Eva is still Eva--A Greek Village Unchanged
Over two-hundred kilometers from Athens on the southern tip of the Peloponnese, a man takes a long drag of his hand-rolled cigarette, calmly gazing about the sleepy town square before him. Referred to by locals as a village, not a town, Eva is home to slightly over one-thousand people including Panayiotis, the owner of one of its only two restaurants.
As his last patrons depart for the night, Panayiotis reaches into the breast pocket of his windbreaker and grabs a fresh cigarette. Before putting his lighter to it he breaks the silence: “So, let’s talk politics.”
Cautious not to spawn the political strife plaguing the country’s capital in their own village, most people of Eva shy away from “talking politics”. However, this is not the case for everyone. Notorious for being one of Eva’s more outspoken conversationalists, Panayiotis sees no reason to silence himself. This is because according to him, his village is largely immune to the effects of the country’s economic crisis and thus, the political strife born from it.
One might ask Panayiotis, why Eva of all places? The man explains that his people are much more economically self-sufficient when compared to their city-dwelling compatriots. In particular, he points to the villagers’ ability to produce their food locally, many even on farms and gardens in their own backyards.
If one were to observe Eva from a bird's-eye view, Panayiotis’s claim wouldn’t seem unreasonable. As if it were required by law, on almost every plot of land grows at least one olive tree and one fig tree. Tomato gardens, grape vines and lemon trees are also not an uncommon sight. In many cases, one would not be surprised to find chickens, goats, even a lamb or pig roaming the premises. Panayiotis himself admits that much of the food he serves to customers is grown on his farm, situated only a few kilometers away.
According to Tzanetos Karamichas, head of the Pan-Hellenic Confederation of Unions of Agricultural Cooperatives (PASEGES), this capacity on the part of Greeks to produce their own food represents a competitive advantage in need of more attention. Speaking at a PASEGES conference in Thessaloniki, Karamichas reported that the country produces almost twice as much rice as it needs while reaching close to self-sufficiency on a lot of fruits and vegetables. He went on to state: “We have to stop undermining Greek agricultural production and terrorizing people about not having enough to eat if the country goes bankrupt. We can surpass self-sufficiency, create new wealth and support the country.”
Before leaving for Greece this summer a family friend advised that I pack a few jars of peanut butter into my suitcase. He warned that the country, already in the midst of an economic crisis, was also on the verge of experiencing a food shortage. However, not much to my surprise, when I arrived I found myself in a society, not entirely untouched by economic crisis but certainly not deterred by it. How long this way of life will last is uncertain but for now, Eva is still Eva and Panayiotis is still Panayiotis, probably lighting his next cigarette as I type these words.