Deda Gheorge, Market Square, Richmond, North Yorkshire

Richmond Big Issue vendor Deda Gheorghe discuss selling the magazine in Rishi Sunak's consistuency and her battle to save her eyesight

It’s different every day on my pitch, never the same. Sometimes it is quiet, sometimes it is busy. Saturday is the busiest day for me because it’s market day. There are lots of people and I’m here in the middle of it speaking to everyone. Some people are stopping, some people are saying no. I prefer it when it is busy. Market day is the best day to be here.

I’ve been selling the magazine in Richmond for five years and I have got a lot of regular customers who come to see me. I sell about 100 magazines here every week. I am well-liked here and I like the people, I have lots of friends and they know me as ‘Argentina’.

I like the history in Richmond – it’s an old market town with cobbled streets. I live in Darlington and it costs me £22 every week to get here, it’s a 45-minute bus ride. I do it because of the people here, they are lovely and this is where my friends are.

I’m selling the magazine because of the problems I have in my life. I have had a few health issues in the last few years and that means I cannot do other jobs. I have a problem with my eyes. A contact lens dropped into my eye and now I can’t see clearly. It first happened in 2005, and then after I came here from Romania in 2017 I was working as a cleaner and cleaning inside a room when a spray went into my eyes and broke the lens.

Five times I have had an operation to fix it and it is no good. I also have pain in my bones, my knees and my back with sciatica so another job is not a possibility. I still try to sell the magazine and I have a chair on my pitch where I can rest.

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Rishi Sunak is the local MP in Richmond, and he’s been here while I was selling the magazine. I was on the bus and people were like, “The prime minister is coming, the prime minister is coming.” He was nearby but he didn’t buy the magazine from me.

There are lots of dogs here on my pitch and I have a dog myself, though he doesn’t come here. I have a golden labrador called Ricky and I have had him since he was a puppy. With my back I can’t look after him while I am selling the magazine. He’s a good boy and he’s very big and strong. He takes me on a walk. 

I do miss Romania but I can’t go back there. My parents died when I was very small, so I was brought up by my grandparents. Before I left Romania my grandmother died and that left me very poor.

I spend most of my time selling The Big Issue but two days a week I am home. I spend that time cleaning, going to the park, going shopping or doing the housework, which is always too much for me. I do like listening to music, Christian music. I like going to church too. I am a Christian, I have love in my heart for everyone. 

In the future I would love to have a garden. I want to have space to enjoy it and to understand how to look after plants and flowers.

It makes me quite emotional to say this, but I want to say thank you to my customers who make me feel very
welcome every week and thank you for not forgetting about me.

People still buy The Big Issue and it is helping me live my life even though I am very poor. I am here in this country for a better life.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Market Square, Market Place, Richmond, UK