These are Holy days and last week just as the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was in pain being crucified at Golgotha and waiting resurrection, so is humanity and within it, the Greek Diaspora, enduring its own harsh ‘crucifixion’ with the coronavirus, hoping for its own ‘resurrection’.
After every ‘crucifixion’ there is always a ‘resurrection’ for people and this one requires mass collaboration. So far, in Greece, this has been occurring due to the fact that the Greek people had faith in the instructions provided by their government, which rightly receives international praise for its management of the crisis. According to the international community, media and think tanks, Greece has been the most successful country in Europe on this.
But what about the Greek expatriates, recently unemployed, visitors, students etc. who permanently live or temporarily reside abroad and are dependent on the controversial decisions of foreign governments, while they witness that in their homeland, Greece, the situation is more favourable and that there are fewer deaths?
On the 15th of April, Greece renewed (up until the 15th of May) its ban on flights from the United Kingdom and other European countries which fell victim to the coronavirus, with the exception of Germany. In America, where the deaths are continuously increasing, President Donald Trump has prohibited international flights for some time now.
Thus, hundreds of such Greeks are rushing to the Consular Office in London and to the Greek diplomatic authorities of other countries in order to register in the special catalogues of those who are interested in returning to Greece. Is anybody answering their request?
Life demonstrates that when there is a will, alternatives can be found for any situation. The British, for example, distinguished for their practical ways, are urgently opening their airports to facilitate inbound special charter flights from countries of Eastern Europe which will transport up to seventy thousand seasonal workers with low wages, so that they can pick their lettuce, carrots and potatoes from their farms.
A few days before the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs responsible for Greeks abroad, Konstantinos Vlassis, expressed Greece’s interest in her children abroad. On April15 in a teleconference with the heads of (up to now) 15 consulates, he sounded the alarm for diplomats in partnership with the Church and the expatriate organizations to immediately engage with Greek expatriates. The objective is to find ways to secure practical aid and to resolve their pressing problems.
Another significant development of these past few days due to the coronavirus crisis is that the Hellenic Bankers Association (HBA), a truly important organization for Greece, suddenly decided to radically restructure itself. With just a single move, the responsibility of its operation was removed from the Board of Directors and was assumed by a group of veteran former HBA presidents known as ‘The Circle of Presidents’.
At the same time, the provision of assistance (the amount is still unknown) to be offered to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain so that it could conduct its charity work during the period of the coronavirus crisis was also decided.
Up until now, decisions were made by the usually young in age members of the Board of Directors, in partnership with communications specialists who are proved to be placing their personal interests above everything else. From now on, the fate of the HBA would be commanded by serious senior former presidents, one of which is the current Minister of Immigration and Asylum of Greece, Notis Mitarakis, who has major influence over the shipping industry due to his background and at the same time maintains close relations with the Greek Church in London. In addition to being politicians, Mr. Mitarakis and his colleagues of the ‘Circle of Presidents’ are also high profile bankers, stockbrokers, and international investment fund managers.
The dynamic HBA, which constitutes Greece’s gateway into the top British and global banks, financial institutions, and stock exchanges, has recently expanded, unfortunately not always with a genuinely altruistic appetite, to purely expatriate and other matters unrelated to its main role in public issues. This expansion has almost displaced completely older traditional Greek-British organizations and…the Greek Embassy of London. However, with its new and highly experienced leadership, we are certain that this will not be the case going forward.
The ‘resurrection’ of the Diaspora in the days of the coronavirus crisis is intertwined more than anything else with the Church. We are aware that our diplomats abroad, following their recent communication with their superior, Deputy Minister Costas Vlassis, sought the cooperation of the Archbishops and Bishops of the Greek Orthodox Churches in the countries in which they serve.
The ‘National Herald’ of New York has reported on the need to organize the Diaspora in order to provide solutions to real problems long ago.
One can see the newspaper’s multi-faceted global perspective in its articles, its choice of subjects, and the strong presence of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and the Archbishop of Athens, Ieronymos in its front pages.
This unique daily expatriates’ newspaper’s global success was seen yet again in American society these days via Fox News’ popular show, ‘Ingraham Angle’ with 3.3 million viewers, through the story of Dr. George Syros and the expansion of the coronavirus in Queens, New York, an area inhabited by many Greek-Americans. The National Herald, which recently celebrated 105 years of undiminished success, should provide its services to even more expatriates to all parts of the world. The coronavirus crisis has proven that there is a need for expatriate mechanisms with real appeal and power to apply pressure in all directions for the solution of the serious problems of Greek expatriates all over the world.
George Hatziioannou has served as Press Spokesperson for the Permanent Mission of Greece in the UN in New York and in the Greek Embassies of London and Moscow.