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Life Stories roma PERSPECTIVE IMIGRANT ÎN ROMÂNIA: ŞI RISCURI Coordinators Mălina Voicu Claudiu D. Tufiș

FUNDAŢIA SOROS ROMÂNIA


soros foundation romania

roma - life stories

- Coordinators MĂLINA VOICU CLAUDIU D. TUFIŞ

Bucharest, 2008


CONTENTS

Life strategies of Roma communities A short history of the Roma people in Romania Life strategies Goals, norms, resources and strategies References

10 11 16 19 22

chapter 2 The Kalderash Roma of Vereşti The Community The People

25 26 49

chapter 3 The Ursari of Bălţeşti The Community The People

67 68 78

chapter 4 The Roma of Geoagiu The Community The People

97 98 108

chapter 5 The Roma of Mimiu The Community The people

119 120 128

chapter 6

148 149 161 170 177

chapter 1

The success stories Ioana Claudiu Andrei Elena


We wish to give out thanks to Daniel Arpinte, Alina Bîrsan, Delia Bobîrsc, Melinda Dincă and Claudia Petrescu for the work they have performed for this project. We also wish to thank Ovidiu Voicu, who provided us with all the support necessary for the success of this project. Our sincere thanks to everybody who “opened their hearts to us” during our interviews. This project would not have been possible without your life stories.


chapter 1

Life strategies of Roma communities


ROMA PEOPLE - STORIES OF LIFE

Life strategies of Roma communities

Mălina Voicu Claudiu D. Tufiş

The Roma are a highly heterogeneous population from the social, economic, cultural and historical point of view. From their very arrival in Europe, they have been found to be highly non-homogeneous, both as place of origin, and as routes that they followed, their destinations, the influences that each group suffered along its travels, and the social and occupational structure of the original group (Kenrick, 2000). After arriving in Europe, the differences between groups have persisted, but despite the spatial dispersion and the different cultural contexts of each group, their ethnicity never changed. Although there is no common history of the Roma in Europe, the unifying factor for each group’s history is the highly developed ability to conserve its own culture and values together with the rejection of assimilation by other groups (Achim, 1998: 64). Despite their high ability to preserve their own cultural identity, the Roma also showed a high ability to adapt to the different social and cultural contexts they settled in. Even if in certain circumstances, their nomadic or semi-nomadic way of life led to a traditional outlook which precluded the capacity for adaptation to an evolving society, the Roma permanently adapted to the context of their adoptive societies, but only in bits and pieces, such as their living and working conditions, and not their traditional taboos and values, which remained unchanged. Silverman (1988) calls this process “creative adaptation”. Due to creative adaptation, the Roma population maintained its common cultural base, despite great physical distances separating individual members. In the context of the multiple changes experienced by the Romanian society after the fall of communism, the Roma population had to face a series of challenges and to find new adaptive patterns in order to respond to the economic, social and political changes. This work aims to identify the adaptation strategies used by individuals and communities of Roma ethnicity in order to deal with a new environment. We are telling the story of Roma communities and their individual members from the point of view of the way that they have found their niche in a society in transition. We want to see how the Roma “managed” to deal with transition. Our research included four Roma communities, and some of the individual members thereof: Mimiu, a district of Ploieşti, Bălţeşti, a village in Prahova county, Geoagiu, in Hunedoara county and the Kalderash of Vereşti, Suceava county. 10

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All four communities consider themselves Roma. Apart from the stories of these communities, we have also discussed individual “success stories” of persons of Roma origin who, despite resisting assimilation, have managed to become high-achievers. We have used a qualitative approach, without any claims to a comprehensive description of all the strategies used by Roma living in Romania. The main tool we employed was the semi-structured interview, through which we obtained information about the past of Roma communities, as well as about the local history, from teachers, priests and public servants. In order to recreate individual life stories we interviewed four members from each community along with four high-achievers1. This chapter describes succinctly the history of the Roma people in Romania, as well as the main strategies employed as responses to the differences from the Romanian society. We chose to present the history of the Roma in order to create a context for the community and the individual histories. This chapter is followed by four chapters describing each of the four communities, and a fifth chapter concerned with the Roma “high-achievers”. A short history of the Roma people in Romania The Roma first appeared in Romania in the 14th century, when gypsy slaves were sent as gifts by the monarch to the monasteries of Tismana, in Valachia, and Bistriţa, in Moldavia. The route by which the Roma arrived in Romania is not clear, but there are several alternative hypotheses. According to one of them, the Roma arrived in the space currently known as Romania at the time of the Tatar invasion, while another hypothesis suggests the Byzantine Empire as the most probable route for the Roma migration (see Achim, 1998, for more details). Regardless of the path they followed, the Roma slaves had already been present in Romania in the 14th century, and remained as such until the mid-19th century. The Roma arrived in Romania during the first wave of their migration to Europe. Despite settling in a rather large geographical area, their migration was not uniform. In Western Europe, the Roma could not find a niche in the social structure, being “an unwanted people, and treated as such” (Achim, 1998: 67), while they were accepted in the three Romanian principalities, as the lowest social stratum. For this reason, their numbers in the Romanian states have always been consistently high. The explanation for this acceptance is the economic complementarities between the Romanian majority and the Roma (Burtea, 1998). Because most of the Romanian population was agricultural, the Roma’s versatility in trade and commerce (Ponce, 1999) found its own niche in the principalities’ economy. In Western Europe, 1 To protect the identities of respondents, real names have been replaced with fictional names in the next chapters.

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trades were the monopoly of guilds that controlled them strictly, which restricted the Roma’s access (Achim, 1998). Another factor was the low density of population in Eastern Europe. The Roma’s nomadic nature thrived due to the large surfaces of unoccupied land (Achim, 1998). The social and economic situation of the Roma in the three Romanian principalities was different during the Middle Ages. In Valachia and Moldavia, the Roma were slaves to the monarch, monasteries or private owners (boyars). In Transylvania, which was a part of the Hungarian Kingdom, and then of the Habsburg Empire, their situation differed from one region to the next. In areas bordering on the two other principalities, the Roma were slaves, while in other regions their status was that of “royal serfs”, the direct subjects of the king (Achim, 1998). Thus, the Roma enjoyed for the longest duration their own social freedom, as well as freedom of movement in Transylvania. Their only obligations were the payments of dues to the king/emperor. In time, some communities became sedentary on the nobles’ estates, as serfs, or on the outskirts of predominantly German towns and villages, where they were considered second-class citizens. The first category was rapidly assimilated, while the second maintained its ethnic identity, along with its ‘second-class citizen’ status (Achim, 1998). In Valachia and Moldavia, the Roma remained slaves until the mid-19th century. Regardless of their nomadic lifestyle, they belonged to an owner. As the Middle Ages progressed, part of them became sedentary on estates or monasteries grounds, used as serfs, servants or skilled workers. The Roma who kept their nomadic lifestyle had freedom of movement, after paying their dues to their owner, to whose estate they had to return every year. Although the owners had no rights of life and death over the slaves, they could punish, imprison, sell and separate them from their families. Although the Transylvania Roma were on the most part free men, they were never citizens with full rights. In the 18th century, Empress Maria Theresa and her son, Emperor Joseph the Second, took a series of measures aimed to change the Roma’s way of life. Their aim was to eliminate the nomadic character of their lifestyles. The Roma were forced to settle, their horses and carriages were confiscated, and their freedom of movement was strictly regulated. Moreover, they were forbidden to wear their traditional clothes, and to go semi-naked in public. The use of the Roma language was punished, and they were forced to practice agriculture. The Roma children were forced to attend school and church, and some of them were taken away from their families to be raised by non-Roma families. Roma marriages were forbidden. These measures were not applied ad litteram in the whole province, as their application was left to local authorities. After the end of the two monarchs’ reigns, the measures were abolished, and many Roma returned to their traditional way of living. Roma slaves were freed as part of the process of modernization of the Romanian 12

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provinces, a first and important social reform in Romania’s modern history (Achim, 1998). The law, adopted in mid-19th century, while insuring that all Roma became free, did not take into account the specific elements of their traditional lifestyle. Again, the law aimed to eliminate the nomadic character of the Roma and to force them to take up agriculture. Many of the freed Roma refused to adapt to their new status, continuing to practice their traditional trades. As free people, they had to pay taxes to the state, but many of them were unable to do so. According to Achim (1998), the freeing of the Roma paradoxically worsened their economic situation. Most of the Roma fled the estates or left the country. According to the same author, the freeing of the Roma slaves in the Romanian provinces coincides with the second wave of Roma migration in Europe. Part of the Roma settled in towns where they continued to practice their trades. This is how the Roma communities located on the outskirts of Romanian towns came to be. Between the two world wars, the Roma were faced with several changes. After WWI, part of the Roma population living in rural areas was given land, increasing their standing with the majority population. The economic development and industrialization, on the other hand, eliminated the need for most of the Roma trades. Instead of becoming interested in industrial work, the Roma were employed as untrained workers. This led to a further segregation between the Romanian and Roma populations. During WWII, the Roma were the victims of the Nazi ethnic-cleansing policy all over Europe. In Romania, in 1942, the Antonescu regime deported part of the Roma population to Transnistria. The nomadic Roma, along with individuals with criminal records were mostly targeted, as the government was trying to get rid of “troubled Roma”. Achim (1998) estimates the number of deported Roma to around 25,000, with a mortality rate of approximately 50%, due to the poor living conditions in Transnistria. The Roma community in Vereşti still contains survivors from the Bug deportations. The effects of the communist policies on the Roma population were ambivalent. On the one hand, the communist regime forced a modernization process upon the country, which had some positive effects on the Roma. The mandatory schoolattendance improved the general level of education of the Roma population. Urban planning policies led to the elimination of the Roma shanty towns located on the outskirts of towns. Their new residences had all the modern utilities (running water, central heating, etc.). A lot of the traditional Roma districts disappeared as a result. Many of the measures also affected the coherence of the Roma communities, and led to increased assimilation. The Politburo of the communist regime aimed at first to include Roma persons in the party and appoint them in management positions. However, the regime failed to provide “positive discrimination” to justify its decisions. They tried

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to persuade the majority population that they were trying to correct the social stigma and unfairness which had affected the Roma population for centuries. Instead of helping the Roma population, these measures only contributed to increased tensions between the Roma and the Romanians, with the latter perceiving the measures as arbitrary. However, the increased school participation of Roma children, and the support measures for the children coming from very poor families contributed to the upward social mobility of some of the Roma. The social status of this part of the population improved, but “one cannot speak of upward mobility, except in individual terms” (Ponce, 1999, p. 42), while the status of the whole population remained that of “second-class citizens”. The communist policy of “total workforce employment” affected the Roma as well. Despite the communist regime’s efforts to integrate the Roma in the working force, many of the latter rejected formal employment. In 1977, 32% of the active Roma workforce did not have a job (Achim, 1998, p. 159). However, a Roma working class was created, made up mostly by unskilled workers (Ponce, 1999). Men were mostly employed as cleaning personnel in street cleaning and the oil industry, while many women worked as janitors. The lack of formal training and their marginal position on the work market made many Roma vulnerable to unemployment. Thus, in the 80s, when Romania was facing an economic crisis, the Roma were the first to lose their jobs. The Roma in the rural areas were faced with similar difficulties. Most of them never owned land, machinery or stock at the time of the collectivization, and were not members of the CAPs (Agricultural Production Cooperatives). A large part of the rural Roma was working for the State Agricultural Companies. They often worked as teams of temporary workers in the areas where workforce was required in agriculture. They had no constant income and received no retirement benefits. The communist policy with the largest impact on the Roma was the pro-birth policy. After the second half of the 60s, the communist regime started to control birth control strictly, and to offer financial stimulants to large families. The strict birth-control policies, although rejected by most of the population, actually had a positive effect on the health of the Roma women, due to the periodical health controls of birth-aged women. Pregnancies were being followed upon since conception, and births took place under medical supervision. Moreover, other female health conditions could be identified and treated. The financial stimulants for large families directly impacted the material resources to which the Roma gained access. To encourage births, the communist regime provided a series of social benefits aimed to support large families. This further encouraged the above-average birth rates of the Roma population. The result was an increased number of births in the Roma communities (Voicu, Popescu, 2006). Failing all else, the income from social support could insure survival, without providing for resources necessary for 14

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individual development (access to health care and education). Following authorities’ efforts, the last nomadic Roma population became sedentary in the 60s and 70s. The formerly nomadic Roma were given land and identity cards. Research shows that the members of these communities had a positive opinion about becoming sedentary, because “they became equal with the majority population without losing their ethnic identity” (Şerban, 1998, p. 154). Although the process was time-consuming (approximately 30-40 years), the formerly nomadic communities’ members still practice semi-nomadic travels – “business” travels (Şerban, 1998) or trips all over the country aimed at selling the products of their crafts (Radu C., 2007). Despite the nominal improvements of the living conditions in segments of the Roma population, the communist regime failed to provide programs for the specific issues of the Roma. The Roma were not considered an ethnic minority in Romania, and the general outlook of the authorities was that they were a social problem that needed to be solved regardless of its ethnic side. Romanian communism with its strong nationalistic bent tried to erase the differences between the majority population and the ethnic minorities. Its policies actually aimed to assimilate all the existing minorities. In this context, the Roma were considered outsiders which needed to be “Romanized” (Ponce, 1999), through being assimilated in the patterns if the majority population. For failing to adhere to the standards enforced by the communist regime, Roma were arrested for “parasitism” or “anarchy”, according to Decree 152/1970 (Gheorghe, 1991). The policy resulted in the social exclusion of a large segment of the Roma population, and no relief whatsoever from the issues facing it (the educational gap, poverty, lack of access to health care, etc.). After 1989, profound changes occurred. The Roma were official recognized as a separate ethnicity, and their specific issues started to be dealt with. At the same time that administrative measures were adopted by the government and NGOs (targeted policies for the development of the Roma population), the Roma identity was being re-defined within the new political and social context (Bălăşescu, 1997; Burtea, 1998), and the population was becoming involved in civic and political initiatives (Gheorghe, 1991; Vermeersch, 2003; 2005). These phenomena were happening all over Central and Eastern Europe. Political parties, associations and NGOs representing the interests of the Roma populations were set up throughout the 90s. In effect, the representatives of the Roma population were aligning their efforts to the international Roma civic and political movement initiated in the 60s and 70s (Liegeois, 1975). A series of sociology studies were performed on the Roma population after 1989 (Zamfir C., Zamfir, E. 1993; Zamfir, Preda, 2002; Surdu, 2003; Zoon, 2001; Sandu, 2005; Berevoiescu et al; 1998; Voicu, Popescu; 2006; Voicu, 2007), which provided a large body of information on this population. The studies highlighted the issues faced by the Roma

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population during the transition period, as well as its cultural and ethnic features. The above-mentioned studies found that the Roma are a population at high risk for poverty and social exclusion. With an average level of education much lower than that of the majority population and almost no resources, the Roma experienced important issues within the context of the transition from socialist to free market economy. The Roma who used to be employed mostly as unskilled workers were the first to be fired during the economic restructuring. In many cases, unemployment became permanent, due to the lack of qualification and the biases of employers. In rural areas, the dissolution of the communist cooperatives translated in a permanent loss of income. The Roma continued to hold temporary jobs in agriculture, but largely without formal contracts. The absence of identity and property documents leads to social exclusion and blocks the access of the Roma to many social benefits associated with their status as Romanian citizens. Thus, they have no access to social assistance, health care, or education. These individual issues are compounded by community issues which are more frequent in Roma communities. The poor infrastructure (access roads, access to safe drinking water, means of communication), the lack of community initiative, the lack of access to health care and education are the leading issues in Roma communities. One must recall, however, the high degree of heterogeneity of the Roma population. An important percentage of the Roma is faced with the issues we mentioned earlier, but there are also communities and individual Roma who enjoy better conditions. Sandu (2005), in an analysis of the situation of Roma communities, identified a category of communities which was faced with little or no problems related to access to the community itself, access to infrastructure or fluctuating income. Şerban (1998) made an analysis of two communities of “rich” Roma, Ciurea in Iaşi county and Buzescu in Teleorman county. The cases of well off Roma, living in huge mansions with Byzantine towerlets are by now notorious. The transition period was characterized mostly by an important increase in social inequality within the Roma population: between a minority of socially highly-visible rich and the poor majority. We shall continue by discussing in brief a few methodological aspects relating to the strategies and the way these strategies are used by the Roma population within the Romanian society. Life strategies The economic, social, and political changed which occurred after 1989 affected the entire Romanian society, with varying effects on the differing groups making it 16

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up. Throughout the transition process, according to available resources and the way these were used, certain societal sub-groups managed to adapt better to the new social context, while others failed to do so, on a “winners-losers” continuum. As we have showed in the opening part of this chapter, creative adaptation seems to be one of the most used solutions of the Roma population, when it is faced with new situations. It must be said, however, that this is a reactive solution. The Roma population reacts to social change instead of taking an active approach though which they could attempt to modify the social environment in order to make it more suitable to their needs and desires. Thus, although creative adaptation insured the population’s survival, it never allowed for upward mobility: at this time, much like throughout the Roma history, the Roma population is still considered “secondclass”, being one of the main targets for discrimination2. Individual reactions to major social change can be interpreted according to the individual adaptation type chart developed by Merton (1957: 141-157). This is a general chart which can be applied to entire populations, regardless of ethnicity or other distinctive features3. According to this chart, individuals can adapt to social discrepancies by using one of the following five strategies defined according to the way in which individuals respond to social goals and norms, by either embracing or rejecting them: 1. Conformism. This is the most used adaptation strategy. Conformism encompasses the acceptance of both social goals and norms. A conformist person’s goals are part of the goals accepted by the society and they attempt to reach these goals solely in socially acceptable ways. 2. Innovation. The social goals are accepted, but the norms are rejected. An innovator adopts social goals but, in order to reach them, uses ways which are not entirely socially acceptable. 3. Ritualism. This strategy is characterized by the rejection of social goals coupled with an acceptance of social norms. A ritualistic person respects social norms, but does not wish to achieve socially valuable goals. 4. Rejection. Both social norms and social goals are rejected. Individuals who use rejection as a reaction to social change not only set goals unneeded by their society, but also fail to adhere to the socially defined norms to achieve these goals. 5. Rebellion. This is a residual strategy, covering rare cases who not only reject social goals and norms, but also wish to replace them with new goals and norms which are completely different from the existing status quo. 2 For instance, see Chelcea 1994 or Neculau 1996, who found that even students, who are characterized by a high level or education and should, in theory, be more tolerant than the population as a whole, have a mostly negative opinion of the Roma, whom they see according to the biases shared by the majority. 3 For a detailed application of this chart in the Romanian context, see Voicu (2005: 109-114).

