Tiberiu Manea, 37, Seven Sisters Underground, London
My biggest wish is that my children finish school, because I never did
50% of net proceeds from your purchase of a gift subscription will go direct to Tiberiu
I only did four years in school because of my hand disability. The teachers in Romania were not prepared to wait for me while I tried to write and I was always behind. I started to feel bad about myself and I think that’s why I married the first person who showed any interest in me, even though she was 15 years older. She had three children in an orphanage so after a few months I went and got them out of there. But after eight years together she ended it, it was devastating.
The children wanted to stay with me so I asked her to come back to raise them with me but she just said she had never asked me to take them from the orphanage. We divorced and the court gave me custody of the children. Although I’m not their natural father, I see them as my own.
I was homeless when another Romanian who was already selling The Big Issue started helping me with food.
A cousin of mine promised me a job in a car wash in Britain. I came to London by coach but when I arrived he wasn’t there. I tried calling, but he never answered. I started to walk the streets and eat from bins. I was homeless when another Romanian who was already selling The Big Issue started helping me with food. I never begged, but I cried on the street because I couldn’t speak English and didn’t know where to go. People reported me to the police, but other people came to my defence and told the police I was sick and to leave me alone.
After a while the Romanian Big Issue vendor suggested that I sell the magazine too. Selling it has helped me become more confident and stopped the police from giving me problems. The tabard makes me feel protected but I think they should make a summer cap for vendors too.
It’s been five years since I came to the UK. I believe that this country is full of opportunities but I don’t know how to access them. But if I was to choose between Romania and London I’d choose London.
I now have a room near where I sell the magazine in Seven Sisters. It’s small, but I like it. My children are still in Romania with their grandparents, but selling The Big Issue is helping me to raise them. And when people buy my magazines they encourage me to take better care of myself.
It’s not the same in Romania, homeless people don’t have these opportunities. It’s a very good job but people need to buy the magazine regularly for it to work.
I greet everyone who comes in and out of the station individually. I often offer to help people with heavy bags or buggies. Sometimes I worry people don’t let me help them because they think I want money, but I do it without any expectations – just out of respect. I feel deep respect for people who buy the magazine. I want to say a big thank you to every person who has helped me and I want them to know that by helping me they are also helping my children. My biggest wish is that they finish school, because I never did
Seven Sisters Underground Entrance, Seven Sisters Road, London, UK