Our vendors: Lia (Scarp de’ tenis, Venice, Italy)

Interview by Ettore Sutti, Scarp de’ tenis

Lia is of Roma origin and arrived in Italy with her husband, Marcel, in 1997. In Romania, Lia did agricultural work, while her husband worked in a bedding factory. The deterioration of the economic and social situation after the fall of the regime led to the closure of the factory where Marcel worked.

“In Romania, we barely managed to eat,” he says, “so we decided to leave for Italy. We got a loan to pay for the trip and came to Milan.” However, they had no friends here and had to sleep in the street.

Lia posing in her bib whilst selling Scarp de' tenis.

After a short time, they found accommodations in a shack in a squatters’ camp for a few months, then bought a tent and ‘settled’ in a field near Milan’s San Siro district.

“Little by little,” continues Lia. “thanks to Marcel’s desire to work [as a mason, carpenter, mechanic, always strictly off the books] and a little begging, we were able to buy a van and then a caravan in which we went to live in a field next to the Greater Cemetery. Then, Marius was born in 1998 and the year after that, Fabio… my beautiful sons.”

In 2006, thanks to a contact with Caritas, the family was finally able to move into a shipping container in the official gypsy camp on Via Triboniano. In 2011, they were assigned a house by ALER [Azienda Lombarda Edilizia Residenziale, a Milan housing association] partly because of Marcel’s health situation.

The children attended school and earned their middle school certificates and are both going on to train in a professional auto mechanic’s course.

In addition to selling Scarp, Lia has held several paid internships [as a chambermaid, housekeeping, caretaker, etc.] and has begun some contracts, the latest as a janitor at two schools.

“The work with Scarp helps me so much,” she concludes. “Though, of course, not enough. Unfortunately, my husband can no longer work, due to a debilitating disease, and I have to look after him myself at home. At the moment, I do a few hours of cleaning but earn very little. But I’m not giving up. I will continue to work and look for opportunities.”

INSP publishes an international vendor story every week. Come back next Wednesday to read another story from one of the thousands of inspirational men and women who sell street papers. Translated from Italian to English by Barbara L Pavlik / Translators Without Borders