By Maja Ravanska, Lice v Lice
Suhamet Sadik is 19 years old and he takes care of his entire family: his 1-year-old son Dzezair and his wife Airia, and also his mother, father and younger brother and sister. They all live together in two rooms in the Skopje community of Shuto Orizari. At the moment, selling Lice v Lice is Suhamet’s only source of income and his only way of supporting his family.
“I don’t know you, are you new?” Suhamet asked me when we met. “I don’t know what to say if you are new around here, but you must know me and what I do so you can understand.”
“I am not new,” I told him, one vendor to another. “I don’t know you either. You must have proven yourself very well since we presented you to our readers in the latest issue.” I smiled to him and I wrote down his name: Suhamet. In the last quarter, he has been one of the most successful sellers of Lice v Lice.
“My name is spelled with a ‘t’, not with a ‘d’,” Suhamet corrected me as I wrote.
Our dialogue stopped here for a moment. Even though I thought I didn’t harbour any prejudice towards him, I had presumed that he couldn’t read and write. Suhamet, on the other hand, appeared to have assumed that I would at least know how to spell his name, seeing as I had decided to do an interview with him for the latest issue of the magazine.
We then introduced ourselves officially, chatted for a while, drank a cup of coffee with a cigarette, and then sat down and worked. After that, we showed pictures of our babies to each other, complaining about the screams in the middle of the night and the waking up at dawn.
“Currently, the entire circulation of the magazine has been sold,” Suhamet said. “I can hardly wait for the new issue to come out! I can’t live without Lice v Lice.” Suhamet has been selling the street magazine for 10 months and he told me that he enjoys his work. “I make more money than I expected. It’s great,” he smiled. “First, I thought that I couldn’t manage but with the help of Erdzan and Armando [two other vendors with whom he is friends], I succeeded. Now, as you can see, Zharce says that I am one of the best!”
Indeed, the coordinator of the Lice v Lice vendors, Zharmena Bozhinovska (or Zharce, as we all like to call her), singled Suhamet out when we asked her who to interview for this column. “I love her the most, she helps me a lot,” Suhamet told me. “She knows everything that is happening to me. When I have a problem – when my son is ill, or when I can’t pay my debts in time – I am not ashamed to ask for her help. And I do not forget to thank her!”
Family above all
Suhamet’s story is connected to that of his family. When I asked him about his work, he connected everything to his household.
“Primarily, I take care of my family,” he explained. “My son wakes me up every morning: he laughs, he climbs on my head and he pulls my hair. Although I’m tired and sleepy, I enjoy that giggling,” Suhamet paused and smiled. “I suppose you know how it is!”
Suhamet knew about Lice v Lice from the beginning, since the magazine first launched. At first, he didn’t want to apply because the job didn’t seem attractive and, although he knew that the magazine was being sold, he knew nothing more about it. On becoming a father, however, Suhamet realized that he had to do something to make money. After receiving friendly advice from Erdzan Sadik, Lice v Lice’s Vendor for the Year 2015, who was also a cousin and friend, Suhamet decided to try.
“Erdzan got me an appointment with Zharce,” Suhamet explained. “After she hired me as a vendor, Erdzan told me which places to go to – those where Lice v Lice’s vendors are best accepted – and where I shouldn’t go. He constantly encouraged me, saying: ‘Go, you’ll see that you will sell a lot of magazines!’ He believed in me, encouraged me and gave me hope.”
Indeed, Suhamet’s sales went well. Armando Redzepi, who was also selling the magazine through the Day Care Centre for Children on the Street, pointed out a few more places that Suhamet could go to outside of the centre of Skopje.
“Right now, I can’t, and don’t, want to do something else so this is great,” Suhamet said. “If only I could have the possibility to be employed and to know that my job is steady, then I would be the happiest man on Earth.”
I asked him why security was so important for a man of his age.
“I could get a loan and renovate the house,” Suhamet said wistfully. “At the moment, we have a bathroom outside the house, we don’t have hot water and I have a baby. I want to live separately from my parents but I also want to help them. If I could build another floor in our house, we would live a happier life.” Suhamet said all of this with the seriousness of a family man who knows exactly what he wants.
I then asked him about his wife and whether she supported him in his work.
“Yes, of course!” Suhamet exclaimed. “She supports me in everything: we love each other very much. Even though I do not speak her language, nor does she speak mine (his wife is Albanian and he is Romani), we live in harmony and we understand each other in Macedonian. We met through Facebook: we were writing to each other for a few months, and then, when I saw her, I fell in love with her immediately,” Suhamet smiled broadly. “I knew that she would be my wife.”
I found true friends in the “Ljubov” café
Aside from selling Lice v Lice, Suhamet also wants to read the magazine. But not all of it.
“For me, the most interesting are the stories about the vendors and the articles about the homeless,” Suhamet explained. “I grew up in the Day Care Centre for Children on the Street, and I know how it is to be a child on the street. They took better care of me than at home.”
Not all people are so nice to us. In some places, they do not let us come in at all. In other places, I have noticed that the people put away their bags and their phones immediately when I pass.
After our interview came to an end, Suhamet said that he was going to go out and sell Lice v Lice. I asked him if he knew that he shouldn’t sell the magazine without wearing the Lice v Lice uniform and I reminded him that there are rules which the vendors must respect regarding sales.
“I do. I know it well!” Suhamet reassured me. “I leave my uniform and the magazines at the “Ljubov” café: they keep them for me when I have other things to do, so I don’t have to carry them with me. The people there help me a lot and the employees are my true friends,” says Suhamet. He stressed that it was important to him that we published this fact.
“I would like to give a shout-out to them,” he grinned. “Not all people are so nice to us. In some places, they do not let us come in at all. In other places, I have noticed that the people put away their bags and their phones immediately when I pass. I don’t know why they think that I would be stealing. I am at work; I am not going to steal. That opinion must change!” The look on Suhamet’s face told me that he was serious.
I asked him if people’s prejudices were disappointing and discouraging. “Sometimes, yes, it makes me nervous,” Suhamet admitted. “But it’s good that there are people who always buy the magazine, and not just that, they offer me coffee and juice as refreshments. That means a lot to me.”
All the people on my street sell Lice v Lice
Suhamet, together with Erdzan and Bajram, was on vacation in Struga, in the Red Cross resort called “Solferino”. To them, this vacation was a reward for their dedication to the work. The three men have built a competitive spirit between them but above all, besides being colleagues, they are also great friends.
“We hang out a lot,” Suhamet explained. “In Shutka, all the people on my street work as Lice v Lice vendors. I think that this is mostly thanks to Erdzan!” Suhamet added that in Struga they were left without money since the citizens there didn’t want to buy magazines from them.
“The three of us shared everything together, and Erdzan, as the most successful among us, was giving us money for coffee and cigarettes,” Suhament told me. “He is a very good colleague and friend. I also hang out a lot with Maradona: he is careful not to forget anyone!”
Translated from Macedonian to English by Gordana Petrovska