Vasile Calin, M&S, Parliament St, York

Vasile likes to dance on his pitch, where his moves have made him a viral star on TikTok

Image: Exposure Photo Agency

I just turned 39 on 13 April. I spent the day selling magazines. I’ve been selling it for years now. I am from Romania, and I have children there, a boy and a girl, aged 12 and 13. My sister looks after them. I miss them very much. I only see them every two years. I can’t afford to see them every year. This year, unfortunately, I can’t go. I saw them last summer.

Last year, my bag was stolen from my pitch. In my bag, I had about £300, 50 magazines, my card reader to take card payments and my passport. When I came back, I couldn’t see my bag. I started crying straight away. I called the police, but they couldn’t find anything. I was thinking, “I’ve got no money to renew my passport; I’ve got no money to pay my rent.” I was crying so much.

My customers raised a lot of money [£1,280] to help me. I am so thankful. I also want to say thank you to Nic from the Big Issue office in Leeds for helping me to get the money, to get a new passport and to sort out all the documents I’d lost.

I was evicted [via a section 21] last year and had lost all my documents then too. I’m now living in a hostel. I have to pay about £86 per month, and that’s why I’m working hard. I’m living with several people in the same room, and it’s not so good, but I don’t have the money to buy a house or to rent. 

At the moment, sales are not great. They’re a bit slow. I don’t know exactly what the reason is. People are still buying magazines from me, but it’s not going so well. But I still have to smile all the time and keep going. Then things will get better.

I always dance on my pitch. There are lots of tourists in York. Many people come from all over to York and my dancing makes them smile. There are videos of me on TikTok and on Instagram. I think I have thousands of views on TikTok! I’m very well-known in York. Lots of people love my dancing and share my videos. I dance to all kinds of music: English, Romanian, Spanish, Arabic and Portuguese music. Sometimes I dance all day. Some people say, “Why are you dancing? Are you mad?” But most people are happy to see me dancing!

I love cooking. I like making all kinds of soup, and Romanian dishes like sarmale, which is cabbage filled with meat and rice. It’s quite difficult to cook in the hostel, though, because there are all kinds of people there and only one kitchen. Sometimes, people are drinking in the kitchen, and I don’t want to bother them. I try to respect them. When the kitchen is free, I try to cook, but I want to respect the others and not bother them.

I wish a lot to have my own home – either to be able to rent or to buy – because I want to bring my family here one day so that we can live together, cook together and do lots of things together.

I am proud that I am working. I like selling the magazine. Working gives me respect. Selling the magazine helps me a lot. The manager of M&S, where I sell, is very nice to me, and sometimes people give me food. Sometimes it’s a bit hard, but I love everybody from York. I respect everybody who buys magazines from me, and I love them all.

Interview: Brontë Schiltz