1. These people are waiting to be booked at the Sermig.
Did you go there?
Yes, of course. At the beginning I slept there for almost four weeks.
How was it?
How? You had to leave at 7 a.m. and then return at 8 and at 9 you could enter.
People have to queue every evening?
No, only on Monday and Thursday, to book.
These people sleep at night at the Sermig and eat in Via Cottolengo. Here you can also get sheets, clothes and old shoes. There's a lot of different people here, homeless Italians, foreigners, everyone.
This is the park of Porta Nuova. There are three or four photos. Saturday, Sunday
Did you take the photos because of the nature or the people in the background?
For both, for nature too, why not?
This is a guy who sells callcards at Porta Palazzo. With this camera you can't really see.
What do you do with a call-card?
You can phone home. It costs 5 Euro. Even today I bought one. There are different cards for different countires. This one is good for Moldova, for Romania. For 5 minutes I can talk for more or less 20 minutes.
This is Porta Nuova again, Sunday, when everyone isn't working. Here you can find work, you can find friends.
How does it work? When do you go there, who gives you a job?
There is very little work for foreigners in Italy, because it's all black. For men there's construction, for women there's cleaning, housework.
Valentino park. Here 90% of the people are foreigners.
What do they do here?
You can see what they do. Football, picnic.
This is a small trader in Via Nizza. He sells clothes, shoes.
Are there many of them?
Depends. When the police are there, there's none, when there are no police, there are ten, fifteen, twenty.
These are the people who are waiting in Via Ventimiglia to renew or get their residency permit. At 9 in the morning it opens. This is the Immigration Office.
Three days ago they called me to say I had to go there to renew my permit. It lasted two days. But this was my fault, because I bought a revenue stamp in liras and they are not valid anymore. There must be a revenue stamp worth 20.000 liras and the hospitality paper. The Casa del Mondo gives me the paper. I have to go there once every three months.
Then you are in Italy legally?
Yes, I applied for asylum. 90% of these people here have a work permit and that means they have a regular contract too. What I have to do every three months, they do only once a year.
It means that to get a work permit you need to have a job already?
Yes, and to get a job you must have already worked for at least two years. That's why these people are waiting anxiously for the new law, to get their permit.
But this law seems actually to be against immigration.
This one is, but in 1998 there was a law in favour of immigrants. All of them. In those days it was different. Three, four, five hundreds people were waiting for their work permit. This new law is valid only for carers of old people or for home helpers. I don't know how it is for men. For women, the people they work for have to go to the police headquarters to do the document, so they don't need to go back for their home countries before.
So: "Looking for a job, looking for a job". It is the notice board of the Romanian church of the Foreigners' Office in Via Cottolengo. It's all written in Italian and Romanian. They change it every week.
These women are waiting for a job in Porta Nuova . There are Moldavans, too, I talked to them. The others are Ukrainian.
This is a place near the Sermig where you can sleep. He didn't book, he built himself this small house. Also my cousin, when he arrived in Italy, had to sleep like that for two days, it was December.
Anyway, he got his first permit three months ago, but he had already worked here for three years. Then, he went home with his job contract. You have to go to the Italian Embassy with the contract to get the visa, then you have to come back to Italy again to get the first residency permit, which lasts three months.
But why should you go home?
Then, the longest permit lasts three years and after ten years you can apply for the citizenship. That's ok, but the important thing is the first permit for work reasons. I am sure all these people you see in the picture would prefer a legal job. There's only a few who accept black jobs only because they don't like to work legally. But they can't.
Ah, this is a train that I've been seeing for three years, this is the first time it left. An old train. It had to be an anniversary, I don't know.
These are the women waiting to get in the Sermig. Women can enter at 6 p.m. Men at 8.30-9 p.m.
This is the little Moroccan market at Porta Palazzo. They sell everything.
This is the same person I photographed from the bus in Corso Unione Sovietica. I took another one while I was coming back. He works all day long, every day.