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Table 1. Types of individual adaptation Goals Accepted

Rejected

Accepted

Conformism

Ritualism

Rejected

Innovation

Rejection

Norms

Rebellion

The above-mentioned five strategies cover the entire spectrum of reactions to social change. There is one last note to this methodology. The chart developed by Merton is built on two important concepts: social goals and social norms to attain these goals. Given the marginal position of the Roma population within the Romanian society, we must determine if and to what extent a concordance exists between the goals and norms of the society (likely developed by the majority with no input from minorities) and the goals and norms of the Roma population. If we think solely of the cultural differences between Roma and other ethnic groups, we can establish that the Roma population values a series of goals specific to its own ethnicity, assigns no importance to some of the generally accepted goals (such as education) and uses a series of generally highly unacceptable norms to attain their goals. One of the most visible norms in this context deals with the marriages between minors arranged by their families. Similarly, the way justice is served in traditional Roma communities is difficult to accept by the Romanian society, which interprets it as a failure to respect the law. The importance of these strategies is also highlighted by Swidler (1986), who, while discussing the relation between life strategies and goals, defines strategies as ways to organize action which lead to the achievement of goals. Swidler argues that with the occurrence of major social change, certain individuals fail to follow the traditional path, through which goals are chosen and then strategies with a high level of success in attaining these goals are elaborated, and instead follow an inverse path, through which goals are chosen on the basis of already available strategies. If this is true (see Mancini 1980 and Gerson 1985 for studies describing the latter), and if we take into account the limited amount of resources available to the Roma population, we can expect that this behaviour (choosing goals on the basis of existing strategies)

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would be quite common within Roma communities. This is the chart that we have used to interpret information in this work. We shall end this chapter with conclusions about the most encountered life strategies we identified through our interviews. Goals, norms, resources and strategies The heterogeneity of the Roma, mentioned in the beginning of this chapter, is perfectly exemplified in the next chapters. Each of the four communities included in our study is significantly different from the others, in terms of available resources, of goals and norms accepted by each community, or of strategies adopted by the individual members. The Kalderash community of Vereşti’s most distinctive feature is the selfimposed isolation from all the other communities in the area (Roma or Romanian). The main resource of the community is its main occupation, which has insured its survival and represents a basic part of its identity. At the same time, however, the interviews have shown that this occupation, coupled with the reduced level of education, is a barrier to diversification to jobs likely to be more productive. The survival of the community seems to be its main goal, and in order to attain it, the community follows a set of well-defined norms: reduced contact with the members of other communities (or not contact at all, in the case of women), maintaining the homogeneity of the community itself, a lack of interest in formal education with high interest in learning the traditional craft and the traditional gender roles, high gender inequality, etc. It is an important point to make that the homogeneity which characterizes the Vereşti Kalderash is also found in their life strategies (as discussed by Alina Bîrsan in the chapter dedicated to this community, “when you speak to one person, it feels like you’re speaking with the entire community”). From the five interviews conducted here, the general image is that of one dominant strategy: strictly following the community’s traditions. To use Merton’s terms, the main strategy of the Vereşti Kalderash is community conformism. Only one (T.M.) of the five people who were interviewed showed any openness to changing traditions. Even so, the openness is solely declarative, because the family in question follows the same community pattern (dropping out of school, learning the traditional craft, marriage at an early age) which applies to the entire community. There are, however, changes visible in the community. The most important of these seems to be the conversion to the Pentecostal religion, which seems to be promoted from within the community (for instance, a Pentecostal person can only get married to a person whose both parents are Pentecostal). An interesting aspect is

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that, in instances when the Pentecostal religion contradicts tradition, the Kalderash decided to eliminate these contradictions by giving up tradition in favour of religion (for instance, jewelry not allowed by religion is not being worn and women were allowed to take part in the election of religious leaders). The new religion seems to generate other changes as well, pertaining to a break from tradition: formal education is more valued (even if only for the purpose of being able to read religious texts), and women enjoy rights that they had been denied by tradition. Another important change is economic. The traditional craft has been reoriented to cast iron works, with a higher potential for sale. The second rural community included in the study was the Ursari (beartrainers) of Bălţeşti. This community is significantly different from the Vereşti Kalderash through its degree of openness to outside influences, the traditional occupation, and religion. The openness of the community signifies that its goals and norms are less different from those socially acceptable than those of the Kalderash. From the point of view of available resources, Bălţeşti enjoys a better situation than Vereşti, both education-wise, and in terms of the availability of jobs. Up until 1989, the main life strategy of the Bălţeşti Roma was to enter employment at an early age (either by learning a craft, or joining parents as temporary workers in agriculture). Some of the respondents (or their parents) also worked in state-owned cooperatives, but have since returned to their traditional occupation. The long absences from the community largely generated school abandonment. After 1989, the main occupation in the community became the traditional aluminum cauldron-making. The attitude to formal education is one of the major differences from the Kalderash. The Kalderash saw no use for formal education. By contrast, all the persons interviewed in Bălţeşti thought that education was highly important. Of the four persons who were interviewed, one is enrolled in university, and the others want their children and grand-children to pursue education beyond junior highschool. On the other hand, Claudia Petrescu found that this openness to formal education is not general in the community: “although the community pays lip service to the importance of education, persons who pursue higher education in excess of community’s average are excluded or discriminated against within the community”. However, the student whom we interviewed indicated that the discrimination is mutual, suggesting that he would not wish to marry a Roma woman, due to the differences in education. If Vereşti had a strong homogeneity in terms of life strategies, Bălţeşti seems to have different strategies according to the age of each respondent: the older persons are following the community conformism strategy, while one of the younger persons (the student) finds himself between innovation and rejection, and the second person oscillates between conformism and innovation. The third community we have studied is located in Geoagiu. Unlike the 20

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previous two communities, it is characterized by heterogeneity, being made up of Roma of different groups: brick-makers, iron-makers, singers, etc. Nevertheless, the life strategies of this community are similar to the ones we mentioned above. Low levels of formal education, coupled with significant difficulties in performing the traditional crafts have led to the lowest common denominator in term of available income-producing occupations: temporary work. Although the previous two communities did not have access to many resources, in Geoagiu the problem is compounded by the reduction of the market for the traditional products. As a result, the traditional pattern of school abandonment is more pronounced than in the other communities. In this context, it is difficult to identify the goals and norms of the community, or the strategy used by its members. The Roma community of Mimiu (a district of Ploieşti) is another mixed community, made up of Ursari, ‘loud-mouths’, painters etc., whose main occupation is trade. Unlike the other communities, the Roma of Mimiu have encountered less difficulties in finding jobs, which led to fewer numbers of people involved in the traditional crafts. After 1989, when the economic crisis led to restructuring of the large companies, the Mimiu Roma re-oriented rapidly to the new opportunities: the oil industry, the collection and sale of scrap iron, or working abroad. Due to their location in a major town, their level of formal education is higher than that of the other communities. Although a fair amount of students drop out of school, some of the community members have graduated from higher education. Similarly to the Geoagiu community, it is difficult to identify whether the community has its own goals and norms or whether there is a clear set of community life strategies. Besides the four communities, we decided to present a series of interviews with what society perceives as “Roma high achievers”. These are included in the last chapter. All the interviews we conducted show that success was the direct result of formal education. While there are differences as to each individual’s drive to success (sometimes fueled by parents and relatives, other times by teachers), all our respondents showed that a solid education led directly to success (although in certain cases professional success was accompanied by personal sacrifices). As a conclusion, the life strategies and the differences between Roma communities and the whole of society are: • For the Vereşti Kalderash, the dominant strategy is community conformism. From the point of view of society, though, the main goal of the community has little value, and some of its norms are difficult to accept. In this context, the strategy defined as community conformism from inside the community becomes social rejection from outside. • The Bălţeşti Roma displayed a higher diversity of strategies, coupled with less differentiation of the community’s goals and norms from the ones of the

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society. Thus, the community innovation/rejection strategies and community conformism/innovation are equivalent to a local conformism strategy, while the community conformism strategy is located at an intersection between conformism itself and social ritualism. • For the Geoagiu community, we have encountered difficulties in identifying life strategies at community level. The limited resources drive the community’s interest to survival, which can be defined as social rejection from the point of view of the society as a whole. • The Mimiu community does not seem to have a clear-cut set of strategies. The interviews conducted here suggested that the strategies followed by its members can be defined as a combination of social conformism and innovation. • The interviews with the “high achievers” led to a somewhat predictable conclusion, given the general circularity of the definition of the concept of success: all of the high achievers have been interested in formal education, which as a strategy in itself indicates social conformism.

References Achim, V. 1998. Ţiganii în istoria României. Bucureşti: Editura Enciclopedică. Bălăşescu, A. 1997. „Romii construcţie identitară. Cazul comunei Cristian, judeţul Sibiu”. Revista de Cercetări Sociale. Nr. 4: 95 – 117. Brevoiescu, I. şi alţii. 1998. „Situaţia socială a romilor din judeţul Buzău”. Revista de Cercetări Sociale. Nr. 3/4: 3 – 97. Burtea, V. 1998. „Romii – o nouă minoritate naţională sau o etnie europeană?”. Revista de Cercetări Sociale. Nr. 3/4: 180 – 188. Chelcea, S. 1994. „Atitudinile etnice ale studenţilor în perioada de tranziţie.” Revista de cercetări sociale. 3/1994: 67-75. Gerson, K. 1985. Hard Choices: How Women Decide about Work, Career, and Motherhood. Berkeley: University of California Press. Gheorghe, N. 1992. „Roma – Gypsy Ethnicity in Eastern Europe”. Social Research. Vol. 58: 829 – 844. Kenrick, D. 2000. Romii: Din India la Mediterana. Bucureşti: Editura Alternative. Liegeois, J-P. 1975. „Naissance de pouvoir tsigane”. Revue Française de Sociologie. Vol. 16: 295 – 316. Mancini, J. 1980. Strategic Styles: Coping in the Inner City. Hanover: University

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Press of New England. Merton, R. 1957. Social Theory and Social Structure. Glencoe: Free Press. Neculau, A. 1996. „Ţiganii: personalitatea modală şi caracteristicile grupului.” Pp. 106-112 în Minoritari, marginali, excluşi, lucrare editată de Adrian Neculau şi Gilles Ferreol. Iaşi: Polirom. Ponce, E. 1999. Ţiganii din România, o minoritate în tranziţie. Bucureşti: Editura Compania. Radu, C. 2007. „Vereşti”, în Voicu, M. (coord.) Nevoi şi resurse în comunităţile de romi. Bucureşti: Editura Afir: 211-227. Sandu, D. 2005. Targeting for Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion in Roma Communities from Romania. Bucureşti: Banca Mondială. Sliverman, C. 1988. ‚Negotiating „Gipsyness”: Strategy in context’. Journal of American Folklore, vol. 101: 261 – 275. Surdu, M. 2003. Segregarea romilor în educaţie. Distanţă fizică sau socială?. Craiova: Editura Arves. Swidler, A. 1986. „Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies.” American Sociological Review. 51(2): 273-286. Şerban, M. 1998. „Aspecte ale ataşamentului faţă de comunitatea locală”. Revista de Cercetări Sociale. Nr. 3/4: 151 – 179. Vermeersch, P. 2003. „Ethnic minority identity and movement politics: The case of the Roma in Czech Republic and Slovakia”. Ethnic and Racial Studies. Vol. 26: 879 – 901. Vermeersch, P. 2005. „Marginality, Advocacy and the Ambiguities of Multiculturalism: Notes of Romani Activism in central Europe”. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. Vol. 12: 451 – 478. Voicu, B. 2005. Penuria pseudo-modernă a postcomunismului românesc. Volumul I: Schimbarea socială şi acţiunile indivizilor. Iaşi: Editura Expert Projects. Voicu, M. (coord). 2007. Nevoi şi resurse în comunităţile de romi. Bucureşti: Editura Afir. Voicu, M., Popescu, R. 2006. Căsătoria şi sarcina timpurie în comunităţile de romi. Bucureşti: Editura Educaţia 2000+. Zamfir, C., Preda, M. 2002. Romii din România. Bucureşti: Editura Expert. Zamfir, C., Zamfir, E. 1993. Ţiganii între ignorare şi îngrijorare. Bucureşti: Editura Alternative. Zoon, I. 2001. La periferia societăţii – romii şi serviciile publice din România. Cluj: Centrul de Resurse pentru Comunităţile de Romi.

