THE BLOG

Greece: Hope In Short Supply

24/07/2014 11:57 BST | Updated 22/09/2014 10:59 BST

A welcome breeze drifts across the square as I sit observing early morning Greece getting ready for another searing hot day.

I'm at a Cafe populated by souls from all walks of life, mostly here alone, getting their ritual caffeine fix before the day's tasks unravel. Across from me sits a man in his 50's, I gaze on as his eyes dart from pigeon to pigeon fluttering as a passersby disturbs their frenzied feed on scraps of Koulouri sweet bread thrown by a kindly lady.

His facial expressions tell a tale of fear, anguish and despair, and it's a look you can see written on the features of so many mothers and fathers on the balcony's and in the cafes dotted all around this beautiful of country.

The look is not for themselves, but for their children, the lost generation of Greece.

You can find them toiling everywhere you go.... Coffee Shops, Fast Food restaurants, budget clothes stores, DIY outlets. They are trained Doctors, Teachers, Lawyers, in fact highly qualified doctorates of all kinds busting tables or operating a till in an attempt to get some financial independence and a glint of a future. And these are the lucky ones who have a job, countless more have no job at all, and rely on their parents for basic day to day accommodation and food whilst being unable to think beyond tomorrow.

The unemployment rate for under 25's in Greece is over 60%, and the cruellest symptom of this jobless epidemic is the destruction of all hope.

For the young generation of Greece to sit in the trendy Coffee shops of the town is the place to be of a warm summer's evening, sheltering from the sun under the parasols that line the squares, speaking with friends. There's chatter of gossip like any other young community, but added into the mix of topics are discussions of the corrupt local and national politicians, the financial punishment of Greece by the EU, and acquaintances who have fled this gorgeous land to places far more cold and ugly in an attempt to find a foundation for their life.

Many of those that populate the gnarled tables around me speak of leaving these shores themselves, understanding that even to serve coffee as a qualified Doctor is a no easy job to attain, but they cling on for the love of this breathtakingly stunning Country with a yearning to remain in their homeland, and get paid to execute their chosen profession.

I am in Greece's 4th City, an Island town that is large in size but has a feel of familiarity and a village spirit between its people. The City boasts one of the country's largest University Hospitals, a complex once bustling with some of Europe's most prominent physicians, but a visit today finds a place dangerously understaffed. The distinguished foreign leading lights have long since taken the ferry North and beyond the border. Left behind is a small but largely dedicated team of staff that the Government overwork, and often fail to pay for weeks on end, trying to fulfil the health needs of 200,000 people on a daily basis. Round the clock shifts day after day are a regular occurrence, and where there was once five Paediatricians in the department there is now only one, tearing his hair out as frantic parents demand his immediate attention. The sole Paediatrician in this hospital just did an 8 day shift, he tells me he slept around 3-4 hours a day on site constantly being disturbed to tend to the sick. Two days after we spoke he took all of his yearly annual leave suffering from exhaustion leaving the Hospital with no specialist. A few days later a child was hit by a car and was taken to the hospital suffering with potentially fatal injuries. The next nearest specialist was a 4 hour drive away, fortunately for the child he made the drive and operated three times that night to save the girl's life.

Under these conditions, and with better paid hospital contracts of offer in other countries, it's only a matter of time before the children of this city no longer have a specialist to treat them.

As we leave I sit for a few minutes to speak with some of those who are due to retire from service this year. 800 of the current staff are due to retire within the next 12 months, and I'm told the Government is not currently recruiting replacements, as the Health budget has been cut and there will be no money to pay new employees.

They come here several times a month you know, EU Officials from Brussels and Berlin, and dictate what must happen within the Greek economy. Swathing cuts and redundancies at the drop of a hat are common, and I speak to a lady who will get her pension soon, less the 40% of it cut out by the pay masters from the North.

Back to the Coffee house, where a beautiful young Doctor (Sorry Waitress) is serving up my morning Iced Espresso. They tell me under this island is Europe's richest deposits of oil and gas, the Chinese Prime Minister visited this month, and the government here are getting paid to allow the Syrian Chemical weapons arsenal to be poured into the sea just off the North Western coast... Exactly why is this Doctor serving me coffee earning a little over 400 euro per month (£320 approx.) in the process? She can't answer that one either.

There is an acceptance for this generation that their chances of the life they had hoped for left on a plane North long ago. Their faint hope lies with the future children they hope to be able to afford to have one day. One wonders if their siblings will even get to a university when the time comes, or if the EU powerhouses who call the shots will drive this stunningly beautiful place back into the dark ages.