For more than four decades, residents of Exarchia have maintained their anarchist haven in Athens.
Cara Hoffman, August 23, 2020
I heard the first helicopters fly over a little after 3 p.m. Panagiotis had gone to the pharmacy near his mother’s house to get Malox and Riopan in case we got gassed. Pharmacies in our neighborhood had been sold out of these items for days in the lead up to anti-American demonstrations, and we’d waited too long to look for them. The Malox was to pour on our eyes, the Riopan to swallow.
There would be medics on the street today, Panagiotis said, but he didn’t want to risk it. During an anti-austerity demonstration on Syntagma Square in 2012, corralled by the police and running, a tear gas canister exploded beneath his feet. The blindness was nearly instantaneous but he kept running. Street medics grabbed him before he could fall, dragging him away, dousing his face in antacid to stop the burning, squeezing the gel into his mouth while a wave of anarchists rushed past, into the gas, hurling rocks at the police.
In spring 2019, after decades of weighing an exit from the US, I secured a long-term visa to live and work in Greece. I settled in Exarchia—anarchist-occupied Athens. I was by no means the only one leaving the US for Europe after the 2016 election, nor the only one hoping to shed ties to a failed state, but I was among a smaller number following a dream of leaving the idea of nations behind. By March 2020, COVID-19 would be offering instruction on interdependence and the fantastical nature of borders; a crash course for anyone still holding tight to the idea of the nation-state. But Exarchians didn’t need a global catastrophe to spell it out. They’d had a 47-year head start.