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chapter 2

The Kalderash Roma of VereĹ&#x;ti


ROMA PEOPLE - STORIES OF LIFE

The Kalderash Roma of Vereşti

Alina Bîrsan

The Community The establishment of the community. The Kalderash community of Vereşti, Suceava County, is located on the outskirts of the commune itself, in a place called Hancea. According to the locals, the first documentary information dates back to the early 16th century, mentioning Hancea itself, the village of the Kalderash community. At that time, the community was made up of the local boyar’s serfs, named after an inn situated in the area. Nowadays, Hancea is part of the Vereşti commune together with three more villages (Corocăieşti, Bursuceni and Vereşti). The Kalderash community lives solely in Hancea. According to the old administrative organization of Romania, up until 1960, Vereşti had been part of Dorohoi, Bucecea territory. After 1960, it became part of Suceava County. It is located 20 km away from the county seat and has enjoyed a significant economic and social development. Between 1962 and 1989, Vereşti was among the most developed communes in the county and an attractive destination for the workforce in the area. The regional cooperative, which covered 3600 ha, I.S.C.I.P. Vereşti and the Hemp Processing Installation were among the main employers, which, during the communist regime employed more than 1000 people. Vereşti commune was also an important railway center, with direct lines to Suceava, Botoşani, and parts of Transylvania. Due to all this, the commune has been an attractive destination for people from all over the country, while the percentages of locals stayed low. There had been no distinctive ethnic groups or minorities in Vereşti, however, except for the Kalderash Roma who arrived in the commune after 1960. Therefore the history of the Roma community until 1960 is different from the history of their current place of residence. Before settling in Vereşti, the Kalderash had been nomadic up until WWI, then deported to the Bug concentration camp, after which they returned to Romania. Before 1940 – the nomadic years. BefIore 1940, the Kalderash travelled all over Moldavia in their tents, according to the elders of the community. They did not follow an established route, but just went from village to village, selling their cauldrons. Because they were not tolerated by the locals for more than days in any given place, and they were often chased out of the villages by the police, their nomadic way of life was encouraged. In order to be allowed in any village, they

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needed to obtain “visas” and “authorizations” for free movement in the old kingdom of Romania. They were migrants, you know? Nomads. They just went and went. Because… our elders could tell you the stories, they always had trouble when a commune or a village didn’t want to let them in. The police was waiting for them and would just kick them out. You know? You’re not allowed to get bread here… so, when you get here, you’re not allowed in, you’re escorted out. They got visas, you come to the village for three days only, after three days, get out! Or if they didn’t want to let them in, they would just escort them to the next village, the next cop. Three days, a week, it all depended on the locals. And the police. If the police was nice, they’d let them in. I mean, it all depended on the people’s kindness. (Roma leader) After General Ion Antonescu came to power and applied the “Romanization” policy of his regime, during the summer of 1942 the Roma, and especially the nomadic groups were deported to Transnistria, together with the Jews, but to separate concentration camps. 1940-1944: the deportation years. This was the saddest period in the history of the community. The older Kalderash remember that it was General Antonescu who decided to deport them in 1942. All Roma families were supposed to be deported to Transnistria, on the basis of a census of the Roma population, their carriages and livestock. At first they were told that they will be given land and houses in Bug. They remember how all the families were gathered in Păuneşti commune, in the Bărăgan plain, with their tents, the carriages and livestock, all their belongings. After being counted and registered, they were taken in trains, cars, but most of them in their own carriages to the border. Their destination was a plain on the bank of Bug river, in Transnistria, an area where they were permanently surrounded by the military. The poor living conditions and the treatment they received from their guardians decimated the community during their three year stay in mud huts, suffering from hunger, cold, and disease. In 1944, the approximately 3,000 surviving Roma of the over 20,000 who had been deported�, started on their way to Romania together with the Russian army. The Kalderash representative, their leader, remembers that the return home was done on foot, because the Roma had been confiscated all their belongings: carriages, livestock, and especially the gold they had hidden in their carriages. It took six months for them to return to Romania, through blizzards, and often without food. Most of them were already sick, and there are stories about abandoned children and people dying of starvation on the way.

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They weren’t allowed to go in the village, not even to get water, or buy something, or even talk with anyone. When they got to the camp, my dad used to tell me, they lived in mud huts… like cellars, with stones on top, and mud, and weeds… just with a small entrance, enough for a man to get in. And they were empty… no stove, no beds, no heat, absolutely nothing. They had… like mud beds just to sit on. And this was the concentration camp solely for the gypsies. And when they returned to Romania, when they returned home, they had all sorts of diseases, I’m ashamed to say, they had scabies, and lice, and their horses and carriages were gone. That had been their entire fortune, in the carriages: their clothes, their pots, their food, the gold… the gold was hidden. Gypsies couldn’t wear their necklaces, like our women do now, you weren’t allowed to wear them… a lot was lost. All that they had hidden in the carriages. And they died on the road… some were killed, shot, and some just died on the road… they couldn’t walk anymore. If an old man, see like the one you see here, if he had a daughter or two with the old woman since the days they had lived in Romania, and they were each carrying a bag… and he couldn’t walk anymore… and they left them on the road… wait for me, I’ll be back… they left them crying, the poor things… and they died there, ran down by tanks and carriages… it took them all six months to return: naked, barefoot, in the cold… the roads were bad, there was snow, it was bitterly cold. It was awful… their children were dying on the road. They were naked, the poor things. We lived ... like in any camp ... many people died. 300 and 400 people would die at once. And let me tell you a story. We passed Tiraspol on our way ... and in Tiraspol there was a leather treatment plant. We were coming from Bug, and it was nighttime ... and that plant was as long as a road. And when we got there, a group of gypsies that had had no food for days went in and took what they could find… it was an abandoned warehouse, because of the war, but there was still food… and the gypsies went in to get food. But guess what the food was… entrails with salt. And the gypsy women in their large skirts… they sat on the floor… god forbid, they were burned… burned all over… because the floors were covered with about 40 cm of caustic soda… because it was a leather treatment plant, they treated leather with caustic soda. They took their mules in there… the mules got burned too, but the women got burned the worst. So the floors were covered in caustic soda and they sat there… right away they couldn’t feel anything… but after a few hours, it was hell on earth. It was in Tiraspol that families got reunited, the survivors of the concentration camp. Afterwards, most of the Roma went to Focşani, where they split in their “nations” in order to return to the region they had been born in or where they used 28

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to live before the deportation. According to their leader, the Kalderash of the Suceava and Botoşani region returned to the area. 1944-1960: the nomad years revisited. After 1944, the Kalderash returned to their old nomadic way of life and the traditional processing of brass, making a living from the selling of their cauldrons in the two, three counties of Northern Moldavia, and organized in groups made up of seven or eight families each. After returning from Bug, they encountered many difficulties because they had lost all their belongings in Transnistria. The groups moved their tents from one commune to the next, again being confronted with the rejection of the locals: the Roma were considered the quintessential image of poverty and criminality, a danger for any community. Authorities were systematically “kicking the gypsies out of the villages”. During this period as well, carriages were the main means of transportation for the Kalderash and increasingly a symbol of status, the larger carriages painted in red belonging to the well off families. During this time, the Roma tried to recover their resources. Their main problems were the overpopulation of tents for the families with many children, and the inability of young families to make a living by themselves. Children were born in tents, no birth certificates, or anything: my dad said he was born in the USSR, but his papers were made in Dărăbani. My dad was born during the war, but… I don’t remember exactly when. But he got his papers when he returned. He was in his thirties then… And when they were issued papers, they were given an age by how old they looked and said they were. You know? So how old you think this one is? Well… thirteen, fourteen, and so on… and that’s why our elders don’t have regular papers. The ones born in the forties don’t have regular papers. So they don’t know how old they are. They were born in tents, with gypsy midwives, they were old women, they knew what they were doing, and if the pregnancy was okay, the baby was fine, the mother was fine… and that’s how they were trudging along ... (Roma leader) The 60s brought another important time for the Roma. The communist regime was taking measures aimed to assimilate all ethnic groups. As a result, in 1960 the Kalderash had to “settle” somewhere. Each family received 250 sqm of land to build a home. After 1960 -1963: settling down and building a community. Although the aim of the measure had been to promote the assimilation of minorities, it also came with benefits for the Kalderash: the community was consolidated because the groups came together. This offered them the opportunity to become united, to protect their

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traditional ways, and to live as a community. For the Kalderash, settling did not mean assimilation: although they received land in the proximity of the Romanian community, the two lived permanently separately. The Roma kept most of their traditions unchanged, their family ties have lasted, and their cauldron making tradition is still the only way to make a living. The community was set up over a period of almost ten years, which started in 1960. When the “settlement” measure was passed, there were only ten families in the village who had returned from Bug. They received the 250 sqm of land in a good area of the commune, through the kindness of the Mayor. They did not want to live in the commune and mix with the Romanians any more than the latter wanted them there. Instead they settled next to the village market, a favourable spot for the trade of their cauldrons. In 1963 – 1964, there was a Mayor who at first wanted to get us to live next to the market, where the bridge is. Then he said it’s pointless to get us there, because there will be flooding, so we didn’t get land there… so he said, let’s get them to live in the market. Half of the land was the market, and the other half was the land of the church. The other house behind the one of old man Boboc also belonged to a Romanian. And when the Romanians saw that they were surrounded by tents, they sold their houses to gypsies. So it was this Mayor who decided not to settle them close to the bridge: man, it’s dangerous to build houses there. And he wanted them to be settled somewhere, to stop wandering from place to place, to have their own home. The decision to settle in the commune was a consequence of a conscious choice of the individuals making up the community, their strategy, as well as of a favourable structural context. Although the land was awarded by law, and the authorities proved to be more tolerant than in other regions where the Roma had been chased away, the main reason for which, in the years that followed the passing of the law, the Kalderash migrated to Vereşti was the railway station and the possibility to travel to other areas: Botoşani, Paşcani, Suceava and even Transylvania. Because after the deportations, many people had lost their carriages and horses, it was essential that they find a means to travel in order to sell their products. Many Kalderash had mentioned the railway station as the main factor in their decision to settle in Vereşti. In fact, many of the Roma who settled in the commune after 1960 had abandoned the land they had received elsewhere just to be close to the railway station. I don’t think they settled here for the land. If they hadn’t received land, they would have left. Maybe the land counted, but… well, just living here, they were close to areas where they could sell their merchandise. They could travel to 30

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Suceava, Bucovina, and many of them do, to Botoşani, I don’t know, even to the opposite side, to Iaşi, to a lesser extent. They just wanted to sell their merchandise. Or, during summer, they just carried everything and everyone with them… and this was a good place to start. They needed cars, trailers, in order to transport their cauldrons… they needed to rent a trailer… and here they were close. It was difficult. The railway station was here… they would go to Baia Mare, spend a couple of weeks there, 10 to 12 people would rent a trailer, load their merchandise and spend a month elsewhere … So what did it for us, like I said, it was the railway station! Because had they made us settle, say in Cotul Dobei ... that’s a hamlet around five, six km away … It’s another commune. But you know how it is. It’s just isolated, in the middle of a field. And during winter, especially how we would transport our cauldrons from one place to another… we had no cars then, we didn’t even know about cars, trains were our cars then. You’d wake up at 3 am, take the train at 3 thirty, you’d go to wherever you had to go… get there around 7 or 8, sell the merchandise and take the train back. The ten families in Vereşti were soon joined by more families from the neighbouring communes. The representative of the Mayor’s Office in Vereşti says that most of the Kalderash that have birth certificates were born in Bucecea, in the Dorohoi area located in what today is Botoşani county, the old territory to which Vereşti commune belonged before 1960. There are other places of provenience, especially in Suceava County: Stamate, Corocăieşti, Bursuceni, Sămenic, Bucegi. The migration was gradual, families migrating to be close to one another. The Local Council has data for approximately 20 families who received the 250 sqm of land. Along the way, other families purchased land from Romanians to create the current community. Yes, when Ceauşescu gave them land, the Kalderash received enough land to build a small house. The gypsies had no idea what that means, building a house, buying bricks… so they lived in tents for a couple of years, then started building houses… one room houses… well, they didn’t know about building… After that, each leader started gathering his people… his family as it were. They tried to find the best spot for transportation, for traveling across the country, so that their people would have food. Because they had no jobs… they just wandered around selling their cauldrons, in their carriages, and then they’d return to their house ... (leader) There was a spot closer to the center of the commune, how can I describe it, for the people who were around then. Not in the village, not among Romanians.

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We didn’t want to disturb them. Because you know, the gypsies are only human when they’re away. When you’re close to the Romanians, regardless of how good you are… they still call you gypsy. Romanians are scared of gypsies. (leader) The Roma think that in absence of this law, they would probably still be a nomadic people, because they would lack the resources to buy land. Life in the Vereşti community changed completely the way of life of the Kalderash, without bringing about assimilation. The context in Vereşti is completely different, both the majority population, and the Roma themselves avoiding integration. The community is completely opposed to change. After 1963: development of the community. The community was formed during the heyday of the communist regime, when the Roma migrated from the neighbouring communes to Vereşti. The largest migration took place within the three years following 1960. During the initial stages, there were well-established criteria for the acceptance of the newcomers. In order to be accepted, they had to be Kalderash Roma. Marriage was allowed only among the Kalderash. There have been no other ways to be accepted into the community. The Kalderash have rejected mixed marriages. The migration to Vereşti had ended almost completely by 1970. Since then, its numbers have increased by births and marriages. In 1989, the community was made up of approximately 460 people, which has increased to approximately 600 at the present, namely an increase of almost 30%. After 1989, the living conditions have improved dramatically, especially because of a newly-found freedom and the improvement of the way Romanians, including the authorities, are treating the Kalderash. An important aspect is the gradual conversion of the community to the Pentecostal religion, which generated changes in the mindset and habits of its members. Although in the almost 50 years since it was established the community has known an increase in the number of its members, the evolution has been almost hermetical: only one person left the community, went to school elsewhere, and married a Romanian. Apart from that, there has been no exchange of any sort between the community and the rest of the world, in any of the important aspects of social life: there have been no mixed marriages (in any given year, only two-three Kalderash girls marry into the community, or out of it), no territorial exchanges, and no changes in the traditional occupation of cauldron-makers. The community, therefore, is conserving its traditional Kalderash way of life of “the ones who came from Bug” (as they call themselves). The Kalderash see themselves as “a noble, top of the line community”, because of their work ethic, dedication to their traditional work,

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and respect for the traditions of their people. Our cauldron-making craft is honest work. On the one hand, we have a craft, and on the other, when you work, you earn money which you can invest in something else, in gold… and you keep the gold, and you can leave it to your children… you know? So that’s the value. Because there are other Roma who only work to spend their money on cigarettes, alcohol… and then they start again from zero the next day. We’re not like that… we earn our money and we know how to invest it… to have something set aside ... (leader) In short, we have described the history of the Roma community of Vereşti, which is still visible in all the aspects of today’s life in the community. Life of the community: geography The Kalderash community is isolated, geographically. The Kalderash only live in a compact area in Hancea, on the old site of the market and the church field. The place is called by the Romanians: The Gypsy Area. Hancea is close to the center of the commune, and the Roma live around the middle of the village. Access to the community is provided by a lane, followed by a crowded area of about 2 ha, where around 550 people live in 84 houses. There have been few changes in the size or movement of the community in the 50 years since the arrival of the first Kalderash in Vereşti. The increase in population numbers caused overcrowding in the central area, because the potential for extension was limited; most adult children lived with their parents in the latters’ house or close by, and there have been no cases of moving house to another region. Also in Hancea, there is a secondary branch, away from the main area, where a few families reside, who have purchased land in the last few years. This area is not yet overcrowded. No significant disadvantages have been mentioned in relation to the location of the community, by comparison to the neighbouring communities. Overcrowding has precluded the creation of infrastructure in the community, however. Apart from that, the Kalderash, much like their Romanian neighbours, initially built huts, and then brick houses (after 1989); the interiors are similar, apart from the strong colours usually favoured by the Roma. The houses are a symbol of status in the community: there are two mansions with 14 rooms and a living room of 14 sqm, belonging to the above-average Kalderash. Apart from these anomalies, the differences are insignificant, the Kalderash who are “well off” have three or four-room houses with terracotta stoves, electrical appliances (radios, TV sets, even computers in certain cases), and personal vehicles.

