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ON THE ROAD: Centuries Of Roma Gypsies

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Bianca
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« on: July 11, 2009, 05:40:44 pm »



There are striking similarities between the Roma
and some groups of Northern India










                                              On the road: Centuries of Roma history 






BBC NEWS
July 11, 2009

Beginning a series on the modern-day plight of Roma Gypsies in Europe, by BBC Russian for the World Service, Delia Radu traces the ethnic group's nomadic history back to northern India.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


"Who are these people?" asks the man behind the counter in the photo store in Southall, an area also known as London's Little India.

He is handing over my order: a hefty pile of colour photographs, of which a picture of two Roma women and their children (above) is the first.

"They look just like the Banjara in Rajasthan - that's where I come from," he says.

He points to a beautiful print on the wall, showing a glamorous group of female Banjara dancers.

The similarity is striking.

Historians agree that the Roma's origins lie in north-west India and that their journey towards Europe started between the 3rd and 7th Centuries AD - a massive migration prompted by timeless reasons: conflicts, instability and the seeking of a better life in big cities such as Tehran, Baghdad and, later on, Constantinople.

Some of these Indian immigrant workers were farmers, herdsmen, traders, mercenaries or book-keepers. Others were entertainers and musicians.

They settled in the Middle East, calling themselves Dom, a word meaning "man".


  Post-war European governments on both sides of the Iron Curtain denied the Roma Holocaust survivors any recognition or aid.
 
To this day they retain their name and speak a language related to Sanskrit.

Large numbers moved into Europe, where the D, which was anyway pronounced with the tongue curled up, became an R, giving the word Rom. Today's European Roma (the plural of Rom) are their descendants.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2009, 09:44:01 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2009, 05:49:22 pm »











'Untouchables'



Maybe because they were carrying customs and memories connected to their Hindu gods, the Roma were regarded as heathens in Byzantium and were assimilated into a heretic sect: "the Untouchables" or Atsingani. This designation is the root of the words used for "Gypsy" in most European languages, such as the French "Tzigane" and the German "Zigeuner".

By the 14th Century, journeying further into Europe, perhaps fleeing the Turks or perhaps the plague, the Atsingani were to be found in Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece.

Roma have worked as coppersmiths possibly since the "Persian period".
 
They worked on the land or as craftsmen but in two Romanian principalities, Wallachia and Moldova, they were pushed into slavery and feature prominently in property deeds.

About a century later the Roma fled towards Ukraine and Russia.

Some presented themselves as pilgrims or penitents, and like any such group wandering throughout Europe during that era they were given aid or shelter.

This welcoming attitude changed dramatically around the year 1500.

Historians believe this might have happened because the numbers of the immigrants grew bigger, but they also were seen as spies for the Turks, and consequently hunted and killed by decree.

This led to what some historians dub "the first Roma genocide" - a period of fierce repression.

There were hangings and expulsions in England; branding and the shaving of heads in France; severing of the left ear of Roma women in Moravia, and of the right one in Bohemia.

Following these expulsions and killings, large groups of Roma travelled back East, towards Poland, which was more tolerant.

Russia was also a place where the Roma were treated less heavy-handedly, notably being allowed to retain nomadic or semi-nomadic ways of living, as long as they paid the annual taxes - the "obrok".
« Last Edit: July 11, 2009, 05:51:44 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2009, 05:53:36 pm »











Children removed



In contrast, the policy of the West, especially during the Age of Enlightenment was to "civilise" the Roma through brutal forced assimilation.

The repression included: 24 strokes of the cane for the use of the "Gypsy language"; forbidding Roma to marry among themselves; restricting the numbers of Roma musicians; taking away children as young as four years old from their parents and distributing them among the neighbouring towns, "at least every two years".

Roma families were among the first victims of the Holocaust.
 
In some cases these policies did force Roma to become assimilated. But many took to the road again.

The persecutions culminated in the Holocaust, or Porajmos - "the Devouring" - as it is called in Romany.

The Roma found themselves among the first victims of Nazi policies.

They were sent to die in the gas vans of Chelmno, and were subjected to gruesome experiments in the extermination camps.

Up to 500,000 Roma are believed to have been killed under fascist rule.
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« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2009, 05:56:44 pm »










Children removed



In contrast, the policy of the West, especially during the Age of Enlightenment was to "civilise" the Roma through brutal forced assimilation.

