March 26, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 13

Vendor of the Week

Vendor Profile - Bertl Weißengruber

via: Kupfermuckn / By Heinz Zauner

Bertl Weißengruber sells the Austrian street paper Kupfermuckn in Linz.

Photo by Heinz Zauner

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“Sixteen years ago, after a relationship broke down, I ended up living on the streets. I went to Arge, a nonprofit association for the homeless. There I could move into a halfway house. At the same time the street paper Kupfermuckn was founded, and because I only had a small, limited income delivering a daily paper, I started selling Kupfermuckn as well. It was tough at the beginning, and the first day I only sold one copy. Slowly but surely though, more people got to know me, and since then it got better and better,” Bertl says.

“Then a scouting movement in the neighboring town Puchenau asked me to participate in a discussion about homelessness. The mayor was attending, too, and because he was so interested in my story, he told me to sell Kupfermuckn in Puchenau. Since then I have my regular spot at the supermarket. If it’s raining, I am even allowed to sell it inside. Shortly after, I also began selling the paper in Ottensheim at the local farmers market, and now I am a permanent fixture there. I am even friends with many stall owners and customers, often exchanging the paper for food, but I also receive invitations to eat as well. The Ottensheim actor Ferry Öllinger already knows me as well. He stars in the TV Show ‘Soko Kitzbühel.’”

Bertl’s story begins in Vienna, where he was living in a shantytown, like so many other bombed-out families after the war. After a bicycle theft, he ended up living in a children’s care home.

“I did an apprenticeship as pastry chef. Then I moved around Austria as a vagabond. ‘Vagrancy’ was still illegal in Austria until 1972, so I was sent to prison a few times. Finally I went to Hamburg and became a sailor for five years. I was in Leningrad, at the North Cape in Norway, Shanghai, and then in the Caribbean until the shipping company went bust, and I ended up in Linz, where I started a family. I have four children with my former wife.” He maintains good contact with them, Bertl says.

Then one day he collapsed with a stroke. It was downhill from that moment on, and his wife finally threw him out. And so he began selling Kupfermuckn in 1996 right after it was founded. Today Bertl lives in a flat-share for homeless people and is taking part in all events organized by the street paper. He is acting in a drama group and is a DJ at Radio Kupfermuckn. He really is a Kupfermuckn veteran.

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