By Jonas Füllner, Hinz&Kunzt
Five years ago Constantin still had his life in order. He had a family, children and a small house in Focani, north-east of Bucharest. This city of 80,000 people was his home. His birthplace, where he went to school and later made headstones as a stonemason for 20 years. The place where he met his wife and where later his five children were born. It was only during his military service, under the regime of the dictator Ceaucescu that, as an officer, he became at all familiar with other parts of Romania. He would have been happy to grow old in his home town. Where else?
Things were not so good as regards work. In 2004, he lost his job as a stonemason. The 60-year-old set up a small business with two friends. But at the end of the first decade of the 21st century their building company had to file for insolvency during the economic crisis. Acquaintances abroad promised him work, so Constantin took the plunge. He erected stages for major music festivals outside Rome and then travelled across Europe with a circus.
During his time abroad he also tried to support his wife and children as much as he could. Nevertheless, the first crack in the family idyll must have occurred at that time. Constantin just ignored it. It was a mixture of naivety and the desire to atone that led him, five years ago, to make a monumental error.
He signed over his house to one of his sons: his “favourite son”, as Constantin calls him. He was looking to please him. Instead, his son threw him out of the house 48 hours later. The other siblings felt unfairly treated. They were furious they had no share in the house. Constantin could no longer count on his wife’s support in the dispute. While he was touring Europe, she had emotionally parted from him and had emigrated to Italy with two of their grown-up children.
It was only now that Constantin realised that he had lost everything. Disowned by his children, abandoned by his wife and with no work or home. At this point the decision to leave Romania was easy for him.
He was supposed to renovate a nightclub for a friend in Hannover. He received 500 Euros cash in hand. He toiled for more than 50 hours a week. But Constantin says he was not paid in full. After a month and a half Constantin was in a mess. He did odd jobs in Hamburg. He again earned hardly any money.
He was 66 the first time he slept in the streets. He spent two and a half years there. During winter he sought help from the city emergency program. Things were bad for him. Really bad. He held out no hope that things would get better.
On the 15th October 2015, things did change. “It felt like it was my birthday”, Constantin says in his broken German. The day he received a Hinz&Kunzt ID card. Finally, he had something to do and could earn some money. And that’s not all. A few weeks later he found a small room in Bergedorf for 150 Euros a month. Now he puts money aside each month for an urgent matter. He is badly affected by a cataract in one eye and requires an operation. But the 60-year-old remains confident. He has overcome so many obstacles in recent times that he should be able to win out here too, he says with a laugh.