The photos you took are like a picture, a sight on how foreigners live in Turin. It's as if it had been done by a journalist.
I'm not that sure it is so.
You didn't take any photos of your own life, your places.
That's not there. Anyway I took some pictures of the dormitory, a photo of my bed, but I can't find them. They've disappeared.
You've also said something about that library you go to every day to check the Internet. Why didn't you take a photo of the library?
A photo of the library? Why?
Because it could be interesting together with a comment. Then, you talked about the castles you like so much.
I told you I wouldn't do anything concerning myself.
I don't know. Because I wanted the photos to say something to foreigners who come to Italy and think that it's heaven. I didn't want them to refer to me.
Yes, there is this stereotype. But do you think in all lives there's something that resists to stereotypes? Now with these photos you're creating another one. The other stereotype is that here in Italy this is the reality.
Italy is a pretty country. Nice for tourists, Italians who have a job. But for an immigrant who arrives here without a work permit, who sleeps in a burned house it isn't nice. I wanted to take a picture of a place like that, but they wouldn't let me do it. There's a 6 square-metre room, there are five beds and another two mattresses on the floor. A group sleeps at night, the other during the day, they rotate. They're Romanian and there are also two Moroccan guys.
You're lucky not to live there.
Yes, I know. The last picture, which is not there, is my bed at the dormitory, with the comment that a foreigner could arrive there after a month.
Was your experience here in Turin good, something you still remember or a bad one?
Something good? What does it mean?
A nice story, I don't know. For instance a man from Bangladesh told me than once an Italian woman helped him, she gave him a ticket because he didn't have one and the ticket machine at the bus stop wasn't working.
Nothing similar has ever happened to me. A beautiful thing that occurred to me is that that cousin who arrived three years ago now has a baby girl, she was born three months ago. The baby's Italian, she has got documents saying she was born in Turin. She is still considered a foreigner but when she'll be 18 she'll choose whether to become an Italian citizen or not. Until then, she can live here without any problem. She's got health care, insurance, she can go to school, like every Italian.
Have you got any children?
I have a daughter at home. She'll be 6 in a month. Well, mine isn't an exceptionally good story. I had a nice life in my country, too. I had a house, a car, my family, all.
Why did you leave Moldova?
It's not that I came here to make money or something like that.
What did you do at home?
I owned a firm in Kishinev.
What is Kishinev like?
Beautiful. A beautiful town. Modern, touristic, also. There's everything, bowling, tennis. It's the only beautiful town in Moldavia, all the others haven't got either electricity or gas.
Don't you want to go back?
I'd like to but I can't. There are reasons why I have to live far from my family. That's the reason why I have to apply for asylum in this country and bring my family here.
What are the most significant differences between Kishinev and Turin?
I don't Know, after two months I wouldn't know what to tell you. Turin is a bit bigger. And Kishinev is a little cleaner.
What do you mean?
Because here in Turin they clean only the city centre, the historic part, the rest... The little villages around Turin are nicer but...
And the people?
People are the same. Also the language is very similar, it's easy to learn.
Do they speak Russian in Kishinev?
We speak Russian too. Russians are more or less 30% of the population. There's people speaking Russian though they're not Russian. But there's everyone, Jews, Ukrainians. After '91 the Jews went to Israel, then they came back and bought cheap houses in Kishinev. I like that town. Also my friends, who went to work abroad, have come back and bought houses in Kishinev.
Would you like to do the same?
No, I can't go back.
Now, the bad part of the story?
I think this homeless life is bad.
You don't seem like you're homeless.
Who am I, then?
90% of the so called immigrants are clandestine. The immigrant is a person who has his documents.
But you are waiting to be declared a refugee, so you are legal and therefore you're an immigrant.
But this is a bad situation, anyhow, it's not a story.
