Unfortunately, irrelevant of how sad and gripping this story is, and I do emphatise; I'm still shocked that Karachalios still fails to realise that:
- It's not his current situation that is abnormal, it's actually his previous situation of being highly paid to sell drugs over the market price because the government was subsidising the drugs and creating an artificial market that wouldn't have otherwise existed. (see first highlight)
- Greece drove itself into the abyss, with corruption from the government handing out money to everyone and corrupting the masses — not a conspiracy by France or Germany. (see second highlight)
- Closing his eyes for 10 years and not to worry is actually the stupidest thing he could say, or do. The Greeks have kept their eyes closed since WWII as most of people in the Western Civilisation have: they have drunk the cool aid, elected liars and incompetents as their political leaders — those who would promise less work and more benefits, entitlements and so forth — and the same fools who didn't want to face reality all the way down into the abyss now want to close their eyes and expect somebody else is going to fix their problems. (see third highlight)
(Bloomberg) — As a pharmaceutical salesman in Greece for 17 years, Tilemachos Karachalios wore a suit, drove a company car and had an expense account. He now mops schools in Sweden, forced from his home by Greece’s economic crisis.
“It was a very good job,” said Karachalios, 40, of his former life. “Now I clean Swedish s---.”
Karachalios, who left behind his 6-year-old daughter to be raised by his parents, is one of thousands fleeing Greece’s record 24 percent unemployment [...]
“I’m trying to survive,” Karachalios said in an interview in Stockholm. “It’s difficult here, very difficult. I would prefer to stay in Greece. But we don’t have jobs.”
Greece is in its fifth year of recession, with the economy expected to contract 6.9 percent this year, the same as in 2011, according to the Athens-based Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research. Since 2008, the number of jobless has more than tripled to a record 1.22 million as of June, out of a total population of 10.8 million.
[...] Their family now crams into a small apartment, while her husband, Nikos, works for a landscaper and her teenage children struggle with Swedish lessons.
“It was not easy for them,” she said. “My daughter said lots of times, ‘I hate Sweden -- I want to go home.’” [...]
An intense man with flecks of gray in his thinning black hair, Karachalios said he has lost 20 to 30 pounds since moving to Sweden. His hands are stained with grime. Instead of the suits and ties he once wore, he now dresses in jeans and work boots. His suits remain in Greece.
[...] Karachalios’s troubles began in early 2010 when the Greek government, which provides health care, forced drugmakers to cut their prices by as much as 27 percent. To reduce costs, his then-employer PharmaSwiss fired him and two other salesmen, leaving his former supervisor to manage the accounts, he said. Karachalios searched for jobs and eventually spent two months in 2011 as a telemarketer in Athens. He quit after not being paid. An ill-fated attempt to start a retirement home cost him months of work and most of his savings.
Determined to move, Karachalios considered Australia before rejecting the immigration process as too expensive. He had a friend in Sweden, had visited before and knew its reputation.
“I knew they were very organized,” he said. “Everyone pays their taxes and it’s fair. There is no cheating.”
Karachalios arrived in March. His friend helped him find a room to rent and he pays 4,500 Swedish krona ($670) a month for a room in a quiet apartment complex that houses other immigrants, many from the Middle East.
His studio has no stove or oven, just a hot plate and microwave. He has a single dish, and when he has a guest, he eats out of a plastic container that used to hold feta cheese. A tiny Greek flag is taped to the wall. The room came with a television though Karachalios said he never watches. In the evenings, if he has the energy, he studies Swedish.
Because of his background in health care, Karachalios at first applied for jobs caring for the elderly. He was rejected without an interview because he didn’t speak Swedish.
To find a job, he began knocking on doors of restaurants and janitorial companies, and eventually found a position cleaning rental houses. It was hard, lonely work that didn’t allow a break for lunch, he said. His first week wasn’t paid because he was told he was being trained. After his second week, when he was paid for only 32 hours instead of the 40 he said he worked, he wasn’t called back.
In July, he found work with a cleaning contractor run by another Greek. Although the hours are long and the work difficult, Karachalios said he is at least treated fairly.
In Greece, Karachalios was paid between 2,500 and 3,000 euros ($3,143-$3,772) a month, after taxes. In Stockholm, he makes 80 krona an hour. Based on a 40-hour work week, that equals about $1,907 a month.
“I was doing something more glamorous but I don’t mind this work,” he said. “I feel alive again. When you are unemployed too long, it’s very hard. I was angry all the time.”
[...] There are now 1.4 million foreign-born people in Sweden, or 15 percent of the population, an increase from virtually none at the end of World War II. While Sweden prides itself on being a tolerant and progressive nation, an anti-immigration party drew 5.7 percent of the vote in 2010, the most ever, said Klas Borell, a Swedish professor of sociology.
[...] Karachalios wakes at 5 a.m. with the sun already up because of the long Swedish summer days. He checks Facebook on his phone for news from Greece and takes the subway one stop to Rinkeby, a gritty working-class neighborhood. Near the station is a parking lot where people without homes sleep in their cars, leaving their shoes and bottles of water outside the doors.
At a litter-strewn gas station just off the highway, Karachalios waits for a van to pick him up. Other migrant workers, headed for other destinations, wait nearby. He smiles with anticipation: once he’s in the van he’ll borrow a co-worker’s iPhone to talk with his daughter, Katerina, on Skype.
[...] In Sweden, struggling to make sense of Greece’s decline, Tilemachos Karachalios suggests a conspiracy by Germany and France to economically cripple the country in order to seize its Aegean oil reserves. He’s also bitter about comments made by former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who said in interviews abroad in 2009 that corruption and tax evasion were to blame for Greece’s problems.
“Who, me?” Karachalios said. “I’m not lazy. I didn’t steal from the government. I was honest and they made me like this, to come here.”
[...] “I’m tired of all this,” he said. “I want to close my eyes and wake up in 10 years and not have to worry.”
Migrants to Sweden from within the European Union are free to look for work and can settle if they can provide for themselves or have family there. Although the unemployment rate is 7 percent, finding work can be difficult if new arrivals don’t speak Swedish, said Arto Moksunen, director of Crossroads, a nonprofit group in Stockholm that has provided assistance to 3,000 migrants since March 2011. [...]