An image of Giorgos Chatzifotiadis( 77) who cried in despair outside a Greek bank touched hearts all over the world.
The image which went into circulation a few days ago showed the pensioner sobbing after he desperately tried and failed to draw a pension, on behalf of his wife, at four different financial institutions. None of these institutions could honour the pension withdrawal of 120 euros (US$132).
James Koufos (41), an Australian-born chief executive of a finance firm, saw the photo published in Sydney and thought the retiree looked “so much like a friend of my dad’s” and undertook to fly to Greece this weekend to assist the man.
The picture of him sitting on the ground was captured by an AFP photographer and went around the world, starkly illustrating how ordinary Greeks are suffering during the country’s debt crisis.
Koufus said his mother, who lives in Greece, confirmed Chatzifotiadis was an old friend of his late father, who died in 2013.
“When I saw this, I said to mum, ‘What can we do?’,” Koufos told AFP.
“I got my mother to take out some cash, to find the man and give him some immediate support.”
Koufos also put out an emotional appeal on Facebook to locate Chatzifotiadis, and has since set up a trust fund welcoming further contributions.
“We’re going over there to surprise him and just give him quite a substantial amount of money, plus we’re also raising some money now from corporations… who want to donate,” said the Koufos.
“We’re dealing with a few places that deal with shelters in Athens and Thessaloniki to offer immediate support where we can with shelter and food,” added the business man, saying the trust plans to help pensioners other than Chatzifotiadis
Koufos’ family is also from Thessaloniki, and Chatzifotiadis even attended his sister’s wedding.
Koufos, whose parents hail from Greece, said he became emotional after viewing the photographs as they “told a thousand stories”.
“Those photos had such an impact, not just on me, but a lot of people I know,” he said.
“I’ve had grown men that I know in front of me and over the phone bawling their eyes out on just how much it hit them.”
European leaders have given Athens a final deadline of Sunday to reach a new bailout deal and avoid crashing out of the euro.
Greek voters rejected international creditors’ plans in a referendum over the weekend.