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The poorer members of the community still live in an average of one room and have no central heating, and no personal vehicles. They tend to live on the outskirts of the community. We cannot speak of community roads, for the simple fact that they do not exist. Apart from the 200 m long access lane, cobbled, which during winter can only be crossed by foot, there are no roads in the community. To move inside it, the people “pass from one to another” on paths that cross their yards or cut under the windows of their houses. The houses are built chaotically, without any planning. This is mainly due to the lack of interest displayed by the authorities, often in exchange for votes. According to sources outside the community, the Roma were allowed to build whatever they wanted in exchange for votes; which created long term negative effects: there is no possibility to introduce electricity, gas or sewage systems in the community. At this time, only about 40 families have access to electricity, while the others have improvised means to connect themselves to their neighbours. Yes, the road can be used. But you can’t drive on it. Maybe you can get on the main lane in your carriage or your car… up to the leader’s house. It’s about 200 m of road from the main road, and then the houses begin. You can only walk there, it’s just a path. They just pass under each other’s windows, from yard to yard. They’re just paths; you can even get a cart through there. Drinkable water is also an issue. There used to be only one well for all the houses. A project was run to build eight more wells, five in the main community, and three in the secondary branch. By comparison with the main compact area, the secondary branch (15 houses) enjoys a better situation, utility-wise. Living standards have remained largely unchanged. The increased standard of living has coincided with a deterioration of the public space and services. Life of the community: the family Marriage and family are central to the life of the community, as elements of its traditional identity (much like cauldron-making). The unwritten laws or the way things are done dictate that marriage can only be concluded between Kalderash spouses: by writ of God, this is our law, we don’t want to spoil the blood and be a shame among our own people! So, if we talk about my family, I know the habits of my house, my family. Well, if I don’t know your habits, I don’t know who you are, how would I know 34

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what your intentions are? So it’s better for me to just stay away from you. I’ll say ‘hello’, you say ‘hello’, and that’s all. But we had no mixing here, everybody’s Kalderash Roma, same traditions, same clothes. Any failure to respect the “law” would mean to the Kalderash that either the individual involved or the community itself would be degraded. In this context, marriages are an indication of the prevalence of the community over the individual. The community defines for the most part the destiny of the individual, though the inherited norms, while individual choice is almost non-existent: from an early age, children learn the traditions, their future spouse is picked for them by their parents, and they follow the same path as the rest of the community, with almost no variations. The pattern found here is one where the individual is defined by an external social status, which predefines theirs life path, in all its aspects: occupation, material status, education, marriage. The individual as a person counts for very little, which is also proven by the fact that the whole community shares one last name – Stănescu – and most of the men are named Stănescu Gheorghe. Apart from this way of life, prescribed by the community, the Roma admit that they have no mechanism to adapt to another lifestyle. Because all contexts which would result in an opportunity to mix with other communities are rejected (schools, places of employment, moving to another community), tradition is likely to continue as it is. All factors which could produce change are avoided constantly. The same resistance to change is evident in the community’s approach to strangers: accepting any stranger who is not from a known Kalderash family would equal the humiliation of the entire community in front of the Kalderash nation. Moreover, the community is skeptical about the potential of “others” to adapt to its lifestyle. I think that, mainly, they’d watch him, I mean they wouldn’t beat him up or chase him away… No. But he’d have to pass a test. So he’d have to pass, they’d have to determine his intentions. Say someone comes to me… for instance, I am good friends with those who make cauldrons in Toflea, right? But they don’t dress like we do. They’re not Kalderash. They’re just not Kalderash. They’re pot-makers. Yes, I’m just returning from them. And if I’m friends with them, they visit me, they respect me, we have coffee together, I visit them like a friend… but to mix with them… never! Apart from marriages within the Kalderash nation, through which a few girls enter the community yearly, in the almost 50 years of its existence, that has been only one anomaly from the norm: a Kalderash man who left Vereşti a long time ago to marry a Romanian woman from Timişoara. He is not considered a member of the community anymore. The possibility of mixed marriages with

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Romanians is seen as just as inacceptable as mixed marriages with a Roma of a different nation: To have one of our girls marry a Romanian? They’re Romanians and we are gypsies! With a Romanian? To live like a Romanian? No. No. Never. Even if she’d like to… I wouldn’t let her. It’s not that she wouldn’t live well, nothing like it, but she has to dress like we do. I would never let her, not for anything in the world would I let my daughter marry a Romanian. That’s the law. We do not leave the community. If they married her, they have to leave… leave the community, be made to leave. So if something happens… if a Romanian’s son likes my daughter. And they run away, for a week or two, they just elope… well, I can do nothing about it. Nothing will happen. They would probably stay away. But what would happen, for the parents there would be shame in front of the community. Shame… that their girl ran away… and especially with a Romanian. I mean, if she runs away with another gypsy the shame would be less… but with a Romanian? Well, if it happens she has disgraced her family completely, you’re done, you have no more standing among your own! All exceptions are strongly punished by the community: Take what happened this summer. Here. Our people were gone with their tents. In Satu Mare, a man left his woman and left with an Ursari gypsywoman, one of those ones who wear pants, from Rădăuţi. You know how long that lasted? Two days. I don’t know. They didn’t get along. So he came back to his woman. Her father, her brothers wanted to beat him up, to teach him, because he shouldn’t have treated her like that. Not for their sakes. For her sake. I mean, if you married her, why not treat her right? Well, and despite that, he returned again. But I think it’s still shameful, for them, I mean, they’re back together now, but there’s still shame. And he’s lost his standing. The community rejects him. So he’s living here, but he lost his respect. He lives with his parents, but you think anyone will talk to him now?... no way… (Roma leader) The gender inequality is rampant. Boys have been known to have relationships and affairs with Romanian girls, but Kalderash girls have no right to ever be with men from outside the community. The possibility that a Kalderash woman would have even a passing affair with a Romanian man is unthinkable for both the Kalderash themselves, and the Romanians. The evolution of this phenomenon was affected by the adoption of the Pentecostal cult, beginning 1992-1993. After this point, marriages started being 36

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held in church and legalized, and children started being baptized. The Kalderash mixed the rules of their new faith with their tradition. Marriages are concluded both in the traditional way, and in the ways of the Pentecostal faith. One of the effects of this change was the increase in the age at marriage by approximately two years: girls are now married at 15-16, and boys at 18. Regardless of the way the marriage is concluded, it has to be a marriage through which “the line goes on”. There are no civil unions, no single persons and no divorces in the community. Parents identify the right partners for their children, the conditions of the future marriage are negotiated, and, following the ceremony, the girls move to the household of their in-laws to start their new families. Family is extremely important for the Kalderash, especially extended family. Parents have the defining role in the destiny of their children, both economically and socially. Children depend almost entirely on their parents. The fathers teach their sons the cauldron-making trade, while the mothers teach their daughters how to be good homemakers. Parents also insure that their children marry into families of similar economic and social status. The new families are dependent on their parents, whom rarely have the means to build separate houses for their offspring. So, for us… if you, as a parent, don’t give to your children, they can’t grow. So just leaving them to fend for themselves would be too difficult for them, they’ll never be rich. Do you understand? (Could your son make it on his own?) Yes, yes, he could, but it’s one thing to just leave, and another to receive support… So… I wouldn’t let my son to make it on his own, I wouldn’t! Son, you want us to build you a house? I’ll help, we’ll work together and build you a house. And we’ll build it next to my house, if I own the land. If I have a lot of land, it won’t be right next to my house. But if I don’t, it will be right next to mine. Those who have richer parents, started off richer, but if the parents were poor, the children were poor too. That’s how it is, if your father can’t give you something, just a little, to help you start off, that’s it, you know? And now it’s still … Still the parents that make the decisions, you know why? You don’t. Well, if I’m a little better off, I have to find a husband for my daughter who’s better off himself. I couldn’t marry her to someone who’s piss poor! And I’m the one to make the decision, because I’m the adult, she’s fourteen, she likes a boy because he’s good looking, because he’s white, or because he’s got blue eyes… but maybe he doesn’t have two pennies to rub together, you know? And if she marries a boy who’s poorer than her, she’d be a mongrel. The main principle for the marriages between Kalderash is that women come in second. The men are the decision-makers, their wives having little if anything to say. The Roma think that a woman must obey her man, and many of their behaviours

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illustrate this gender inequality, even submissiveness on the women’s part: men enter the house first, and women must respect their men, and accept that they are always right, namely do everything that they are told. Also, women are not allowed to parade their pots in front of men, or to cross them, regardless if the men in question are their husbands or their fathers in law. Men therefore enjoy special status, and their wives think that it is the normal state of things, because they are the bread-winners. Women are homemakers. When they get married, they must make a good impression on their in-laws, so that the latter are pleased with their choice (because the bride’s parents sometimes receive money or goods in exchange for her). Afterwards, they are expected to teach their daughters to cook and clean, to read the cards (a tradition which has almost disappeared once the Pentecostal cult has taken hold), to be on their guard around young men, and especially around Romanians. Parents must insure that their daughters know how to behave, which is the essential condition for them to find suitable partners within the community. The wife of a Kalderash can never leave her husband, regardless of his behavior or other reasons she might have. The Kalderash are proud that the community is virtually divorce-free, which is more reason for them to reject mixing with other ethnicities. Broken marriages, which only occur in extreme cases, are stigmatized, especially in the case of women: widows, or women who were left by their husbands (there has been only one case) have no chance to lead normal lives. They have few chances to find a partner or will be “placed” by the community in the care of a man who lost his wife or has a medical condition (a disability). There are no situations in which the women leave their families: regardless of domestic violence, conflicts with the husband or the in-laws, or even infidelities. Our Romanian respondent who is familiar with the Kalderash mentioned that they have no culture of marriage or the sexual relations within the marriage. The conversations with the community doctor have shown that almost 80% of the women who regularly see the doctor have issues, most of them related to frigidity, due to having married at an early age. Approximately 20 young women see the doctor for OBGYN treatments. Adult and elderly women do not even consider seeing the doctor. As far as I am concerned, about 20 of the younger girls have used contraception, although it is taboo, and they would never admit to it. They wouldn’t tell their mothers, their sisters, not even to each other. It is the woman doctor who convinced them, but nobody can know about it, not their husbands, not their mothers-in-law… nobody. It’s likely that they will tell their daughters about it, when they are grown, but it will take a while… it is, however, a step in the right direction ... 38

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Women’s status in the community has changed little over the time. For the Romanians, until recently the situation of gypsy women was similar to that of slaves. Upon adopting the Pentecostal religion, there have been improvements, a clear example being the participation of women to the vote to elect the preachers. They don’t have this… even when they weren’t married legally, gypsy women would never leave regardless of what the men did. Even if they beat them up, the women would stay… During that time, women were little more than slaves. It’s rough. To me it’s rough. But this is how we saw them from an outsider’s perspective. (representative of Romanians) We would get married as children. You couldn’t tell your dad… Dad I want to marry that woman, that girl, no way. He’d say… mind your own business, that’s my decision not yours. Children weren’t asked what they wanted. If the girl liked me or not didn’t matter, she’d marry me anyway because that was her parents’ decision. We obeyed our parents. All our community, we obey our parents. So once you get married, you stay married. So if women get beaten up or not, it doesn’t matter. Even if a woman goes back to her father, she spends a day, and then she returns to her husband. We’re not like you. It’s not like a man slaps his wife and she divorces him! No! Once you’re married in front of God, you stay married! It’s all good for us. Because that’s the way to be. Even if you’re not married in church, even if you don’t go to the Mayor’s Office, the women would never leave their husbands. So, we have our problems… I mean, any family has its problems… some families are filthy rich and still they have problems. But problems can be solved! Once you make peace, life goes on, the family goes on. (Roma leader) Well, women’s situation in the community is the same as it was 200 years ago. They have no rights, their husbands can do anything. Women can’t leave their husbands, regardless of what they do. Unless there is a conflict between the families, and the woman’s father takes her back. But once something like that happens, the woman in question has no future. She cannot set up house with another man… or if she’s allowed to, it will be with another gypsy, a widower, or someone who’s too poor to have been able to marry, or someone with a mental disability or some other reason for which he couldn’t marry. But there’s no way for her to start life all over again… if her husband dies, it’s over. And there’s no way that a woman can get separated from her husband to start over again… this just doesn’t exist! (representative of the Romanians) She had to walk behind us, I had to walk three meters in front of her. That was the tradition, women can’t walk alongside men on the road. If that happened, I’d be the laughing stock of the village. It’s just not allowed. Or if a woman passed in front of a man… it just was not allowed. Even if a man was just

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loitering, a woman wasn’t allowed to cross in front of him. So I’d just move out of the way. Like cars do. She’d give me priority. (Roma leader) Although religion has improved the condition of women, the idea that a Kalderash woman can leave her husband to go live among the Romanians is considered absurd in the community. One of the explanations for this phenomenon is that the Kalderash women wear their traditional clothes, the colourful skirts that would preclude their being accepted by the majority. An average Kalderash family has four or five children. Due to the age when most marriages are concluded, there are many households where the age differences between uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews is very small. Beyond the average of five children, a series of respondents, including women, mentioned that having too many children is shameful, for it takes away from the family’s status (due to the extra expenses for their care). The cost-benefit of having children suggests a preference for boys, because girls make you lose money, you have to care for them, you have to help them when they’re poor, but boys help you when you’re old. The respondents also gave reasons for marrying their children at young ages: in their opinion, getting married at a later age (over 18) would then create problems between the spouses. Moreover, the older they get, the more aware of their own tastes and choices teenagers are. To prevent that and to avoid that their children fall in love with someone who is unsuitable for them, as status or standing in the community, the parents make the choice before time, and the children never worry about the fact that their lives could have been entirely different had they been given a choice. Before they would be older when they got married, now we marry them younger, so that the tradition lasts. If one of our girls gets to be 20 or 23 years old, or one of our boys, they might fall in love with each other, for no reason, and when they get married, it’s not the same love, not the same fortune, not the same house, not the same bed. So, if you marry your sweetheart at an earlier age, from the very beginning, as it was, you’re welcome in our world. Because there will be no problems later. Because for us… once you married a girl, there’s no talk of divorce, or I don’t know what else… never. (Roma leader) Life of the community: education The level of education in the community, especially among the women, is low: there is only one adult who has graduated from junior high school, and no adult

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women who have more than two years of primary school. The question of education only arose after the Kalderash settled and the community had already been formed. After 1960, mandatory schooling had been part of the policy of ethnic assimilation, Roma children being forced to attend school. A rate of 100% would drop out before one year, and this situation is still applicable. The greatest barriers to schooling have always been related to traditional activities: the semi-nomadic selling of cauldrons, the involvement of girls in homemaking activities from early ages such as six or seven. Moreover, there is a certain reticence to getting educated, especially for girls, in whose cases it is considered a shame to go to school. So far, there has been little progress in the field, most Kalderash children being unable to keep up with their Romanian classmates in their knowledge of the Romanian language. After 1989, and especially in the last seven years, certain changes have occurred. During the communist regime, the Roma sent their children to school to receive support from the state. After 1990, they increasingly needed driving licenses. Bible study during the religious gathering is yet another motivation for the children to learn to read and write. Nowadays, adults feel that there are a lot of advantages associated to education, especially as a result of increasingly frequent interactions with the authorities and the outside world (local authorities, local doctor, shops and stores). I don’t know how to answer this question, but I don’t think this change will apply to girls. You know why? I’ll tell you. There’s a great difference with girls. We let our boys go to school, not our girls. I don’t know. It was a stupid thing for our parents to do. And now we let our girls go to school too. After 1990, things have started improving in our community. Now we have girls in school, some are in 5th grade, in 4th grade, like the boys. There’s a girl in 7th grade, and two of our girls have graduated from junior high school... So you know how it used to be with parents? Well, you’re a girl, you gotta learn to make a meal, not to shame me by going to school. Parents wanted to take advantage of their daughters, to make them work. Once a girl was six, she had to sweep the floors, make the beds, make food, because they had no time. The girls had to keep the house in order. So the spouses would go out, and the girl would stay behind, so when her parents would return, everything was in its place. So that was it. Homemaking, you know? But with a boy, you can’t make him do anything. So the girls had to do everything… so if a boy is six, you let him be, but if a girl is six, you send her to the kitchen. He’s six, he goes to school. So, the girl goes to the kitchen, so that when she gets married, at twelve, she knows how to cook… when girls are twelve, thirteen, they have to know everything about homemaking… that was the rule here. The girls’ job was in the house. They had to know how to make polenta, to get water from the well, to sew, to read the cards. That was her future

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job as a woman. So, by the time a girl would be eight or nine, she’d be like a second mother for the family. She’d do anything her mother did. She’d raise her siblings, take care of them. Some of the old patterns are still affecting the community’s girls. Although there are 15 children enrolled in junior high school, only three of them are girls, and it is unlikely that they will graduate. Marriage usually means the definite end to any child’s education, regardless of which cycle they are enrolled in: the new couple must assume their married responsibilities, without exception. Men must work to support their new family, and women must take care of the home. In this context, schooling is not only impossible, but also not considered as desirable. Once they’re married, they can’t go to school anymore. They’ve lost the right to. You know that case last year, with that girl, that student, right? You don’t? Well, it was a student… she was very good in school. Her parents were Kalderash, she was about sixteen, she was in high school, and her parents decided to get her married. And she… she wanted to finish high school, so she killed herself, she hanged herself. She was from… out west. Yes, they were Kalderash Roma from Mureş [NW Romania ]. The two girls (the only ones in the community) who graduated from junior high school are a good example of the community’s approach to education. The only reason for their level of education is that they were raised in an orphanage, their parents not having been able to afford raising them. It is through the orphanage that they went to school. After their graduation, they were returned to their parents, and now they wear traditional Kalderash clothing. Pending their enrollment in a training course, the two girls might become health liaisons in the community. Their parents do not approve, because they perceive having daughters who have a job as a shame. Again, the community and its rules come first, even when they are hindering the very welfare of the community. The situation of the two girls mentioned above is increasingly difficult now: they cannot continue their development outside the community, and they are already stigmatized inside the community, due to having gone to school with Romanians. All these, and their “advanced” age by Roma standards, reduce their chances to get married: they will not be sought after for marriage. The openness created by education is not a good thing inside the community. At present, the two girls included, there are three persons who graduated from junior high school. They all have the chance to further develop themselves, the two girls as health liaisons, and the Roma leader, who is 33, may become a school liaison. Despite the pervasiveness of tradition, these three persons have an opportunity to break with it, although it remains to be seen whether they will be able to take it. 42

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There are two girls… so how come they went to junior high school? Because they grew up in the orphanage. Their father didn’t have means… it was difficult for them… they were twins. So the twins went to the orphanage. They were raised by the state until they were seven, and then they went to the special school and graduated from junior high school. So when they graduated, they were returned to their parents. They could either stay on, or return to their parents. And their father took them back. But, you see, when he took them back, he didn’t know that they might leave again. So this summer, both Mr. Vasile and I got phone calls: they said they needed two girls as health liaisons in Vereşti and ... they had to have graduated from junior high school. So they would go to a six month or one year training course, or something, and would have a job and a place to live and everything. So we tell this guy: let your girls go. So he says: no, I just managed to get them out of their trousers and into Kalderash clothes, they’re to be married now… I barely managed to change them back. Well, I was kinda horrified to hear about it! (Roma leader) No. Nobody asked the girls. And there’s another thing. I think they’re eighteen or sixteen or something. They’re older. So I don’t think it’ll be easy to marry them. Because they grew up in the orphanage. They didn’t grow up here, you know? And many people think they’ve got something wrong with their head, that they have problems. But it’s not true, the girls are healthy, and they’re good girls, they learned to read and write… But that’s the problem, nobody wants them now. So, as a parent… even if Romanians asked for them… he wouldn’t marry them to Romanians. But gypsies don’t want them. So their father is pretty much sacrificing them… (Roma leader) However, some progress has been made. Two events stand out. In order to eliminate some of the adaptation issues of Roma children in majority schools, it was decided to improvise a school in the community, in one of the homes, where a teacher comes daily to teach the children. Another project was the School For Adults, initiated by the education authorities. Although initially accepted by the Kalderash, who wanted to learn to read and write, the project was ultimately abandoned: the Kalderash complained that the course was not specialized enough, and that it conflicted with the regular cauldron-selling schedule. All in all, there has been little change in the way the Kalderash Roma perceive education, but the view that education may be necessary has begun to take root. The old view had been that education does not entail any advantages for the community. Nowadays, perception has evolved to the next level, and education is seen as a prerequisite for a life of achievement inside the community (the respondents are willing to get an education so that they can do their traditional work better, are

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able to drive a vehicle and sell more, are able to read the Bible, and know money). It remains to be seen whether education will become a prerequisite for adaptation outside the community.