The repression included: 24 strokes of the cane for the use of the "Gypsy language"; forbidding Roma to marry among themselves; restricting the numbers of Roma musicians; taking away children as young as four years old from their parents and distributing them among the neighbouring towns, "at least every two years".

Roma families were among the first victims of the Holocaust.
 
In some cases these policies did force Roma to become assimilated. But many took to the road again.

The persecutions culminated in the Holocaust, or Porajmos - "the Devouring" - as it is called in Romany.

The Roma found themselves among the first victims of Nazi policies.

They were sent to die in the gas vans of Chelmno, and were subjected to gruesome experiments in the extermination camps.

Up to 500,000 Roma are believed to have been killed under fascist rule.
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Bianca
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« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2009, 06:04:12 pm »











                                                     Living in filth for 10 years 

 

                                        Konik is the largest refugee camp in the Balkans





BBC NEWS
SPECIAL REPORT
June 20, 2009

More than 2,000 Roma (Gypsies) who fled Kosovo during the conflict in the 1990s still live in Konik refugee camp near Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro.

The sprawling slum of tents and shacks is built near the largest rubbish dump in Montenegro.

The mayor of Podgorica recently said the refugees should go back to where they came from.

Save the Children is working to integrate the Roma, but few stay long in the local school.

As the UN marks World Refugee Day, Save the Children's Phoebe Greenwood meets two men who describe appalling living conditions at the largest refugee camp in the Balkans.
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« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2009, 06:08:54 pm »











VESEB BERISA, AGED 37



My family and I have nothing to eat, nothing to wear, nowhere to take a proper shower. We have been living like this for 10 years.
 
I work all day every day scouring the rubbish tips for metal to sell and maybe, if I'm lucky, earn 200 euros (170) a month to feed my family. We cope because we have to.

I had a job in Kosovo. I ran my own business buying and selling fruit and vegetables. I would like to do that here in Montenegro but I can't. I don't have any resources. I've no money to get started.

The worst thing about the camp is that it's dirty. The hygiene here is terrible. It causes so many health problems. Everything we have is dirty. Nothing can stay clean here. It causes so many health problems.

A lot of people are sick in the camp for lots of different reasons, most often in their lungs because the air here is so foul. Lots of others have problems with their hearts and blood pressure. But in 10 years of living here, I've only seen the UN help one boy who was sick.

It's too hot here, over 40C in the summer and there isn't enough water. Water comes into the washing area near the toilets but the water pressure is so low, there isn't enough for all of us.

Some of the kids here go to the local school. They were given books there but they have no clothes and most of the time they are hungry, so how are they meant to think about learning?

I would leave now if I could, but where would I go? I would like to have a proper house, if only to know that I have my own home, a roof over my head. I want to leave a house for my children as my father left a house for me.
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« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2009, 06:09:57 pm »



Piles of rubbish are strewn
across Konik









I have five children and I'm worried about their future. My heart aches for them. I was sitting here half-an-hour ago, I heard music coming from somewhere and I imagined my family dancing. But I can only imagine that now. I know I won't see it - it's not possible any more.

We are in a critical state. It's too much. No-one helps us anymore. No-one comes to see how we are or how we live.

We want to live as other normal people live do. We are the same as the other refugees, the Bosnians and Croats who came to this country during the war. But the refugees from Bosnia have been given houses, all around this camp. Why do they have different conditions to us? Why do we have to live like this?

We are people too. We are humans. We need help from the UN, from the Albanians and Serbs who put us in this situation. What do they think in America, in the UK? They are also responsible for the conditions we live in. They have done nothing to help us.
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« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2009, 06:10:59 pm »



Hamza says most of the refugees
are afraid to go out from the camp









HAMZA PAJEZITAJ, AGED 21
I run a business in the camp, cleaning people's cars and carpets. I started it two years ago. I won a competition at the local Catholic Church with my business plan and they gave me 500 euros to get started.

Sometimes taxi drivers come from the town to get their cars cleaned because I charge three euros and it's five euros in town. I'm pretty affordable.

I was 10 when we left Kosovo. I remember arriving at the camp and thinking it was just too full of people. There were more than 10,000 people here then and it's still crowded now.

The people who live around us here are really aggressive. It's discrimination. I don't have as many problems as most people in the camps because I've met people from town through my business. I'm accepted in a way. But most of the others who live here feel too afraid to go out.

