Crying Greek Pensioner Receives Generous Financial Offer From Australian Businessman

By @chelean on
Pensioners line up outside a National Bank in Athens, Greece
Pensioners line up outside a National Bank in Athens, Greece, July 2, 2015. A limited number of banks opened specially to pay out retirement benefits have become a powerful symbol of the misery facing Greece and the problems mounting for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Reuters/Yannis Behrakis

The crying pensioner outside a bank in Greece has received a very generous offer from an Australian businessman. Giorgos Chatzifotiadis, 77, unwittingly became the face of despair of the Greek economic crisis when he was photographed sobbing on the ground outside a bank in Thessaloniki. Now, Gap Finance CEO James Koufos has tracked him down to offer to pay for his pension.

Chatzifotiadis captivated hearts around the world when his photo was taken outside a branch of Eurobank on Friday. He was seen openly crying in despair as he collapsed on the ground, his savings book thrown next to him. He was just one of the many senior citizens in the country who lined up in banks to withdraw their pensions, which is capped at 120 euros [$177].

As he told Agence France-Presse, he had gone to three banks before he collapsed when the fourth one also wouldn’t release his wife’s pension from Berlin. He and his wife spent several years in Germany and “worked very hard” in coal mine and a foundry.

Out of hopelessness for his and his fellow citizens’ situation, he broke down and cried. “I am a sensitive person. I cannot stand to see my country in this situation,” he told AFP. He added, “That’s why I feel so beaten, more than for my own personal problems.”

Chatzifotiadis’ photo illustrates how ordinary Greeks, most particularly the seniors and the young people, suffer from their country’s financial crisis. Koufos learnt of the image after his mother, who lives in Greece, called him and tearfully told him about Chatzifotiadis’ situation. As it happened, the pensioner was a very good friend of Koufos’ late father from school.

Koufos, the CEO of the finance company Gap Finance, immediately tried to get in touch with Chatzifotiadis but without luck. He posted his plea on Facebook to get help from the media to connect him with his father’s friend. He said he and his company will pay Chatzifotiadis’ pension for 12 months or “as long as it takes.” They will give him 250 euros, more than double what the senior citizen was hoping to withdraw from the bank.

He told he got emotional upon hearing Chatzifotiadis’ story so he desperately wanted to reach out to him to offer him financial support. He could deliver the cash to him or through money transfer. And if he had to pay an international courier just to hand the pensioner the money, he would do it.

His appeal to find his father’s friend has been successful. On Tuesday, the news site reports that he has found Chatzifotiadis. He will be flying to Greece soon to meet him.

Greece shut down all banks since June 29, only opening some branches for three days so retirees who have no bank cards like Chatzifotiadis could withdraw their pensions. On Sunday, the nation voted “no” to austerity imposed by its European creditors. It is yet to be seen if the country will remain in Eurozone.


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