Clusters of trinkets, jewelry and ornaments crowd the window display at Chóros Téchnis ZN. Hunched over the wooden table, humming along to the radio, Zafiria Niko grips a pair of pliers as she molds copper wire.
“Érrosthe,” she said. “It means to be strong, to be healthy.”
The copper lettering is the latest addition to a series of paintings and artwork that cover the walls of her shop. Ten years ago, those walls were bare and Niko, had just moved to the Pangrati municipality of Athens.
Then the crisis happened in 2009 and Niko witnessed as the community around her grappled with the consequences of the bailout, and friends were forced to close their businesses. Inundated with reports on Greece’s failing economy, Niko chose to believe another version of the story.
“It’s a strange thing because I believe it did not exist. It’s only a thing in the computer with the numbers. It doesn’t really exist,” said Niko, 46. “All over the world, they are speaking of crisis. What crisis? It’s a game that the big chiefs are playing.”
The problem, according to Niko, started when Greece joined the European Union in 1981 and subsequently, the Eurozone in 2001. The country’s membership in this economic and political alliance changed its identity for the worst, subjecting itself to stringent economic targets and adherence to bureaucratic policies.
“At the beginning, we are a little paradise for tourists with our old coin,” said Niko. “But when we changed it, it was a big difference. A big mistake.”
Niko, echoing similar attacks leveled against the media today, points to the press and foreign governments that she believes are distorting the reality of the situation. Their motive, according to Niko, is to brainwash people to think that things are worse than they are.
“They think that if you go to France or England, it’s better. It isn’t. It’s worse,” said Niko. “Here, I have a lot of people coming for vacations even from America, or the people tell me it’s much better and we cannot speak about the crisis because the people sleeping in the streets are very little. But it’s a game. It’s all a game.”
In circumstances where the majority of the small business community is concerned about teetering on the edge of an abyss, Niko appears unperturbed about the future of her art gallery.
“I believe that if I have my health, then everything in life is a little lesson. Crisis or not, you can always lose your job. You can lose everything,” said Niko. “If you have your health, you can fight for your life and your dreams in that position.”
Click through the gallery below to see photographs of Chóros Téchnis ZN.