Tell us a little about yourself.
I am 34 years old and my favourite colour is blue. I am from Romania. I sold Big Issue North at the Co-op in Holmfirth for three years, but now I sell the magazine in York. It costs me £10 per day to go to York so I need to make sure I sell magazines.
‘What is my life without my family?’
How long have you lived in the UK?
I have lived here for five years. I like England better than Romania. Even my friends from Romania like England more. Romanian people are happy for British people. British people are lucky to live here. England is good, it is fine. I like the people here.
Why do you sell Big Issue North?
Selling Big Issue North is my job. It’s how I make money to live. I have no money for my home. I pay £350 every month for my house. It can be hard to sell the magazine and if I sell only five magazines a day, this won’t cover my rent. I’m looking for other jobs but am finding it difficult to get other work, aside from selling the magazine. I would like to be a cleaner, or maybe painting or decorating. There aren’t many jobs available. Selling Big Issue North is helpful because it means that I can earn a small amount of money while also looking for permanent work.
Tell us about Romania.
It’s not nice, my country. I looked for a job in Romania but there is no job and many, many people sleep in the streets. People have nothing. Sometimes if people get a job they are working the whole day for £5. This doesn’t buy much. So, people from Romania come here to work and sometimes they bring their children. But my children live in Romania.
Is it hard living away from your family?
Yes, it’s very hard. It’s difficult. Sometimes I’m happy because my life is better, but what is my life without my family? I send some money back to Romania for my children and I put aside a small amount of money from selling the magazine to try and see them. If I have saved some money, I go to Romania to see my family but if I don’t earn enough, I have to wait another year. It’s good to see my family when I can and know that my children are okay. My children are very happy. But I pray for my mum and my dad. They are not well. Sometimes it’s hard to sell the magazine knowing that my parents are unwell. Sometimes I get emotional and have to take some time off my pitch to cry, but I like to keep positive for my customers.
What helps you to cope?
It’s good to pray. It’s important to me. I regularly go to church. I go every Sunday with a friend, who is also Romanian. Sunday is my only day off working. It’s a Romanian church. As a Romanian Christian, I don’t smoke and I don’t drink.
What languages do you speak?
I already speak Italian, German, French, Portuguese and Romanian. When I first came here to the UK I didn’t speak much English but now I go to school to learn English for one day a week. There is a teacher and the class speaks many different languages. Staff at Big Issue North helped me to go to school. They said to me: “Vasile, we need to get you to school to learn English. It’s better when you speak English because you can talk to other people”. I do not speak excellent English, but if it wasn’t for Big Issue North, I wouldn’t speak any at all.
What are your hopes for the future?
To find a new job.