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Planet Money
11:30 am
Fri June 15, 2012

An Austerity Wedding, With No Money For A Dress

Originally published on Fri June 15, 2012 5:25 pm

Katerina Margaritou and Elias Tilligadas live in Athens. They're getting married next Wednesday — three days after the Greek election that has the global economy on edge.

Katerina is a chemist, and she works for a company whose main customer is the Greek government. The Greek government, of course, is broke. So Katerina hasn't been paid since last year.

"I'm very happy because I'm getting married," Katerina told me this week. "But I'm very sad because at the moment I cannot buy a dress. My boss promised me that he's going to give money to buy a dress. So I'm waiting."

When I first met first Katerina in January, she was hopeful about Greece's prospects.

"I'm optimist," she told me then. "I think we have a crisis now, but it's going to go away."

She doesn't feel that way anymore. "The economic situation in Greece is getting worse day by day," she told me this week.

This is not an accident. This is, in some ways, part of the plan for Greece. Things have to get worse before they get better. The Greek government for years spent way more than it brought in. Europe had to bail the country out, and the bailout came with conditions. The Greek government had to spend less money and raise taxes.

Katerina and Elias doesn't know who is going to be running her country next week. They don't know if the economy will collapse entirely next week. They don't know if there will be riots in the streets on their wedding day.

No matter what happens next week, the situation in Greece will be grim for a long time. Kateria and Elias are trying to figure out what to do, but they don't agree on much.

Elias wants to try farming; Katerina doesn't. Katerina wants to leave Greece. Elias wants to stay. Elias thinks Greece should leave the euro; Katerina disagrees. He's voting for the far-right party, she's voting far left. The only thing those extremes have in common: They're both anti-austerity.

If the election results on Sunday wind up giving a contradictory message about what Greeks actually want, it will be a perfect reflection of where the Greek electorate is right now.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.