“I was so shocked by how badly some of the local Swedes were treating this poor beggar. Some people were really nice to him but many abused him – not many took time to try to understand why he was there. I really wanted to understand the situation of beggars and why they have come here,” Josefin, 37, told The Local on Wednesday.
Her chats with Florin Serhan, 21, began in halting English in March this year. But they became longer and more intense.
“Soon I was taking him an umbrella when it rained and blankets when it was cold.”
Josefin took her children – she has six – down to see him and sometimes they played football with Florin and his friends. She and Florin went on the occasional excursion to Gothenburg city centre.
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Before Florin met Josefin, according to an interview he gave to the newspaper Göteborgs-Posten who first ran the story, Florin had become so disillusioned with Swedish life that he was ready to go home to his father and his 12 siblings in rural Romania.
But, one night, a few months after they'd first talked, he felt emboldened to tell Josefin that he had feelings for her.
“I had lent Florin my cell phone so he could call home and talk to his family. And suddenly, one night, he called me to tell me he had feelings for me and wanted us to be together.”
At first, Josefin says, she tried to resist what she was feeling. She reminded Florin that she had six children and told him he needed a younger woman.
But her resolve soon crumbled. “Deep down, I felt exactly the same as he did.”
The couple are getting married in December. Photo: Private
The couple soon moved into a house just outside Halmstad, halfway between Malmö and Gothenburg, and Josefin has also visited Florin’s family in Romania.
“His mother died when he was a child but his father is very happy.”
“We will be getting married in December in Sweden and then plan to have a big Romanian wedding in two, maybe three, years’ time.”
READ ALSO: 'Swedes are coldhearted towards beggars'
Has she met with any resistance from friends and family to the idea of marrying someone who was begging outside a supermarket just a few months ago?
“There are some who say that the age difference is too big or that he is only marrying me to stay in Sweden. But the vast majority of people are happy. People smile and say congratulations when they see us and say that our story is some kind of Disney fairytale.”