers usually end their evening at the taverna, where they dine, drink and watch TV together. Many of them feel abandoned by the government, which is why they use their tractors to block important access roads and intersections in order to improve conditions. Although their protest was publicized in the media, their demands remained unfulfilled.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        In Krya Vrysi it is sad and ghostly. The seasonal field workers used to come in at harvest time and even once a year to the carnival, which was discontinued in 2009 for financial reasons. Field work is becoming less and less profitable. The cotton farmers used to say: "White gold became work for nothing."
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        Today, half a million people in Greece live on the proceeds of their agricultural products. The share of gross domestic product has dropped from 8.3% to 3.4% in the last 20 years, especially as the market is saturated with cheaper international products.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        The dirt roads in the district of Pella, where Krya Vrysi is located, are lined with old equipment, rolled-up water hoses and tractors. The governor Theodoridis calls for a modernization and mechanization of the farm.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        Christo Tsakarakis (60) is one of the few farmers who can post increasing revenues despite the crisis. In 2006, he invested the premium to destroy his tobacco plantation in a modern greenhouse and obtained scientific help from an agricultural institute.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        In the automatically irrigated greenhouse, he can now grow profitably throughout the year. A hole in the expensive tarpaulin, as here after a storm, makes him still annoying.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        The Polytechnic in Athens is one of the universities with the lowest budget in the capital. Everywhere you will find graffiti, discarded windows and dented lockers. The training is still good, say three architecture students. They all want at least for a postgraduate study abroad. With youth unemployment of 45 percent, it is not surprising that 200,000 well-educated young people have now emigrated with a university degree.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        Anna Sakalaki (28) is the antithesis to the tendency to emigrate. She studied medicine at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and came back after graduation to take over the family winery that her grandfather built in 1922 in the northern Greek region of Kilkis. It is important to her to remain optimistic.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        This boy fled Syria with his parents. They bring him every morning to the premises of a social ward for children and adolescents. There he is cared for while his parents try to get a job or beg for the necessary change. The non-profit organization offers children, adolescents as well as adults a diverse program of further education regardless of their origin and financial resources. Especially the German courses are popular. Many dream of coming to Germany, but very few have enough money for the onward journey.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        In Kalamata, a town on the Peloponnese peninsula, three German women have joined forces with a group of agricultural engineers, gardeners and therapists to give people with disabilities a perspective even in times of crisis. Vagelis Lekarakos (18) is one of 28 adolescents who receive training at Lysos Garden after school.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        Under guidance the young people learn everything about ecological agriculture. Their self-planted products sell them on the local market and may keep the pocket money earned. Also interpersonal, they make progress. Although Nikos Tsitaros (25) enjoys gardening, he prefers to become a rapper.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        Theodoros Vasilogiannis (26) likes to come to Lysos Garden to learn. He blames Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for the crisis, but he believes that everything will get better soon.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        Behind a protective tarpaulin hides a well-preserved Temple of Apollo. It stands apart from the sporadically distributed villages between the green hills of the Peloponnese and attracts by its remoteness few tourists. The UNESCO's money to preserve this world heritage is not enough for restoration, which is why the temple must be artificially secured for an indefinite period.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        The amphitheater of the Epidaurus sanctuary dates from the 4th century BC and can accommodate 14,000 people. Since 1952 classical plays have been regularly performed here, to which spectators from all over Greece travel.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        The Lykabettus, in German Wolfsberg, is not spared by the omnipresent graffiti in Athens. Not only tourists come here to enjoy the sunset. Locals also set off in their cars on the mountain in the middle of the capital, let their tires spin on the spacious parking lot or enjoy the view of the Acropolis. In the summer, plays and concerts are played in the open-air theater on the back of this rock.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        Theodoros Christidis (39) did not want to be photographed with his iced coffee because he was afraid of being perceived as a symbol of the so-called Frappé philosophy. As a materials tester, he often has jobs in Germany. But leaving Greece is out of the question for him. He loves life here too much.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        A fighter jet in front of the Greek Air Force Museum in Athens. The military tradition is celebrated in Greece with great parades. Between 2010 and 2013, however, the fighters and tanks were parked at these events, since there was no money for the fuel.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        This Serbian monk is on his way back to the autonomous monastic republic of Athos, which can only be reached by boat. On Athos the monks live in asceticism. He will leave Ouranoupoli, which means Heaven City, at dawn by ferry.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        The landscape on Athos is enchanted and almost surreal. According to tradition, Mary ran aground on the way to Lazarus on the peninsula and was promised by God as a sanctuary. That's why the republic is called the Garden of the Blessed Mother. However, only men are allowed.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        Orthodox Christianity is the state religion in Greece. Over 90 percent of the Greek population are members of the Orthodox Church. The Constitution is still written in the name of the Holy Trinity rather than in the name of the people. Accordingly, the influence of the church on political decisions is great.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        The contrast between old walls and modern SUVs is often bizarre. In the background you can see the top of Mount Athos, on the top of which the Mother of God is supposed to be enthroned.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        The Athonites are reluctant to take pictures. This monk made an exception on the ferry back to Ouranoupoli. Being in touch with them at all is difficult as a non-Orthodox person, if you do not ask them for their blessing.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        The former US military base at the airport, which was shut down in 2001, south of Athens, is to give way to a construction project of superlatives. The Hellinikon is to include skyscrapers, green areas, a shopping promenade, hotels and a casino. Behind it stands the Lamda Development Company, which for the most part belongs to Spiros Latsis, the richest man in Greece. An alliance of archaeologists, architects and environmental scientists is resisting the mega-project.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
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        The so-called potato movement ("kínima tis patátas") has become established in Greece, when middlemen demanded too much profit despite the crisis and drove up supermarket prices. Now local groups such as O Topos Mou (in German: our village) in Katerini mediate between producers and consumers. The price with them is one third lower than in the supermarket. For a kilo you pay 25 cents.
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        Throughout the country, the streets are lined with demolished houses and other construction ruins. Often these are former clubs and nightspots.
                            © Philipp Meuser / Kolja Warnecke
    
    
    
        
    
    
    
        
            The author Lukas Schepers and the two photographers Philipp Meuser and Kolja Warnecke have documented the life in Greece after eight years in crisis with their project Neos Kosmos. The result is a series of pictures, which above all describes the many initiatives of self-help and shows in which environment these people are moving with their needs and hopes.

        
    
                                
            
            
        

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