For Young Greeks, A Communal Escape From Woes Facing their country's worst recession in a half-century, many young Greeks are leaving for jobs abroad. But an eco-commune on a Greek island is drawing visitors who learn to forage for nuts, plant herbs and blaze their own paths.
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For Young Greeks, A Communal Escape From Woes

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For Young Greeks, A Communal Escape From Woes

For Young Greeks, A Communal Escape From Woes

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Faced with the worst recession in half a century, many young Greeks are leaving their country to work abroad. But one young Athenian is fighting that tide. He quit his Web designing job in the city to found an eco-commune in his family's village. And now, he's teaching Greeks to farm, forage and build their own homes. Joanna Kakissis sends this postcard.


JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Myrto Vournia washes her hands. She's just finished shelling walnuts, and they've stained her fingers.

MYRTO VOURNIA: (Through Translator) We picked these walnuts yesterday, and we'll make dinner with them tonight. Later on, I'm going to prep some sun-dried tomatoes.

KAKISSIS: Myrto quit her low-paying waitressing job in Athens a month ago to work on this eco-commune called the Telaithrion Project. It's in a mountain village called Agios in northern Evia, a big island near the Greek capital.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

KAKISSIS: About 20 people live on the commune at any given time and more than 2,500 have visited in the last two years, says co-founder Apostolos Sianos. The former Web designer teaches them to be self-sufficient.

APOSTOLOS SIANOS: This means they may be taught from simple things like baking your own bread or more complex things like building your own house.

KAKISSIS: And he has built his own house - a yurt. That's the giant round tent favored by Central Asian nomads. Julia Friedrich, who's visiting from Berlin, shows me the yurt where she's staying.

JULIA FRIEDRICH: I brought my sleeping bag and my mattress and they have like the blue mattresses and they have some blankets and pillows, so there's everything you need to have a good night's sleep.

KAKISSIS: Apostolos and his partners wanted to find enough land to expand the commune into a school that teaches sustainable living in a cash-free economy.

SIANOS: We search all over Greece where to go and most of the people that we talked with say to us: Don't go somewhere that you don't know anybody.

KAKISSIS: So Apostolos asked his father, Giorgos, who already lived in Agios. Giorgos runs a taverna here. He introduced his son to the conservative villagers.

GIORGOS SIANOS: (Through Translator) So the locals embraced him and some villagers lent their fields to cultivate.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Hello. (Foreign language spoken).

KAKISSIS: The commune cultivates 80 percent of its food in a large garden. Dionysis Papanikolaou is planting sage, rosemary and lavender there. Working here has taught him to blaze his own path, he says.

DIONYSIS PAPANIKOLAOU: I don't think a country can provide opportunities. I mean, it's up to the individual if they want to grab opportunities or create opportunities for themselves.

KAKISSIS: Dionysis has a Ph.D. in chemistry, so he could work anywhere in the world. But why, he says, should he leave Greece - a land he's just begun to cultivate.

For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis.


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