Life of the community: economics The opinions on the welfare of the Kalderash are contradictory. According to the majority population, the Roma tend to play the victim as soon as they perceive a chance of material gain. The majority population noticed that the monthly expenses of an average Kalderash family are around 1600 to 2000 lei for approximately eight persons. They live in the moment, and they live very well… for instance they spend more than I do, and I can say I have money… I’m living the way I want to, and I never give up on holidays and weekend trips and such… yet I still can’t afford to spend as much as they do. As soon as winter sets in, each family buys around two large pigs. They have their own recipes, their food is very good, especially the smoked meat. Speaking of weddings, they don’t cook for weddings. They would sacrifice around five large pigs and give the meat to the wedding party, each person would get around two or three kilos of raw meat. Because nobody in the community is involved in agriculture, the Roma must buy all produce. As for income sources, the following have been identified: approximately 200 persons receive the minimum income from the state, and the elder persons, especially the ones who were deported to Bug, receive pensions, approximately 500 lei a month from the German state. The Romanian state also offered money payments for the gold which was confiscated during the deportation years. Apart from temporary work performed by the Kalderash wives, all the material resources of the community are related to the traditional cauldron-making. Through cold iron-processing they make pots and pans, buckets, water buckets, stoves and tubs. After 1989, they had to opportunity to recover scrap iron after the closing of the old factories in the region. Their traditional occupation, along with selling scrap iron after 1990, insured the development of the community and is passed from father to son: boys learn as early as nine or ten to work with iron and they are skilled in the trade by the time they are 14 or 15. A sixteen-year-old boy can support a family through the seasonal migration to sell products. Girls of the same age are able to take care of the household when their husbands are away.

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Nobody in the community has ever been formally employed: the Kalderash do not think they could live on an unskilled worker salary, which is the only employment they could find. There is no debate about employment of women. All girls who are older than 15 are already involved full-time in raising children. Although a number of youths worked in Greece for three months, there has been no permanent migration from the community. The work ethic of the Kalderash is recognized by the majority population. There are, however, concerns about the future of their traditional work, as demand on the market is constantly decreasing. In the past, the Kalderash used to sell their products in Transylvania as well, but nowadays their market has been restricted to the Botoşani area, and to a lesser extent to Iaşi county. At the same time, the community is trying to adapt to the new reality of decreased demand for their products. Already they have reoriented to cast iron processing, which is used in constructions. Gold is the traditional vehicle for investment to be passed to future generations: gold was our fortune, the same way your people have land, cars, and leave them to their children, we give our children necklaces, gold. All the vehicles and the money obtained through sales are used to buy gold for the children. Community relations Community relations are built on the family relations, it is through families that the large number of people sharing the same last name organize their immediate family ties. Extended families help each other, offering housing during the sale trips. A family is organized normally around an older couple with more material resources. The siblings and their children and families are part of the extended family. Daughters enter the extended family of the husband, once they are married. Relations are also structured according to social status: the better off stick together, and marriages are concluded between families who are on the same social level, who have money and power. Through marriages, families consolidate their status in the community, avoiding any source for conflicts. The Pentecostal religion contributed to harmony inside the community: although traditional events have lost their importance, the marriages, and mostly the treatment of women within marriages has improved. The community itself is organized according to tradition and religion. The traditional Roma leader exists, and his role is mainly to represent the community in its dealings with the authorities and to solve the internal problems which may occur. The current leader is the son of the former leader, who returned from Bug and had an important part in the creation of the Vereşti community, and thus he enjoys respect from the community’s elders. Although tradition is respected, religion has played an

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important part in the community. The Kalderash respect religious prescripts to the letter. Through religion, other leaders of the community were created, such as the preacher and the deacon, who were elected democratically. Their charisma has grown in time, but the Roma leader does not feel that there is any conflict between the two types of leaders. Despite this coexistence between religion and tradition, in real life the community is ready to give up on tradition if religion demands it: the traditional clothing has been changed so that women do not wear jewelry, and they do not read the cards anymore because the religion forbids it, and the pastor told them that jewelry is not allowed, that it is a sin. Relations with Romanians Before 1989, the Kalderash were in continuous conflict with the police, who were continuously trying to confiscate their gold. They were often chased and even abused. The elders remember sneaking into the village, too afraid of being detained by the police to go to church or send their children to school: if we sent 15 year old kids to school, the police would arrest them “how much gold does your dad have? How about your mom?” . There have been no conflicts with the Romanians before or after 1989. According to our respondents, the two groups have always been separate, with no social interactions, and according to clear rules: the Roma stay away from the activities and events of Romanians, and the Romanians stay away from the Roma. There are rare economic interactions, such as selling cauldrons to Romanians or sending Kalderash women to perform agricultural work for Romanians. The community is strong: the Kalderash are united, and this precludes any relations that could exist between them and Romanians, even when they are neighbours. The relations between Kalderash and Romanians who are neighbours are dissimilar to the relations between Kalderash neighbours: the members of the two households would not visit with each other, would not lend money to each other, and would have no common activities. This reticence to engage comes from both sides. Regardless of age or gender, there is no relation between the members of the two communities. So girls are forbidden to have any relationships outside the community, including friendships: it is a dishonour, if a Kalderash girl’s father finds out that she spoke with a Romanian, especially with a man, she cannot do such a thing if she wants to keep her honour among the gypsies and find a good husband. This is total war. A 16 year old gypsy girl is already a spinster, her future would be over if she wasn’t married. If she goes to school, she is completely compromised. And if she went to school and shared a desk with a Romanian, her value in the community is zero. 46

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The only interactions with the majority population are the visits to the authorities to pick up their state income, and the ones to the local doctor. Although kept under control, Romanians and Kalderash wives did mention an alcohol problem among them men, so that the access road to the community was full of drunkards making noise and being loud (all their men speak loudly because they need to hear each other over the hammering of the iron). The problem was solved once the community embraced the Pentecostal religion, which forbids the consumption of alcohol as well as parties. Relations with other communities The relations with other communities are equally scarce, normally reduced to the sales activities in other villages and towns. The social interactions with relatives from other communities are more frequent, but are reduced to the in-laws, who take part occasionally to important social events in VereĹ&#x;ti. The Hancea community is also visited by preachers from other communities, and the local preachers travel to other Kalderash communities to convert them to the Pentecostal cult. Community issues and the relations with the local authorities. Although the number of Roma is significant by comparison to the number of Romanians, they are not represented in the local institutions. During the last elections, they were two votes short of having a representative in the Local Council. Neither the leaders, nor the regular community members have any interest in politics or to contributing to the administration of the commune. They wish to continue living in segregation and solve their problems within the community. They are used to not having any obligations to the local authorities, and the latter are used to ignoring the problems of the Kalderash community, motivating their choice by the fact that most Roma have no property proof for their houses. According to the representative of the Mayor’s Office, the Roma are not currently discriminated against in any way, but they are completely disinterested in getting involved in solving even their own problems. According to the same source, the Roma often do not respect their minimal obligations to the state: they do not pay for their utilities (such as phone bills), fail to attend school and to pay their taxes. They are only interested in respecting the law when they stand to gain from it, an instance being the initiative of several couples from the community to get married legally once they found out that they stand to gain 200 Euros from the state (according to a law which offered couples in their eighties money for getting married during 2006). The situation is completely different during electoral campaigns, when the Kalderash become important for all the candidates. At these times, the access road

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to the community is repaved, and the Kalderash feel that their needs and requests are taken seriously by the authorities. According to some of our respondents, the candidates most often use the community, and their “support” is never long term or meant to solve the community’s problems. So when they’re campaigning... if the candidate offers two bottles of wine and a pig, everybody votes for them, if nothing if offered, they don’t go to the polls. And we’re talking about 400 votes, and in a commune, that’s a lot. It’s a high percentage, if you think that the current Mayor was voted by around 900 votes, and the 100% of the gypsies went to vote, while only 30% of the Romanians did ... And in reality, they’re told who to vote with (the Roma). They’re easily manipulated. And after the elections, nobody cares about them anymore. An example in this respect is the building of most of the community houses without an authorization, which has been tolerated systematically by the local authorities, in exchange for votes, leading to the current overcrowding. All the current issues facing the community today can be traced back to it. The overcrowding and the lack of any zoning criteria in the community render impossible the building of any infrastructure. Only the houses close to the access lane can be connected to the gas mains. As for property documents, they only exist for the houses built after 1987. The current owners have no proof of purchase for their land. All in all, little has been done to improve the living conditions of the Vereşti community. Synthesis The Vereşti community is well rounded as an entity. The same can be said about its general values and lifestyle. The principles according to which it functions have been well established and kept throughout its existence, from the nomadic years to the current day, when tradition is still kept alive through the garments, occupation and the observance of the traditional social norms. The most obvious feature of this community is its homogeneity: there are no anomalies, no exceptions to the will of the community, no individual choices. The community’s voice is the only one heard. An outsider can only summarize it as follows: when you talk with one person it feels like you’re talking with the community itself! The current community is the spit image of the community set up last century, almost without any evolution whatsoever. In the 100 years following the abolishment of slavery, little changed in the lives of the Kalderash. Their conversion to the Pentecostal religion in 1994 generated more changes than the 50 years they spent

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next to the majority population. At this time, there are two systems of values that the community relates to: the tradition (the old law) and the Pentecostal religion. The latter is catching up and is enjoying more and more legitimacy among the Kalderash, who are increasingly willing to obey the new rules to the detriment of the old ones. People  M.I. M.I. is 88 years old, has gone through the deportations, and is one of the eldest members of the community. He has lived through all the important stages of the community’s development. He got married next to Târgu Frumos, before coming to Vereşti, and then, in 1962 he was among the 10 families who received 250 sqm of land from the Local Council to build a house and settle in the commune. He now lives in the house he built in 1962, together with his wife, with whom he had five children: two sons and three daughters. His sons went to school, because of Ceauşescu, one for two years and the other for three. Of his five children, three died and two lived through the deportation, and are now living in Vereşti together with their father. He is still making cauldrons, but he also receives a pension from the German state for the years he spent in the concentration camp. He never went to school. The other members of the community speak of him as the person with the most varied life experience in the community. His childhood. The elders remember their childhood as a continuous migration from one village in another. They would live in tents, in groups of maximum ten families. M.I. remembers living and travelling with his family in tents, before 1942, along the length of the bank of river Prut, together with his parents and five siblings. Although he cannot say for sure where he was born, he thinks it might have been somewhere in the Bârlad area, in Vaslui county. According to him, each travelling family had its allotted sales area, but most families did not have sufficient resources. People of his age find it difficult to describe where they lived during childhood, because they would rarely spend more than three months in one place. He remembers vividly the deportation: it started with being forced to march to Păuneşti, in the Bărăgan plain, where all the Roma had been gathered to be registered and escorted, from “bastards to bastards” (from the local authorities to the Germans). The road to the concentration camp, being separated from his family, the miserable conditions he lived in for almost three years, the children who died in camp when the mud huts would collapse on top of them, the six months spent walking back to Moldavia; all these are bitter memories for M.I., who called the deportation the worst time for the entire Roma nation.

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Both the German and the Romanian soldiers. They treated us miserably. A gypsy kid climbed on a fence one day, and the German who saw him, shot him dead. He was a 19 year old kid… he saw the sun through the fence and just climbed up to be in the sun. And he got killed. They didn’t care. You would just be walking on the road and they’d shoot you just because… oh my God, you can’t imagine how horrible it was… they did that all the time. They said one of my aunts, her name was Paraschiva, they said she had done something… although she’d done nothing, and they shot her. We weren’t allowed to leave the camp… there was a perimeter where we were allowed. We couldn’t leave. Only those women they liked, they let out of the camp. The work they had to perform for the Russians, and especially the miserable conditions inside the mud huts and the treatment they received from their captors led to the death of most of the people who had been deported. M.I. has no doubts that the reason they had been deported was to die alone. Although he went through a lot, he thinks of himself as one of the lucky cases, because he was able to meet his family when he returned to Tiraspol, and returned to Romania in the company of his family. Like everybody else, M.I.’s family had lost everything during the deportation, so their return to Suceava alongside the Russian army was hellishly difficult: Yes, we stayed there where they were firing bombs from the depot. We were in Focşani for about two weeks, and then we walked to Râmnicu Sărat. The families, who could take their children along, took them along, the others just abandoned them on the road, and the children would die. In one spot an entire family died… 12 people… we had no carriages, nothing to carry them in... All the elders of the community, men and women, went through the same hardships before they made it to Vereşti. He thinks that the Kalderash were different from other Roma, they remained united including during the deportation times: My dad used to tell me that this gypsy nation from Moldavia had its own place and didn’t mix with others. You know why… the silver-makers were capable of anything… they’d be talking with you and trying to rob you at the same time… those were the silver-makers… there are many different gypsy nations… but, we, the Kalderash, we do not steal. Education. For M.I., his nomadic childhood precluded any formal education possibility. For his generation, going to school was completely outside of their reach. Even after settling in Vereşti, the Kalderash did not change their attitude about education. They are adamant, however, about the fact that the Romanian 50

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society was not ready to educate the Roma, and poverty worsened the adaptation difficulties of the Roma children. After settling in Vereşti, schooling was mandatory for a while: in this context, however, the Roma were tolerated and discriminated against, and nobody was interested when they would drop out after short periods. M.I. remembers that, even if the Kalderash had homes now, their material situation had not improved by much, and going to school was too big a financial effort for most families. Marriage and family life. M.I. remembers that in the time of his youth, before the Vereşti settling, marriage was conditioned by the existence of resources: all the fortune of a family was in the carriage and tents it owned, and the son of a Kalderash could not marry unless he owned his own carriage and tent. After the deportation, poverty was the norm, which led to marriage happening at an older age, and even to cases of celibacy among men, when the necessary resources to start a family were lacking: if a boy didn’t have his carriage and tent, he couldn’t marry! Girls were still married at an early age, though: When they were still migrating, the men would be in their thirties and they would marry a 14-15 year old girl… Or they stayed single, because they couldn’t marry. They didn’t have a tent and a carriage. That’s it, when there was no carriage and tent, a man had to work, he would live together with his siblings, and it was a lot of hard work before a man had his own carriage and tent… There was never enough money… once a man had some money, it would all be gone on the carriage and tent, and by then he’d be in his thirties… had worked twenty years of his life to marry some sixteen year old girl… sometimes a widow… So it was difficult for them then. Because he was poor when he returned from Bug, it was difficult for M.I. to find a wife. He was 25 when he got married, while in Tg. Neamţ. His current wife was recommended by his relatives living in Iaşi county. He remembers that he had no money to negotiate his marriage with his in-laws, all his gold had been confiscated in Bug and he only had enough to have a small wedding, in the context where the daughter of a well-off family would obey her father, and be more expensive to marry. Back then it was expensive to buy a girl… very expensive… and when her father was well-off, he’d play hard to get, he’d ask for a lot of money… If the girl had been fooling around, then he had to give her away for less money… because there would be rumors about what she’d done with this man or the other… and the father would be made fun of.

