• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

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

Ann Törnkvist · 10 Apr 2014, 14:27

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. 

Story continues below…

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
Startup heavyweights back tech ace told to leave Sweden
Spotify founder Daniel Ek is one of the big tech names backing Tayyab Shabab (right). Photo: Ingvar Karmhed/SvD/TT & personal

Major names in the tech community have rallied behind a developer who was told he must leave Sweden within a month due to an admin error made by his former employer.

World Cup of Hockey
Europe sends Sweden home from World Cup
Tomas Tatar scores a winning goal against Sweden's Henrik Lundqvist. Photo: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP

Sweden was kicked out of the World Cup of Hockey after losing to Team Europe in overtime.

Poetry can 'save Arab world' says Nobel Prize hopeful
The Gothenburg Book Fair. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Speaking at the Gothenburg Book Fair, Syrian poet and possible Nobel Prize contender Adonis said that religious fanaticism is 'destroying the heart of the Arab world', but sees salvation in poetry.

Malmö gunfire missed child 'by centimetres'
Police in the area. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

Bullets fired in a drive-by shooting in Malmö nearly hit a child, police have told Swedish media. Four men were injured, one critically, in the attack.

My Swedish Career
'As long as you hook Swedes on the first try, they'll be back'
Kerryn Beattie (left) and Craig Donovan (right), founders of the Nordic Kiwi Brewers. Photo: Nordic Kiwi Brewers

The Local speaks to a Kiwi expat who took on the tricky world of microbreweries in Stockholm and won.

Masked men on mopeds shoot four in Malmö
Censorgatan in Fosie is a relatively quiet residential area in Malmö. Photo: Google Maps

At least four people have been injured in a shooting in southern Malmö.

78-year-old crowned Sweden's best grower of oilseed rape
Gunnar Henningson celebrates his well-deserved victory. Photo: Svensk Raps

"This is one of the happiest days of my life,” said 78-year- old Gunnar Henningson, after being crowned Sweden's "Rapsmästaren".

Sweden to bring in tighter rape laws to up convictions
Mari Heidenborg, president of the Sexual Offences Committee wants to drop the Swedish term fro rape Våldtakt. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT

Swedish lawmakers are to propose adding a controversial consent clause to the country’s rape laws.

Sweden's centre-right voters up for deals with populist SD
Jimmie Åkesson with Centre Party leader Annie Lööf and Moderate leader Anna Kinberg Batra. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

A growing majority of voters for Sweden’s four-party centre-right Alliance support working with the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats.

Coeliac disease not caused by early weaning: Swedish study
Carin Andrén Aronsson now plans to investigate why Sweden has such high levels of coeliac disease. Photo: Polarbrod

Mothers who stop breastfeeding early are not to blame for their children developing gluten intolerance, a new Swedish study has found.

Sponsored Article
Let's Talk: a personal Swedish language tutor in your pocket
National
Muslim teacher leaves job after not shaking male colleague's hand
Sponsored Article
‘I view the world in a different way now’
Travel
Why we adore autumn in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 21st
Blog updates

7 September

Svensk or svenska? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! My inbox is full of questions :-). Here’s one about when to use “svensk” and…" READ »

 

23 August

A Summer in Sweden (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"For our first year here in Sweden we decided to have all our holidays in Sweden.…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
'Creating a sense of home': Collective living in Stockholm
National
Stockholmers hunt killer badger after attack on neighbourhood hipster cat
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
National
Six key points in Sweden's budget plan
The Local Voices
How a Swedish name finally made recruiters notice this Iranian's CV
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: 'So much more than beaches'
Gallery
Property of the week: Luleå
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
People-watching: September 16th-18th
Culture
Why Swedish TV has given these kids' trucks a sex swap
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
People-watching: September 14th
Politics
Why Sweden is putting troops on holiday dream island Gotland
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
The Local Voices
'What I mean when I say: I came here to blow myself up'
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Society
VIDEO: Are Swedes that unfriendly?
Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden’s ’a-kassa’
Features
INTERVIEW: How Arthur the jungle dog opened hearts and minds
Gallery
Property of the week: Smögen, Västra Götaland
Society
Sweden's ancient forest tongue Elfdalian fights for survival
National
Where Sweden's foreigners are from
Gallery
People-watching: September 9th-11th
The Local Voices
Shakib, 23, works and pays taxes — but will Sweden let him stay?
National
Watch this Swede roll his kayak without spilling his beer. Respect.
Gallery
People-watching: September 7th
The Local Voices
'Swedes are polarized on refugees - it's the welcome mat or the exit door'
National
WATCH: Yes, this Swedish rising star really is Abba legend's grandson
The Local Voices
'Whenever I apply for jobs I’m treated like an unwanted stranger'
The Local Voices
Is Swedish bosses' ignorance keeping refugees out of jobs?
2,967
jobs available