Our vendors: Ernö Horvath (Augustin, Perchtoldsdorf, Austria)

By Ernö Horvath, Augustin

I’m Hungarian, but I have been in Austria and selling the Augustin for nine years. I’m 68 years old, the same age as Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was a plumber by trade. I was always working and I now have a pension of 30,000 Forint, which is about 100 euro. I worked in Germany, in Berlin, Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Frankfurt – in all the big cities. But that was a long time ago. I worked for a Hungarian company and was never paid much.

Photo: Augustin

There is bed and breakfast near the Augustin office where I can sleep for 10 euro a night. So, that costs me about 300 euro a month. There are six people in a room. It’s about 15 square metres. And I have to pay for that, otherwise I’m on the streets. I also need something for food. It doesn’t leave me with much, and I send that back home to my family.

I’ve three daughters who are still at school. The younger two are at high school, the oldest one is training to be a police officer. All three are very, very beautiful.

My wife is 56. She’s ill, she’s got breast cancer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look good. She can’t work, receives hardly any money, and child benefit doesn’t add up to much either. Sometimes, I have a good week and I can send her and my daughters some money. It’s a very tough life. But I’m really very fortunate, I’m still strong at almost 69.

I sell the paper outside a supermarket in Petersdorf [Perchtoldsdorf]. There’s a multi-millionaire who lives near there. He’s got six cars and gorgeous dog, a French bulldog that I watch sometimes, and then he gives me a euro.

There’s a Protestant pastor who often helps me – there’s a connection because the previous pastor his church was from Hungary. The current pastor is Austrian and helps me, for example, when I need a train ticket to go back home. And he does that even though I’m Catholic myself.

I’m at my spot, selling the Augustin, 8 or 9 hours every day from Monday to Friday. I’ve been at the supermarket for nine years now and I always help out a bit by getting trolleys from the garage, cleaning and so on. That’s why I’m allowed into the shop in the winter. The manager is a very good person.

Once an old lady came along and asked “Why aren’t you outside?” She reported it to the company’s HQ, and I was sent outside the next day. I asked an acquaintance to write this for me. [He produces a letter to the management of the supermarket chain asking to be allowed to stand in the shop on cold days, with a long list of signatures attached.] And shortly afterwards the manager said “It’s all ok.” And I’m allowed back inside again.

As told to Claudia Poppe.

Translated from German to English by Johanna McCalmont.