Growing up in the south of Italy, my story isn’t the best story. I come from a single-parent family. It was an arranged marriage. My mother was very young, just 16. They had to go overseas for seasonal work because there was no work in the south of Italy, so I was left behind with my grandparents. My town was destroyed by an earthquake and there was no school, so they put all us kids on a train and took us to nuns. I was five when this happened. I stayed there for six years. It was a not very nice place. When I finished school, I trained as a chef.

How I came to Australia is a nice story. I met my ex-wife – she’s Australian – when she was on holiday in Italy. I met her in Rome. I was in the city and she was looking at a pair of shoes. If it wasn’t for her, I would never come to Australia. I’ve been here for more than 33 years.

I’ve been back to Italy many times. I used to go to Italy every single year when my mother was still alive. But since she passed away in 2007, that was my last time. I would like to go back one more time to say goodbye. I still have friends and some relatives.

Since I divorced, I’ve had a decline. I had lots of friends and people around me but since the divorce everybody ran away. My ex-wife introduced me to a sect, so I was brainwashed. All these people who were supposed to be my friends, they reject me. I was completely isolated.

I went back to work as a chef. I was working 16 hours straight. One day I was cleaning French beans and the knife twisted and I got a deep cut on one of my fingers. I went to the doctor, and I got five days off for the injury – and I was sacked! That’s when I went to the tribunal. I had Legal Aid, but I got paid only $1000. Can you imagine?! That was my collapsing. I was depressed and felt rejected. I wasn’t able to work anymore.

I started selling The Big Issue during the pandemic. It’s been more than a year, and I realised that it was something good. The Big Issue is really helping me. I now find myself with a bit of extra money. And it’s helped with my anxiety and my depression. I meet people who are very nice. And one of the best things is that you get to read a story you might not normally read. Some stories really impress me.

It’s not easy selling The Big Issue. It takes a lot of courage. I don’t feel very comfortable to stand on the street with the magazine in my hand. But there is always a positive when you see people coming to you and get the magazine and smile. I get to meet people. I’ve met lots of beautiful people. It is nice talking to them; they respect you as a human being.

Pasquale sells The Big Issue at George St, Sydney

Interview by Anastasia Safioleas.

Photo by Autumn Mooney.