After the factory where she worked shut down, Adrianna saw no future for herself or her family in job-deprived Romania. With her husband, she travelled to Britain in search of work, hoping to ensure a good education for her teenage sons. Romanians face work restrictions in European Union countries until 2014, so selling The Big Issue has provided Adrianna with a source of income. But with the recession affecting her sales and livelihood, 2014 still feels a long way off.
“I’m originally from Socodor, a small village in Romania close to the Hungary border. We left in 2009, when someone we knew from our village, who had already found work in the u.k., asked my husband, Aurel, if he could bring his car over for him,” she said.
“Aurel had only been in the u.k. two weeks when the factory where I was working shut down. I was a team leader, working 12 hours a day, six days a week. I was only earning £200 (about $259) a month even though the prices in Romania are quite similar to Britain. Everything was getting more expensive over there, and having two teenage sons to support was very hard. I couldn’t get another job. I wanted a better life for my children but couldn’t afford to send them to be educated in another country. Then I thought, what is between us and the u.k.? The schools are better and in Romania, a British education is respected, so they would have a better chance in life.”
At first Adrianna came to the u.k. to join Aurel without her children, Alexander and Gabriel, because she didn’t want to take them out of school.
“School is everything in Romania. If you don’t have a good education you are nothing. Here in the u.k. you have a chance. If you have a little money you can start a business here. You can do whatever you want but in Romania the small businesses do not survive… So that’s why I said: for a good chance for my children, I need to take this step.”
Adrianna eventually reunited with her children.
“After eight months I missed my children like crazy and wanted to go back home to them. They were staying with my father-in-law in Socodor. By this time we were living in a two bed flat in Govanhill and we could barely afford the rent, so I started doing the odd bit of cleaning for a man my landlord knew. His wife had left him and she had taken his two daughters with her. He was crazy about his daughters. On my second day working for him, he asked me about my family and I started to cry. I missed my children so much. I explained to him that my children were in Romania and I could not afford the £300 (about $389) it would take to bring them to Scotland. He said, ‘for £300 you are crying?’ And I said yes because I don’t have that kind of money. Later he was at the computer and called me over. There on the screen were the booked flights. He had bought the tickets for me. That is how I brought my children here. It was so generous, I still can’t believe it. I had only known him for two days.”
Adrianna has been living in Scotland for four years now and the family is still struggling.
“We heard about The Big Issue from the man from our village, so on our second day in u.k. we were in the Big Issue office. We slowly started to earn money but in the beginning I found it tough because I was coming from a high position [in the factory]. I was used to giving orders and instructions to 150 people.”