• Sweden's news in English
 
almadalen_header

Beggar for a day: 'Only children looked at me'

Published: 10 Apr 2014 12:27 GMT+02:00
Updated: 10 Apr 2014 14:27 GMT+02:00

Nikoletta Jozsa was elected to municipal office in Järfälla, northern Stocholm, three years ago. Originally a social worker who volunteers in a soup kitchen in her spare time, Jozsa says she felt she had to experience what beggars in Sweden go through.

Pulling on a pair of jeans and a warm jacket, she headed to Drottninggatan, a main shopping fare in central Stockholm that is usually thronged with people. 

"I was terrified. My first thought was, ''I'm going back home'," Jozsa tells The Local. "I stood there for so long hesitating before I sat down, until I felt I just had to do it. And when I was finally sitting, the first thing I felt was shame."

Unable to even look up, she sat pondering how she had made herself so vulnerable to other people. In the end, she looked up, but was saddened even more when she did. 

"What upset me the most is that I no longer existed. People would either almost walk into me, because they hadn't seen me, or they'd make big detours to avoid me," she explains. "I'm not sure which was worse...."

"And some people would pull their kids away from me," says Jozsa, whose voice breaks down in a sob. "And that was the thing, if there was someone who saw me, who looked at me and looked in my eyes, it was always the children." 

She was unprepared for the pain. After thirty minutes, her hips ached, her back became stiff, her legs sore. She didn't know how to adjust her body to lessen the pain . 

"I can only imagine how people who sleep rough, on the streets and in public toilets, feel," she says. "It was a useful experience to feel the actual physical pain." 

She sat for five hours. 


Nikoletta on the street. Photo: Tidningen Nu

While most adults ignored her, a few would stand back and take her picture.

"Like I was an object. They'd meet my gaze but not react, then walk off," Jozsa says. 

"It's very easy, as a politician, to say that the situation for beggars is horrible and a violation, but I had to try to understand. I will never truly understand - because I realized things would have to go so very wrong in my life before I sit down to beg on the street - but at least I have an inkling."

Jozsa says she agrees fully with European Affairs Minister Birgitta Ohlsson's recent outrage that Romania, from where many beggars in Sweden now travel, has not put to use the EU funds to combat poverty that are available to them.

The local politician also underscores that while she was begging in a country where she knew the language and the culture, the Romanians who travel here do so with no knowledge of what it will be like.

"I cannot imagine that anyone would do that voluntarily," she says of some critics' argument that Romanian Roma in particular have made begging into a profession. 

Jozsa herself grew up in Hungary, which she says has some similarities to Romania. She blames ignorance for the failure to help the poorest communities in eastern Europe.

"I feel these countries need knowledge  to tackle the question 'How can we make sure these people fare well?'," she says. "People should not have to leave their country because they can't live there."

She says she hopes Sweden and other EU nations will now put further pressure on Romania to access EU funds.

"It's obvious that Romania must take care of its people, and it's obvious that we must help them," she tells The Local.

Editor's Note: The Local's Swede of the Week is someone in the news who - for good or ill - has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as Swede of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.

Ann Törnkvist (ann.tornkvist@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Almedalen 2015
BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Seven
Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt speaking at Almedalen 2015 on Saturday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Seven

It's the seventh day of Almedalen, the most important week in Swedish politics, and the Left Party is running the show. The Local is live blogging the key moments. READ  

Swedes on cusp of snail control breakthrough
Snails are enjoying a bumper year at Swedish gardeners' expense. Photo: By macrophile on Flickr via Wikimedia Commons

Swedes on cusp of snail control breakthrough

Since the spring, frequent rain has ensured prime conditions for one of the gardener’s biggest enemies - the snail. Swedish scientists, however, may have found the ultimate deterrent. READ  

Russian bombers seen off Swedish coast
A Russian Tu-22M3 Tu-bomber. Photo: Pavel Golovkin

Russian bombers seen off Swedish coast

Swedish fighter jets were sent on Saturday morning to monitor the activity of two Russian bombers to the east of Gotland. READ  

Almedalen 2015 with the EU Commission in Sweden
'Today's refugees could be tomorrow's Zlatan'
Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

'Today's refugees could be tomorrow's Zlatan'

Sweden is grappling with how to handle a large influx of asylum seekers while some other EU nations brush off responsibility – but it's important to focus on the benefits of immigration as well, high-profile panelists agreed at an Almedalen event. READ  

Almedalen 2015
Opposition head pledges lower taxes on first jobs
Sweden's Moderate party leader Anna Kinberg Batra at Almedalen. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

Opposition head pledges lower taxes on first jobs

Moderate Party leader Anna Kinberg Batra spoke about jobs in her first speech at Almedalen since becoming head of Sweden's biggest opposition party. READ  

Almedalen 2015
BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Six
New Moderate Party leader Anna Kinberg Batra speaking at Almedalen. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Six

