Have you ever camped in the snow

General German newspaper for Romania

It is Wednesday, January 17th, 2018, shortly before eight o'clock in the morning. In the Upper Suburb, the traffic jam extends, as usual, from the Anger to the Katharinentor and certainly much further. Children rush to school, their parents to work. It's cold, and temperatures below zero were the order of the day. There is some snow on the Şaguna sports field. At the corner across from the Katharinentor there is a small, blue tent.

Andrei Samuil camped here during the night and is just putting together his sleeping bag, then the tent. Then he stretches out his arms, lifts them up and breathes in the fresh air - it looks like morning exercise. He chats calmly with a curious passer-by, then lifts the large rucksack on his shoulder and sets off.

The stocky man has been roaming life like this for six years. The state took his house, he had immense living expenses, no job, no family - no one to support him. At first Andrei only had a blanket, then a sleeping bag with which he slept in the open air. The tent has been his home for around a year.

The 48-year-old from Kronstadt accepts to have a conversation with me, to tell me his life. I'm allowed to go to the restaurant where he drinks his coffee, across from the Black Church. I want to pay, he agrees. Andrei Samuil is decent, addresses me with the pronominal politeness. I also try to be polite and not sit very far away from him, but his smell takes getting used to. "Andreas", as he speaks of himself, has dirty fingernails, a warm voice, answers all questions and gives many details about everything. Sometimes it's hard to make the connections between the pieces of information, but I like to listen.

Vienna, home

After the death of his parents and the loss of his house, he moved to Bukovina, where his mother came from. He had day jobs there, a friend whose girl he took care of, he lived in the monastery for a while. One day he decided to pursue his wish: Vienna. Andrei Samuil walked to the Austrian capital for several weeks. There he took care of the horses of the fiacers on Stephansplatz.

He soon made friends with his boss, Martin Bürger, ate with him in the restaurant where he lived in his holiday home, and had the keys to his apartment. He even bought him an electric bike, the man says. It was a good life. But the expired identity card brought him back to Kronstadt, where he has been roaming around for a year in the hope that someone will help him renew his document.

For almost 2200 days, legs have been the homeless person's only means of transport. They took him through three European countries - Romania, Hungary, Austria. They have crossed mountains, meadows, lakes and rivers, cities and villages, experienced heat and bitter cold. For three years, however, they have been threatened with a serious illness. Andrei shows me his legs. Gangrene. A horrible sight!

Three years ago he wanted to wash away the horse manure behind a horse on Stephansplatz in Vienna. The animal was frightened and kicked both shins with its hooves. The Romanian received regular medical treatment in Vienna. In Kronstadt he takes care of himself: he washes the wounds with water and is afraid that the Romanian doctors will see the amputation as the only variant. He hopes to see spring. And to travel to Vienna again, to the “horses”, to the friendly people from “Caritas”, who provided him with everything he needed, to the doctor Christina, who operated on him 5 times.

Faith makes him strong

On his way, the homeless find strength in faith. The broken legs strengthened his faith. “The love of God and the Holy Virgin are always with me,” he says, they give him courage and strength. He does not give up an icon and two small prayer books, which he always carries with him. “Just as Jesus Christ could sleep in a manger and in a cave, so I can sleep in the open air. It's nice! ”Explains Andrei Samuil. “I'm not afraid of anything,” he says, even though he sleeps in parks, on benches, in the forest, on the meadow, where animals or other homeless people, thieves or drug addicts sometimes drop by. To avoid the latter, he refrains from going to the canteen for the homeless in the Bartholomäer Viertel. He prefers to eat what he gets from people in front of church, or what is left over in the evening in restaurants where he knows employees.

In Bukovina he wanted to become a monk, or a pastor, but the “only real chance of his life”, as he calls it, has not come to anything.

The greatest dream

“A family, a child and a house, that would make me the happiest person!” Says the man who just turned 48 yesterday, on January 24th. "A cow, a piggy, chickens, a horse that I can really love ..." should also exist on his farm.

His voice grows lower, his gaze is somewhere far away. The woman of his dreams can look like she was created by God, she may also be ugly, he will make her beautiful. It is important to him that she has a good soul and is poor so that they work their way up slowly together. And if he were ever to become president, he would have a large block built for all the poor children and homeless people to live in. Until then, however, he is hoping for a renewed identity card that will bring him “home” to Vienna.