'Like a Bad Dream' – Greeks Awoke on Monday to No Money And No Certainty

The long queues for cash of the night before had given way to shuttered banks and unresponsive ATMs on Monday as Greeks woke up to a new period of uncertainty.

“I’m worried, of course we are all extremely worried,” said Iason, 25, an environmental engineer who preferred not to give his surname; he had taken enough money out over the weekend “to be OK”, he said.

“It’s not only the restrictions on what people can withdraw from their banks, but the prospect of this referendum. Either answer could bring huge changes to this country. It’s really alarming.”

The debt-laden Greek government on Sunday night announced the banks would stay closed until 6 July, the day after a planned referendum in which voters will be asked to accept or reject the latest proposal from the country’s creditors.

ATMs would remain shut for the duration of Monday, the government said. When they reopen, cash withdrawals will be limited to €60 (£42) for holders of Greek bank cards (no limit will apply to foreign cards).

“We really should be ashamed,” said Dimitris, 34, an electrical engineer, who said he had enough cash at home to last him and his wife “two to three weeks, in case the worst comes to the worst” and was thinking seriously about trying to emigrate.

“Everyone is frankly scared now. Really worried. We just don’t know what is going to happen. We don’t have enough accurate information. No one has information. Ask 10 people right now what they think will happen, and you’ll get 10 different answers. It’s a mess.”

Shops, pharmacies and cafes were open as normal, but Efi, behind the counter at a cafe on Voulis Street in Athens, said: “No one is talking about anything else. We can’t really believe it, any of us. It’s like a bad dream that you can’t wake up from. I don’t know what else to say. It’s awful.” 

Worse, he said, it will inevitably “set the Greek people against each other. The result is not going to be clear cut. It will be something like 50-50, I think. So the country will be divided, deeply divided – and we just don’t need that now.” 

After five years of crisis, said George, who works at a Greek investment bank, “the Greeks have fallen for a guy who put his hand in the honey jar – but instead of coming back with the honey, he’s broken the jar”. George said he had “diversified” his assets some time ago: “I have my children to think of.”

But Iliana, a curator, said that while she was “worried for myself and my family, of course”, she felt it was time to make a stand. “They must think we’re stupid in Brussels,” she said. “They don’t see that when someone is angry enough and desperate enough, he just doesn’t care any more.” 

She said she would “prefer to have my dignity. I don’t want any more money from the EU, because we won’t be able to pay it back. OK, we’ll have a hard time for a year or so, but we’ll bounce back. It’s a simple question of human dignity now. They can’t put us through any more of this.”

She had not taken her money out of the bank, Iliana said. “To start with, I don’t have much in there. But if it gets really bad, I’ll go to my mum’s in Thessaloniki. She has a garden, with lots of vegetables. We’ll survive.”

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.