Δευτέρα, 22 Δεκεμβρίου 2014

Holidays at the Trafalgar

by Justine-Frangouli-Argyris

The holidays are here and the city is resplendent in its festive lights, sparkling evergreens and beautifully decorated windows. Our beloved Trafalgar is aglow in its own right, bathed in the green-blue hue of its lit pines and the vibrant colors of its flower pots filled with winter bouquets.

This unique tower with its asymmetrical rooftops, emblematic for its convivial look, perched, as it is, on an island right in the midst of Côte-des-Neiges, has been known to pique the fantasies of passers-by. I, myself, like to roll back time and fantasize about carriages entering its courtyard through the elegant archway carrying beautifully attired ladies and debonair gentlemen on their way to opulent seasonal parties.

Throughout the century, the Trafalgar has born witness to many a magical moment, playing host to innumerable splendid events in its snowy landscape but a few meters from the Beaver Lake and carrying its glamorous past with a rare, dignified air.

Today, our building's grand entrance features a fabulous Christmas tree, gleaming under its shiny ornaments, while right beside it stands an elegant menorah, the nine-branched candelabrum representative of the celebration of Hanukkah.

At the Trafalgar, the spirits of Christmas and Hanukkah are not in contrast, but, rather, in unison, with one celebration complementing the other. Holidays at the Trafalgar exclude no one but, on the contrary, include everyone and are tantamount to a desire to come together, as a family, over and above any religious or cultural differences. They are celebrations that bring forth the joy of giving with their traditions of the offering of gifts.

I admire the multicultural community we live in and the joyous holiday spirit that manages to embrace every Montrealer and every resident of the Trafalgar at this time of year, irrespective of their ethnic background.

Christmas has become an intercultural celebration, reflecting the love and the joining of people in a happy and celebratory atmosphere. It is an occasion of joy and love for us all, a time for compassion and generosity that grants us a chance to unite and become one among friends.

Happy Holidays to all the residents of the Trafalgar, a building that holds us tightly in its splendidly decorated arms and shows off its proud and merry history!

 With our Greek Orthodox priest fr. Panagiotis Salatelis of St George's Cathedral
 Beautiful people at the Trafalgar
 The president of our association Mrs Danielle Medina with fr. Panagiotis

 Alex grew up at St. George's  Cathedral
What a blessing to have fr. Panagiotis with us
 Our lovely neighbor Elli
A lawyer with a judge
 Ben and Ted enjoyed a long talk

A cross-religion celebration
Our unique entrance
 Frank and Michael lit up the menorah

Cool moments

 Fr. Panagiotis lipt up the Christmas tree

 Ornaments for the Christmas tree
Great neighbors 

Πέμπτη, 18 Δεκεμβρίου 2014

Beware of Greeks In Despair!

Justine Frangouli-Argyris

In a surprise move last week, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras called a snap presidential election for December, moving it forward from its planned February date with potentially unpredictable results for the future of Greece and the eurozone.

Since claiming the Prime Minister's chair in 2012, the head of the conservative New Democracy party, who has governed in tandem with his socialist “PA.SO.K” party counterpart, Evangelos Venizelos, has continued to pressure an overburdened Greek electorate with a mix of salary and pension cuts, tax hikes and other harsh measures. The so-called austerity “memorandum” plunged the Greek economy into a five-year recession, increased unemployment to the highest level in Europe and brought about the devastation of the country's middle class. The result being that Samaras found himself trapped in a political dead-end, opting to speed up the election and, potentially, force the country into early national elections should the current Parliament be unable to choose a President.

The Samaras-Venizelos coalition had little choice, expecting, as it was, to receive a show of support from its European partners at a time when the country drastically cut its budget deficit and was finally able to present a growing economy. Regardless, the so-called “troika,” that is managing the Greek bailout program, continues to insist on further steps to close a paltry and disputable potential funding gap of approximately 2 billion euros for fiscal 2015 when the country's total debt amounts to some 350 billion euros.

In fact, Germany has been prodding the Greeks to agree to a new “memorandum” in order to force any future government, most notably the radical leftist “Syriza” party, down this road. The intent  being, to lock Syriza's leader, Alexis Tsipras, who is well ahead in the polls and fervently anti-austerity, into a continuation of the status quo by removing any potential bargaining power that a convincing electoral victory could provide.

However, Samaras and Venizelos turned the tables on their European lenders with the early presidential election call, possibly forcing the Germans into direct negotiations with Tsipras who has staked his reputation on freeing the country from the clutches of the devastating “memorandum” at any cost.

Unfortunately, either Europe does not understand the level of destruction its austerity program has caused or it simply does not care. Perhaps the many European leaders, who have visited the Presidential or Prime Ministerial palaces under tight security, have not taken the time to wander around Athens and glimpse, first-hand, the rampant hunger, destitution and poverty. Perhaps they have no idea that the middle class households, that have seen their wages and pensions slashed and their tax burden jump, can barely get by.

They probably haven't visited the orphanages and nurseries where parents send their children because they have no food to offer them nor have they have walked by Athens' squares to observe the many desperate graduates wandering around, aimlessly and jobless, after years of university study.

They have not witnessed the thousands who put their life's savings into a home, only to lose it all nor have they roamed the neighborhoods where hundreds of homeless Greeks and illegal aliens live in the streets, subsisting on what the soup kitchens of the Greek Orthodox Church can provide.

The Greeks are desperate, suffering for years without any hope. They are no longer frightened by the tumbling stock market and the increasing bond spreads nor by a looming national bankruptcy and a return to the Drachma.

In their vast majority, they have lost everything including their self-respect and their pride but, above all, their optimism that something may change.

This explains why, should the current Parliament fail to elect a President, they will cast their vote for Alexis Tsipras and his party, not necessarily because they believe in his rhetoric, but because they have nothing left to lose.

As such, it appears that the Europeans will soon be forced to deal straightforwardly with Syriza, a party lacking in any clear economic or political program except for its refusal to continue down the path of austerity. It is there that they will find themselves face to face with the Greek reality and the indignation of a people who are no longer willing to forgo their personal dignity.