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His wife was born in the river Siret area; although her entire family had also been deported to Bug, the families of the two did not meet there. Given that at that time marriage would occur at a later age, M.I.’s wife was 19 when they married. After the wedding, M.I. took his new bride to his own family, and they continued their nomadic life between Tg. Frumos and Iaşi, or randomly through the neighbouring villages. Their relationship was good throughout their marriage, although M.I. did mention that once you’re married you have no choice but to get along anyway: We had some arguments, but she never fooled around on me, she was a good woman. She is a good person, she uses her head. We don’t leave our wives, and our wives never leave their husbands. You married her, you’re stuck with her… there’s no way you leave a woman for another. If you married an idiot, you’re stuck with her. There’s no way out if it! The couple think that settling in Vereşti improved their lives. They had their five children after they built their house. Their offspring married and stayed in the community, according to tradition. Although M.I. thinks that school is generally a good thing, so that people don’t stay stupid, his family was too poor at the time he had school-age children to send them to school. His two sons dropped out of school after a few years. M.I. does not think that Roma children were welcome in Romanian schools at that time (he also thinks that it is not “appropriate” for Roma children, and especially for girls to go to school now): They couldn’t stay in school… the girls were chased by the boys… and the boys, the others called them gypsies. During Ceauşescu’s time people didn’t like gypsies...now that we’re settled… but back then people didn’t like us. Back then we didn’t have our own houses, they’d beat us up, call us names… now it’s different. Although he would have liked to have a larger family, M.I. endured many hardships in order to raise his five children. Before 1989, the better-off Kalderash families had more children, while the poorer families had around five children, on the average. Nowadays, M.I. thinks that the ideal number of children that a family should have is four or five, because the age of marriage has dropped again: for a mother who already has grandchildren, it is shameful to have more children, especially since the age difference between the children and their aunts and uncles is already small. One of his greatest responsibilities as a father has been to find good brides for his sons, from well-off families with a good name in the community: I’ve said it before, let’s talk with this or the other because they’re good men, they don’t cause trouble… they don’t steal from their own. Because we have people 52

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who steal from their own too, and their children are also thieves. But a good man is a good man… so when I chose my daughters in law, I looked for important families, families with money. My sons were 20 and 22 respectively when I married them… my daughters were 15. One of my daughters in law is from Chilişani, about 6 km from here... it was the relatives who told us: take this girl, she’s a good girl, she’s a hard worker, she does all it takes in the house… but they lied to us, because she wasn’t all that. His daughters were asked for by his sons in law’s parents, and they happened to also marry in Chilişani. M.I. is not very happy about how his children married, because his daughters in law are not hard workers, and his sons in law do not support their families like they should: They asked for my daughters. They must ask for the girl first, so we start negotiating… and then we give them the girl… and I did… we had our problems, not many… I won’t call them lies, because not all men are born good breadwinners. Migration. After settling in Vereşti, the family abandoned its nomadic lifestyle. Although the Kalderash still travel to sell their products, they always return home. The proximity to the rail station and the purchase of personal vehicles increased the family’s mobility, which in turn increased the volume of their sales. Before the settlement, M.I.’s family had lived the nomadic lives of their entire generation: moving their tents from one side of Moldavia to another. Born near Bârlad, his family moved him permanently from one village to another, along the length of river Prut’s bank, until the deportation to Bug, in 1940. Afterwards, his family returned to Focşani, and then to Târgu Frumos, where he got married. After spending a while in the Iaşi area, his new family settled in Vereşti, when he was in his forties, and here they remained. M.I. found the right way to describe the nomadic lifestyle of his youth: you’d walk around for no reason… you didn’t know where you came from and where you were going… Occupation, resources, and satisfaction with life. M.I. entire generation had only one occupation, the traditional cauldron-making that the name of his people derives from. Nobody was ever formally employed. After 1989, the Kalderash also took up selling scrap iron, along their traditional iron processing activities. They never worked in agriculture, because they have never owned land. Therefore, their traditional occupation must provide the money required to buy all the produce they need.

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M.I. is still working and selling iron products, but he also receives a pension from the German state, in compensation for his deportation to Bug. His sons “are settled in their houses, and he also has nine grandchildren”, and he would love to be able to repair his house or build a new one, although he has no money. He is happy that the Kalderash are finally living in freedom, and thinks that this is the happiest time of his life.  B.P. B.P. is 33 years old and is a preacher with the Pentecostal church. He is married and has five children. He was born in Vereşti, where his parents had settled, and he grew up there together with his two brothers and one sister. He used to join his parents on their trips to sell iron products. He has no experience with the old nomadic life or the deportation years, except from the stories of his parents, and unlike M.I., he has always had a stable home as a child, although with the nomadic undertones of joining his parents on their “business” travels. B.P. remembers that, as a child, he would be away with his parents for three, four, or even seven months at a time, travelling through Moldavia. During these times, the entire community would be travelling. The question of schooling came up once the communist regime made it mandatory. B.P. remembers that in the 80s the police would take the children to school by force. This happened to him as well. He dropped out of school after two years, not having learned to read or to write. Roma children were enrolled in school for show, he thinks, because they would be away with their parents for as long as seven months each year, which would render their enrollment useless. Moreover, during the winter months when the children were at home, they had no clothes to go to school in, or heat and electricity to be able to do any kind of homework. Q: You’re the only one in your family who went to school! How come? A: The police were after me, somewhat. They made me go when I was young. But afterwards we left to sell our products. I’d be away from home for seven months, we’d only return during winter, and we had no heat, no electricity, no uniforms… it wasn’t like it is now. How could I have gone to school barefoot? So I just dropped out... Although he enjoyed going to school, B.P. was unable to adapt to the environment of neglect created by his teachers. It was a general situation, two Roma children being assigned to each class. Their chances to catch up with their Romanian classmates were close to zero, both because they only spoke the Roma

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language at home, and because the teachers neglected them. Although he got along with his Romanian classmates, B.P. does not have fond memories of going to school, remembering how his teacher made him sit in the last row of desks from the very first day of school. He was also away most of time, travelling with his parents. He dropped out of school before having learned to read or write. He feels that the experience did not teach him anything, because he had been unable to learn anything useful. B.P. learned to read when he was 31, having taken part in a program called A Second Chance or The School For Adults, aimed to improve the literacy of the adult members of the Kalderash community, and he feels that the greatest advantage of his new-found literacy is his ability to read and interpret the Bible. Along with 35 other Kalderash, some of them in their 50s, B.P. spent the weekends of two months learning how to read and write his own name. He eventually opted out of the program, because his time was scarce and he was unhappy with the program: (there were no individual tasks, the teachers were often late, and the courses were not specialized enough for his needs). For one month I paid the teacher, 30 RON. And one month was free. We received a grant. I needed to be able to read, for church. I wanted to read the Scriptures. We need more of those programs. There is one running this year, and it’s got good attendance. He is unable to write, however, and has been embarrassed by this fact: School is more important now than it used to be. I can only write my name, when I fill in a paper or something. Before, I couldn’t even write my own name, I would ask people who knew how to write for help and they would say “Why didn’t you learn to write? Why didn’t you go to school?” And I was somewhat ashamed… before I didn’t need to know these things… but now… Religion seems to be the greatest motivation for B.P. to learn to read. He learned to read by going through the Bible. He married when he was 19, and his new family lived with his parents. He still enjoys very close relations with his parents and siblings. He is the only one who stayed in his parents’ house with his wife. Unlike most of the youths in the community, B.P. “had an arranged marriage”. My father in law, he was drunk, so he came to me and said: if you do what I tell you, you can be my son in law. He wanted some complicated iron works. His mouth was going a mile a minute, but I made fun of him, I was like, yeah, I’ll bend two trays for you right now, and I’ll marry your daughter. I made his trays

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for him and took them over. And during that time he had gotten things ready. So I went over, and he gave me money and said “go get two cases of beer”, on his money. So next thing I know, everybody knows I am engaged. And that was it! His future wife was 14 at the time, and they were engaged for two years. She remained in her parents’ house for the duration. The wedding was organized by B.P.’s parents, in their house, and it was a big affair by Kalderash standards, they had over 30 attendants. His wife moved to his parents’ house, where they are still living. They have five children together, four of whom are in school. B.P. wants his children to graduate from junior high school. He wants to marry his daughters when they are 14. They will then drop out of school, lest the family will be disgraced. The Pentecostal religion, whose rules he lives by, only allows marriage after the girls are 16. To fulfill this requirement, he plans for his daughters to get engaged early, but only get married after they are 16. His sons will stay in school for as long as he can afford it, and until the time when they can support themselves. As for the future of his children, B.P. is very clear: My children will have no other trade than cauldron-making! It is very difficult for us to work somewhere for a salary. We have no land. We can’t do agriculture. And to work for 400-500 lei a month, with a family at home… that’s no money to support a family with food. Romanians have their livestock. They can afford to work for so little. I mean, let’s say I made 500 lei a month… just commuting would cost me 100-200 lei a month. So how could my family survive? On the other hand, if we make a couple of cauldrons, we get food where we sell them, the next day there’s money and food in the house… and so on… that’s the only way… He started working at home when he was 15, and at 20 he already had to support his own family. His marriage knew its ups and downs, but the conversion to the Pentecostal religion improved it considerably: Before, there were many fights. Men would come home drunk, break things, beat their women and their children up, there were no windows and doors, they’d tear everything down. But since they found religion, there have been no more troubles. I’ve beaten my wife before… I had found religion and she had not… so I would beat her because we had twins and she would return home drunk from somewhere... He became one of the most dedicated members of the Pentecostal church, and was elected as a preacher by democratic vote. Together with another pastor, he is one 56

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of the new leaders of the community, and enjoys a very good standing. He never tried to get formal employment, and does not think that he would be able to, mostly because of his low level of education. He does not think he could find a job with sufficient pay to support his family or to build his own house. He is the only person in the community, however, who worked abroad, in Greece, to gather sufficient money to be able to build a house back home. He spent three months in Greece, working in agriculture. He managed to gather money, but his wife and children found it hard to get by in his absence. He is happy with his life, but said that if he were 20 again, and no family to support, he would go to Greece for a couple of years, to work. He feels that the most important thing in his life is his religion, which changed his entire life and approach to other people: The most important part of it is the change in mentality, the understating of concepts, understanding what it means to be friends with the Romanians, understanding them and making them understand you, respecting and being respected. Before we couldn’t care less!  T.M. T.M. is the other preacher of the Kalderash community, he is 43 years old and was born in Vereşti in 1965, during the early development of the community. He is one of the rare persons in the community whose opinions about the traditional Kalderash way of life are changing. He is also the only success story in terms of education, being the only adult to have graduated from junior high school. He went to school out of curiosity, but also out of obligation. During those times the eldest children in every family were gathered by the teachers, headmasters and the police to be sent to school. He was the only Roma child in his class, and he got along very well with his Romanian classmates, he made friends and he “had gotten to the point where my best friends were Romanian, they’d give me part of their lunches, for I hadn’t heard of taking a lunchbox to school”. He never encountered any discrimination, and feels that his teacher had shown him a special interest and dedication, which was the only reason he stayed in school, “she kept at it, and wouldn’t stop bugging me to stay in school and finish the 4th grade”. His results in school were similarly positive: Well, I liked all the manuals. I’d always be among the best in my class. So I was pretty good, I won’t say the best, but I was good enough, and you know what? After 7th grade, I got married.

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T.M. went to school against the will of his parents, and was often beaten by his father because he went to school. Sometimes his father would even follow him to school to punish him for not staying home to help with the cauldrons. His parents arranged his marriage to stop him from going to school, so that, in 8th grade, he was forced to get married, and his parents took him away from school, which they saw as a waste of time, because a child needs a trade, not education, because education won’t feed you! The parents’ decision was at odds with the intentions of his teachers, who insisted that he finishes grade 8th: and with great pains, because the teachers knew me and liked me, so they’d give me an exam, and good grades, so I managed to graduate from junior high school. T.M. understands his parents’ vehement rejection of nontraditional pursuits and their desire to make sure that he was going to be able to support his family: So they married me, that’s how it was, you know? I was 17 and I knew how to work, how to process iron, I was making money, you know? Because this is also important. If you’re hard working, you work, you make a pretty penny, you have your own money, you don’t have to beg your parents for money ‘dad give me some change, I want a cake’. The trashing he’d have given me… Education had a significant impact on T.M., not only because of his results, but especially because of the future opportunities: he is currently the only adult in the community who knows to read and write and could become a school liaison. He was elected preacher by democratic vote, and he is displaying great responsibility in his work. Probably the most significant impact of education on him is the openness he shows about the future of his own children, and the role of education for later success in life: it was very useful for me. So, I, for one, am not sorry I went to school. However, his attitude did not prevent a repeat of his own history, as his eldest son dropped out of school in grade 7 to get married, without any resistance from his parents. T.M. thinks that it was the only chance for his son to find a good girl in the village. None of T.M.’s children has yet equaled his level of education, his eldest son having dropped out in grade 7. He and his wife are determined to let their children go to school for as long as they wish, and will not try to make their daughters leave school in order to get married, which they think is “a stupid old habit”: Well, if you give a girl in marriage at twelve, what does she know? Or at thirteen? Even at fifteen or sixteen. What would a child that young know? Yeah, she can sweep… so I’ll get her married because of that. But she needs to know to take care of a man. After we settled here, our parents kept this habit, made us get married young, but after we got religion, we gave up on this habit, the Bible forbids it. Girls only get married legally now. 58

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He also feels that the tradition of cauldron-making as the sole occupation and way to succeed in life has outlived its usefulness; and says that it’s school that will feed you nowadays. His opinion is not shared by the community, however. Nevertheless, T.M. sees no future for the traditional occupation of the Kalderash, which will soon fail to support families: Well, from my own experience, this is not useful anymore, times have changed. Our occupation will disappear, it doesn’t have any value anymore. It doesn’t support you. You travel all summer with your entire family, you work your head off, and all you earn is about 500-600 lei, even if you make 1000 lei it’s still not enough to buy food and wood. So you work like a slave for nothing. But if I had a job bringing me 1000 lei a month, I’d know that at the end of each month I would get this money. He thinks that the traditional occupation keeps the Kalderash united in the community and has helped with their survival as a community, but it also hindered their opportunities to do something else. If they diversified, he thinks, their lifestyle would change and the tradition would be eventually abandoned. In his opinion, tradition will be abandoned sooner or later. A couple of years or so ago, I was talking with Nea Vasile, when he was telling me to go to school, and I was saying I wouldn’t, I’m ashamed to. And then my opinion changed. Yes, my opinion of myself changed. Because I don’t care about the community anymore. I see life differently. It’s my life, and it’s what I make of it. Had I gone to high school, I would have seen things differently. I can get a job… because I went to junior high school. So I can get a job, but having graduated from high school is different. People look at you differently, you’re not just anybody, an illiterate that no important people would even look at, because you don’t even know how to speak. T.M. is the only member of the community who wants to do things differently in the future, and wishes that his children will break with tradition. He also cares more about the individual future of his children than about the community, and does not see any link between the two: I’ll let my daughter to go to school for as long as she wants to. I won’t force her to get married. I don’t want to ruin her future. If she wants to go to high school, she will. I don’t care about tradition anymore. I care about the future of my children. The community can say what they want, I’ll give up tradition to make my children’s future better, and if I say this… my friends will see that my child

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graduated from high school, and has a job with a decent pay… don’t you think they’ll follow my example, especially with our traditional occupation being what it is? For my children I will give up on everything!  A.D. A.D. is 28 years old and was born Vereşti. An oldest child, she has a sister and three brothers. Her childhood was spent in the traditional Kalderash way. She remembers her childhood fondly, saying that siblings took care of each other, and the parents did their best to insure that the children would excel at their traditional roles, boys as cauldron-makers, and girls as homemakers: We begin helping our parents when we are young. Once you’re 10 or so, you start taking care of the house, washing, cooking, cleaning. Your grandmas teach you to sew. This is what we do, because we have no land to work. When we travelled with our parents, we sometimes sold cauldrons. She was chosen by her future in-laws when she was only 13, and her engagement lasted for three years. She spent the years before her marriage in her parents’ house. The engagement is a guarantee for the parents, and they hurry to conclude it early, when they have where to choose from. Postponing the choice of a wife entails the risk that no girl of the right status will be found. The engagement was a guarantee, especially for the family of the future husband: the better-of the family of the girl, the earlier she would get engaged, to make sure she would not be married to someone else. The parents must insure the girl’s good manners, her education and good reputation, and they admit no distractions which would decrease her “value” on the matrimonial market. The engagement, even if the two future spouses know each other, which was the case of our respondent, does not change the relations between them prior to the wedding itself. She considers herself lucky to have married in the community, due to the proximity to her own family. Once she married, she moved to her in-laws’ house and started wearing the head-scarf that singles her out as a married woman. So the parents of the boy gathered money and came to my mother to make the wedding. And they talked to my mom and dad and made the wedding. So we got engaged, but I didn’t stay with him or talked with him before the wedding. We have no relations with the boys before the wedding. Even if everyone knows you’re getting married, you have no relations at all, before the wedding. This is so people don’t talk, and we don’t disgrace our parents. Because if a gypsy sees a couple together who isn’t married… it’s a disgrace for us.

