Constantin Mustafa, 56, Co-op, Westbury-on-Trym

My brother-in-law told me about The Big Issue. So five years ago he took me to the office in Bristol, and I became a seller. My first day was exciting and I remember I sold 10 magazines on my first pitch, which was outside the White Hart pub in the centre of Bristol. 

Roma people have big families and we take care of each other. Altogether I have nine children – eight sons and one daughter – and 21 grandchildren. 

Two of my sons came to the UK around a year before me. I still live with them, alongside my wife and my grandchildren. My sons work hard in construction and they rent a flat for the whole family. For us family is very important and we are really happy living together. 

The Big Issue is the reason I’m still here. Due to my illness – I have diabetes – I can’t do a continuous job. There are days I feel bad and I can’t work, and The Big Issue allows me to have some income. In Romania that would be impossible. 

I also like the fact I can speak with different people every day and I have made some friends who are among my regular customers. 

I think that every immigrant misses their country in some way. Of course, I think about Romania a lot, but it’s very difficult to live there. Bucharest is a big city and everybody lives very stressful lives. The fact they must worry about if they have enough income to feed their families makes them unhappy and makes them act in a selfish way. 

In Bucharest, and in the whole of Romania, there is a lot of racism against gypsies. Most of the Romanian people look at us with hate and they don’t give us opportunities. They think we are dirty and we steal but that’s just a myth. Obviously, there are gypsies who do it, but the same happens with other races. You have good gypsies and bad gypsies. We are all humans.

In England people are nicer and friendlier and I haven’t experienced racism here. I feel welcomed in this country.

I want to see my grandchildren grow up, study and make a career. Most of them are doing well at school. They speak perfect English and they have good qualifications. It makes me feel really proud. I feel they have opportunities in this country that they wouldn’t have in Romania.

Interview: Raluca Mihai

Images: Frankie Stone

Co-op Food - Westbury-on-Trym, Canford Lane, Westbury-On-Trym, Bristol, UK