Liceulice’s David Jankovic: The street paper was the wind at my back

By Milica Terzić, Liceulice

I had a lovely childhood; I travelled and visited most of Croatia. I finished Hospitality secondary school, and I took on my first job, as a burger seller, whilst I was still in secondary school. My mother used to ask me why I was working whilst I was still in a school; I told her that I had to experience what it felt like to work and study. It was hard, but it’s also wonderful when you earn your own money. I was always careful with money; I bought cassettes and VHS. I loved music, and I went to KST [a club for Students of Technology]. At one point, we sold the flat we had and bought a house in the Belgrade suburbs, but the money was spent quickly – and that’s where the problems started. We had no money left to pay the bills, so we were forced to leave the house and split up the family: I moved into a young person’s home and my mother moved into a care home.

I heard about Liceulice while I was in the home, when two young girls asked me if I wanted to help with selling the magazine. I didn’t even know what it was about until a friend encouraged me to try [working as a vendor]. I have been selling Liceulice since 2011. Things went really well when I started out; I would just walk around the city and sell copies. Later on, I asked a friend of mine called Marko if he wanted to start selling the magazine with me too, so we positioned ourselves near Dom Omladine [a youth club], where we have remained to this day.

The city has changed a lot during the last ten years. They used to sell ice-cream, but that’s gone now. People have changed too, and now everyone knows about Liceulice. I have my regular customers. Whenever I’m gone for a while, everyone asks about me straight away. I remember a time when a little seven-year-old came to me and begged his grandmother to buy him the magazine. Things like that gave me strength to continue trying, especially during those nine years I spent in the young person’s home.

Photo: Sara Ristić

There were all sorts of people in the young person’s home – various characters and various situations. I didn’t really like that I had to be there. I stayed for a very long time because I didn’t have a legal guardian and I was considered unfit for work. Everyone rejected me – both me and my mother. The worst thing was that no one ever rang us. No friends or family. It was always me ringing, and I never asked for any help. The pandemic was hard too. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I wasn’t allowed to visit my mother, who was in a different care home. The people working there found it strange I wasn’t coming to see her; they were used to my visits! Now I go once a week.

I am currently in the care home myself. It’s better than in the young person’s home: I’m friends with everyone [and the] food is better. I am hoping I will get my work permit soon. I would love to get a different job, although I won’t give up on selling the magazines. Liceulice was the wind at my back; it gave me the strength to continue. There is even a chance of us going back to our house soon. I am really looking forward to it. I can earn a decent wage, and my mother is receiving a pension too. We have a really nice relationship and are ready to go back to our house and live a normal life. We are planning to go back there, renovate the house a bit and then sell it in order to buy a new one, hopefully a bit closer to town.

Photo: Sara Ristić

Small things motivate me. I have a few interests. In the mornings I go to visit my mum, and later on I sell the magazine. Every morning I get up early in order to work and earn enough to buy an ice-cream in the summer [or] a drink or coffee [at other times of year]. I receive a small amount of money from the government. I managed to buy trousers and a T-shirt with it. I have started saving to buy a phone too. Now I have a Facebook profile too. I’ve found some secondary school friends on there, so we keep in touch. I like sitting down every now and then and reading the messages. That makes me happy. I watch boxing and skateboarding on my phone.

I have had a lot of nice moments in my life. I had a girlfriend in the young person’s home – she kissed me first! I was surprised, but she told me I was a good person and that she loved me because of it. She also told me I was her boyfriend and I agreed. We are friends now – we’re not in a relationship anymore – but we are saving money together, and we enjoy buying a burger together. As soon as the house is ready, I want to find a wife – first to date and then, if she is willing, to get married too.

You don’t need any form of luxury to make your life beautiful, but small things. I would like to have a shelf full of books when I have a house. That’s where true wealth is. Because of all of this, I can say I am a happy man.

Translated from Serbian by Natasa Knighton