Croatia’s street paper Ulične svjetiljke covered in mainstream press

Cover of Ulične svjetiljke

Danas, one of the few independent newspapers in Serbia, recently published an article about Ulične svjetiljke, Croatia’s street paper. Here’s a translated summary:

Ulične svjetiljke, meaning ‘Streetlights’ is the first magazine in Croatia that focuses on homelessness and other social issues. Sold by homeless vendors in Rijeka and Zagreb the magazine aims to provide dignified employment and educate readers.

Ulične svjetiljke has a cover price of 8 kuna. The vendor buys for half the price and makes a profit, while the street paper uses its half to print the next issue. The magazine is published every 2-3 months and has a circulation of 15,0000 per edition. All the people involved in editing and publishing are volunteers, including vendors themselves. Currently, about 30 vendors are selling the street paper.

Mile Mrvalj is one of them. Spending his days on the icy streets, he still considers himself an optimist.

“I felt like a stranger in my own city,” Mile says about the reason for leaving his hometown Sarajevo and moving to Zagreb.

When the Balkan war started, he had a well-paid job and a comfortable life. Unfortunately his mother was diagnosed with cancer and he therefore decided not to leave the city.

After the end of the war, things had changed for Mile. Because he is a Croat, he received a disciplinary leave from the company that he worked for. To make a living, he started his own interior design company. As he now says, he has never been a business man. To get his company started, he took a mortgage and eventually lost all his belongings, including his house and other assets.

He was upset with the primitivism that he had encountered and decided to leave Sarajevo. His philosophy was: “it doesn’t matter where I am homeless: London, Sarajevo or Zagreb. Only in Zagreb they won’t victimize me for who I am.”

One of Ulične svjetiljke’s vendors

And so he started as a vendor more than a year ago. Before that he had lived on collecting empty bottles for recycling. A tough job with lots of competition. “On a good day I made 20 kuna,” he says.

Now he has regular customers who buy the street magazine from him. ”It is a great joy to see so many helping souls round and such a great amount of good will among Zagrebians.”

Mile says that in the first month of the new issue he can earn up to 1,000 kuna. After that, sales go down. When that happens, he looks for other ad hoc jobs like helping in removals or chopping wood for winter time. He is willing to help with any other household duties just to earn some money.

But it is not the money that is the biggest problem. His documents have expired and he is unable to renew them without providing a permanent address. It’s a vicious circle because without a valid ID card nobody will employ him either.

He is currently negotiating with a landlord to rent a 1,000 kuna room with the possibility of confirming his permanent stay. He hopes that this will resolve his biggest problem and help him to get his life in order again.

Translated by Aneta Gancarczyk
Edited by Katrin Schmoll

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