Our vendors: Jusuf Jusufovski (Lice v Lice, Skopje, Macedonia)

By Maja Nedelkovska, Lice v Lice

He is one of the quietest vendors of Lice v Lice (Face to Face) and you will never hear a bad word coming out of his mouth. Jusuf Jusufovski is not a fan of walking or straining himself, but he feels comfortable wearing the uniform representing our street magazine. Despite being shy, he enjoys telling us stories about his adventures and misadventures. We spoke to Jusuf during the external testing period – he is currently a student at the Auto-mechanics High School, ‘Boro Petrushevski’, and his aspirations are to become a successful auto-mechanic.

“I think I did well in the tests, but I am not so sure about the results,” says Jusuf. “What is important to me is that I am doing my best while doing the practical part and that I am learning the skills.”

Jusuf says that, for the whole year now, he has been trying really hard to go to school regularly. He has had some low grades but he managed to fix them without too much difficulty. He admits to having difficulties when required to speak, however, due to his stammering.

Support from the multi-person household

Jusuf tells me that he put his best efforts into fulfilling each and every given task that he was given this year, whether at school, completing his practical work – which requires a lot of attention and dedication – or while selling Face to Face.

“Throughout the school year, my day starts at 6 AM, when I need to prepare for school” Jusuf says. “School starts at 7.30 AM and my personal rule is to never be late. In the afternoons I have practical work, so it’s often the case that I feel too tired to sell Face to Face after school. But, during the weekends, I was a regular seller in the Debar Maalo neighbourhood and I will also use the summer to sell as many Face to Face magazines as possible.”

Jusuf says that he has already learned a lot as a mechanic. He knows how to restore car chassis and how to do color-sanding, among many other tasks. If he fails in this profession, Jusuf tells me that he already has a spare. “At home, I’m responsible for the haircuts of my brothers, nephews and of my father, regardless of whether I use scissors or with hair cutting machine,” he confides. “They always love their haircuts, and now I think, that maybe I could also be a hair dresser. At least I will keep my hands clean with that profession!” he adds with a laugh.

Jusuf has never told his professors or friends from school that he is a Face to Face vendor. He is modest and says that he does not want to mix his obligations. “The stuff that is for school should stay there,” he says. “Face to Face is something different. For me, it puts bread on the table and it also gives me the freedom to get to school and have my own pocket money.”

His family includes his two parents and four brothers, three of which are married with children. He also has two sisters who are married and live apart from them. They face poverty, but they are not hungry.

“We manage to provide food; that has never been a problem. My brother Elvis (former vendor of the magazine), as the only one who is regularly employed, is a huge help to the family,” Jusuf says. “My mother and father manage to get cleaning work from time to time and to earn money. It is OK, we need not complain.”

Jusuf explains that his family gives him the necessary care and that everyone is involved around the house. “Today we were fixing the firewood for the upcoming winter. Of course, I helped, too! We all have our responsibilities. It is impossible that someone does all the work while someone else does nothing!” Jusuf says.

Jusuf has never left Skopje, but he would like to travel abroad. He tells me that when he has some more money, he will visit his uncle living in Germany. “I have a passport, but I have never traveled anywhere,” Jusuf admits. “I need to earn some more money. I also want to go to Struga [a popular tourist destination in south-west Macedonia], to the lake. I know how to swim: I learned at the Olimpiski Pool with my friends.”

Jusuf came to talk to Face to Face accompanied by his cousin Armando, who is also a vendor of the magazine. He says that after Armando visited Russia via the Volunteering Center in Skopje, he also hopes to get such opportunity.

“I will now go to Romania,” Armando says. “Next time, I will have my fingers crossed for Jusuf to get my place and to visit a foreign country.” Jusuf adds that he will be satisfied with any trip, not just one abroad. For example, Jusuf would like to go on a summertime trip to Struga, possibly with Armando, if he needed company.

“We could sell Face to Face there and we could meet with the local vendors from Struga,” Jusuf says. “A lot of people will be in Struga in the summer, so I hope that we will also be able to go for a couple of days.”

Face to Face is something different. For me, it puts bread on the table and it also gives me the freedom to get to school and have my own pocket money.

Jusuf sells the magazine at the Daily Centre for Children from the Streets, which he had been visiting regularly up until recently. Two of his nephews now also visit the Centre. Jusuf says that the help they receive from the Centre is of great importance to all of them.

“This is where I heard about Face to Face,” Jusuf recalls. “I remember that, at the beginning, it was very hard for me to sell, and I didn’t know how Armando and the other vendors were able to so many magazines. Now it is a lot easier, and I am not disturbed even when people refuse to buy the magazine or when they tell me they have already bought one.”

Jusuf also explains that, despite his numerous obligations, he is still able to find time for his girlfriend and his friends. “Sometimes we go to the disco at night,” he tells me. “I am not a very good dancer when it comes to fast dances, but I love tango. I can even teach you if you want to!” he adds with a smile.

Translated from Macedonian by Maja Atanasova /