Saturday, June 29, 2019

What's in a Name, Greek Style


Ahh, what a grand time we’re having over here in Greece. The skies are bright blue and sunny, the weather warm to hot—but not hot to frying as it is in much of northern Europe—the seas manageable, and tourist season not yet into its irreconcilable madness.  

Against that background looms Sunday, July 7th. No, that’s not a national holiday, nor even an extended national holiday weekend day as it will be this year for many Americans celebrating the 4th of July.  It is Greece’s parliamentary election day, when Greeks will vote for those members of parliament running under the banner of the party whose leader the voters wish to be prime minister.

Most agree it’s down to a battle between two men for the position, the current Prime Minister and party leader of left-wing SYRIZA, and the head of right-of-center and one-time ruling party New Democracy.

For those of you wondering what’s at stake, let’s just say this:  The clashing passions among Greeks are as hot and heavy as they are in the UK among pro- and anti-Brexiteers, and in the US among Republicans and Democrats. If you haven’t heard about any of that it’s likely because everything’s happening in Greek.  In other words, be thankful if you don’t understand the language.

Having said that, permit me to offer you a brief description of the two leading candidates, plus a third name who might just garner more votes than both the official candidates combined—if he were on the ballot.

For those interested in more details about these men, I’ve included a link to the articles from which I shamelessly lifted much of the info used in the following descriptions.  Here’s hoping this helps you to get a better handle on Greece/Greeks.

ALEXIS TSIPRAS  (courtesy of The Greek Reporter)

He is Greece’s youngest prime minister ever, born on July 28, 1974 —just five days after the fall of Greece’s seven-year military junta. He comes from a well-off family, as his father, Pavlos Tsipras, was a contractor of big public works projects even during the Junta’s rule. In high school he became a very active member of Greece’s Communist Party Youth, and during a high school occupation led by him in protest of unpopular education reforms, he met his common law wife with whom he has two children. After high school he entered the National Technical University of Athens to study civil engineering.

Recent notable quote:  “I am the prime minister who took the country out of the memorandums they [other political parties] put it in. I succeeded where they failed.”

KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS  (courtesy of the Wall Street Journal)

He hails from one of the country’s three famous political families—Papandreou, Karamanlis and Mitsotakis—whose members have been prime minister twenty-seven of the forty-five years since the restoration of Greek democracy in 1974. He has an M.B.A. from Harvard, where he did his undergraduate studies, and another master’s degree from Stanford; he worked for Chase Manhattan Bank and McKinsey & Co. before running venture-capital funds in Greece. 

Recent notable quote:  “We will come as a bulldozer and demolish the barriers that keep business captive.”  

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUMNPO (courtesy of The New York Times)

He is known as the Greek Freak, a basketball player of such transcendent ability that he has become celebrated as the face of the country of his birth. Yet for most of his life growing up in Greece, Giannis Antetokounmpo was considered a foreigner. As the son of African immigrants, he was perpetually vulnerable to attacks by racist militants, and to threats of deportation to Nigeria, a country he had never visited.

Recent notable quote: Last Monday night, when Antetokounmpo won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award for his play as a forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, he offered an explanation for why he’d not been able to keep his vow to his family that he wouldn’t cry. “When you hear your name up there on the stage and then you realize these years of hard work, what you did in the past, then you start getting emotional.”

Okay folks, here comes the hard part. Not who you’d vote for. That’s obvious. What I want to know is whose name are you likely to remember?



  1. Great overview . . .what interesting times in which we live. . .

  2. Tspiras! But that’s probably only because it’s the easiest one to pronounce and spell!

    1. Sis, you just must learn to tsipras such feelings.

  3. they all sound infinitely more sensible than Boris or Jeremy...

  4. I'll probably just remember Siger. Then I can find my way back here and see all three at the same time.