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<nettime> Non-citizens: A series of portraits
pavlos hatzopoulos on Fri, 27 Nov 2009 05:35:57 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Non-citizens: A series of portraits

Konstantina Kuneva talks about her experiences of gender violence to
Lauretta Macauley     http://www.re-public.gr/en/?p=1884

On December 22nd 2008, Konstantina Kouneva was attacked with vitriolic acid
by two unknown men. Kuneva, was working as a cleaner for OIKOMET - one of
the large private companies subcontracted by Greek public institutions to
provide cleaning services. Kuneva, the first foreigner to be elected deputy
secretary of the Panattic Union of Cleaners and Domestic
Personnel<http://pekop.wordpress.com/>(PEKOP), became the target of
continuous pressures and persecutions by the
company that led to the murderous attack. In this discussion with Lauretta
Macauley from the United African Women's
she narrates her experiences of and views on violence against foreign women
in Greece. Although she has escaped mortal danger, Kuneva remains in


I am Kuneva Konstantina from Bulgaria. I am forty five years old. I am
unmarried with a twelve year old boy. When my son was four years old, we
came to Greece because he needed to have a heart operation and then I
realized that we had to stay in Greece for his health checks. So I am here
since 2001. As my son grows up and the problems increase.

I worked in the super market Bazaar for one and a half years. I was insured
from the moment I came here, I had security stamps, but their behavior
towards women astonished me because it was very bad and I had the feeling
that I was treated like an inferior citizen, although women offer so much to
society and they are the basis of society. Because they say that the woman
represents the wisdom of nature and guards the traditions. Man is only a
movement and an example, keeping the woman at a very high level and
accepting truly that the woman is the basis of society. And although this is
well known and everyone understands it as well as the fact that the mother
is important in life since she is the one who gave us life and takes care of
us, the woman is ignored both in her work and in her efforts to bring up her
children. They do not make life easier for women.

And as we see the economic crisis in the world, most women lose their
employment. But on the other hand, we also see in the villages, where men
were the main workers in the farms, that agricultural work no longer
produces wealth forcing people to go from the countryside to the city. And
the man cannot find work in the city and the family load falls again on the
shoulders of the woman. Often instead of the man finding employment in the
city, he finds a girlfriend and women stay alone in a foreign place with two
or three children. And they have no assistance, neither from the father in
law and the mother in law nor from their father and mother. Women are forced
to live with a very low wage that they offer them in order to pay for the
rent, the child's books... A woman is in great need to buy the clothes and the
family's food. And so there is no time to give children an education - which
is something that we all owe to our children. This brings a lot of pain and
a kind of violence to the woman. Because she cannot fulfill her motherly
obligations towards her children. The pain is immense for the mother who
must educate her children, prepare them for life. And they say that her
children remain unprepared for life. Because children stay unprepared for
life, without support, without the preparation that parents offer them.

Besides the super market, I discovered, in stress initially, that they
undervalue us as a work force. And then along with another girl from Moldova
we proved to them that each one of us is worth at least five men, because
men are too soft, poor things, and cannot do these jobs alone. Because men
do not feel responsibility towards their family. They have learnt to be
cool, to be served by us. And we have learnt to do the job of the whole team
while they were downstairs in a corner smoking and drinking beer.

After I left this job, following a period of unemployment, I begun working
for the private cleaning company, OIKOMET as a cleaner in ISAP -public
suburban train. At the beginning their behavior was very soft, and the
salary was very good. And I could not believe that I was in a cleaning crew
with a very bad reputation. And they were telling us that we are not a crew:
"We are different. We are not like the others". Later they started giving us
documents to sign, which were blank. ?nd they were threatening us to sign
them. And they were telling us that we were obliged to sign them because we
were working for the company. This appeared strange to all of us and then we
realized that it was not as they told us an ISAP survey, in which they were
asking us if we are fluent in Greek, what other languages we are fluent in,
what is our educational level, what was our address and telephone number.
They were making notes at the back of the paper and then they appeared as
employment contracts, which had reduced our working hours. And we found
ourselves in a psychological war with company.

