Monday, July 13, 2015

Plight of homeland leaves local Greeks aching

Harold Christofilakos said it is business as usual for his Springfield-based Spartan Valley Olive Oil.

That doesn't mean Christofilakos' heart doesn't ache watching events unfold in Greece, the homeland he left in 1955 as a 14-year-old boy.

Greece's economy remains very much on the precipice as it tries to get some of its house in order before a Thursday deadline to make a proposal to the eurozone and ahead of a Sunday meeting of the full European Council.

Reached at his office at Amco Fence Co., which he also owns, the 74-year-old entrepreneur and developer said production in the Sparta area of Greece continues unimpeded and that Spartan Oil, the store in Chateau Village that imports extra-virgin olive oil, Kalamata olives and feta cheese, among other food items, had received a recent shipment. "When you pay with dollars and euros, they take them," said Christofilakos, who is planning a trip to Greece, where he still maintains a home, with several family members later this month.

"When you see all of the older people and lines blocks long (of people waiting at ATMs), you feel sorry," he said. "My heart cries for them." 'Desperate' Greeks Aspasia Sonia Anyfantaki Lang of Springfield said Greeks — and especially the country's politicians — need to do some soul-searching.

"Greeks are a passionate people," said Lang, who came to the U.S. as a student in 1959 and then to live permanently in 1962 with her husband, George Lang. "They will live life to the fullest and pay for it later. "Now Greeks are more desperate by the hour." Lang said the eurozone had no choice but to to insist that the Greeks pay toward their loans, and she suggested a stark approach, including layoffs and pension cuts. Greek politicians kept inflating government payrolls by appointing or hiring supporters and family members and instituting a retirement age of 55, she said.

Christofilakos and experts like Ronald McNeil, dean of the College of Business and Management at the University of Illinois Springfield, believe a deal will get done to keep Greece in the eurozone because the stakes are too high to see it leave.

McNeil added that Greece "is a red light to the world, including to Illinois, that if you don't have your expenditures in check," you're courting disaster.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 8, 2015.

Read the entire article here.