Our vendors: Alexandra (Hinz&Kunzt, Hamburg, Germany)

By Jonas Füllner, Hinz&Kunzt

On her pitch not far from the Eppendorfer Baum underground station, Hinz&Kunzt vendor Alexandra is an institution. Passers-by give her a friendly nod. Some stay to have a quick chat.

Surprisingly, the 26-year-old only received her Hinz&Kunzt badge in May.  “This has actually always been my spot,” explains Alexandra, who was born in Romania. In the past, however, she was stood there as a street musician. With her accordion in her hand, she tried to beg a little money for her family.  “One day it would go well, one day badly,” she recalls.


It all began ten years ago. Alexandra had only just celebrated her sixteenth birthday, and married her husband.  At the time, they had no work or prospects in their home of north-eastern Romania. The two of them therefore risked an adventure and travelled to Hamburg.  But their dream of a better life shattered more quickly than they expected.  They lived in shabby hostels with barely enough money to eat, and in the end failed in their attempt to save up enough money to buy a small flat in Romania.

Once back in Romania, however, they could not manage for long.  Their home village has a shockingly high level of poverty. There is nobody there who could employ them. Even with state benefits, they could barely keep their heads above water.  They therefore made another attempt to start afresh in Hamburg a few months later.

So it went on for several years.  They were true seasonal workers. However, while others found paid work as harvesters, they tried their luck as street musicians.  Things would certainly have carried on like this for a while longer if the couple had not had a baby in the meantime. Because of their daughter, who is now eight years old, they finally committed to a life in Hamburg. “I want to create a better future for my daughter Rebecca,” stresses Alexandra. That is why she sends her daughter to school every day. “She speaks much better German than I do,” says Alexandra with a proud smile.

For the past four years the family have been living in Bergedorf.  Because they do not have a contract of employment and only speak broken German, it was not easy for them to find a flat. In the end, a shady landlord helped them out and offered them a room. They now share a five-room flat in a derelict old building with four other families. Right behind their home, railway tracks pass into the station. Rubbish is piled up in the stairwell.  The rent is €400 – per family.  “Better than nothing,” says Alexandra, who nevertheless dreams of having her own proper flat.  “So that my daughter finally has her own room.” After all, Rebecca must be able to concentrate on her school work.

In any case, sharing one room between three people is hard.  One day she hopes to receive an offer of housing. Thanks to Hinz&Kunzt, some things have already improved. She no longer has to beg and play music, and has instead been able to make contacts. A loyal customer has offered to act as a guarantor on a flat for her.  She is therefore optimistic that things will work out, and that her daughter really will finally have her own room.

Translated from German to English by Hazel Davies.