Jelena Radeta is a vendor of the street paper Liceulice in Belgrade, Serbia. In spite of all medical diagnoses she received, starting from the doctor's recommendation that her parents leave her in an institution, through the inadequate therapy she received in the early days, this she has a positive outlook, now works two jobs and is one of the most experienced vendors of Liceulice magazine. She proudly points out that the wishes of people with disabilities are no different than anyone else – to find a permanent job and start a family.
In order to attract buyers, you need to smile and be cheerful. The buyer must not see that you are in a bad mood. I have been selling the magazine for twelve years in Knez Mihajlova Street, the high street in Belgrade; I am a walking salesperson, not a sedentary type. I like to be on the move.
Apart from selling magazines, I work in a hotel as an assistant housekeeper. I deal with some mild mental health issues, and these are in my employment records. Persons with disabilities are subjected to heavy discrimination. The word was that it will be made mandatory for the companies to employ persons with disabilities, but nothing came out of it. In practice, no one is adhering to that. It is being said that you should only trust what you are seeing, and I do not see that the government is trying to help us.
I wish to find a job with a normal contract so I can get back on my feet. My father is right, my parents will not be there for the rest of my life. I always had their support. When you find out that you are suffering from epilepsy and that your parents fought like lions to help you start to walk and talk, it is normal that their support is the most important for me. There is no greater desire or motivation to fight than when you have the support of your friends and family. My mother was told that she should leave me in a children's home, that nothing will ever become of me. But I’m still here.
Not every kind of epilepsy is the same. I have a mild form. Until I was eighteen, I was wrongly treated with medicines which were not suitable for me. Only when I changed hospital did I start to get better. Until then, I was falling on the street out of the blue. I would leave my home for school normally, and I would end up in the ambulance. Luckily, It does not happen anymore because now I am receiving appropriate therapy.
Photo by Sara Ristić
To the readers of [street papers] I would like to tell them to get into the core of persons with disabilities, because we are just like everyone else; we want to live, to start families. Maybe we are somehow different, have lesser potentials, but we can provide more in different ways.
I switched between three primary schools. First, I went to school for visually impaired children, from first to third grade. Back then, I was told that I couldn’t attend regular classes, so I had to go to other schools where everything depended on the goodwill of the teachers. Later, I graduated from vocational school, a course for assistant bookbinder. I felt good in that school. Everybody was equal there. I never pursued that career, although I went to the job interviews at several printing houses. They always said that they would call me back, which never happened.
I am not ashamed of being a person with a disability, I always put an emphasis on that in my CV. I embraced my situation because I cannot change it. I would like others to do that as well. If I allow myself to fall down and become stuck at home, I know that it will bring me no good. I have outdone and overcame all of the doctors’ diagnosis and prognosis. I managed that only with positive energy and struggle. Whining will get you nowhere.
I wish to start a family with someone I love. I have had a boyfriend for more than ten years. He is also a person with a disability. We met in at an association for children and youth with development issues, a “creative-educational centre”. I would like to get a permanent full-time job before I get married. I will fight for a job that suits me until I find one. Other people, who managed to accomplish themselves regardless of difficulties, are giving me strength. I admire Nik Vujicic. After I read his books, my motivation grew. One of my role models is my friend who does not have hands, but she practiced taekwondo. I have no idea how she managed all that, but she proved that everything is possible.
I am grateful for the existence of Liceulice because they are always there for us. They did not forget us, even in the time of COVID-19. I am happy and proud to be part of that community even after twelve years. Even when I was working at other places, I tried hard to be a vendor for at least two to three hours daily. I am planning to do that as long as I can. This organisation is like another family, no one differentiates between seller and other employers.
To the readers of Liceulice I would like to tell them to get into the core of persons with disabilities, because we are just like everyone else; we want to live, to start families. Maybe we are somehow different, have lesser potentials, but we can provide more in different ways.