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Remembering Luxembourg's most well-known homeless man

Remembering Luxembourg's most well-known homeless man

4 min. 20.05.2016 From our online archive
This past May 18, he would have been 85 years old: Adalbert Boros is probably not a name you recognise, yet this homeless man truly left his imprint on Luxembourg.

(MV/NG) The obituary of Adalbert Boros may be long forgotten by some: it was published in the "Luxemburger Wort" on Tuesday, April 30, 2013. Located on page 58 at the bottom left of the newspaper, the text was written by the Servior care facility "Am Schleesschen" of Echternach, where Adalbert spent his final days.

But for those who remember him, Adalbert would have celebrated his 85th birthday this past May 18.

Adalbert wasn't originally from Luxembourg. He wasn't a great politician, a famous artist or even an officer of a large company--but his death saddened many, as was evident by the outpouring of sympathy on Facebook.

A day after the obituary was printed, no less than 620 people shared the photo of the funeral announcement on the social media network--and that's not even including all the comments users left.

An engineer before ending up in the streets

Aldabert was homeless, or a "Strummert", as they say in Luxembourgish. And he was probably the most well-known of all the "Strummerten" in Luxembourg.

He was a real personality, a man who was intelligent and cultivated, but one day he decided to become an outsider in society.

Adalbert, also called Albert, was born in Hungary on May 18, 1931. In 1955, at the age of 24, he arrived in Luxembourg, his engineering degree under his belt.

He helped build the  Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge--better known as the Red Bridge--a project which was the result of an international competition launched by the Luxembourg government in 1957 and commissioned in October 1966. Adalbert also worked as an engineer at the dam on the Esch-sur-Sûre lake, which was inaugurated in 1957.

No one can say exactly when Albert found himself living on the streets. His new home was the Luxembourg City train station, where he slept and spent most of his time. It was only towards the end of his life that he took refuge at the Ulysses centre, where he could find warmth at night.

A great teacher for students

It was students that helped contribute to his fame. Given his knowledge of mathematics, Adalbert soon became a sort of relief for students, as Gilles Klein explained: "Many of us asked him for help. As for me, I paid him 50 Luxembourg francs, and he helped me with my homework in mathematics or geometry.

"Others gave him cigarettes. We would get settled inside the station or on a bench in front of the station. He never wanted to go to a cafe, but he took the necessary time to explain everything."

50 years on the street in Luxembourg

Albert was not, however, very talkative when it came to his own life. Klein recounts: "When I asked him the question to know why he lived in the streets, he dodged the issue and told me it was better that I concentrate on my homework. It was at the end of the late 1970s. Once I asked him how long he had been living this way. He told me around 10 years. He already had a long beard and was getting old."

Some say it was because he would not have supported the fact that people committed suicide from the bridge that he had moved on and dropped everything. What is certain is that he did not like to be reminded of his past.

An anecdote comes from Marcel Noe, in charge of the Am Schleeschen care facility where Adalbert had lived in the last years leading up to his death, who describes an event that took place on August 1, 2006: "I wanted to please him by hanging a picture of the Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge in his room. It took me by great surprise when he vehemently struggled against this initiative...we understood that he preferred not to be reminded too much of his past."

His last years in Echternach

Marcel Noe continued: "At first, we thought it was difficult to bring in someone from the street, but it was nothing. Albert liked to be alone. He regularly went to mass. He had his rituals, he was precise and didn't like us to change anything, even the seating plan. He was very suspicious of others, and you had to already know him to get into contact with him. That said, he had a big heart and cared for others when he felt they needed it."

Many people probably thought he was dead prior to seeing the announcement in the "Luxemburger Wort".

"We had a lot of telephone calls when the announcement appeared in the paper. I knew he was someone famous, but it always surprised me even more because he didn't have any family. This is also why we insisted that a funeral mass take place in his honour," Noe said.

Noe accompanied Adalbert the last days before his death, during which time Albert said he hadn't been feeling well. "Yet he didn't want to be hospitalised," Noe said. "He just said he was going to die. He fell asleep peacefully."