It's not so much the local people who fight with us as the local Roma who have lived here for years. They consider us, refugees, to be a lower status than them.

It's difficult for us to start any kind of life here because we can't earn money. We're not allowed to sell on the streets so most people survive by eating food from garbage cans.

The conditions in the camp are bad. It's dirty everywhere and there aren't enough toilets. The biggest problem people have is to heat enough water to wash themselves and their things.

The air stinks of the piles of rubbish we live in. The garbage depot is just next door. It's the main depot in Montenegro and takes the rubbish for the whole of Podgorica. They burn rubbish there almost every day and the smoke comes over into the camp. People have a lot of lung problems here.

Conditions are getting worse because people's homes are falling apart. They were only ever meant to be temporary and we've been living in these huts and tents for 11 years.

The mayor of Podgorica said he wants us to go back to Kosovo but it's just not possible. Our houses were burned and our lives there were destroyed.

Those who are lucky go abroad, to Europe. Others just have to keep their heads down and survive. I can't go back to Kosovo now. I have nothing there. This is my home now.
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« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2009, 11:07:05 am »











                                               Russian Roma face image problem 



                                       As part of a series on Roma Gypsies in Europe,


    Yuri Maloveriyan of BBC Russian examines how their reputation has changed in modern-day Russia.






BBC NEWS,
July 12, 2009

Russians have traditionally tended to think of Roma (Gypsies) in two ways: as horse-dealers and rustlers, or as rolling stones, wandering around the world in colourful costumes and singing romantic songs.

But in the new Russia this old image has been replaced by a different one - one generated by media reports from villages where Roma drug dealers sell heroin.

And although pro-Roma organisations try to argue that this picture does not apply to all Roma, their voice is drowned out by the media.

"All of a sudden, their houses started to burn because of some electrical problems, and entire clans would leave," remembers Yevgenii Malenkin from Russian non-governmental organisation City Without Drugs, pointing to a burned house not far from Yekaterinburg, in central Russia.

Mr Malenkin says that about seven years ago Roma people living in the house were openly selling heroin.

"Right here on the crossroads crowds gathered, waiting for drugs to arrive. Those who had received their dose were lying in the bushes nearby. And police cars would be there too, providing security for the Gypsies," he says.


  There are no Roma engineers, no Roma doctors, they are all drug dealers

Yevgenii Malenkin
City Without Drugs started fighting drug addiction and drug dealing in Yekaterinburg 10 years ago.

But it seems Mr Malenkin's attitude towards Roma has been tainted by his experience.

"There are no Roma engineers, no Roma doctors, they are all drug dealers. There are five Roma villages in Yekaterinburg and all five trade drugs," he says.
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« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2009, 11:08:41 am »










Misrepresented



Nikolai Bessonov, one of the best known Russian specialists on Roma, believes that they are misrepresented in Russia.

"The real number of drug-dealers among Roma is exaggerated. The news only shows the drug-dealers. We never hear about Roma who study in universities, work on a farm, we don't see Roma engineers or Roma doctors," says Mr Bessonov, whose daughter and son-in-law are actors in a famous Moscow Roma theatre, the Roman.

Mr Bessonov lives in a village near Moscow where, he says, there are many Roma of "respectable" professions: a lawyer, a jeweller and a number of legitimate traders.

But the media tends to ignore them and this leads to misunderstanding.

A recent poll by the independent Levada Centre found that 52% of Russians think negatively of Roma.

According to Russia's 2002 census, there are 183,000 Roma in the country.

But Mr Bessonov estimates the number to be nearer 250,000.
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« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2009, 11:10:04 am »











Secret identity



Nikolai Bugai, foreign relations counsellor at the ministry of regional development, says that Roma are able to live in harmony with the rest of the community.
 
Can reviving traditions improve the image of the Roma?

He recently visited a village in the Krasnodar region in the south of Russia, where out of a population of 13,000, at least 5,000 were Roma.

"There is a farm there of 220 hectares, which is headed by a Roma and the workers are also Roma," says Mr Bugai.

Nikolai Bessonov believes that Roma people themselves are partly responsible for their negative image, in that they prefer to keep their identities secret.

"When I try to write about Roma who work, I ask a Roma doctor if I can talk about him, but he refuses, saying that he doesn't want his patients to find out who he really is because that might create work-related problems. I approach a teacher and she tells me the same thing," he says.

