Joseph moved around a lot with his family while he was growing up: they lived in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Austria. He speaks fondly of his childhood and his family. When he was 14 he returned home from school to discover his house had been destroyed by a dam which had burst and flooded the area. His mother and two younger brothers had died. His sister was taken to an orphanage in the Czech Republic and for most of his subsequent life he hasn’t seen or heard from her. Joseph was left alone with his father who didn’t deal well with his loss and left Joseph to look after himself.
After Joseph finished school he went to work in a mine and met his wife. They had two children but Joseph describes the relationship as an unhappy one. After the Velvet Revolution of 1989 there was a big increase in unemployment and Joseph couldn’t find work at the mine. After 30 years of marriage he and his wife divorced. Joseph left their house and returned to where he grew up in Bratislava, where he started a job, but then he had an accident three months before he retired which meant he could no longer work and doctors suggested his foot may have to be amputated.
He had nowhere to go and ended up sleeping rough in a park. Depaul Slovakia found him and were able to offer accommodation and basic care. The staff supported him to apply for his state pension. He is now waiting for surgery and rehabilitation for his legs and is looking forward to living independently so his children can visit him. He has reconnected with his sister, who also moved back to their home town.