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'Just not this Europe': What Greeks really think

empty shops
Image caption Many shops in Athens have been closed for several years

The streets in the Pagkrati district of Athens are eerily silent - and although it is a Monday afternoon, they are all but deserted.

For every cafe or grocery that's open for business, there are perhaps a dozen that are permanently closed.

Some store fronts have been abandoned for so long that the "For Rent" signs in the windows have become discoloured by the sun.

Image caption Most of the group are due to receive their pension payments on Tuesday

It's in this setting that I come across a corner Kafeneio, or coffee house. Half a dozen Athenian men of pensionable age are chain-smoking under an awning, enjoying mezze dishes, alongside small carafes of red wine.

On Tuesday, most of them are due to receive their pension payments, which prime minister Alexis Tsipras has vowed will be disbursed.

The problem, at least for Yannis, who refuses to be photographed, is that he does not own an ATM card, and if the banks remain closed, he has no way of accessing his money.

Yannis wants this all to end. He will be voting "yes" on Sunday, and wants Greece to accept Europe and the IMF's bailout proposal, despite the potentially painful changes to pensions and taxes.

Image caption Dimitris had to close his stationery shop in Februrary after 43 years in business

Dimitris, a "no" voter, is having none of it. When he hears I'm from the BBC, he launches into a series of invectives against David Cameron, the UK, and the richer European economies, but soon begins to tell me about his life.

Now in his late sixties, Dimitris had to close his stationery shop in February - after 43 years in business. His children are planning to leave Greece - one wants to go as far as Australia.

"I want to stay in Europe," he tells me.

"Just not this Europe".

Before long, I've kicked off a heated argument that will last for almost an hour, and encompass such diverse topics as World War II, the British Empire, and the birth of the Greek state after the end of the Ottoman period.

History means a lot to these men, particularly to Dimitris. They feel wronged by the powerful European nations.

An animated Dimitris wants me to tell the Queen that she should have "stood up for Greece" on her recent visit to Germany. I pledge to pass on the message when I next meet her.

Image caption Victor has been unemployed for the past four years

Victor, another "no'" voter, worked in construction, and then as a security guard. He's been unemployed for the past four years.

"Maybe they are jealous of us, that we are sitting in the sun," he says, referring to the Germans, and the richer eurozone countries.

He lays the blame for Greece's current predicament squarely at their door. "They should have known that this small country can never repay this kind of debt - but they kept feeding us money".

"We're supposed to be equals," he adds. "All these big countries have so much experience - Greece is so small, can't they help us out of this mess?"

He's also bewildered by the sudden influx of foreign journalists and camera crews.

"Where have they been all these years? It wasn't much different a few years ago."

Image caption Thanasis can't afford to travel to vote in the referendum

Thanasis won't be voting in Sunday's referendum, but not for political reasons. He's still registered to vote in the southern city of Kalamata, and can't afford to travel there. He's been working since he was 17, mainly as a bus driver.

Not one of them has ever considered leaving Greece.

By the time I get up to leave, I've been offered some Greek coffee - for which they refuse to let me pay - despite my protestations that this would be contrary to the BBC's editorial guidelines.

"We're all Europeans," Dimos, who works at the cafe, tells me as he rejects my cash, but warmly extends his hand.

"All we ask for is equal respect."

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