The art of the story
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Actually, she’s always smiling when you pass by her sales place in Ottenser Hauptstraße. She calls out “sweet” after her favorite customers or blows them a kiss. But she is not always in a good mood. Maybe she’s trying to cheer herself up – with cheerfulness. Because the 49-year-old is under constant stress. Sometimes she’s in pain, sometimes she doesn’t know where she’s going to spend the next night or how she’s going to get through it. She shares her joy and sorrow with her customers. Which can be irritating at times. For example, when she’s cold one day, and the next day a customer gives her a really great winter jacket – only to find herself freezing again the day after that. “The jacket? I gave it to my son,” Argentina says, embarrassed, when asked about it. “He’s freezing, too.”
It’s rare enough that Argentina has something to give away. The Romanian has lived in Germany for eight years. But she doesn’t have a permanent roof over her head. “I have no home – not in Romania, not in Hamburg,” she says, her eyes filling with tears. She sleeps with relatives in turns – in fear of being discovered by their landlord, for example.
This morning, she’s up again at 5 a.m. because the landlord has threatened to call the police if he catches her again. “That’s stress,” she says, dragging out the word in a way that makes you feel how stressful the situation is for her.
In fact, Argentina has often made the acquaintance of policemen in this way. “But they’re so nice,” she says, laughing again. They apparently advised her – jokingly – that she should just get married, then she wouldn’t have any more problems.
But Argentina does not want a new man in any case. She had one, and she loved him very much. She was 14 years old when she first saw the then 18-year-old: she was working in the fields in her small village on the border to Moldova. “I saw Diomed and immediately fell in love with him,” she says. “He had such beautiful eyes. I thought, ‘What a handsome man!'” Diomed felt the same way. The two married, even though her parents were against it. That’s because Diomed and Argentina had no education. “We had a very hard life,” Argentina admits. They were left to work in the fields. “But I was very happy with Diomed,” she says, smiling sadly. They always stuck together, and he always helped her, “even around the house”.
But 22 years ago, her husband died of a heart attack. Argentina was only 27 years old, her children nine and eight. She was barely able to make ends meet. She never got over his death. When her children both went to Hamburg, she followed them. She has not been able to find a job yet. But that will come, she believes. And her children and grandchildren are all her happiness. “Sweet,” she says with a long, stretched smile and puts both hands on her heart.
Argentina sells Hinz&Kunzt in front of Denn’s in Ottenser Hauptstraße.
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Text: Birgit Müller
Übersetzung: Irina Mortoiu
Foto: Mauricio Bustamante