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Symbolically, the married woman must wear the head-scarf to distinguish herself from the single girls. The mother in law becomes the second mother of the new wife, taking care of her, and ensuring she respects the rules: not talking to Romanian or Roma men, and fulfilling her homemaking duties. A.D. is still living with her in-laws, because her husband did not have the possibility to build a new house. She says that living with the in-laws is always more difficult than living with one’s own parents, because one has to continually fulfill the expectations of the new family: Once you’re a daughter in law, you do what you must do. When you’re with your own mother, it’s different… even if you don’t do all you have to, your mom won’t say anything, but your mother in law will… you have to cook, clean, sell cauldrons in the village… If you don’t do all you’re told, the in-laws say you don’t do anything, you’re lazy and good for nothing. That you’re not worth the food you’re eating… but if you obey then, the mother in law is well pleased and happy. Both women we have interviewed found it difficult to discuss about their marriage: A.D. said she does not even consider whether she and her husband get along, because “it’s her fate” and she must live with it! They did mention conflicts with their husbands, especially because of money and alcohol consumption. She had been frequently abused by her drunken husband in the past. Things have changed for the better when he converted to the Pentecostal cult. It’s okay, I never had anything with him. We fought from time to time because of the children. My husband, before he found religion, he was a bad man. He even beat me up then. He’d come home, break the windows… if there was a clock on the table, he’d smash it on the floor. I couldn’t do anything, he’d beat me… the children were small. But this was before he found religion, about 10 years ago, but I had only spent one year with him before he found religion. Gypsy men were very bad then. If you left your husband, nobody will marry you. They can’t… because you already have a husband… and if there was a fight, or something, you can go to your mother for a month, but then you return to your husband. You make up with the husband and the in-laws, especially if you have kids. But you can’t get separated… or divorced. Once you’re married to a man, you’re married for life. It doesn’t matter if he’s bad, or ugly, it doesn’t matter, you just stay with him and suffer if you must. For us, gypsy women, the men are more important. Women are also important for the home. But we stay together until we die. Other nations of Roma, they get separated.

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A.D. never thought about leaving her family, because Roma women think that the men must be forgiven their mistakes due to their status as bread-winners, while women must submit to their will; for this reason, the women’s dedication to their families is complete, regardless of the actions of their husbands: Romanian women are very jealous. They get divorced just like that. If they get a slap for not doing something in the home, they get upset and get divorced. It’s not good that they should leave their men for things like that. Our women, even if there are beaten, and hungry, and thrown out, they still don’t leave their husbands. But men can’t leave their wives either. And you can’t cheat on your husband, how could you cheat on the man who brings you everything you need in the house? You must tell your husband everything, for he’s the man of the house, the bread-winner… what are we women good for? Cleaning, cooking, and raising children. The social life of women is strongly linked to their extended families: because of the overcrowding, their contacts with the other family members are quite frequent, most of the latter living very closely by. Our two respondents mentioned frequent visits with their siblings, parents, centered especially on food: they either send meals to each other, or invite each other to dinner. Laura’s strongest desire for her future is that her husband manages to gather enough money to build a house, since she spent the last 13 years in the house of her in-laws. They had a good start, by comparison with other families, because they already bought the land and bricks they need. However, in order to be able to complete the house, Laura said their current strategy is “to wait”.  N.E. N.E., 38 years of age, born and married in Vereşti, has never gone to school, because when she was a child, girls didn’t go to school, by will of their parents and the community, which did not consider school a proper venue for girls. Our parents didn’t let us, it was considered disgraceful. Boys sometimes went to school, it was different for them, but never girls. We weren’t even allowed to wear trousers. Now we can wear trousers. But back then, how could we go to school in our skirts? We would have had to wear trousers, and that was a disgrace. Even now, we feel ashamed when we have to wear trousers. We must wear our long skirts, so that no part of our legs is exposed. Anything else is a disgrace. None of the sisters went to school, but her elder brothers were in school for a few years. For the girls it was not as much a matter of education being seen as 62

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unseemly, as it was mixing with the Romanians, and interacting with outsiders. Although Elena can appreciate the merits of education, feeling that it is useful in life, N.E. reproduces many of the patterns she was taught as a child in her relationship with her own children, feeling that education is not a priority; although admitting that it is difficult not to know how to read, she does not feel that it would have been appropriate that girls went to school. However, she is likely not to stop her own children from going to school, although she sees no way for them to overcome the difficulties in adaptation: Kalderash children only learn the Roma language at home, they never go to kindergarten and they wear their traditional clothes, which in the case of Kalderash girls are quite distinctive. All these, she feels, are considerably hindering the chances of children to get a proper education. We would have liked to, but we couldn’t. Even now that we’re grown he has our problems. We have around five children each… It would have helped me, I think, I don’t know what others think. But I have five children, of whom four are in school. I have two daughters in grade 5, a son in grade 2, and a daughter in grade 1. And I have another son who’s 6 and we’re going to send him to school as well, because he knows nothing. We sent our children to school because we both wanted to, we’d be sorry for them to not know how to read. Regardless of where they’ll end up, they will need to be able to read and write. It is good for them to be able to get by. Because when we go to the store, we know nothing, we have to ask people what everything costs. By now we can remember how much for a loaf of bread, but when we want to buy a kilo of meat, we can’t without help. We have to ask other people how much for a kilo, how much for less. So it’s good that the children go to school. The most frequent reason for which children drop out of school is marriage: girls cannot postpone it for too long, because they have to get married at the age considered appropriate for marriage, the same applies to boys, lest they miss out on the “right” partners. Marriage and family obligations are still coming before education. N.E. has seven children, four boys and three girls. Two of her sons are in school, one of them in grade 1, the other in grade 3. Her eldest child dropped out in grade 7 to get married, and her daughters are too young to be in school, although she is planning to send them later. Regarding her marriage, N.E. thinks that, although her husband has the right to make most decisions affecting the family, she will have the main part in choosing the future spouses for her children: her daughters in law must be beautiful, hard working and clean, and her sons in law must be hard working and coming from rich families. Once the community converted to the Pentecostal religion, another

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important criterion followed: Pentecostal children can only marry inside the faith: The rich marry the rich, the poor marry the poor, and those who found religion marry each other, they can’t marry outside the faith. Both parents must be of the faith, if the mother is but the father is not, we can’t allow our children to marry theirs, we have to find families where everybody is of the faith, like we are. If all the above requirements are not met, N.E. feels that a marriage is useless, because things would never work out between the spouses! If the two sets of parents agree on everything, the youths must obey their decision, and, after the wedding, it is always the girl that moves in with the boy, never the other way around. She receives a dowry, together with her gold necklace, whose value depends on her parents’ possibilities: beds, tables, chairs, bed spreads. Her husband will insure the housing and money. When I got married I received a bed, three pillows, a duvet, covers, three gold coins. One of those coins is worth 800 lei now, but it was cheaper when I got married. But gold usually has the same value over time. And I moved in with my husband. We got along fine; I never had anything against him. And I gave each of my daughters five gold coins. Except teaching them to care for the home, mothers do not prepare their daughters in any way for their future family life. There is no communication about personal or intimate matters before or after the marriage: No, because the girls are ashamed. Mothers don’t tell a 15 year old girl anything. And if she’s a virgin, you can’t talk about such things, they’re shameful. And not even after she married… how could I ask her what she’s doing with her husband… Yes, the girls talk among themselves. That’s how we find out, for instance… when they get their period for the first time. When my girl got hers, she didn’t want to say anything, but I saw that she was… a bit dizzy, and I asked her what’s wrong, and eventually she giggled and told me about it, but she was ashamed… but this happens rarely, because of the men. When the girls get married, you don’t tell her all that’s going to happen, but you can tell her ‘Don’t have children right away. Because you’re too young, and it’ll be hard.’ But this is all we tell them, because they’re ashamed to talk about it. Even if you’d tell a girl about these things, she wouldn’t say anything, and wouldn’t even stop to listen. Marriage and family are the mainstays of the Kalderash community, and the very reason for the women’s existence. The views on children, education, and married life have not progressed very much during the existence of the community.

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Both our respondents and the rest of the women in the community have had, without exception, the same occupation: for over 50 years, girls are taught from the age of six to be good homemakers: cooking, sewing, caring for children. They accompany their parents the same way they will accompany their husbands during the selling of their products, and in some cases they consider themselves better at it. Unlike the men, they sometimes work temporarily during summer: some of them work in the corn fields, others help in Romanian households, but the bread-winners of the family remain the men. N.E. would not give up on this way of life for anything, and cannot see how a Kalderash woman can live in any other way: Our clothes are more difficult. But how can we give it up? It’s how we were born, how we were taught… we’ll die this way. When we go elsewhere… or when we’re on the street, people say “look at that gypsy”. But here everybody is used to us… it wouldn’t be the same anywhere else. But people here know it is our tradition. And my daughters will dress the same way. Synthesis All our five respondents are happy with their lives, and feel that they are a vast improvement over their parents’ nomadic existences. By comparison, the community’s situation has improved drastically: now they have houses, food, money, they don’t lack anything. Women wish that their children will have similar lives: boys should know to work the iron, because that is the job for the future, even if they go to school, and girls should take care of their families. Men have somewhat differing expectations, which show more pragmatism and underline the current problems of the community, especially the lack of property proof, which creates a state of permanent instability. We have to mention once again the part played by the Pentecostal religion for the betterment of the life of the Kalderash community. We have not encountered any persons who expressed a desire to move elsewhere, and so far, with the exception of T.M., nobody seems to even conceive life outside the community. Kalderash women only desire to insure a good life for their children, declaring themselves happy with what they have. M.I. is happy to have seen his nation live better than it has in the past, while B.P. hopes to become a better preacher, and maybe, in the future, the new leader of his nation. T.M. may become the first member of the community to have a job non-mandated by tradition, if he becomes the school liaison. One thing we can say about the destinies of the members of this community, as they come across through the interviews we conducted, is that they all have a common denominator: predictability. It is difficult to find any differences between the life stories of the two women we have interviewed, or between their plans for their children’s future. Tradition and religion offer them certitude for their future, Elena describing this certitude and the Kalderash approach to life perfectly: We were born this way, we lived this way, that’s how we’ll die!

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chapter 3

The Ursari of Bălţeşti


ROMA PEOPLE - STORIES OF LIFE

The Ursari of Bălţeşti

Claudia Petrescu

The Community The establishment of the Roma community Bălţeşti commune in Prahova County is made up of three villages: Bălţeşti, Izeşti and Podenii Vechi. We have no precise data regarding its ethnic composition. From the data we have received, we can say that before WWII the majority of the population was Romanian, and the number of Roma was small. During the communist regime, the percentage of the Ursari (originally bear-trainers) increased to around 7-8% of the total population. After 1989, the Roma population increased significantly, 374 persons according to the 2002 census. An analysis of the information received from the representatives of the local authorities uncovered that many of the Izeşti Roma declared themselves as Romanian during the census, and the real percentage of the Roma in the village is 30-40%. In the village of Bălţeşti, according to the Mayor’s Office, there are 482 Roma and 912 Romanians, so the Ursari represent 34.5% of the total population. The community grew after 89, they built new houses. The children grew up and built their own houses, and the number of people just grew more rapidly than before 1989. (informal Roma leader) The Roma community was mentioned here before 1828, when the Roma were slaves on the estates of local nobles. There are two Roma communities in the Bălţeşti commune: the Ursari and the Izeşti Roma who are singers, brick-makers and who have jobs. According to our respondents, the first Roma brought to the area were the Izeşti singers, who established the first Roma community. However, the Ursari also arrived in the area before 1900. The Ursari have also been here since before 1900. Generally, they were brought here as slaves. (local authority representative) The slavery of Roma on the estates of boyars is confirmed by all our respondents. … and the Roma were brought in by the boyars, to work on their estates… that’s how Roma appeared here. These boyars had a lot of land and not enough

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people to work it, so they brought Romanians from other villages, and Roma slaves. (Romanian informal leader) The name of the Ursari community- Ursărie (community of the bear-trainers), was given by the nation of Roma who makes it up, the Ursari, according to Romanian leaders. It is unknown where the Ursari were brought from. They used to be nomadic Roma who, at the beginnings of the community used to do the bear dance during the winter celebrations: I don’t know where they brought them from, but I think they were the ones doing the bear dance. Then they worked metals. They still do it. But at first they were bear-trainers, that’s why they’re called Ursari. This was in the beginning, then they stopped. (Romanian informal leader) After being freed, the Roma remained in the community because “it’s a rich region and it was easy for them to find food”, and also because some of them had received land from the boyars and had “a reason to stay”. They came to do the bear dance and found a spot to settle, so they stayed. Why didn’t they leave after they were freed?... once a family is settled somewhere, it stays, even if it’s hard… there is a lot of flooding here and they have to move their houses on the hills. I think they received land from the boyars, and I know that some of them received land after 1990. (Romanian informal leader) The first Roma community of Izeşti is located in the center of the village, along the main road. The Ursari community is located on the outskirts of the village, and is intermingled with Romanian houses. Yes, the community is on the outskirts, it has always been there, we haven’t isolated them, and I think they like it this way, because they like to go out, to be out in the fields. That’s how I see them, I don’t know that they’d like to live between Romanian houses… they need to be close to the hills, the forest. (Romanian informal leader) It is not a compact community. There are Romanian and Roma houses… the primary school teacher lives there as well. (local authorities representative) Some of the Ursari migrated to the center of the commune, and to Izeşti. According to our respondents, the richer Ursari are the ones who moved, having had enough resources to purchase houses from the Romanians. Most of them moved

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before 1989, when they were earning well from their metal work. The reason for their migration was the lack of space in their own community. Seven Ursari families moved to Izeşti after 1989, because they found land to build houses there. The relations between the two Roma communities are tense, the Izeşti Roma rejecting the Ursari because of their perceived non-compliance with the law. A number of Ursari, especially women, left the community by marriage, but their numbers are not significant. The Ursari community is homogenous, made up solely of Ursari Roma who assimilated the other Roma married into the community. Life of the community: housing. Although the Ursari community is located on the outskirts of the village, half of the houses are located among Romanian houses. On the outskirts of the “district” live the poorest Roma, the better-off having purchased houses among the Romanian population. Bălţeşti has had a natural gas and water infrastructure for 60 years. The Ursari community is not isolated. The distance from the last Roma house to the main road is of approximately 1 km, or a ten minute walk. The Roma houses are on the average small and made of wood and mud. At least two families live in every household, with cases where four or five families live in the same house. Most houses are old and dilapidated on the outside, but clean on the inside. Most houses have carpets and a lot of furniture (especially beds). Most households own TV sets, radios and tape players. Most houses have a large yard “to turn the carriage”. The yards are not used for agriculture. The fences are made of wood, and most of them are falling apart. The poorer houses replaced window panes with plastic bags. The Roma houses located among the Romanian population are in better shape: they are painted and the yards are neat, although similarly unused for agriculture. Certain families have guest rooms. According to our respondents, the Ursari community does not have different types of houses, most of them being poor “because they are too small for the number of persons living in them, with small rooms where sometimes there live 10-12 persons”. The only house which can be considered “rich” is the house of the Roma leader, which is made of brick and concrete, and has a larger number of rooms than the average. We lived through the better times and could build houses. Now it’s not possible anymore. We used to have more money, we’d go and work on the farms. This is a rich man’s house, like the gypsies would say. It’s made of concrete. (Roma informal leader)

