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Vendor Profile: Silvia of Dusseldorf, Germany

Wed, Feb 13, 2013

Silvia and her 8-month-old daughter

Silvia, 34, a vendor of German street paper fiftyfifty in Dusseldorf talks about her struggle to survive, and her fears for the future with her 8-month old daughter.
I have been living in Germany since last October. I gave birth to my youngest 8-month old daughter, Andra Maria, in this country.

I live with my daughter and my oldest son Ionut in a small room with six of our other relatives, there is very little space. Each of us pay 150 Euros for rent every month.

We do not have a formal contract for our room but our landlord who is from Serbia helped us to get registered.

In Romania I used to live with my husband and my other four children in a two-bedroom house. There were 10 of us altogether. There was no running water and the closest well was 300 meters away. At least in our room in Düsseldorf, we have a small bathroom.

Our village is called Bacioiv and is home to 2,000 people, most of whom are ethnic Roma. The nearest doctor is three kilometers (1.9 miles) away in the next larger village, a very long walk if you are ill. Those who can’t walk that far simply die on the way -as brutal as that sounds. To walk on Romanian roads you need wellies because they aren’t paved and get extremely muddy after rain.

There are no prospects for my husband and me in Romania, but I want my kids to have a better life. That is why I came to Germany and why I began selling fiftyfifty. There is nothing else I can do as EU laws won’t allow for regular working contracts until 2014.

I don’t earn that much with fiftyfifty, but it’s more than I could make in Romania. The “Düsseldorfer Tafel” [similar to a soup kitchen] helps us with some food and fiftyfifty pays for us to attend a German language course. I think people here are much nicer and more polite – I’ve never been harassed or insulted.

I spend almost all the money I make on rent and food. But I send anything left home to Romania, to help my family. I miss my kids and my husband very much and I know that they need me. There’s not a day when I don’t think about them and I never sleep well because I wonder how they are. My thoughts revolve around my children.
I want my children to have a better life. My dream is that my husband and my other children can come over to Germany too, so they can get a good education here. That’s what keeps me going.

– Translated from German into English by Susanne Koch

Written by Anne Reinhard,
Fiftyfifty – Germany

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