Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Romania but came to England 21 years ago. I was living in London for 14 years. And then I moved to Leeds seven and a half years ago. I am 49 years old. In October I will be 50. That feels good. I am still here thanks to Jesus. Before in my life, I used to drink too much alcohol and I used to smoke. But now I do not smoke and do not drink.
Why did you come to the UK?
Life here in England is good. My children have been to school here. They have learnt to speak English and will have better lives. I did not go to school because my father died when I was very young. I only learnt English from selling Big Issue North here. Also I am a Gypsy and it is hard to get a job in Romania because people look at Gypsies and they turn away. Gypsies are treated differently there. People are suspicious. They do not like us.
And why did you move to Leeds?
I was working in London. I did work in gardens and in construction. But in 2013 I had an accident and I broke my ankle. I have a big scar there. After that, London was too expensive to live in. It has been getting more and more expensive all the time and because my job was gone, I could not work and people were chasing me for rent money. My brother was living in Leeds and he told me how the rent was cheaper here. I am paying much less here than I would ever pay in London.
And how is life now?
I really love selling Big Issue North. My wife and I both sell the magazine. The people in the Leeds office are so kind. I want to say thank you to them and thank you for the magazine. Selling the magazine is my job and it is good for me. Before I did this, I was sick. But now I can pay my rent and my bills. Life is good now.
Tell us about your pitch.
It’s good in Harrogate. All my customers are very nice. They are friends. Everyone is good to me. Every week they come to buy the magazine from me. I want to say to my customers that I am sorry that I am not on my pitch for the next few weeks, but I am going back to Romania for maybe three or four weeks to look after my mum. My wife will be on my pitch sometimes so please buy the magazine from her instead.
What’s wrong with your mum?
My mum is very sick. She is diabetic. She is 74 years old. She has problems with her legs – an infection. She is on her own and so I need to go and help her, and go to the hospital with her.
And tell us about your family.
I have been married for 31 years. I have five children. The youngest is 14 and the eldest is 29. I have eight grandchildren. They are all very important to me. They are my family. They are my blood.