If you're a good person, nothing terribly bad or aggressive happens to you. There isn't any bad story. 'Italian' stories, I'd say. If you don't like it here, go away. I hope when I have the documents and bring my family here everything will be different.
As soon as you have your documents you'll be able to bring here your family, won't you?
For a legal refugee, that's ok. You need to have some things, like a job, a house to live in with your family and that's it.
Can everyone who comes here from Moldova, with a Romanian nationality, apply for asylum?
I don't know. The reasons I had were peculiar but I don't want to discuss them now. However, Moldova is a special case, there most of the people are Romanian, but it's a republic which belongs to the former USSR. However there's a list of the country you can obtain asylum from and those you can't. From Romania you can't, it's two years now. If you come from Moldova you still can. Moldova is almost independent, it's a small country, but about 30% of it is under a regime which cannot be called communist, but rather criminal.
A 'mafia' regime?
Yes. I'm sure there has to be a connection between that government and Berlusconi's.
So you ran away from the Moldavian mafia and landed in the country of mafia?
Yes, but Italy is a democratic country with the rules of a capitalistic country. The rules of the game are respected. In my country these rules don't exist and that's the problem. I think mafia exists in every country on earth. In every country there are policemen or State functionaries working for the mafia. Moldova has some more. The problem is that there is a sort of fight against illegal immigrants who come to Italy, for instance, but no one fights against the governments. When the president of a non-democratic country goes to visit another there's a military band, display, everything, a big welcome. But when people come here to work, they are treated as if they were clandestine. And this is something I don't like, this is what needs to be changed one day, I don't know if that's possible.
Since the day I arrived in Italy I lost 8 kilos, I think that's a good thing, maybe the only good thing.
A person who applies for asylum, then... They're not all like I am, there are people who had already asked asylum in all the European countries, because they like to travel, to try. They have no obligations, no family, they make up nice stories. There are also Romanians claiming to be from Moldova and applying for asylum in France, for instance. Then they went to Spain, because it's warmer there. I'm judging no one's behaviour, I'm only saying that asylum is open to everyone. And I am not sure if it's ok like this. Because there can also be offenders. Another thing is that there are about 800,000 Moldovans in Europe who had to pay $2000 for the visa to come here to work. These people arrived here with a visa for tourism which cost them that much.
Did you arrive here through a visa like that?
No, I did it all by myself, with no travel agencies, nothing, with a visa for business, since I had a firm of my own. Those who came here to work, and who are all extremely poor, have all paid. A tourist visa, for ten days.
Would you miss anything if you went away from Turin?
Well, if I get a negative answer from Rome, I'll have to leave. There are many places like Turin in Italy where you can go. Not illegally, as a homeless, but as a tourist. These are old things. Besides, it is not enough for me to know that something is old, it has to be nice, as well. I like it when it is clean, when people are kind.
Could you describe once more how one of your days is, a common day?
How does it start? I wake up at 7, there's music every morning, and I go to the library or to 'Mediaworld' to see if there's something new, a new video, otherwise I go back to the library. Then, after two hours I go back to the dormitory and I cook something to eat. I can also eat in Via Cottolengo, I've got the card but I prefer to go there to talk to my fellow countrymen, they're my friends, too. They're different guys, they're drivers, workers, engineers, doctors, teachers. There are people who work in building also back at home and who came here only to make a little money. There are people who left their families, someone who brought his wife here and now they're divorced, the man is alone and the woman with someone else or vice versa. Back at home, being a businessman, I think you haven't met these kind of people... I did many things, export-import, I worked with wood, then with wine. With the wood industry all went more or less well, but when I started working with wine there was much more money and many more problems, as well.
Is Moldovan wine good?
I think it's better than Italian wine. Better than Georgia's wine, but the first who entered Moscow with wine were the Groznij. After that come the Moldovans. Because of a lover of Brezniev, so to say, and she had the opportunity... Ok, in USSR everything worked like that. During the last ten years, since there is the democratic regime, they've only changed the party they belong to. Yesterday I was a communist, today I'm democratic. I just changed my membership card. Nothing has changed and that's why there are so many problems.
