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Eleusis used to be a small fisherman's village in 1860. The first industry founded in 1875 was the soap industry of the Charilaou brothers, from Galatsi of Romania. After almost 20 years, one of the two brothers, who had studied chemistry in France and in Germany, consorted with Nicholas Kanellopoulos, also a chemist, and their soap production reached 600.000 tones. It was then when the well-known "Eleusis Soap" was introduced to the market and competed with the French soaps on even terms.
The soap industry started its operation with 20 workers, which became 90 in 1900 and 250 in 1928. Women used to work there as well, which was a bit unusual and pioneering at the time. During the 1960' the soap industry ceased production, leaving enough room for other much more heavier industries to flourish. Within very few years the city's population rapidly increased, as thousands of people looked for jobs at the big industrial units in the area.
Resisting the catastrophe
The lack of the appropriate expertise and foresight, combined with the governmental inefficiency and the profit-making fury of the uneducated businessmen, led to the noticeable environmental pollution of Eleusis. From a small fishermen's village, the city was transformed into an uncontrolled and wry center of industrial development.
Although the people worked hard, instead of enjoying the goods that were produced, they were contaminated by the industrial pollution. Nevertheless, Eleusis curiously managed to survive. The local community was mobilized and after long-standing fights, it managed to intercept and reverse the ecological disaster.
A very important factor that also contributed to the salvation of the area was the worldwide economic decline and the international division of labor, because of which after 1980 many industries closed and many smaller ones opened in their place.
Today, Eleusis is like an injured human that recently got out of the hospital. It tries to stand on its feet and it is obviously doing well. The industrial whirlwind that swept over it defamed the city but the upside is that greedy contractors didn't flock to the region to build tall buildings, even though Eleusis is close to Athens and near the sea. This is the reason why Eleusis still has many houses and very few apartment buildings. Many of those houses are neoclassical and have amazing gardens.
Open industrial museum
A combination of sophisticated works of beautification on the coast line, and the impressive post-industrial landscape, Eleusis is a vast open photo studio. If the abandoned factories were pillared and walking routes were created between them, the city would be transformed into a huge industrial museum.
Visitors would be able to admire the amazing statues of antiquity in the archaeological museum, with the enormous funnels in the background, which poisoned the citizens for decades. The whole history of Greece would come to life in front of them, from the times when it used to enlighten the rest of the world, up to the recent years of the unregulated evolution and decay.
TEXT-PHOTOS: GEORGE ZAFEIROPOULOS