Tell us a bit about yourself.
I turned 24 on 5 November but I feel very old sometimes! I have sold Big Issue North in York for about two years. I sell the magazine because I need to make money to look after my family.
‘I don’t want much, just to be able to pay rent and feed my family’
Where are you from?
My parents were Romanian but I was born in Poland. We went to Spain when I was just a baby. Then we went back to Romania. My dad passed away five years ago. After that life was very hard, because my dad was the man who brought everything into the house – the money and the food, everything. He had a job. He worked with fabric. When he died, we sold the old house that we lived in and came to England because my mum knew someone here. It was scary at first. And now my dad is gone, I have to make money to look after everyone.
Where is your mum now?
My mum lives here in Leeds with me. I have three brothers and two sisters. I am the eldest and they are just kids. I also have two boys myself who are six and seven. My mum is trying so hard to look after everyone and I do what I can to help.
Where do you live?
We live in a very small flat that only has a couple of rooms. It is very busy, very loud. Sometimes I just want to run away but I have to try hard for all my family. And I am thankful that we have a roof over our heads. I have just applied for my residency because I do not have any benefits or anything and paying rent is so hard. Every month when the rent is due I think: “Oh no! I am scared!” We had to borrow some money from a man who came to our door. He said he could help us but then a few weeks later he was back and he was shouting at us and he pushed his way into our flat and he threatened me.
What keeps you smiling?
To be honest, on the outside I am happy but inside I am not always happy. I hope the future will be better but am not always sure. What makes me happy is my family of course – my children and my mum. She is still in my life and I am grateful for that. I couldn’t live without her.
Would you ever go back to Romania?
No. This is my home now. In Romania, life is very hard. It’s hard to get a job and there is no support for people. Some people are racist because I am Roma. They say: “You are a gypsy!” I don’t know why there is this racism.
Do you experience racism over here too?
Yes, sometimes. Some people here are very rude. They shout at me, swear at me. They say: “Go back to your country!” That makes me feel sad but I just leave them and say nothing. I ignore it.
Where did you learn to speak English?
I had some school in my country but when I first came to England I didn’t know that much. But when I came to sell the magazine, I started to learn.
Do you enjoy selling the magazine?
Yes. It can be hard, especially when it’s raining and you get soaked, but I love it.
Would you ever do a different job?
I had a cleaning job and sometimes I would finish selling Big Issue North and a lady would call me and I would go to her house and clean. But then the virus came and I couldn’t do that anymore. Time during the pandemic was very hard. I didn’t have anything: no magazine to sell, no benefits, no support. And since the pandemic, it’s been quieter in the city.
What do you hope for?
I don’t want much. I just want to be able to pay the rent and feed my family.
Do you have a message for your customers?
Thank you so much to all of them for buying the magazine every single week. Thank you so much for helping and supporting me. I love you. You are so kind, and I wish you all the best in the world. God bless you.