© Tidningen Nu
A Swedish local politician who pretended to be a beggar for five hours tells The Local about the shame, the physical pain, and being seen only by passing children and the few people who photographed her "like an object".
Nikoletta Jozsa was elected to municipal office in Järfälla, northern Stocholm, three years ago. Originally a social worker who volunteers in a soup kitchen in her spare time, Jozsa says she felt she had to experience what beggars in Sweden go through.
Pulling on a pair of jeans and a warm jacket, she headed to Drottninggatan, a main shopping fare in central Stockholm that is usually thronged with people.
"I was terrified. My first thought was, ''I'm going back home'," Jozsa tells The Local. "I stood there for so long hesitating before I sat down, until I felt I just had to do it. And when I was finally sitting, the first thing I felt was shame."
Unable to even look up, she sat pondering how she had made herself so vulnerable to other people. In the end, she looked up, but was saddened even more when she did.
"What upset me the most is that I no longer existed. People would either almost walk into me, because they hadn't seen me, or they'd make big detours to avoid me," she explains. "I'm not sure which was worse...."
"And some people would pull their kids away from me," says Jozsa, whose voice breaks down in a sob. "And that was the thing, if there was someone who saw me, who looked at me and looked in my eyes, it was always the children."