A familiar face – and a familiar problem

Marija Mitevska

Walking through narrow streets on the Greek island of Skiathos, I suddenly notice a familiar face. An old high school classmate. It’s so nice to see him again. Twelve years have passed but he looks just the same, although he’s married and has a daughter now.

“It’s my fifth year in a row in Greece,” he tells me.

That explains why I didn’t see him two years ago at a partyfor the 10th anniversary of our graduation.

“I’m working for a rent-a-car service. I’ll stay on Skiathos for five months. It's hard. Working at least 12 hours a day, without a day off, being separated from my family. But I'm not the only one.”

 "Skiathos, the main town on the Greek island of the same name."
Skiathos, the main town on the Greek island of the same name.

He’s right about that.

It used to be mainly young Macedonians, students and others in their teens and early 20s, who came to Greece for a seasonal job – a chance to earn some money, have some fun and spend summer by the beach. But things have changed.  Unemployment in Macedonia has got so bad that it’s not just the young who head south for a long summer away from home.

Skiathos, with its many beaches by the Aegean Sea and its wooded landscape, is one of many popular Greek destinations for tourists -- and for Macedonians keen to earn money by serving them.

I ask my old schoolmate, whowants to remain anonymous because he does not have a permit to work in Greece, why he had to leave his wife and daughter behind and come here.

“What can I do when there are no jobs available in Macedonia? At least no proper jobs. I was working for two hundred euros a month, but it’s not enough for a family,” he says.

To give his daughter what she needs, he pays the price of not seeing her grow up for a large part of the year.

“Well, it’s only for a few months, and I can only dream of earnings like this back in Macedonia,”he says, sounding like he’s trying to reassure himself. But there’s sadness in his voice.

Marija Mitevska is a correspondent for Radio Free Europe’s Macedonian language service. Her fellowship story focuses on migrant workers in the Greek tourism industry.

Fellow Bio

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Marija Mitevska

Marija Mitevska is a Skopje-based correspondent for Radio Free Europe’s Macedonian language service who also provides TV interviews and video reports for the station’s website.

Topic

Topic 2014: Generations

This year’s annual topic is Generations. Think of a powerful story that you have always wanted to report, and link it to this theme while crafting your proposal. Remember, it is better to have a strong central idea that is loosely linked to the annual theme than to have a weak idea that is strongly linked to the theme.