Anna Kinberg Batra - the new leader of Sweden's biggest opposition party, the Moderates - focused on job creation in her first speech at Almedalen, Sweden's huge week-long politics forum. READ  

Jump in solo children seeking Swedish asylum
A playground at Märsta immigration centre in Sweden. Maja Suslin/TT

Jump in solo children seeking Swedish asylum

A record 1447 unaccompanied children sought asylum in Sweden last month, figures from the Swedish Migration Board have revealed. READ  

Almedalen 2015
Cashless society faces backlash from losers
What are the downsides of a cashless society? Photo: Per Larsson/TT

Cashless society faces backlash from losers

Sweden is possibly the nearest thing the world has to a cashless society, but some Swedes are worried about the effects on rural areas, pensioners - and personal integrity. READ  

Almedalen 2015
Sweden's green leader in second Auschwitz gaffe
Åsa Romson at Sweden's Almedalen Week. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

Sweden's green leader in second Auschwitz gaffe

UPDATED: Sweden's Deputy Prime Minister and Green Party leader Åsa Romson has stirred up a storm after she placed Auschwitz in southern Germany instead of Poland, her second gaffe about the holocaust. READ  

Oasis star calls Zlatan 'idiot' but 'likes Sweden'
Noel Gallagher performing earlier this year (L) and Sweden’s star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (R): Photos: TT

Oasis star calls Zlatan 'idiot' but 'likes Sweden'

One of the UK’s most iconic Britpop era stars, Noel Gallagher, has caused a stir in Sweden after calling its star footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic a ‘moron’ and slamming a Nordic journalist. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Learning Swedish: different rules for expats and refugees?
Sport
IN PICTURES: Thousands welcome home Sweden’s heroes
Politics
Almedalen: The Local's guide to Sweden's power players week
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Swedes soak up sun on hottest day of year
Sport
Sweden celebrates greatest sporting victory in decades
Blog updates

2 July

Som eller att (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! It happens quite often, that my students are confused over when to use “som” and when..." READ »

 

26 June

Editor’s blog, June 26th (The Local Sweden) »

"Greetings from Stockholm, We’re about to transport our newsroom to the idyllic Swedish island of Gotland for..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: July 1st
Sponsored Article
VIP Mingle at Almedalen's hottest event
National
Swede battles slug invasion
Sponsored Article
What can we learn from Swedish women's sex habits?
National
VIDEO: Is this herring tasting clip an 'insult to Sweden'?
Gallery
Property of the week: Visby, Gotland
National
Sweden set for sunniest week of year
Gallery
People-watching: June 26th-28th
Features
The Local's essential guide to who's who in Swedish politics
National
More Swedish military exercises as Russia aggression fears grow
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Travel
Why Swedish camp sites are set for a bumper summer
National
Swedish summer's really on its way (at least according to forecasters)
Gallery
People-watching: June 24th
National
Why are southern Swedes angry about becoming 'Danish' again?
Society
Lifestyle: When to catch your favourite features on The Local
National
Is Sweden one of the world's most peaceful nations?
Sponsored Article
Harstena: Travelling to Sweden's secret islands
National
One in ten Swedish cats homeless
Sponsored Article
'I constantly evolve my Swedishness'
Gallery
Property of the week: Värmdö, Stockholm
Society
Would you eat this Swedish pizza?
National
Swedish royals' dream honeymoon
National
Swedish hospital opens first centre for male rape victims
Gallery
People-watching: June 20th-21st
Photo: TT
Lifestyle
Midsummer: The Local's guide to Sweden's craziest festival
Sponsored Article
Murder, myth and magic: Travelling to the birthplace of Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: June 17th
Sponsored Article
Gallery: Life in Sweden's secret archipelago
Society
Seven alternative names for Sweden's Prince Nicolas Paul Gustaf
National
FBI returns stolen Swedish books
National
Want to smell like Zlatan?
National
Royal joy over birth of new prince
Gallery
Property of the week: Brantevik, Simrishamn
National
How racy graffiti inspired a teacher's high school sex class
Gallery
People-watching: June 12th-14th
National
As it happened: Prince Carl Philip marries Sofia Hellqvist
Technology
Is Stockholm the world's creative capital?
National
Timeline: Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
KTH President: ‘Sweden’s success is because of its size’
Gallery
IN PICTURES: New royal couple Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Features
Ten Swedish festivals to discover
Features
Ten reasons Stockholm is definitely way cooler than Copenhagen
National
VIDEO: Watch Swedish man rescue baby elk from cold creek
National
VIDEO: Have you seen this jet ski blunder at a Malmö hotel opening?
Sponsored Article
Why expat women are choosing Swedish natural birth control
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: Nine questions every expat should ask
Sponsored Article
The millionaire teacher who leads by tough love
Sponsored Article
How to change the world: Malmö to Mogadishu
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

3,216
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se