Artemiza Tudor, 50, Co-op, Moseley, Birmingham

When not selling the magazine, Artemiza likes to sing in her church choir

I came here from Romania with my family a few years ago. Because I spoke limited English, The Big Issue was something that I was able to do quickly to generate some income for me and my family. It was hard at the beginning, but in time I’ve started to enjoy selling the magazine. People were friendly to me and soon they got to know me, and now I’ve become a part of the community. I’ve managed to improve my English by speaking to customers on my pitch while I was selling magazines, and now I am enjoying this job very much.

It’s been great on my pitch recently. People love me, and most of my customers from before the pandemic are back buying the magazine from me. The nearby Sainsbury’s shop which used to sell the magazine has now closed and some of my regulars now come specifically to my pitch just to buy the magazine from me – it is reassuring to see my customers making a journey just for me. My customers are lovely people who care about me and my family and are very friendly.

The pandemic was hard for me, like for everyone else I believe. Not being able to be out to sell magazines was hard from a financial point of view, but it was also difficult because I was not out in the community. I missed seeing my regular customers and chatting with them while I was isolating at home. That’s why it was so great to receive calls from some of my customers asking me if me or my family need anything or how we are. The Big Issue offered me some vouchers to pay for food, and that was very good support at the time. They also explained to me what was going on with the pandemic and it helped me not to panic and to know that I was not the only one in this situation.

I know for sure I would have struggled a lot if I wasn’t able to sell The Big Issue when I first arrived in the UK. For me it is not only about generating an income and offering me the flexibility that I need so much due to my family commitments, but it is improving my mental health too. I am a social person, I love interacting with people and this is an important aspect that The Big Issue brings to me.

When I am away from my pitch, I like to cook for my family and go to church. I attend my church two times a week and I even sing in the church choir. I love it, singing is something I really enjoy. My focus now is to make sure my children will have a better life than the one that I had. I am always trying to encourage them to work hard and become the best version of themselves.

I also try to teach them some of the lessons that I wish my younger self knew. I want them to learn from other people’s experience and to respect other people around them. I’ve been through a lot in my life and during communism in Romania things were a lot harder.

What we have today is a lot different to what life used to be when I was younger. My advice is to appreciate what you have and to work hard to make your life as good as it can be for yourself and also for those around you. To my customers and friends I want to say a big thank you. They are great people and I am blessed that I know them. I hope all the support that they have offered me will be returned to them several times over.

Interview: Gabi Sima

The Co-operative Food - Moseley, Swanshurst Lane, Birmingham, UK