Greece: The good, the bad, and the blog

When one thinks of Greece, economic crises, financial instability, recession, and numerous other negative connotations come to mind. Despite the age-old landmarks and breathtaking views, Greece has been in a decline since their recession in 2009.

In the summer of 2015, Greece was, essentially, “going down the drain.” On the verge of another financial crisis, countless failed attempts to fix the already broken economy, a resignation by the prime minister, and an upcoming legislative election left the country in a state of turmoil and people, domestic and abroad, wondering what in the world was happening to this country.

Marina Marinopoulos, an artist and writer born and bred in Greece, took it upon herself to help people understand what was going on from an insider’s perspective.

“All my friends from abroad kept ringing and asking what’s happening? So, since holidays were off and we were stuck in front of the TV, I decided to start a blog to keep them informed,” Marina said in an email interview. “[I started it] also to promote an image of Greece that was positive, because I was sick of reading about how Greeks are lazy and just want to cheat on their taxes.”

These motives led her to Letters from Athens, a self-defined “blog of the life and times of Greece.” Using the pseudonym M.L. Kappa and a self portrait rather than a personal photo, Marina uses her platform to inform others about what is going on in Greece with her own personal commentary. She also uses her blog to vent about things that sadden her in Greece, share fun things she discovers, and to truly make a community where people can converse and discuss various issues.

The self portrait Marina uses on her blog, with the pseudonym M.L. Kappa.

“I want people to discover a side of Greece they maybe did not know about,” Marina said.

Greece is ranked 89th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index. This is an increase from 2015, however, where they were ranked 91.

Freedom of information has declined steadily in Greece, following the 2009 financial crisis. In 2008, Greece was ranked 31st in the World Press Freedom Index and in 2014, it was ranked 99th, after falling 68 places over six years. It is now second from last in the European Union.

Although Marina is adamant about making it known she is not a journalist, her work closely parallels the motives and mission of journalism: informing people. She does admit, however, that after having read countless articles, some journalistic techniques filter through her work subconsciously.

Marina covers a variety of topics on her blog such as Art, Events, Food, News, Monthly Interviews, and Travel. Although she enjoys writing about anything that interests her, I have noticed a stronger emphasis on Art issues, which I assume is because of her background as an artist.

Some of her more “newsworthy” posts include the refugee crisis in Europe and how that affects people in Greece. She also addressed the Olympics last year and an effort to include Antarctica as a sixth ring to the Olympic logo. She informs about Greek traditions and holidays that are topically relevant, and she regularly posts about different events going on in Greece that she feels people should know about.

While her target audience was initially friends from abroad, her following has now grown to encompass an international, as well as a national, audience. The response she has received has been overwhelmingly positive and she truly enjoys engaging with her followers and building real relationships with them.

“I have virtually met a lot of really lovely people with whom I would like to be friends if they didn’t live so far away. People might not always agree with what I say, but they discuss things in a very civilized manner. The blogosphere community is lovely,” said Marina, in an email interview with me.

On top of keeping up with her blog, she also regularly manages a Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest account linked with her blog. In addition to tending to everything Letters from Athens related herself, she regularly creates her own art and is in the process of publishing her own mystery novel. Because of her very busy schedule and the time zone difference, it was hard to find a time to do a Skype interview, but she was very willing and extremely helpful in our numerous email exchanges.

When asked about the future of her blog, she said she plans to continue her work for as long as it pleases her.

“I will keep it up as long as it remains interesting and amusing for me to do. I don’t earn any money from it, so there is no reason for it to become a chore,” Marina told me. “In any case, if I found it boring to do, I think this would show in what I write. That is why I don’t push myself to write unless I have something to say.”

Posting only once or twice a week and gaining over 10,000 viewers since her start in June of 2015, Marina enjoys her work and informing the world of her beloved country. While others may be disheartened or don’t bother to care about the troubles of Greece, Marina aims to show the “good side” of Greece, as well as adding her own perspective to the “not so good side.”

In her own words, “But Greece is my problem: my home, my roots, my history.” And she will continue to write, inform, make connections, and build a community for the Greece lovers, the curious, and the wanderers that come across Letters from Athens.