Europe’s most Illuminated Gutter (Part 2: The King of Aurolac)

Something that made life a lot more bearable and safe was the hierarchy that was established two years ago when THE LEADER came to live there. Now he sees himself as the King of Aurolac.

Aurolac is the drug that Bucharest’s street children became famous for: Schnueffelkinder. The image of homeless children in Bucharest that are sniffing glue or car-paint out of a bag to their mouth and nose made the news all across Europe for the last 20 years or so. It’s what many think of when they hear street children of Romania…or at least the people I have talked to about this in Austria.

THE LEADER of the canal considers himself to be the leader of his canal and the King of Aurolac. He is also known to paint his head and leather jacket (among other things) in the silvery liquid to represent his superiority.

I understand why he is the leader. When I saw him I was quite scared. Covered in tattoos and hung with chains around his neck and arms he sat in his little kingdom not wearing anything except for shorts. It was definitely him, who was in charge.

Everyone who lives in the canal gives their daily earnings to him so he can redistribute material goods to his people in a way that he feels is fit.

But is that a bad thing?

I wouldn’t necessarily say so. I remember years ago my mother would tell me never to give money to street kids because they would just have to hand that money to their leader who would go off to buy drugs for himself leaving the kids with nothing…but is this really the case?

From what I have heard and seen over the last few weeks I would say no. Yes, THE LEADER collects all the money and buys drugs for himself, but he is also the drug dealer for the rest of the people. Everyone buys drugs from him. He makes sure it’s decent stuff that won’t kill them. On top of this he makes sure that everyone has something to eat during the day and at night. He is also the person to go to if you need medicine. A young mother and her child were in need of some medicine today when I was there. The street worker from the NGO I was doing my research at told me that she was given enough money to go to the Pharmacy to buy what it was she needed.

The man I talked to in the canal itself also told me that life was so much better now than it was before THE LEADER had been there. C. told me that there was a constant fight over who the leader would be. The gutter was not a secure place to be. Now however the story was different. It is clear who the leader is. All the inhabitants know that if there is a dispute, he can solve it. He is also the one that takes care of people who are new in the canal, or who are very young. Some people I spoke to from the social centre spoke very highly of this man since he was like a father to them when they were very young and new on the streets.

It’s definitely not a great place to live, but this man seems to have made it a more home-y and safe place for many of the inhabitants.