Many decades after leaving Greece for a better future, Greek-Australian Paul Afkos says he has never forgotten his motherland and that he will support it now that it is experiencing these devastating conditions.
The 59-year-old head of Afkos Industries, a maker of mining components based near Perth, has invested $18 million into a 109-bed hotel in northern Greece that opened in April.
“I see it as a duty,” Afkos admits to the Australian Brisbane Times, after advancing the scheduled opening of the Afkos Grammos Hotel Resort in Kastoria by eight months. “I can’t be seen as a hypocrite, not helping my fellow Greeks. I wanted to open early to provide some assistance to these people who are in need of a job.”
Australia’s Greek population has grown from seven pirates dispatched by Britain in 1829 to a diaspora of about half a million, making Melbourne the third-largest Greek city behind Athens and Thessaloniki. Australia’s Greeks are deploying wealth to our country that is in need of 240 billion euros in bailouts.
John Tripidakis, a Greek lawyer with an Athens practice who splits his time between Sydney and Melbourne, said half his clients are interested in buying property in Greece, up from less than 10 per cent two years ago, adding that “they are connected to the sentimental criteria of buying something near the village of their father or grandfather.”
Beachfront summerhouses or suburban bargains in Athens are among the most-desired properties, said Athens-born Mr Tripidakis to Brisbane Times.
“Anecdotally, pretty much every person from my parents’ generation or their children are going over there and purchasing property in the town or area where they grew up,” said George Boubouras, 44, the Melbourne-based head of investment strategy at UBS’s wealth management unit in Australia and a Greek citizen.
“They are very strong and passionate about it, and it’s very much [a matter] of the heart, not the brain,” said Mr Boubouras, who was born in South Australia and inherited property in Greece, where his cousins and extended family live.
Almost half of Australia’s Greek community lives in Melbourne, and about 30 per cent in Sydney, according to the NSW government site. More than a quarter of Australia’s Greek community returns to Greece for the northern hemisphere’s summer.
It seems that the crisis offers certain benefits to the Greek-Australians who long for property near the place they came from in Greece. Bargain estates often come into their hands, but there’s still the risk of drachma conversion that prohibits many of our expatriates from proceeding with the purchase.