A hopeless situation
By Cathal McNaughton
Time is running out for Natassa Papakonstantinou – by August she could be homeless.
What becomes depressingly apparent as we sit in her tastefully decorated apartment in a middle class suburb of Athens, is that there is no plan B. Last August, 43-year-old Natassa was finally laid off from her job in telecommunications – she hadn’t been paid a penny for the previous six months so she had been living off her savings and hoping for the best.
She was made redundant and now gets by on 461 euros she gets each month in state benefits plus what little is left of her dwindling savings. By August she has calculated that she will be penniless and, with no money to pay her rent, she could be homeless.
She told me that every day she spends up to six hours trawling the internet for job opportunities and applies for any job she can find – she gets few replies. “I sit in my office for hours on end looking for work. I rarely go out and I am nearly always on my own.”
She has tried everything – even recruitment agencies that specialize in jobs in Australia – but she says they exploited her. “They took hundreds of euros from me for administration fees and then said I wasn’t eligible to work in Australia as I don’t score enough points for a visa. They said I could pay more money and apply again.”
Natassa is divorced and she has no family. Her mother and father, a university professor and a lawyer, died several years ago. Her brother died last year plunging her further into depression.
Her once affluent lifestyle has slipped slowly from her grasp and who knows where she will end up?
She once collected antique furniture and was a talented amateur interior designer. She used to eat out in local restaurants with her friends from work – now she shops for fruit at the local market and sits in the home she may lose, worrying constantly about her uncertain future.
“I don’t even listen to music much now. I used to love it but in the bad times of your life you forget about your hobbies,” she says.
It’s hard to know what to say to reassure her – how can I tell her things will be okay when they clearly won’t?