Can we go back to your day for a minute...
Can't I talk about what I want?
Of course you can, but we suspended the story at the Cottolengo...
Don't you understand I don't like to talk about myself, because I don't know what you want to use this for.
Understand that you're not talking about yourself, but about someone who has and will have no name.
It's not shrewdness.
Sheer shrewdness. A journalist's shrewdness. I have some friends who are journalists, in Italy, too, I know some Moldovan emigrated journalists and I know everything about how you manipulate people through writing. As in political campaigns. That's why I don't like journalists.
But I'm not a journalist.
But you do this job...
But I don't want to manipulate. I'd like you to talk while I record and the recordings will be the result.
Also journalists do the same, go on, talk, I'm only recording and then... If I want to advertise I take a nice picture, if I want to show that something is bad, I take a photo of a homeless, of something ugly. What do you want to do, besides showing the truth?
I think I never said so because I'm sceptical, I know that the truth has no face you can really show. I think the manipulation you're talking about is used by journalists and sociologists to comment in the way they like what authentic people had told them.
It might work without a comment too, it's enough to ask the right people and they'll tell you what you expect them to.
You're right. The only answer is that I had no prejudices and I wasn't looking for people who told me what I wanted to hear.
I'm interested in what you think about these things, immigrants, foreigners, refugees?
As I said, I want to have no opinion and no prejudice.
But you're working for someone here in Italy.
I'm a tourist, a tourist-artist, if you like, I have a Hungarian passport. Also, I don't get paid for this job. The costs of the project are paid by the Comune di Torino, by the EU and by Fiat.
As they say: who pays rules.
I don't know. Anyway, the projects are so many that I don't think that those who pay for them have had time to check them all. That's why we proposed this kind of a project.
So, then, to go back to the awful scene... I was travelling by bus between Porta Nuova and Via Negarville. It was a Sunday evening. The bus was packed. There were five or six Romanians who had drunk too much. They sang and talked too loud - it's not typical, because the Romanians, even if they're drunk don't usually behave like that. But to go back to what actually shocked me, one of them fell down on top of an Italian. The Italian says: "Be careful, you're hurting me". And the Romanian goes: "What do you want? Who are you? Get lost!". Other passengers intervened, then the Italian lost his nerve and started shouting: "And I can't say a word about this shit or else they'd say I'm a fascist!". I think it would have been normal to tell that drunk Romanian to fuck off. I think this is the Italians' fault, they should be more severe with who deserve it. There are thieves, there are hooligans, drunkards, like these, and I'm not talking about those who have a few drinks, but those who cause a disturbance. It is so in each country, even the democratic ones. Because democracy is made for kind men, isn't it? It is so. In Italy it's not. If a thief gets caught, he's brought to the police, there's the trial, the verbal judgement, and he is given an expulsion order, then a second and then a third - a person may have five, six expulsion orders.
What is an expulsion order?
It's a paper saying that that person has to go away from Italy within 15 days. The new law will say that if he's caught for the second time the policemen take him to the border, and if it happens once again he might end in jail for a year. And this law will not refer to thieves, but to clandestine who are here working. Offenders can be caught also ten times, as I was told by a guy I knew in the Vallette jail, because they know all the policemen. They say if you're a democratic person, then you don't like the police.
I'm not sure of it. Policemen, too, can be democratic people, who do this job and they do it well. Besides, to do that job you need to have a certain kind of personality, a bit aggressive, maybe. A calm person cannot do that job. To be able to stop a big and aggressive hooligan you have to be a big and aggressive policeman. But then when a big and aggressive policeman catches a woman, it's no good. Here if you're caught by the police and you're a clandestine but you did nothing wrong, they let you go. In Germany it's different. If you get caught there, after two hours you're already back in your country.
