Greek Newlyweds Valasia Limnioti and Konstantinos Patronis’ long-planned “dream trip” to the U.S. ended in New York City, where their three-week honeymoon quickly turned into a nightmare when their Greek-issued credit and debit cards were suddenly declined when the Greek government issued capital controls, limiting bank transactions and the flow of money abroad in any way.
“We were hungry, and I cried for two days,” Limnioti said. “I felt homeless in New York.”
The couple skipped a few meals before spending their last dollars on dinner at McDonald’s. Strangers from two Greek Orthodox churches in Astoria came to the rescue, giving them survival cash until their flight home to Greece.
The couple’s U.S. adventure started after their June 6 wedding in Volos, Greece.
Their coast-to-coast U.S. trip that took in Los Angeles and a Caribbean cruise “was the dream trip of our lives,” Limnioti said.
They had saved for a whole year to pre-pay for flights and hotels, with enough cash left for both necessities and pleasures. Neither of their two Greek-bank issued credit cards worked.
“Everything was all right – then ‘boom!’ in New York,” Limnioti told NBC News in an interview.
Within days, the couple ran out of cash and “we couldn’t withdraw any money – zero,” Limnioti said.
On Tuesday, in despair, they reached out to the New York-based Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which connected them with two churches in Astoria, which offered about $350 from the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox church and another nearby one, St. Irene Chrysovalantou.
“I said to them, ‘Don’t worry, that’s why we’re here,’” said the Rev. Vasilios Louros of St. Demetrios. “This is the church of Christ and we always help people.”
The money was withdrawn from the church’s bank account, “and that was it,” he said.
In addition, an undisclosed amount came from a New York-based Greek journalist who hails from Volos.
The couple insisted they’d pay back the money but were told it was a gift, said Limnioti.
Numerous Greeks are stranded abroad, including some patients in U.S. hospitals who cannot pay for medical care or daily living expenses.