Page last updated at 15:10 GMT, Sunday, 21 June 2009 16:10 UK

Taking the Pulse: Eastern Europe

Our theme on the BBC World Service is Taking the Pulse of the Global Economy and looking at how efforts to tackle the downturn are affecting you.

Last year we followed four families across Eastern Europe to see how rising food prices had changed their daily lives.

Now a year on, Steven Eke has re-visited them to see how the global financial crisis has affected them.

The  Mucmata family
Prices are high and the Mucmata family is struggling to get by

A year on and the Mucmata family in the Albanian city of Kukes are facing new challenges.

Drita, a mother of two children, says they need new clothes for school. Prices are high and she cannot afford everything she needs.

Like many other women in the region, she is unemployed and there are no social benefits.

Many political parties are making pledges ahead of parliamentary elections on 28 June but Drita says these promises mean little and she doubts they will reduce women's unemployment in Kukes.

The BBC is Taking the Pulse of the Global Economy, looking at a range of subjects this summer
Food prices - which remain a concern particularly in many developing economies
Highly volatile energy prices - which have been a major issue in the past year
The plight of migrant workers - as the global recession takes hold in many economies
Housing markets - which have turned from boom to bust in many countries
Rising unemployment levels - as firms cut back because of falling orders

On the positive side, Drita says there are now fewer power cuts, but the water supply remains irregular.

Some days, the family - which lives on the ground floor of their apartment block - has water for just two hours a day. Those living in the flats above them have more irregular supply because of low water pressure.

Bujar, the children's father, says his salary has gone up a little. He takes home 35 euros a month more than a year ago, but his monthly salary of 240 euros still isn't enough to cover the high cost of living.

The family borrowed 3,000 euros from a local bank to refurbish their old flat but he has been forced to borrow money from friends and family to cover the loan repayments.

The family has at times fallen behind with their electricity payments and it has been cut off.

But Bujar says he is still lucky to have a regular wage as many of his friends are unemployed.


In the past year, everything has changed for the Firat family in the Turkish city of Izmir.

While food prices have fallen because of good harvests, unemployment is now a major problem.

The Firat family
Many people are losing their jobs, the Firats say

Many who have lost their jobs are now living with their families, many of those still in work have have had to agree to lower salaries. Nobody is getting a bonus anymore.

Ozlem lost her job but Devrim's shipping business has been doing well, he said, so the family hasn't been as hard hit as others.

Their child, the "little Tasmanian monster", as they nicknamed him, enjoys having his Mum at home more. Ozlem still hopes to find another job working as an engineer, in time for the child to start nursery next year.

They hope conditions will improve for everyone in 2010.


During the first months of the financial crisis, Russians were willing to make modest sacrifices but the Malkhasyan family says things are different now.

Lamara and Sergei have stopped going to supermarkets and now buy all their food at farmers' markets.

The Malkhasyan family
Lamara and Sergei now buy all their food at farmers' markets

There is no question of major household purchases, or even a holiday this year - they do not have the money. They have also had to abandon other planned purchases, including shoes and clothes.

The Malkhasyans and their friends fear unemployment will rise. While Sergei is a pensioner and relies on just his state pension, Lamara works as an accountant for a number of companies. One company she worked for closed down and another has cut salaries.

The Black Sea resort of Sochi, the venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics, has attracted high investment and many people make the bulk of their earnings during the summer tourist season.

Like many other Sochi residents, he lets out accommodation to tourists. But this year, Sergei fears there just won't be many tourists.

They doubt the situation will improve quickly, but in these tough times, the Malkhasyans say their large, extended family is a source of valuable support.

There'll always be a brother or a sister to offer help and Caucasian hospitality means no one will ever go without a meal.


The economic downturn has had a considerable effect on the Vasilescu family in the village of Tintava, in the south east of Romania.

Mr Vasilescu makes his living as a driver and he has been made redundant twice since last summer.

He recently found a new job but has had to accept a modest salary.

The Vasilescu family
The family have had to sell some of their livestock

His wife is a social worker and like many public sector workers in Romania, her salary has been slashed over the past year.

The family income has fallen from 1,200 euros a month last year to just 700 euros. Three quarters of that goes on food.

There've been no additional purchases this year, even of clothes or shoes.

The family has had to sell their horse, as well as their milking cow, as it is simply too expensive to keep them.

Mr Vasilescu says they will soon have to give up their chickens, although he is determined to keep the family's two pigs.

Bartering has come back into fashion, he said, for example one villager might offer to plough the field of another, in return for a certain quantity of wheat.

Print Sponsor

The BBC's world food price watch
18 May 09 |  Business
Food prices vary but crisis remains
15 May 09 |  Business


Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific