21 January 2015

Our vendors: Bertl Weißengruber - Kupfermuckn, Linz, Austria

Bertl, 63, is one of the original vendors of Austrian street paper Kupfermuckn. He started selling the street paper in Linz right after it was founded in 1996.

Born in Vienna, Bertl grew up living in a shanty town, like so many other bombed out families after the war, and went on to move around Austria as a vagabond.

“Vagrancy was still illegal in Austria until 1972 so I was sent to prison a few times,” he says.

“Finally I went to Hamburg and became a sailor for five years. I was in Leningrad, at the North Cape in Norway, in Shanghai and then in Caribbean until the shipping company went bust and I ended up in Linz, where I started a family.

"I have four children with my former wife, with all of whom I am still in good contact.”

Then one day he collapsed with a stroke. It was downhill from that moment on. His wife finally threw Bertl out and he was back living on the streets.

“I went to Arge, a non-profit association for the homeless. There I could move into a halfway house,” Bertl recalls.

“At the same time the street paper Kupfermuckn was founded, and because I only had a small limited income delivering a daily paper, so I started selling Kupfermuckn as well.

“It was tough at the beginning and the first day I only sold one copy. Slowly but surely, though, more people got to know me and since then it got better and better."

Eventually, Bertl found a regular spot in Ottensheim at a local farmers' market.

“I am even friends with many stall owners and customers, often exchanging the paper for food, but I also receive invitations to eat as well,” he says.

“The Ottensheim actor Ferry Öllinger already knows me as well. He stars in the TV Show 'Soko Kitzbühel'".

Now, Bertl is working hard to get his life back on track. He lives in a flat share for homeless people and is taking part in all events organised by the street paper. He is acting in a drama group and is a DJ at Radio Kupfermuckn.

Did you know INSP works with over 114 street papers around the world? You can help celebrate thousands of vendors, like Bertl, by joining our Thunderclap social media campaign during #VendorWeek 2015. Sign up here.