008 | Precious Love

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In this giant, concrete jungle called Athens, beautiful flowers often grow in the most unusual spots.

What started as an unlikely meeting 26-years ago between two foreigners that crossed paths in the city, has sprouted into a long lasting love affair that has survived all the difficulties it has encountered in this gritty metropolis.

George, is a Syrian, born in Lebanon, that migrated to Athens in 1988. He met Margarita, a Polish Catholic living in the Czech Republic, while she was in Greece on holiday in 1990.

They have been inseparable ever since.

“We work together, we live together, in our spare time we go out together, and I wouldn’t want it any other way,” says Margarita.

It may sound cheesy and cliché, but you feel the love the minute you’re in the room with these two.

The way they look at each other, the way they communicate and interact with each other and their clients, it’s clear they love and respect each other dearly.

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The two also share a love for Athens, the city that brought them together and one they have called home since meeting almost three decades ago.

“We met in 1990 and got married three years later. Following the church service we took all our friends to the Acropolis and cracked open a few bottles of champagne to celebrate, because after all it was the Acropolis that brought us together,” says Margarita.

“Originally we communicated through the language of love, some English, a tiny bit of Greek and a lot gesturing,” says George, who now speaks Greek fluently, just like his wife.

The pair quickly settled in the inner-eastern suburb of Zografou, had a son and worked together at a clothing manufacturing company.

Then in 2001 they decided to start their own venture.

“My husband is very good at what he does and so we decided to start our own business in the same industry. Initially things were going very well, we worked hard, we purchased an apartment, we paid taxes and we saw our son grow up into a very bright young man. Life was very good,” says Margarita.

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“Then came the crisis which hit everyone in Greece very hard, including us and we were forced to shut down our business,” adds George.

Rather than give up or look for an escape route, the pair decided Athens is still where they wanted to be. They started fresh by opening a clothing alterations store which they both work in, and slowly but surely have built into it a very good little shop with loyal clients.

Each night after they close up, they walk home together holding hands, grateful for all they have achieved.

“The secret to a long lasting relationship is simple, love is like life, you get back what you put in.” says George.

“I respect and love my husband and I see he feels the same way about me. No matter how difficult things got during the crisis and the closure of our business we always supported each other,” explains Margarita.

Even in today’s multicultural Athens, a Syrian-Polish couple is hard to find, but the pair says they have never felt different.

The secret to a long lasting relationship is simple, love is like life, you get back what you put in.

“In all our years here we have never once encountered any racism directed towards us. The Greek people have always treated us fairly. My son, who was born here to parents from Syria and Poland, says he is Greek, he feels Greek. He will also tell you that he has never encountered any issues because of his background,” says Margarita.

George says his only gripe is with the Greek government and the way they have handled his application for an identity card.

“I first applied in 2009, now seven years later, I am yet to get a reply regarding my application. The Greek state treats you as a Greek when it’s time to pay taxes, but when it’s time for them to help you you’re a foreigner,” George explains.

The frustration of dealing with bureaucracy in Athens is something George and Margarita, like all Athenians, complain about often, but they wouldn’t change this city for anything.

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Deena Kiswoyo