Athens vendor reopens for pride, not money

Mon Sep 26, 2011 1:27pm EDT
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By Karolina Tagaris

ATHENS (Reuters) - An Athens vendor who watched his drinks kiosk and all its contents burn to the ground during running battles between riot police and anti-austerity protesters has reopened, now deeply in debt, three months later.

Dimitris Ptohos, whose name means "poor Dimitri" in Greek, saw a telecommunications transmitter, set alight by rampaging youths, roll down the central Syntagma Square into his kiosk at the height of the mayhem, and set it ablaze.

"It was a nightmare," said Ptohos, who had guarded his kiosk through the night with the help of a few friends armed with sticks. "The kiosk caught fire and all I could see was my children's futures burning."

Now Ptohos, 40 years old and married with two small children, gets a knot in his stomach at the sound of chanting protesters heading for the square in front of parliament.

But he was determined to borrow the cash needed to start again from scratch, having lost his life's savings as insurers had refused to cover his business. His first priority, he said, was not money but pride.

"Why? Because you want to stay in the game, even if you lose money," Ptohos told Reuters from the gleaming, refurbished kiosk that has been built on the same spot as the old one.

"You want to contribute to society. You don't want your mother to call you lazy."

His kiosk, like tens of thousands around Greece, was part of daily life in the capital of 5 million.   Continued...

<p>Athens vendor Dimitris Ptohos poses for a photograph in front of his kiosk in Athens September 25, 2011. REUTERS/John Kolesidis</p>