I sold a street paper in Amsterdam for six years before I came to London in March. I was looking for adventure and a change of country and I already spoke English, so I started selling The Big Issue because I knew the job. It will take time, but I know I will find more customers in London. I think it’s similar to how it was in Amsterdam. In the beginning it was hard, but then it was very good. Most people have made me feel welcome, but it takes time to find the friendly people. Some teenagers punched me in the eyes a couple of weeks ago. It made me angry at first, but then I thought, so be it. It’s not important.
I was born outside of Bucharest. I left Romania six years ago. It was hard to find a job because I don’t have an education. My mother and father split when I was very, very young, and then I had problems with my family. I left home when I was 15, but I leave that in the past.
I lived on the streets and took a couple of jobs, but they were on the black market, so I wasn’t paid. Being homeless in Romania is very hard compared with in western Europe. I used to look for paper to recycle to make some money, and I ate from the garbage.
Now I’m sleeping on a friend’s couch in Slough. It’s OK at this moment in time, until I find another solution. I’d like to get a room of my own, but first I have to make some money. At the moment I’m not making too much, enough for the bus and for food, but in the future I think I’ll get more regular customers like I did in Amsterdam. I spoke with somebody about selling flowers at the station, but I was too late and missed out on that. But for now, selling The Big Issue is good for me. In a couple of weeks, I’m getting a reader for contactless payments. I’m excited about this because people don’t have cash any more. Giving people the opportunity to pay by card is the best thing The Big Issue could do.
I don’t miss Romania too much; I know my country too well. In 20 years, I didn’t receive one cent from my government. I miss the language and I miss the people but it would be hard for me to live there. I think it’s better for me to make a life here. Life is hard for everybody, but how you interact with people is how you make it better.
I make people smile; that’s my main hobby. I dress up as a wizard, the Easter Bunny, and I’m 140 kilos (308 pounds), so I’m perfect for Santa Claus. Children are the best. They don’t think about the problems of life; they just enjoy it. They smile and you’re happy. We need to learn from children how to be happy again from the little things. I don’t have any children of my own because my life wasn’t so easy so I decided not to have a relationship. But for the future, I don’t say no and I don’t say yes. You never know what will happen tomorrow.
Courtesy The Big Issue UK / INSP
Read the full October 9 - 15 issue.
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