Crying Greek pensioner: the story behind the poignant photo

Published: July 4, 2015
Distressed Greek pensioner, Giorgos Chatzifotiadis, sits on the ground outside a national bank branch in Thessaloniki PHOTO: AFP

Distressed Greek pensioner, Giorgos Chatzifotiadis, sits on the ground outside a national bank branch in Thessaloniki PHOTO: AFP

THESSALONIKI, GREECE: Retiree Giorgos Chatzifotiadis had queued up at three banks in Greece’s second city of Thessaloniki on Friday in the hope of withdrawing a pension on behalf of his wife, but all in vain.

The 77-year-old told AFP that he had broken down because he “cannot stand to see my country in this distress”.

“That’s why I feel so beaten, more than for my own personal problems,” Chatzifotiadis said.

The image of him sitting outside the bank, openly crying in despair with his savings book and identity card on the floor, was captured by an AFP photographer illustrating how ordinary Greeks are suffering during the country’s debt crisis.

Read: The Greeks can look after themselves

Athens had imposed capital controls and shut all banks since Monday to stem a haemorrhage of cash, but on Wednesday allowed some branches to reopen for three days so retirees who have no bank cards could withdraw their pensions — capped at 120 euros.


Recounting how he had gone from bank to bank in a futile attempt to collect his wife’s pension, Chatzifotiadis said when he was told at the fourth “that I could not get the money, I just collapsed”.

Both he and his wife, like many Greeks in the north of the country, had spent several years in Germany where he “worked very hard” in a coal mine and later a foundry.

And it is to Berlin, which is being blamed by many in Greece for its hardline stance in demanding the government impose more austerity measures for fresh international aid, that Chatzifotiadis is sending his wife’s pension.

“I see my fellow citizens begging for a few cents to buy bread. I see more and more suicides. I am a sensitive person. I cannot stand to see my country in this situation,” he said.


Read: Greece defaults on IMF payment despite last-minute overtures to creditors

“Europe and Greece have made mistakes. We must find a solution,” he added.

But Chatzifotiadis feels he can do little to change the situation, and he is not even sure if he would be able to vote at Sunday’s referendum on whether to accept international creditors’ bailout conditions.

European leaders have warned that a ‘No’ vote would also mean no to the eurozone.

Pointing out that the polling station is 80 kilometres (50 miles) away, Chatzifotiadis said: “I have no money to go there, unless perhaps if my children would take me in their car.”

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Sam
    Jul 4, 2015 - 1:52PM

    I am touched to see this picture. What a tragedy!Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Jul 4, 2015 - 2:34PM

    Is this the beginning of the end of the European project or merely a repeat of the Greek tragedy?

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Saud
    Jul 4, 2015 - 3:56PM

    The total pakistani loans amount to around USD 62.7 Billion with a population of approx 220 Million, Greeks have an Outstanding of USD 350 Billion with a population of around 11 Million… just want to understand one thing .. what happened to all that money?? how can they accumulate such a negative number, the IMF has estimated their growth to zero… and once the greek go the way of the dodo in economic terms, Spain and Ireland would follow closely … this might be the end of the EU as we know it… Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Jul 4, 2015 - 5:12PM


    what happened to all that money?? how can they accumulate such a negative number, the IMF has estimated their growth to zero…rstand it you need to

    You are not the only one who is asking this question and to understand it you need to take lessons in basic economics theory and capitalism. Most of the money was transmitted to the French and German banks to save them from closures at the expense the Greek State.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • John
    Jul 4, 2015 - 8:48PM

    @Rex Minor

    That is not the point. Greece still accumulated the debt in the first place. Only instead of European countries and IMF being the main creditors, private banks were the main creditors. Recommend

  • Veronica Norflett
    Jul 4, 2015 - 9:14PM

    So sadRecommend

  • Patriotic Human
    Jul 5, 2015 - 6:22AM

    I can feel how the man says he cannot bear to see his country in such a state and he feels helpless not for himself but for his people. This is an example of a failed democracy and I hope somebody somehow overthrows the Greek government or at least start a movement to whip their politicians into shape. Alhamdulillah even average Pakistanis over time have gained such political ‘shaoor’ that they would never allow this to happen to their country. May Allah never befall such a state on our people and may we always retain the strength to stand on our feet. Ameen. And kudos to all the patriots in this world, as long as they have spirit and determination, Allah will help them for they only want good for thrir brothers and wanting good for one’s brother is what pleases God most.Recommend

  • Bob
    Jul 5, 2015 - 7:50AM

    Imagine that you are 77 years old and to experience something like this?

    The tragedy, God help us!Recommend

  • Steve Gee
    Jul 6, 2015 - 10:03AM

    This is Karma – what about the atrocities by the Greeks in 1948???
    Hundreds of thousands men, women and children thrown out of their homes or massacred!!!
    This is Greece’s own doing, Have no sympathy for them !!!

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