I had not revealed myself as a member of the leadership of cleaners' union.
But I was forced to reveal myself and tell them at a certain moment, because
they started making fun of us and abusing their right. They had intimidated
us psychologically at work. They were surveying us hidden behind a column
and in the open. They were threatening us. They were doing different things,
whatever they could use against us. They were even pumping as on the bottom.
Whatever man can imagine they had used it. They were asking women to give
them a little kiss and small envelops with money. And I am talking in
generally about how they behave in cleaning companies towards female
employees. When I was forced to tell them that I was in the leadership of
the Union, they told me that I had to switch to a different project. Since I
had signed a contract and I was employed for a project in ISAP, they asked
me to work in OSE (the long national train company). I refused to do so and
told them that I disagree and I will continue my work in the same position
and after a couple of days, after I consulted my lawyer, I will reply to

The same day at work, the inspectors arrived accompanied by three police
cars. Before their arrival, however, two men that looked like cops appeared
at work, without the official budge on their shirts. They told me that they
were policemen and asked me to show them my papers. They told me that I was
illegal and that they will send me back to Bulgaria. I was forced to make a
phone call to check if they were policemen and I asked for their papers.
They disappeared immediately. When I finished the phone call, the police
arrived. I went out, the police cars have blocked the whole station as if I
was wanted by the INTERPOL for murder. I told them that my papers were in
order and these people left.

Then the police appeared again at work. They were forcing me to sign false
reports. We were signing them of course with every caution. But besides the
violence against the workers, there was violence also from the company
personnel. They had to behave in such a way that it was violence towards us.
The supervisor who was supposed to be responsible for a hundred people
stayed during the whole time I was at work to survey only me. And this did
not happen once. It happened many times. Poor man, outside in the cold. I
was forced, since he was the one who signed not only my reports but also the
reports for the project manager, to tell him that it was not right, that it
is a crime, that he should not do it again. I told him that he does not
understand how they use it. He answered: "Who are you to teach me how this
company works?". I did not insist until the day that he showed me a report.
I had more than 20 reports in a short period of time. And he gave me a
report, in which my name was not even mentioned, but he had signed it. I
told him that I would call the police. I called the police and they told him
that what he did was a crime. I did not file a charge because the man does
not know, he does not have any legal knowledge.

As an unmarried woman I had made a petition to change. Because I was working
from 17.30 to 23.30. My son needed me to be in the afternoon with him. To
play, to help him with his homework, to check if he was prepared for school.
We were discussing this for two years and they did not agree tpo change my
shift. They were saying that one of my colleagues did not agree to change.
But other changes, like my transfer to OSE, they did them on their own. They
did not ask us, whatever they wanted they did on their own. When we were
asking for something, it was impossible. Perhaps it was more convinient for
them to come back at 23.30 at night? When a woman was asking for something
on behalf of her child, they would not give it to her, Never Not just to me
to no one.

Everyday violence. He was either hiding or he was making complaints. During
the last years because we were running checks in the company for
illegalities, they were more cautious. Our communication was done through
official papers, extra-judicial orders. They were sending me extra-judicial
orders and I had to answer back with extra-judicial orders. A single one
costs a hundred Euros. My salary was five hundred Euros. I am an unmarried
mother and they had kicked out my mother from the company in order to force
me to submit, to truckle to them. And so my mother, me and my son we were
all forced to live with the five hunderd Euros they were giving us. I had to
pay the rent and the extrajudicial orders from this salary. I do not know if
any organization has ever received on any occasion so many extra-judicial
orders as I did being employed as a simple worker. These extra-judicial
orders were terrifying my family. My son and my mother, who did not
understand their content, could not know exactly what they meant. Very often
I discovered that they were sad. There was always terror within the family
until the moment when they learnt what was happening. There was terror.
There were times when I received three extra-juidicial order within the same
day. The reasoning was unbelievable. And I was forced to reply with another
extra-juidicial order. They were putting pressure on me to stop my
activities, to find another job, or they were saying that they would make a
better job offer in the same line of work. You cannot not believe that a
manager is trying to buy you.

Since I did not agree with that, in the end, I was attacked with vitriol in
the head and face. My face and internal organs were burnt. And my health is
destroyed. I have been in hospital for nine months. I am doing very well
but, according to my doctors, it will take at least two more years to get

But in general, I hurt all over because a woman must be assisted everywhere.
There should be organizations and government bodies to be responsible for
women's and children's rights. But what happens is exactly the opposite.
They are AGAINST women and AGAINST the family and AGAINST the child. There
is no help. I was very glad to hear that in Finland women are protected by
an organization created by men. And this is correct because this is man's
role in life: to take care of his child and his wife. Not the political
parties and the invisible structures. A woman needs SUPPORT. To give her
child a good education and to be able to prepare him for a good society.
Woman makes society, man destroys it.

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