Nový Prostor vendor Josef: “I want to get off the street”

As told to Monika Vesela

  • Vendor stories
Originally published:
Front cover of Nový Prostor

Selling Czech street paper Nový Prostor is not only about money. It’s about the way the seller connects with other people, which in return reconnects them with the society. Here, the magazine talks to vendor Josef about growing up in Peru, working as a sculptor, and caring for his dog Kyra.

I sell Nový Prostor near the Masaryk railway station. It was my first sales location, and I don’t want to move to another place now I’ve gotten used to it. When the weather was warm, I would sell as much as thirty magazines a day. Around twenty on average. On a bad day, it’s just about ten, which is not good. After the New Year the sales dropped, and the business is dull. It’s maybe because people spent their money on Christmas, which I understand.

When selling, I am active. I mean I am not running around, because my health is failing, but I do try and speak to people. For instance, today I called out: “Nový Prostor, the first issue of this year, I can’t live without music.” And so, on and on. I call out the main topic of the issue, because only the written word remains.

Being a seller of Nový Prostor is all about patience for me. That’s the key. And also how well the seller communicates with people. When you talk to people, they talk to you, that’s clear. Many people just come to me on their own, I don’t even have to address them. And they are not just my regular customers, sometimes someone new comes too. I don’t even know how many regular customers I have. I don’t count them. I like to chat when someone drops by. We engage in some serious gossiping. Women talk about visiting their dentist and so on. Simply a regular chat – we talk through everything. I like to communicate, I will never get tired of it. When you want to sell, you need to know how to communicate with people. If you don’t talk to people, they won’t come back and will go to another seller.From my point of view the Nový Prostor seller’s biggest enemy is the weather. I don’t like it when it’s cold, but what can I do about it? I simply put on layers, buy hot coffee and wait it out.

Josef stands against a wall wearing a cargo jacket and red vest holding a copy of the Novy Prostor Czech street paper

Nový Prostor vendor Josef. Credit: Eliška Krátká

I don’t even remember how I ended up selling Nový Prostor. I have to try hard to remember. I talked to some other seller and he praised it a lot, so now I am selling as well. I needed a job, because my pension is really low and I cannot pay for food for myself and my dog Kyra for the whole month. So selling the magazine helps me pay for my basic needs. For instance, recently I had to pay for having my shoes repaired. I’ve had these for twenty years! I would always have them repaired and they’re as good as new. They’re motorcycle boots, because I used to ride a bike.

Believe it or not, I was born in Peru. My mother was Peruvian and my father was Czech. They came here to play music. But I am not sure where they met each other. My mum passed away ten years ago and my dad twenty years ago. We moved from Peru when I was ten. We simply packed our things and left. Probably they imagined life would be better here than there. I still have a couple of memories of Peru, because I was already older when we moved away. And I still have some relatives there.

After we moved we lived in Prague and so I stayed here. I graduated from the school of arts and sculpture. I inherited the talent after my grandfathers, one of them was an artist and the other one a musician. After the graduation I travelled and worked as a sculptor. I sculpted mantelpieces, entrances, gates. I would make really good money, but I spent it all. I was young and silly. But I have seen the world. Every place is beautiful. Everywhere there are good things and bad things.

Vendor Josef sits in a chair next to his dog Kyra. Kyra is black and white, and Josef is wearing a red vest and sunglasses.

Josef and his dog Kyra. Credit: Eliška Krátká

Waiting silently

It all went bad just before my retirement, when I lost my apartment. And after that things just kept getting worse. I paid a high rent, but then one day I was out of cash and so the owner kicked me out and that was it. Then I started receiving my pension, but as I said it was so low I couldn’t afford to rent even a room. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s been a year and a half since I applied for an apartment from the city council. But the list is probably crammed because no one has called me yet. So, I am just waiting. Waiting silently.

Whenever I can, I try to help others who were also unlucky. For example Jirka, who is also selling Nový Prostor not far from here, has some serious medical problems. Recently he even ended up in a wheelchair. Before he gets an electric wheelchair, I have to push him on the mechanical one. He treats me as his brother, because I’m here for him and I do my best to help him. He’s cool, we’ve known each other for years. We met when I got on the street and lived in a tent.

I have been on the street for seven years now. Unfortunately, I got used to it already. I like to say that the first five years are the toughest, then you get used to it. I don’t drink alcohol and I believe I will manage to get off the street one day. I believe in luck. I try to save some money too because I have already learned from my past.Well, I really wish I could get off the street finally! That’s why I work, because when you don’t, you have nothing.

Translated from Czech via Translators without Borders

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