ATHENS, Greece – In Greece right now, people can’t afford to die.
The families of the dead don’t have cash to pay for funerals. Banks have been closed for over a week and Greek citizens have been restricted to withdrawing 60 euros per day from ATMs. In the Greek Orthodox Christian church, burials usually take place within 24 hours, hardly enough time for grieving families to come up with the minimum 1,200-euro funeral cost.
That has put funeral director Kyriakos Kalokairinos in a tough spot.
So far he has told the mourning families to pay cemeteries first for burial plots and get the rest to him later. Sometimes he is dipping into his own wallet to front the cash himself. But even he is running low on reserves.
“We are people, too. We have hearts,” says Kalokairinos, whose business is located in Athens’ tree-lined suburb of Nea Smyrni. “They are very anxious. They don’t have money, they don’t know how to pay. And there is the pain of losing their family.”
As for what happens when even he cannot afford to help customers bury their dead, Kalokairinos does not want to think about it.
For now, Kalokairinos, like business owners all over Greece, is worried about paying his bills and employees. Banks will remain closed until early next week and are quickly running out of cash.
The funeral business is particularly hard hit.
These days, you don’t see many people walking around Anapafseos street, close to the famous first cemetery of Athens, the resting place of many famous greek artists and politicians. In Anapafseos, meaning “the place where you rest”, you’ll find dozens of stores selling marble graves, heart-shaped marble sculptures with pictures of deceased people or eulogy poems, and wooden crosses. But no customers.
Yiannis Karistinios, 45, owns one of these stores and he’s seriously considering closing it down. In the last two weeks, since the Greek government imposed capital control measures, his business went down “50 or 80%”, he explains to Mashable.
“People can’t afford buying the graves. They just bury the bodies and that’s it.”
“It’s a big problem. The minimum price of a funeral is 1500 euros. People come here and say they have no money, so we make a deal. They promise to bring some money every day, but they need to buy other stuff with the 60 euros they can get daily from the ATM machines,” he says.
Karistinios, who sits at his desk with nothing to do, says that he might have to lay people off starting next week if there’s no agreement between the government and the European Union. After that, the next stop is shutting down. “We hope they’ll find a solution”, he says. Read more…