Dalila Paun, Sainsbury’s, Burton-on-Trent

Dalila loves to laugh, dance and sing, and her faith is very important to her

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I’ve been selling The Big Issue magazine for six years. I couldn’t even spell my name or speak English when I came to the UK. It’s still a bit hard for me to speak and to understand some of the accents because I am still learning. I didn’t have any documents to get a job and I heard a lot of friends talk about The Big Issue. I said to myself, why not start doing this? It started slow, but every single day it built and I started to like doing it. It made me find out more about people who talk to me and are friendly to me. Then I started to really love it and I decided that this is what I wanted to do from now on. 

A lot of my customers are really nice and bring me drinks and food and help me with things for the kids. Since I came to the UK I haven’t had family here with me, I only have one auntie who looks after my kids. Some of my customers call me granddaughter. I might miss my family, but I feel part of the family here. When it was the pandemic and I couldn’t sell the magazine I missed them so much. When I came back they were so happy to see me. It was like I was back to life, like I had come back from the dead. There are still a lot of people who I still haven’t seen for three years and I’m really worried about them. 

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I do miss Romania sometimes and sometimes I think how hard life is there. I couldn’t visit even if I wanted to because everything has gone up. But I like the people in the UK, they are so nice here. I love it in Burton, the people and the managers in Sainsbury’s are very nice, very kind. Sometimes in cold weather they will bring me a hot drink, or if someone gets angry at me then they will come and help me. 

I don’t quite earn enough from selling the magazine because it is a hard time with the cost of living so there are fewer people to buy the magazine. It’s very hard every single day for me. Most of the day I’m trying to sell the magazine and asking Jesus for help. I am a Christian and I believe in God, and I believe that he will help me by sending some customers. I can understand that it is hard for everybody, but I hope people understand that it is hard for me as well. Being a Christian is very important to me. I want to be a Christian like my mum and dad. I work five days a week and go to church on Sunday. Monday is for cooking and cleaning and stuff like that. It can be a boring life, but I try to be happy with the things I’ve got.  

I’m struggling with rent. It used to be about £250 per month and it’s gone up to £350. I used to live with friends, but they have moved house and now I am struggling to pay on my own. Buying food and things for the children as well as rent is so hard I can’t manage any more. The Big Issue was able to refer me to a food bank once. I need help with gas and electricity because that price has gone up really high too. 

Talking with people, laughing and joking, dancing, singing, they are the only hobbies I’ve got. I only sing Christian songs in my language. It sounds crazy and people don’t understand what I’m singing, but it makes my day better and go quicker. I would love to thank all my customers for all their help and support over the last six years and for every single magazine they have bought off me. I love them all. 

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Sainsbury's, Union Street, Burton-on-Trent, UK