Yanis Varoufakis: After I was arrested my father said I couldn’t study in Greece – it was too dangerous

5 May 2017
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They say the night is always darkest before the dawn. This photograph [below] was taken at the very bleakest point in Greece’s troubled 1970s. It was a year after the students’ uprising, and the military junta – which would fall three months later – had struck back with might.

There was a reinforcement of surveillance, torture and persecution, and my family had been impacted badly by that. My uncle was imprisoned as a dissident, while my father, Georgios, a chemical engineer, was watched constantly by the secret police.

In times of great drama and tragedy, though, Greeks always have an enormous capacity to find bittersweet joy. We were no different. For one, we carried on having regular family excursions. This photo was taken during one such escapade.

It’s the Easter of 1974. We were at Olympia, site of the first Olympic games, and I was 13-years-old, standing alongside my father.

My mother probably took the photograph, and somewhere nearby would have been my sister, then four, and probably doing what any four-year-old does on holiday: misbehaving. She’s now a high court judge.

My father was an archeology buff, as he still is. Throughout my childhood, most of our family holidays would involve traipsing around after him to various ancient sites, where he would tell us about this or that. We would have fun trying to avoid these little lectures, but to no avail. We liked them really.

I always got on well with my parents. They didn’t oppress me, and as a kid I was good at sports and highly political. Sometimes my father found the latter hard to take.

In 1975 I was arrested for my political troublemaking, and he was appalled. Like me, he was a left-winger, and when he was a young man he’d spent time in a concentration camp, something he rarely spoke about. He feared I would end up in one unless I changed my ways.

After my arrest he told me there was simply no way I would be going to university in Greece – it was too dangerous for me. He said I could go anywhere I liked to study, so long as it was abroad.

I didn’t mind. I wanted to go to England, so I chose to do a mathematics degree at the University of Essex. Maths, to me, was the only purely objective science, and the basis of economics. It set me on an extraordinary journey as an economist, including being at the centre of Greek and European politics for a few years.

Now I’m back in Greece with my father, who’s 93 and still working, and he is full of pride. All he wanted was for me to not end up in prison. And I haven’t – not yet, anyway.

Source: The Telegraph

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