Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla at his inauguration ceremony as honorary president of the Greek-Israeli Friendship Association expressed his deep love for Thessaloniki.
With emotion still evident in the moments that preceded his inauguration ceremony as honorary president of the Greek-Israeli Friendship Association, Pfizer CEO Akis, as relatives and friends call him, spoke outside the ceremony hall at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AuTH).
"Thessaloniki is the place where I grew up, the place where I studied, the place where I fell in love, the place where I got married, the place where I have my friends. It's my life," the CEO of the major American pharmaceutical company explained to AMNA.
As a child, every summer he helped in the distillery of the Bourlas Brothers, Indo and Mous (s.s. his father) at 3 Victor Hugo Street (today 5) and made pocket money.
"I have the best memories from that time. It was my dad and his brother in the distillery, partners, and I used to go, since my student years, and wash bottles.
"I remember that on Saturday my dad made the payments and gave me a small weekly allowance and then his brother came and gave me more," he recalled with nostalgia.
As a teenager, he walked every corner of the city and from each he has a special memory.
"My memories are from everywhere: from Athonos Square and Ladadika, the Castles, from Navarinou Square. All of Thessaloniki is in my heart", he stated.
The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki graduate declares at every opportunity his love for the Macedonian city.
"Aristotle University gives life to the city. This is where I studied and actually grew up", he said. Since then, I have passionately believed in the value of science and research."
A child of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki, he could not help but try to put his own contribution for the Holocaust Museum that will be built in the city.
Proud of Pfizer's strategic investment in Thessaloniki
However, Bourla's ties with Thessaloniki are not exhausted in nostalgic memories of the past, as this is where Pfizer's Digital & Global Hub is, an investment he was particularly proud of.
Bourla brought the Pfizer leadership team to the city a few days ago so that they could see for themselves the work that is being done.
"It simply came to our notice then. We were impressed by what is happening here," he said.
"Many were amazed and I am sure that they will now think about how they can take advantage and do something more," he answered when asked what else can be expected in the near future there (at the Hub).
After all, for Bourla, in addition to the quantitative characteristics of Pfizer's investment, what is important is that the Hub will make a significant contribution, as he firmly believes, to the improvement of Greece's profile as an innovation-friendly country.
This is through the improvement of specific indicators (and consequently of the overall performance) of Greece in the European Innovation Scoreboard.
"Greece will be able to start appearing in these indexes, when everyone looks to see where they will invest, where they will find talent. And this is something that gives impetus to national scope at all levels," he said.
"It brings our country to the fore, strengthens the economy and contributes significantly to attracting other investments," he added.
Bourla's parents, who were Sephardi Jews, were among the 2,000 of 50,000 Jews in Thessaloniki to survive the Holocaust.
He said that his mother was allegedly minutes away from execution by firing squad when she was spared via a ransom paid to a Nazi Party official by her non-Jewish brother-in-law.
His father happened to be out of the Jewish ghetto when the residents were taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp and went into hiding, never to see his parents again.
READ MORE: Mitsotakis on Bourla: “He is Greek in every sense of the word.”