Marian Hendrea, Tesco, Penicuik, Midlothian

A tractor accident left Marian with life-changing injuries. Working on his pitch allows him to keep his independence

I started selling The Big Issue in August 2014. I just started with the badge and everything was quickly quite normal after that. I am disabled so it is difficult for me to find a job but The Big Issue allows me to work and earn my own income.  

I lost my leg after an accident with a tractor back in Romania. I was driving a tractor that didn’t have a proper brake. The tractor was full of hay from the field but, because I couldn’t slow down properly without a brake, the tractor became out of control and crashed and I lost my leg. 

After the accident I did manage to find a job but I lost it after a while and then it became clear that there was nothing for me to do there so that’s why I decided to come to the UK. 

It was quite a while ago now, it’s been 21 years since the accident. But it means that sometimes I can get very tired when I am on my pitch. Mostly it’s OK but I don’t know how long I will be able to work for.

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I do really like selling The Big Issue. I’ve got a lot of respect for people in Penicuik and I try and smile at them as often as I can. I’m not just sitting there when I’m selling The Big Issue. I’m trying to make eye contact with customers and I always try to be in a good mood. I’ve got quite a few regular customers. People on my pitch appreciate that I’m not stealing, I’m not begging so they support me even if they cannot buy the magazine. 

I’m also good friends with Tesco staff in the shop where I sell. If I see someone stealing from the shop I go inside and tell them what has happened so they can catch them. 

I have been in the UK since August 2014 and right afterwards I got this job. I don’t have much in the UK but I can earn enough to cover the bills and food and everything else. I like that people have a lot of respect for me in the UK. To give an example, if one day I have an appointment somewhere that is not on my pitch then people will be asking me: “Where have you been? Are you OK? Are you all right?” I feel like people really care about me here. 

That is a big difference when compared to Romania. For example, when I travel by bus there is a chair especially for people who have a disability like me. Everyone is very welcoming to me and at the same time I try to be kind. If somebody has left a purse on my pitch or another one of their belongings, then I’m running after them and shouting to get their attention. 

Away from my pitch, I don’t have many hobbies. Going to church is the main thing. After the accident, the doctors gave me virtually no chance to live. I felt like God took care of me and saved my life. So I have turned to God since then, I am appreciative for how he has looked after me. 

I just want to keep working. I got used to it back in Romania. I was working very hard when I was there but here nobody will employ me because I am without a leg. The Big Issue lets me work hard so I am happy with the job that I have got at the moment. 

I love my customers very much. It makes me happy that they buy the magazine from me because it means I can have a job. But even the people who don’t buy the magazine because they don’t have the money or for whatever reason, I still respect them.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Tesco Superstore, Edinburgh Road, Penicuik, UK