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With Referendum Looming, Greeks Ponder Their Personal Prospects


Votes are now being counted in Greece. Early results from today's referendum are expected in the next few hours. Much is riding on which way the vote goes. A yes vote, accepting a bailout proposal from creditors, will keep the country in the Eurozone while adding taxes and cutting pension benefits. A no vote will be a rejection of the deal and could lead to an exit from the Eurozone. A few months ago, we spoke to a teacher and a business owner living in Greece. At the time, there was no referendum on the table. Greece had just repaid hundreds of millions of dollars to the IMF. We thought we'd check in with them to see how their lives have changed. Thanos Kosmidis cofounded a medical technology startup in Athens. On Friday, he told us that he would be voting yes.

THANOS KOSMIDIS: I prefer the devil I know versus the devil I don't know. That translates in my mind to the yes side of the equation.

NEARY: So what does that mean for a business like yours?

KOSMIDIS: We started the company about two years ago, and we are working on the company from Greece. And the idea is to have the intellectual capital increase and offer our services internationally. Now, the intellectual capital means people, and people are always tied to things that matter to them; and that's family, that's the place they're born, that's the social circle. But, also, it is tied to their financial well-being.

NEARY: What does this referendum mean for businesses that can't leave?

KOSMIDIS: This is a real difficult question. Our business is 100 percent online, so there's no physical presence. The ones who cannot move are really in a tight spot. They are very much dependent upon a whole financial ecosystem, which has been acting irrationally. And when you're a businessman, you want to plan for your next quarter, your next year, but you don't know what your tax structure will be. You don't know what your tax rates will be, if you will be a will to retain your employees or not. This really makes a difference. Our company only has 10 people on board. There are companies with multiples of that. And I really feel for them; for those running the company, for those working at those companies and their families.

NEARY: Let me just ask you one other thing. You've really emphasized the importance and the need for stability and that's behind your decision to vote yes in the referendum. But even if there is some stability, the economy is still going to be in terrible shape.

KOSMIDIS: Very much so. The economy has been in terrible shape. It will continue to be in terrible shape, but it is in everybody's best interest to actually get our collective acts together. At the same time, even with stability, the inertia of the financial structures, the inertia of people's mood, the lack of trust in politicians, in the parliament and most importantly and most worryingly, the lack of trust in each other, that may be the nail in the coffin.

NEARY: That was Thanos Kosmidis, cofounder of Care Across in Athens.

We also called up Stathis Kirillidis. He is an elementary school teacher in the capital. When we spoke to him on Friday, he also said he planned to vote yes in today's referendum. But he says opinions are divided among his friends and the vote has been very polarizing. When we first talked to him in April, we asked if he would ever consider moving. He reluctantly said yes. Now, he's taken steps to do so.

STATHIS KIRILLIDIS: I have done my papers in order to get a job abroad. And this is not something that I did it on so easily. I mean, I'm here in Athens for the last 15 years. I have dedicated myself to show love into my new house, the community where I live, the school that I have been working there for the last 10 years. It's not going to be easy for me, and I really enjoy Greece. I really enjoy my life. I have a very wonderful time. But I'm going to try now to go abroad because it looks like we are in in an endless loop.

NEARY: Where are you going to try to get to, and what will you be doing there?

KIRILLIDIS: Well, it's not going to be easy, but I will try to go back to the country where I used to live in Holland.

NEARY: Anything that could happen in the next several months that would change your mind about that? The result of this referendum, would it have any effect on that decision?

KIRILLIDIS: Yes. If there would be a big coalition government - all the parties would compromise, the left and the right, and the compromise and they go to the table with creditors, and they show to the people that there is somebody on the power that really cares, then I would consider of staying because I really have a fantastic life where I am; my friendships, my work and everything. And I don't want to miss that, although, I will miss it if I go.

NEARY: That was Stathis Kirillidis, a schoolteacher in Athens. We reached him on Friday on the Greek island of Angistri. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.