Monday, 27 May 2013

Aliens of Hellenic descent (Ομογενείς)

During the weekend, I assessed a number of aliens on their level of spoken English; I only knew they were aliens when I saw their special identity card, which isn't blue, as it is for Greek citizens; it wasn't green either, as we often imagine aliens to be. They weren't green either. Nevertheless, you'd be surprised by how many multi-lingual aliens there are walking around in Greece, speaking perfect Greek, very good English and Albanian or Russian or Turkish (among others). And I must say, they were all very nice Greek people, but for some reason, they have been granted aliens status in Greece - their Hellenic descent is just not up to par, according to the state.

In China, the word 'alien' is also used to denote foreigners, but in Greece, 'real' foreigners (ie they are not of Greek descent) are called αλλοδαποί - 'from another territory'. The word ξένος (as in 'xenophobia' is too general; Greek aliens are also from another territory, but they have Greek descent - so they sound just like me, in fact: Greek-heritage, born outside Greece. But the difference between me and them is that their Greek parents were never connected with a Greek village/territory that is contained with the modern borders of Greece. Their Greekness is defined by a Greek-speaking community in another country, eg Northern Epirus, which is now part of Albania, or a former Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR), or Imbros, an Aegean island now part of Turkey. Their homelands used to form part of the Greek diaspora - but they were never part of Greece as the modern world know her.

This negligible status (a Greek who is not quite Greek) causes them massive headaches when they want to travel outside Greece - they are practically unable to obtain a passport, as the Greek government does not recognise them as Greek citizens, while they rarely travel to their parents' former homelands. An attempt was made to recognise their status as fully Greek, but for some reason, the plan fell through, as the present government found it incompatible with some of their reforms.

Hence, they continue to be labelled as aliens, even in their own country among their own people.

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