Have you learnt anything new since you're here?
Things about life...
If we're talking about business, I'm sure that the game is the same here. And then, as regards the people, for instance I had never before talked to a man as sincere as Max, from Congo, my roommate. It is important who you are, you can be African, Romanian, Ukrainian, what really matters is who you are as a person. If I don't like a guy, I won't talk to him. Max is intelligent, sincere. Since the first time we met, we have talked about our problems. He, too, has a family and, like all Africans, he wants to get Europeans documents so that he can bring his family here. It's easier for them than for me, anyhow.
I hope your situation will be settled as soon as possible. Imagine you already had your work permit and that your family was here already - what would you say about the experience you're now living? Was it important?
To be sincere, this experience for me is not as shocking as it is for you or for an Italian, for example, because thirty years in the Soviet Union are a much richer experience, so to say. So are two years in the Russian Army...
I see. But I wanted to ask you about this thing of having to start over again, to put together a new life. Not all of us have this opportunity or tragedy.
We all have the opportunity but we're not all willing to do it. I personally don't know if I'm willing to. Only a half of the time has past. And above all I don't know if my family is ready for this. Moldova has a special situation. Is there war in Moldova? No, there's no war. But everyone has a gun in his pocket and they're waiting for a sign to shoot. This situation might go on for five, ten years. All for the Russian influence. I say so but I haven't any problem with the Russians. I have many Russian friends, I speak Russian even better than I speak Romanian. But that country's politics is so aggressive, it's got a negative influence on the smaller countries in that area. It's the fault of the old communists, who are still influential. Without them everything would be better. That's the reason why all these people are here, otherwise ten days in Italy would be enough to see everything, the sea, the mountains, the castles, everything and then you go back home to work. In my country there are people who work without a wage for months and retired people who get no money for two, three years. Potatoes grow, but that's all. The whole economy is controlled by about twenty people, all of the ex-KGB agents. They're specialist in ruling, but also in public relations. There are wonderful transactions which are impossible to do for a common businnessman. But they can, because they have an establishment at their back. These people control transport firms and travel agencies.
Why did you say that these things would be shocking for an Italian?
I meant in the same way as a person from the Soviet Union knows nothing about what goes on here. For example, that the currency has changed. And there has been a lot of time to get prepared for it, still today prices are written both in Liras and Euros. In Moldova we changed our currency ten times in ten years. Dollars, Lei, Rubel, Rubel with coupon, Lei with coupon, etc.. And those changes took place in one night, not a year, as it is here. Today Rubel, tomorrow Lei, all my money in the bank wasn't valid anymore. For a Moldovan, then, these things seem like nothing.
There's another story about differences. I know a Moldovan girl who works in a woman's house, not an old woman, she cleans the house and helps the woman, because she broke her leg. An Italian woman, with a family. She has worked there for a month and she told me: "I can't stand working in there". Why, don't they pay you? "I work from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. and my wage is 700 Euros a month. And during the day I can't go out. If I need to go out for five minutes, I have to ask for permission two days in advance. Where do you want to go? Why aren't two minutes enough and you need five, things like that. Ok. Once she went to the market to buy something. And she took a bag costing about ten cents. She got home and the woman got very angry because she bought this bag, worth 10 cents, without asking her permission. This woman had to pay one million Liras a day to be in the hospital when she broke her leg because she had no insurance. She was in the hospital for 18 days, she had to pay 18 million Liras. It wasn't a big problem. But the ten cents were. I can't understand this thing. And the guests, then. In Moldova, when there's a guest in your house and you are eating, you ask him to join you. It's normal. Almost all Italians are rich, but a neighbour arrives, or even a friend, she can go on eating for half an hour offering nothing to her guest. And then, they eat almost nothing. When her daughter with her children goes to visit her, that woman always says: "These children are too greedy, they eat too much. Two yoghurts etc. I can't understand." That's it.