Greek Americans and the debt crisis

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One of the largest concentrations of Greeks outside Greece is in Queen's, New York ? specifically the area known as Astoria. So what do they make of the financial troubles back in the old country? The World's Alex Gallafent went to find out.

MARCO WERMAN: Greeks around the world have strong opinions about the financial crisis. One of the largest concentrations of Greeks outside of Greece is in Queens, New York. Specifically, in Astoria. The World's Alex Gallafent filed this report.

ALEX GALLAFENT: I spent a day wandering around the neighborhood, just asking people how they saw the Greek crisis. First up, Doros Evangelides. He makes animations for commercials. I catch him midway through his lunch, bought from a food cart called "The King Souvlaki of Astoria". Above a train rumbles through Queens on elevated tracks.

DOROS EVANGELIDES: For us it's an issue of national pride. But I think it's unfair that Greece has been singled out that it's going to bring the world economy down. For some reason they like to trample Greece. Remember the Olympics? You know, they're not going to make it, you know.

GALLAFENT: Evangelides brandishes a skewer of meat and criticizes the countries that blame Greece for Europe's woes.

EVANGELIDES: You know and the world crisis wasn't created by Greece. It was created by like here.

GALLAFENT: Here meaning the United States. It's long been home to another Greek American, George Stavrolakis.

GEORGE STAVROLAKIS: And I'm very happy. I like it very much here.

GALLAFENT: Stavrolakis has lived and worked in Astoria for more than 40 years. He says Greek Americans like him are disappointed in their country and their people.

STAVROLAKIS: It's very embarrassing and very shame. It's a beautiful country, but now the big mess. It's not supposed to be like that.

GALLAFENT: Stavrolakis is a realtor. Actually, he's a retired realtor, but he keeps coming back into the office on 31st Street. Stavrolakis wonders what's happened to a work ethic that energized immigrants like him, people who came to the States and put in the time for their rewards.

STAVROLAKIS: In Greece they get as much as they want and they get very early and very young people are retired. So the Greek people, they have to understand to get together to help their country.

GALLAFENT: One way Greek Americans say people back home can help their country is by paying their taxes. In addition to other woes, recent reports suggest that many Greeks, especially the wealthy, don't declare anything near their full income. Doros Evangelides says even though that's a recipe for fiscal disaster, he can still kind of understand why people do it.

EVANGELIDES: The idea of paying taxes to a government that is corrupt, it doesn't work. You cannot pay taxes to a government and then see your money get wasted.

GALLAFENT: Or, to say it in a different way, not taxation without competent, honest representation. But that argument lets Greek voters off the hook too easily, says Jimmy Zafiris, a general contractor also getting his lunch at the souvlaki stand.

JIMMY ZAFIRIS: We always accuse politicians. It's not only their fault, we allow them to do that. Okay? So I don't know if we should always have them as the black sheep.

GALLAFENT: Ultimately, there's not a lot these Greek Americans can do, apart from watch at a distance.

ZAFIRIS: We're concerned. We love our country. We like to know what's going on there. But beyond that, we live here.

GALLAFENT: And so Greek Americans cheer for Greece from the sidelines. Again, Doros Evangelides.

EVANGELIDES: Greece going to survive. Greeks live very well, high standard of living. Now they have to get a little bit more organized.

GALLAFENT: And from Efthichios Kalfakis, another contractor, a final dose of defiance befitting a man wearing a Yankees jacket.

EFTHICHIOS KALFAKIS: Greece is going to make it because Greece is Greece. We are the top civilization. You guys got to understand that. Thank you very much.

GALLAFENT: For The World, I'm Alex Gallafent in Queens, New York.

WERMAN: Come to our website to see some of Alex's Greek American friends including that man in the Yankees jacket. We don't have much interest in that photo here in Boston, but that's another story. The pictures along with a new batch of political cartoons about the debt crisis are all at the world dot org.

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