New York.- Vicki James Yiannias
Former New Yorker Sherri Moshman-Paganos shared her experience of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns by telephone and email from Athens, where she has lived with her husband and family for more than 35 years.
Toward the end of February Ms. Moshman-Paganos wrote, “We were in Agia Paraskevi, where we live, for all of 2020, except for some trips around Greece in summer and earlyfall. Beginning November 7, we were not able to go anywhere else. There was a bit of a difference between the 2020 fall and winter lockdown and the one in the spring, that was actually less than two months. For that, I would say that Greeks really rallied and followed what the government said. There were daily TV briefings with Dr. Tsiodras, a very respected and beloved figure, and Nicos Hardalias, Deputy Minister for Civil Protection & Crisis Management, that people religiously followed. I think the overwhelming feeling was fear, this virus was something new and frightening. The government encouraged this feeling, stressing in ads that the only safe place was your house: ‘menoume spiti!’ was the campaign, as it was mostly everywhere. We have great wififor TV, did zoom yoga classes and chats with friends, but, of course, no tavernas or coffee shop.
When we came out of the first quarantine near the beginning of May 2020, Greece was a success story in flattening the curve, as cases had almost disappeared. We were able, in fact, to have almost a ‘normal’ summer with summer cinemas, concerts, taking the boat to Crete, driving to the Peloponnese a couple of times, visiting Kea and in October, going to Santorini. By the end of October, though, things had changed; cases had surged along with the number in intensive care and deaths.
This lockdown… the feeling is not fear so much as weariness, weariness of the whole situation, longing to ‘just let me out of this’, so people are letting their guard down… not a good thing, of course. People I talk to are just waiting to be vaccinated. So tired of the SMS process
It seems to me that the government is not doing as good a job as it did last spring. Granted, the situation is worse now and less predictable, but still, I get this feeling. Stores opened last week, and people are going nuts, as if they’re shopping deprived. Huge lines of almost an hour waiting outside shops. Hundreds gathering on Ermou. I hear they might close again or go to the famous ‘click away’ shopping. Secondary schools are scheduled to open on Monday but perhaps not… one step forward, two steps back.
In Agia Paraskevi, like other neighborhoods around, everyone is wearing a mask inside stores, supermarkets. We take a lot of walks in our neighborhood or long walks on the mountain, Immitós (which is blooming with pastel wild flowers) to keep our sanity. How much I miss though, taking walks by the sea. Travel as I said, is impossible. Besides not being able to go to different areas of Greece, in September we canceled for the second time a trip to Spain, where our son lives. So, I’d say we’re waiting, waiting, waiting. Personally, we’re hoping to be able to get the vaccine by April, so we can go to the States and visit our daughter and my 95-year-old mother.”
On March 20, Ms. Moshman-Paganos expressed good wishes as well as a sorrowful reality: “Happy 1st day of spring, and the second in lockdown. I can’t even get into downtown Athens now, much less to the nearby beaches of Attica, but it’s nice to dream of where I’d like to be.
The situation since we talked last has gotten worse and many people are questioning whether the lockdown has done any good at all. Last spring it seems we did everything right, but with the 2nd and 3rd wave, everything wrong. We’re in the midst of a 3rd wave with record cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions. We’re weary as hell. The shops and schools have opened and closed again. This week only hairdressers are scheduled to open again after being closed 40 days, as well as archaeological sites… but you can’t visit them unless you can walk or bicycle there! Yesterday when they announced new measures for the week, we were all expecting that they would allow us to exercise outside of our municipality, but not yet. Stores are scheduled to open again the 29th with ‘click away’ and eating places sometime in April… there is light, but we still have to go through some darkness. And vaccines are proceeding, but very s l o w l y.”
Sherri Moshman-Paganostaught secondary school and university level English at the American College of Greece for 35 years. She retired two years ago.