Elena, Morrisons, Meltham

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Tell us a little about yourself.
I am 28 years old and am from Romania. I started selling Big Issue North in 2015.

Do you enjoy selling the magazine?
It’s very good. There are very good people in Meltham. The people who buy the magazine from me are very nice. I like being the only person who sells the magazine in town. I have sold by Morrisons in Meltham for one year. I have great respect for the manager there because they let me sell outside the shop and they are very kind to me. 

How is life at the moment?
It’s all right, but I don’t sell enough magazines to have money for things in my home or to pay the rent. My husband also sells Big Issue North, but we might get evicted because we can’t pay our rent. It’s a big problem now. The staff in the Leeds office are helping us. I like everyone who works in the office. They are my family. 

Tell us a bit about your own family.
My husband Vasile is a very good person. I’m very lucky to have my family. My sister Monica died seven years ago – she would have been 21 now. She had a big problem and she was in the hospital a lot. She died in the hospital in Valencia. I look at her picture every morning. My mother is also sick. She has diabetes and has to have an operation on her legs. 

How is your own health?
I have pain. It makes me sick and it’s not very good. Once, I had to be taken to hospital by an ambulance when I collapsed on my pitch. I have letters from the hospital telling me that I need to have an operation in three weeks. I’m very worried. I already am in a lot of pain, but I hope the operation will make me better. I bring the letters from the hospital to the Big Issue North office. Staff help me to understand them and book the appointments that I need. They’ve organised for the doctor to visit me at my home. The pain hurts me a lot, but I don’t like to cry. I like to smile.

What makes you happy?
Sometimes I am happy, sometimes I am not happy. Same with people who buy the magazine from me. Sometimes they’re happy, sometimes they’re not happy. My customers look out for me and they ask why I’m not smiling if I’m upset. If people want to buy the magazine then great! If not, it’s no problem – maybe tomorrow or the next day. 

Has your English improved since you started selling the magazine?
Yes, I learn English on my pitch, from my customers. We talk and words are stored in my memory. I use Google Translate on my phone and my customers help me to work it out. My customers tell me that I’m funny and a good person. But I still find it hard to read English.

What are your hopes for the future?
I’d like to sell enough magazines to pay my rent and maybe one day have a cat and a dog.

Are you worried about Brexit?
I would like to stay in England. Here is my work. It is my home. We’re staying here. We’re not going. I love living in Leeds.

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Big Issue North during the Coronavirus pandemic

We have taken the difficult decision to tell our vendors that they cannot sell Big Issue North on the streets during the Coronavirus pandemic, for the safety of the public and themselves.

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