Life on the streets of Salzburg

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By Ulli Hammerl
Georg Aigner experienced abuse, addiction and homelessness before meeting his wife, Evelyne, and turning his life around. He told Austrian street paper Apropos more.
Georg Aigner was born in Stuhlfelden, Pinzgau, and had six siblings. Physical abuse was part of his life from the very beginning. He smoked his first cigarette when he was just 10 years old, and first drank alcohol at 12.
At his father’s behest, he began an apprenticeship as a butcher. “The practical tasks were easy for me; I was good at them,” he says. “But vocational school was not for me.” He spent the following years working as a labourer in construction, then as a forestry worker in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. “I earned very well, but I drank it all away,” he admits.
He came to Salzburg in 1995 with the intention of escaping the confines of Pinzgau and starting a new life in the anonymity of the city. But, unable to find secure housing, the area around the railway station becomes his new home for the next five years.
He once travelled to Rome by train without a ticket and spent time in Paris. But “all railway stations are the same, only the languages are different,” he says.
He began accessing support for people experiencing homelessness. Then he met Evelyne. They began to talk and visit each other, and after a few weeks, Evelyne invited Georg to move in with her. But he struggled to adjust.
“You can actually unlearn how to have a home,” he says. “I felt trapped, but I wanted to be free, and so I continued to spend my days with my drinking mates on the station forecourt.”
But the couple married and remained together, even while Georg spent seven years in prison in Graz-Karlau for robbery – activity that he has now left far behind him. But, he says, it took a good deal of willpower for him to take responsibility for his actions. He has now given up alcohol.

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