Brothel owner in storm over gift to hard-up school
Profits gained from prostitution were donated to buy books and photocopier
The Guardian in Athens
In a country ravaged by recession, Soula Alevridou stands out, in more ways than one. Where other Greek entrepreneurs have fallen on hard times, her business is booming: so much so that she has been forced to open new premises to meet demand.
Alevridou, owner of two brothels in the central Greek town of Larissa, is at the centre of a furore after local officials insisted that a primary school return her donation to cover the costs of textbooks and a photocopier. She recently bailed out her local soccer team, and players now proudly, if awkwardly, wear bright pink jerseys advertising Soula's House of History and Villa Erotica, her two brothels.
"I am a Greek woman, and I love my country," said Alevridou, 67, who has a penchant for stacked shoes and small dogs. "If we don't help our scientists and athletes, where will we be?"
It seemed only natural, then, that when a primary school in the port of Patras became insolvent, the self-styled philanthropist would come to the rescue.
Moved by an appeal from the school's parents' association, Alevridou immediately wrote a cheque for €3,000 to cover the costs of the photocopier and a small library.
At first the school was grateful. But as soon as local media ran with the story, Alevridou found herself at the centre of a furious row.
Prostitution is legal in Greece, but frowned upon.
Giorgos Panayiotopoulos, the director of education in western Greece, demanding that the donation be returned, said: "Exploitation of a school, and by extension its children, by businesses is unacceptable and should be denounced in the strongest possible way. What is legal is not necessarily moral. We must protect our children."
Alevridou vehemently rejects accusations that her latest act of goodwill is aimed at self-promotion. An employee speaking on her behalf said: "She is very upset and very disappointed and doesn't want to talk. She has told me to tell everyone she was only trying to help. This whole thing has been distorted."
At the Patras primary school, teachers and parents are fuming. With the donation returned to its sender, the school remains without books or a photocopier to get children through the term.
The town's deputy mayor, Theohari Massaras, said: "It would have been much cleverer had the school taken the donation and not said who it was from. This way everyone has been left with nothing. It's tragic."