Greek fur industry struggles amid Russian sanctions

STORY: This is Antonis Disios' closed fur showroom in northern Greece.

For decades, it was bustling to fill orders for his wealthy Russian buyers.

But in March, European Union sanctions over the Ukraine war shut the business overnight.

Disios was banned from exporting to Russia.

And banned from selling to Russian tourists in his homeland, as fur is considered a luxury good.

With no domestic market, he had to send his 23 workers home and his stockrooms filled up with hundreds of unsold garments.

“We have been in this profession for 40 years, we are hurting, they must help us, they must lift the embargo. They must set us free. Or they can come take them and sell them themselves."

Kastoria is the heartland of a centuries-old fur industry in Greece.

It is Europe's last remaining fur manufacturing center.

And one of the few EU countries still allowing fur farming, despite pressure from animal rights groups.

So far, the country's roughly 2,000, mostly family-run businesses, employing about 4,000 people according to the Hellenic Fur Federation, have been supported by state aid allowing them to avoid firings.

During a visit there in June, a senior government minister, said the industry "will be supported" but acknowledged the need for a shift to other activities as well.

Fur garments are among Greece's top 10 exports, but they have been declining over the years.

A growing number of big fashion houses such as Gucci and Prada are committing to not using real fur in the future.

And animal rights groups hope the cut-off from the Russian market could spell the end of the European fur market.

But for 67-year-old seamstress Evangelia Ananiadou, who has been sewing garments since she was 15 years old, the livelihood of the city depends on the trade.

“We all live from this, all the jobs are connected to the furs, if there is work in the fur industry then the taxi driver has work, the hotel has work, the tavern has work, everything depends on the furs, we all depend on it.”

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