It has been said that those Roma who have assimilated into society have therefore partly lost their Roma identity.

But Mr Bessonov disagrees.

"When Russians stopped wearing beards and woven bast shoes, stopped farming and went to work at a factory or became, for instance, engineers, no one said that they 'assimilated'. So why when a Roma goes to work in a mine or study at a university, do people say that he has assimilated?" asks the historian.



  "Our women want to work, but they can't find anything because they are illiterate"

Elza Mihai


He says it is important that Roma continue to respect their traditions, no matter what they do in life.

Many Roma are afraid to assimilate and so they don't send their children to school. And if they do, it's only for a year or two, so that children learn to read and write.

But the lack of a complete education makes it difficult for these children to find a job later on in life.

"Our women want to work, but they can't find anything because they are illiterate," says Elza Mihai, a teacher from a Roma village in the Leningrad region.
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« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2009, 11:13:18 am »










Myths and prejudices



Ms Mihai hopes that with such difficulty in finding employment, Roma people will eventually be convinced to send their children to school for longer than just a couple of years.

But better education alone will not improve the negative image of Roma in Russia.

After all, there are many myths and prejudices about other, well educated peoples.

Nikolai Bessonov hopes that revival of Roma folklore will help improve the image of Roma in Russia.

Together with his daughter and Roma son-in-law, Mr Bessonov has created a folklore group "Svenko", where artists in typical colourful Roma costumes dance and sing Roma romances.
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« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2009, 11:18:38 am »





http://www.romanes.net/


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8148033.stm
« Last Edit: July 18, 2009, 09:05:29 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2009, 09:22:31 pm »










                                                      Grappling with a Roma identity 






VIDEO
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7591669.stm
Life on the Edge: Looking for my Gypsy roots


By Steve Bradshaw
Executive Producer,
Life on the Edge 
BBC NEWS

It was just a passing remark, the first time I heard Arpad Bogdan talk about the Roma father who had left him
in an orphanage, and wonder if he should try to find him.


Arpad Bogdan spent his childhood in a state orphanage


We were drinking late at night in a semi-derelict house in a Budapest side street. We had skipped over bicycles and rubbish to make our way inside. I should say this was not a doss house but a trendy Urban Minimalism club.

"He doesn't have to tell you this you know," whispered our mutual friend, director Antonia Meszaros. And it was then that I realised how conflicted Arpad is - how much of a dilemma his Roma inheritance has created.

Arpad is a much-garlanded young film director, whose feature film Happy New Life has won many awards. It is about a young Roma man's unbearable childhood in an orphanage. In the end, he can't hack it - unlike Arpad who emerged from his own orphanage into the University of Pecs and a promising film career.

"My film," Arpad says, "is about the dilemmas of someone who realises that in order to face the future, he must come to terms with his past - and that's something that I still have to do in my own life."

Arpad was one of thousands of Roma - or gypsy - children who were taken into orphanages during Hungary's Communist years. The truth is cloudy here, but it seems that in some cases their parents wanted this, in many they didn't.
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« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2009, 09:32:31 pm »









Sense of identity



"In the orphanage, being Roma had no positive implications for us," Arpad recalls. "But some of the kids were visited by their parents and they brought smells and flavours that were strange to me and even a little bit frightening.




The Roma people are
Hungary's largest minority


"There was also something exotic and exciting about them. The smell of an open fire, the smell of freedom."

Like many of his peers, and like many people in a globalised world, Arpad is now unsure where he belongs. He certainly seems to have a stake in the metro-savvy, globalised world of Budapest's cafes, salons and grunge clubs.

But does he also belong - at some level - in the world of Gypsy Harlem, Budapest's District Eight? Or in the villages where he reckoned his parents must still live?

Soon after our meeting, using powers under new Hungarian laws, Arpad sets off - in our own film - to find his parents. He had a rough idea where they lived, and had set off on a voyage of discovery before, only to lose his nerve.

What he finds is extraordinary. Newly released records show his parents "liked a drink, [and] discipline their children by beating them".

He meets a brother, Laszlo, he had never met. He learns their mother is dead. And finally, he meets his ragged, handsome dad. A new young wife hangs back, in the shadows of the garden. Some 40 dogs bark and make our film crew nervous.
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