American Greeks Watch Europe's Drama Unfold

Greeks outside of the Hellenic Republic are riveted by the news surrounding its debt crisis. In historic Greektown, in Baltimore, Md., Greek Americans tell WYPR's Sarah Richards that their homeland is not the only country facing problems, but it must change.

AUDIE CORNISH, host: As this week's Eurozone crisis has unfolded, it seems every hour brings an unexpected twist. But if there's one thing certain about the drama, it's this: everyone in Baltimore's historic Greektown is watching. WYPR's Sarah Richards files this report.

SARAH RICHARDS: Inside the Greektown coffee shop, soccer scarves hang from the walls. But there's no game on the giant TV up front. It's tuned to Greek coverage of the crisis. Coffee shop owner George Sevdalis says Greektowners have been debating about the situation for weeks. He feels sorry for Greece but he says if he worked 10 to 15 hours a day, more Greeks back home should be willing to do the same.

GEORGE SEVDALIS: I've been in Greece. I've seen them in action. I know that they don't really want to work. They just want to work like, 5, 6 hours, 4 hours a day. And most of them, they want to work for the government. They can't have that, 10 million public servants in a 10 million country.

RICHARDS: Greektown in Baltimore consists mainly of a string of blue and white decked out restaurants, bakeries, and gift shops on Eastern Avenue. At St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Father Michael Pastrikos is getting email from unemployed doctors and lawyers back home asking about jobs in the U.S. He says Greece isn't the only country in debt because it's living large and the situation back home saddens him. He says people there are desperate.

FATHER MICHAEL PASTRIKOS: These are my people putting fires and things like that, you know, and demonstrating against the government and demonstrating against - does it embarrass me? Absolutely, it embarrasses me because we were never people to do that. We were always people of love, helping, hospitality. That's the kind of people that Greek people are.

(SOUNDBITE OF HAMMERING)

RICHARDS: Hospitality is something the Kohilas family is known for in Greektown. They've been running the Ikaros Greek restaurant since 1969, preparing fried codfish, octopus salad, and lamb for locals and tourists.

(SOUNDBITE OF RESTAURANT AMBIENCE)

RICHARDS: Zinos Kohilas says banks should never have given easy loans to Greeks or anyone else, for that matter. What pains him is having to tell people that Greeks are not all lazy.

ZINOS KOHILAS: Here in the United States in the early part of the 1900s, they were working, you name it, with the railroads or the coalminers; all kinds of hardworking jobs. Nobody keeps a non-hardworking person in his payroll.

RICHARDS: He says he'd like the world to be patient with Greece as it changes. For NPR News, I'm Sarah Richards in Baltimore.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.