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The roads are good, especially after the main road was cobbled through a project financed by the Soros Foundation. The only paved roads in the commune link the villages to the main county road. The other roads are cobbled. At the time of our study, a project to access funds from the Romanian Fund for Social Development to pave the access road from the Ursari community to the center of the commune was in the works. At this time, the road can be used in any type of weather. Since the Soros project, the road is okay, because it’s cobbled. But we’re going to pave it. (Romanian informal leader) Although the community has the basic infrastructure (water, natural gases, electricity), the Roma houses on the outskirts of the community have been disconnected because they have not paid their bills. Many of the Roma received fines for having illegally tapped into the infrastructure. There are several wells in the community. The Roma who are legally connected to the water infrastructure do not allow illegal connections, both because of the water meters they have installed, and because their poorer neighbours were careless with water during winter. The community has no sewage system. There are no abandoned houses in the Ursari community. Some of the Roma houses are built at a distance from the core of the community, on land received from the Mayor’s Office. They have no access to the infrastructure. Life of the community: families. The Ursari have large families, the average number of children being above four. Most of the families live in one room, with no separate bathrooms or kitchens. In a regular household, made up of three rooms, there are at least two families. They live in one room, given how many rooms they have, and as far as I know, one family lives in a single room… so there’s no kitchen or bathroom or anything like that. (Romanian informal leader) Although the most encountered pattern in the Ursari community is the nuclear family, it is atypical, resembling the extended family pattern: parents, children and grandchildren live in the same household, and only their incomes are managed separately. Single-parent families are rare in Roma communities, because there are no divorces, and separations are temporary. Most of the Roma live together without being married (approximately 80%), and the age that girls are usually married is between 15 and 17. Some of the Ursari got married legally after 1989, when they could receive money from the state in exchange for legalizing their unions. Marriage

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is usually concluded with members of the community, but there are many persons married to Roma from other nations. There are only two or three mixed families in which one of spouses is Romanian. They don’t get divorced… they get separated at times, but they go back to living together. I mean, if something comes up, say someone beats his wife… she leaves him… spends a week with her mom, her relatives, but she comes back… if they’re not even married legally, how could they get divorced… they have fights, they make up… but usually they stay together. (Roma informal leader) Women use no contraception, because tradition equates richness with large numbers of children. The family pattern is strongly traditional: strong family ties, a large number of family members living in the same household, early marriage and almost no usage of contraception. Life of the community: education. The Ursari children go to school, and they did not report any discrimination. Romanians reported reverse discrimination, due to the teachers’ having to spend more time with Roma students who do not do their homework. Children are usually sent to school when they are eight or nine. Most of them do not go to kindergarten, which usually leads to adaptation problems during grade 1. There are no age differences between genders when it comes to dropping out of school, this usually happens once they get married. There is a vocational school in the commune where children can go to after having graduated from junior high school. They do not get enrolled in school when they are six or seven, but later. Most of them claim it’s because they’re not around when the school year starts… but most of them do get into school, later, but they do… they have problems, because they don’t go to kindergarten, they receive no socialization, they don’t even speak Romanian well when they come to school, and there are huge differences between them and the children who went to kindergarten. (Romanian informal leader) Sadly, many of the Roma students are unable to pass the class. There are literacy classes for adults, but the Roma generally do not attend them. They drop out of school quite frequently, or they don’t pass… according to the law, if you don’t pass three times, you’re out… and they never return to school after that… There have been literacy classes… so they have another chance. (Romanian informal leader) 72

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There are two cases of Ursari who graduated from high school and are now attending university. Both live in the community, one of them working for the Mayor’s Office as liaison with the community. The community considers that the two sold out, and “became Romanian”. However, they are also a source of pride and are respected. Most people who continue their education beyond junior high school (a low number), return to the community. The most relevant aspect about education is that the community is aware of the need for it in order to find a job. During the communist regime, they were making money from metal work, and temporary work on the neighbouring farms, but nowadays these activities cannot be performed anymore, so most parents send their children to school to give them the possibility of employment later in life. The Ursari pay lip service to the importance of investing in their children’s education, but the higher educated members of the community are discriminated against to a certain extent. The reduced number of the latter is partially to blame for the problems with which the community is faced. Life of the community: economics. The main sources of income for the Ursari at this point are represented by the social support they receive in accordance with Law 416 and the support they receive for keeping their children in school. Their main occupation, metal work, had been the main source of income during the communist regime. They used to process aluminum and were famous for their pots and pans. This traditional occupation was passed from generation to generation. Due to the lack of raw materials, however, this is no longer one of the mainstays of the community’s economics. A number of Roma work as temps in agriculture or for other people in the community. There is also a number of Roma employed as unskilled workers at the local wood mill. After 1990, another income-generating occupation was the salt, watermelons and apple trade. During the communist years, the Ursari’s main occupations were: metal work, temporary work in agriculture (entire families would work on farms in the Bărăgan plain from April to November each year), and unskilled work in factories from Ploieşti, Văleni and Boldeşti-Scăieni. I think they only have their social support now. It’s rare that they would make a pot… it’s very rare, because they have no raw materials. That’s it… They used to exploit a salt quarry, and sell the ground salt, but that’s not working any more either… so they only have the social support. (Romanian informal leader) During summer we’d work in the greenhouses and we’d return home during fall with money, corn, cabbage, pork and chicken. We didn’t need to work all

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winter. We’d go to Călăraşi, to Feteşti. Many people worked in Ploieşti. I used to work as a mechanic for UZUC. (Roma informal leader) There are no gender-based differences, women perform metal-work with men, and sell them together. Women are also homemakers. Children start working when they are nine or ten, and help their parents with housework. They also accompany their parents on the trips to sell their products. All my children help out. They help with the metal work… they help their dad, which is how they learn a trade. (Roma informal leader) Only around eight persons went abroad for work, and all of them returned to the community. One of these persons was abroad for a year, while the rest were only abroad for a maximum of three months. They worked in agriculture, mainly in Italy and Spain. Relations inside the community. The relations between the members of the community are very good, with more than 50% of the Ursari being related, members of the “Danca clan”. Nevertheless, our respondents stated that they are more concerned with their “own households”, and less with supporting their neighbours, with whom they get together for “weddings and baptisms” even if they had feuds in the past. We don’t hold grudges. We’re close. There are some who argue, call each other names. There are bad parts. But for weddings and baptisms we get together even if we’ve fought before, because we know that our turn will come to hold them. (Roma informal leader) Local authorities mentioned conflicts in the community, mostly related to “alcohol and gambling”, which spark the tempers of some of the Dancas. This family seems to enjoy a “reign of terror” in the community. The Danca clan is dominant, and nobody dares say much about it. They sometimes beat each other up. (local authorities representative) Conflicts are usually solved within the community, but there have been cases when they asked the authorities for help. When this happens, they bring their entire families along.

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They bring their entire family to us, and they call each other names. Usually we call the police. (local authorities representative) There is one leader of the Ursari Roma, called “the mayor of the gypsies”, who is well respected for his abilities to defuse conflicts. Lately, due to personal circumstances, he failed to involve himself as much in the issues of the community, and his status as an informal leader has slipped. The community has turned to the Roma liaison at the Mayor’s Office, who has helped them to obtain money. There has been no change in community relations, except for the higher number of gambling-related conflicts occurring during the communist years (when the community members had more money), when the police had to get involved. Relations with the Romanians The relations with Romanians are generally good, except for the times when the Ursari break the law. The main conflicts are related to the Ursari’s horses, which are left to graze freely on the property of the Romanians. The local authorities mentioned that during the communist regime, the outskirts of the community were covered with crops. Nowadays, the crops are only visible at a distance from the community, due to theft and the damage caused by the horses of the Ursari. As we mentioned previously, the Ursari’s relations with the Izeşti Roma are poor, the latter showing reticence towards the community. The Izeşti Roma call the Ursari “gypsies who bring shame on us all”. The Izeşti Roma do not speak the Roma language and are employed by private companies in Ploieşti, Boldeşti-Scăieni, Văleni, they are clean, they do not break the law, and Romanians respect them and do not consider them “gypsies”. The Ursari are therefore considered as the worst kind of Roma in the area. There are three important celebrations in the commune, “The source of healing”, “The Crop Celebration”, and the local church’s “patron saint day”. The Ursari do not take part in the preparation of these celebrations, and they only show up for the food and entertainment. We have three important celebrations in the commune: The source of healing, The Crop Celebration, and The local church’s patron saint day. Lots of people from Bălţeşti and elsewhere attend them. For the Crop Celebration we have folk music concerts and we invite VIPs. Romanians help prepare these, and bring food, the Roma don’t do anything, they just show up to eat for free. (local authorities representative) The Ursari trust the school teachers, and especially the primary school teacher, who lives in their neighbourhood. She enjoys a lot of respect for showing kindness and patience to the children, and helping the adults out with information they cannot read.

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By comparison to the communist years, the relations of the community with the Romanians have worsened, due to an increase in crime. Before 1989, most Roma were away to work for half a year, and when they returned they had enough money and produce to live. After 1989, with the reduction in work opportunities, the Ursari spend more time on the average in the community. The alcohol consumption has increased, which has created all sorts of problems, among which fights and absenteeism from work. Interactions with other communities There are no interactions with other communities to speak of. The only relations with other Roma communities are with relatives married elsewhere. The Ursari and their relatives meet rarely, usually for weddings and funerals. The reason for this scarcity is, according to our respondents, the lack of material resources. The Izeşti Roma maintain links with other communities, and the community contains a high number of commuters. Many of the Izeşti Roma work for companies located in Ploieşti, Văleni, Boldeşti Scăieni, where most of their coworkers are Romanian. Their children go to high school in Ploieşti or Văleni. Some of them are enrolled in university, which diversifies their interactions with other communities. Upward mobility is high in this community. There is, therefore, a culture of openness in the Izeşti community, which displays bridging social resources, as well as human capital. Unlike the Izeşti community, the Ursari community is completely closed, with no significant links to the other Roma, the Romanians, or the Roma living outside the commune. The community lacks social resources and community development opportunities. There are individual cases of upward mobility (the persons enrolled in higher education), the community itself being rather stagnant (still pursuing tradition), partially due to the lack of external contacts. Interactions with the local authorities The Roma do not feel discriminated against in their interactions with the local authorities. The only conflicts with the latter occurred when the Roma did not fulfill their obligations in exchange for the social support that they receive, and when certain families were disconnected from the utilities for non-payment. We were upset because of the social support problem, sometimes. If someone raises their voice at the Mayor’s Office, they yell back at them, if you keep your voice down, they always solve your problems. (Roma informal leader) We’re not marginalized… some people break the law… but the cops and the Mayor’s people treat everybody the same. (Roma informal leader) 76

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At this point in time, the Roma have a representative with the Mayor’s Office. At the time of our research, the authorities were trying to find a school liaison for the Roma. The Ursari are most discontent with the unpaved road in their community, but the authorities maintained that they had insufficient funds to pave the road between the Roma houses, as the latter had requested. It was through Roma money that we were going to get our road paved. But the money didn’t get to us; the money came from the Roma but it was taken away. (Roma informal leader) Along the way, the relations of the Ursari with the public authorities have changed. During the communist regime they rarely went to the Mayor’s Office, especially because they were receiving no social support. They did not have to go to school either, because the teachers would visit them. Nowadays, it is the Ursari who go to the Mayor’s Office to pick up their social support, and who send their children to school: Yes, now they do… during Ceauşescu’s regime, they didn’t go to the Mayor’s Office. Now they go to demand their rights… to pick up their social support… for the money… I don’t think they go there for anything else. Ah… maybe to get land… papers. Yes, now they do show up … (Romanian informal leader) Current issues facing the community According to our respondents, the main problem for the Ursari community is unemployment. Other problems brought up were: the large families, the low level of education, not being able to keep a job, not having access to the utilities due to being unable to cover the bills on a regular basis, the unpaved road. Unemployment, because they’re uneducated, and their behavior doesn’t help either, they’d go to a job for two-three days, and then they quit. If they were serious, there would be no problem, they could get jobs, even temporary ones. (Local authorities representative) The first issue was to pave the road, like they said they will… and a sewage system. Many people don’t have water. They don’t have the money for it… The water company disconnected lots of people… they set their mind to disconnect everyone who hadn’t paid the bills. It’s everyone’s duty to pay their bills. The Mayor’s Office should get them water. Some people can afford water meters. Also, we have

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electricity here… if they could connect the ones in the field… there are five little houses there. (Roma informal leader) To help solve the unemployment issue, the authorities hired Ursari as watchmen and caretakers for a number of companies, but they left their jobs within days, claiming they had too much work to do for the dismal salaries they would receive. At the time of our research, a project to build a water-bottling facility had been applied for (source water is renowned in the region). This project, which would be located close to the water station, could spell employment for 60-70 persons. The authorities were also working on a project aimed at paving the access road to the community. If two years before the main issue was the lack of a GP’s Office, now the main issue is related to the size of the kindergarten, which is insufficient for all the children of the right age, and similarly the size of the school, where students have to go in three shifts. The main issues facing the Ursari community are related to the low level of education of its members. This causes problems in finding jobs, hinders development projects, and causes the failure to use contraceptive means. The two Roma communities of Bălţeşti have very different development opportunities. The social, human, and relational capital resources (bridging) are low in the case of the Ursari, whose community has low social mobility, low levels of education, displays mistrust in authorities, and is made up of traditional families. The community is not poor and has good access to infrastructure, yet the low levels of income, and the fluctuation thereof is an issue. The passivity of the Ursari, and their lack of involvement in solving the problems of their community is another issue. The Ursari feel that it is the local authorities who should be solving their problems. Respondents mentioned receiving money from the Mayor’s Office to solve their issues, but deciding to use it for different purposes. The people

A woman of the traditional Roma lifestyle

Our first respondent is a woman, 61 years old, born in a different region, who married into the Ursari community. She comes from a large family. Her father was a blacksmith. Her parents married her to a Roma from another region, but they got separated and she ended up living with an Ursari Roma. She was married very young, like most other women in the community, but unlike them, she only has one child, due to health problems. Her house is located among the Romanian houses, has a big

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yard, and it is neat, orderly and clean on the inside and the outside. She has always helped her spouse, doing metal work. Childhood. The woman was born in May of 1946, in Calvini, Buzău County, in the Zeletin Roma community. The Zeletin community was large, according to her: “there were lots of us there, more than here, back in 1946”, but 20 to 30 families left it along the way. The Zeletin Roma were metal workers, blacksmiths and singers; her stepfather was a blacksmith by trade. She was born to her mother and her first common law spouse. Her mother later married another Roma. The family had seven children; our respondent, as the eldest child, had to take care of all her step siblings. She got along with all her siblings, although they lost touch after she got married. Of her seven siblings, a sister is married in Bălţeşti as well, but she “sits around all day”, and they rarely talk, because of the demands they have to face every day. All the other siblings are elsewhere: a sister lives in Constanţa, two more in Calvini, a brother is in Bucov. Another brother is dead. Her sisters are homemakers, and her surviving brother works as a temporary worker, digging ditches. She meets her siblings, except for her sister who also lives in Bălţeşti, and whom she sees weekly, on special occasions, such as weddings, baptisms and funerals, because of the distance. She meets her brother from Bucov more often, once or twice every year, because of the proximity. I’d go see my brother when I miss him, once or twice every year. The sister in Constanţa I haven’t seen since the funeral of my mother. The same for those in Calvini … who knows when I’ll see them again… for a wedding or a funeral. (Roma woman, 61) After her mother’s remarriage, the family moved to Slănic, where her stepfather worked in the salt mine until he got sick. After becoming unable to work in the mine, her stepfather worked as a blacksmith, without proper authorization. Her mother was always a homemaker, but she would also work temporarily in agriculture, especially during the two years when the woman’s stepfather was away on military service. Schooling. She went to school when she was seven, and she dropped out when she was nine, because her mother made her stay at home and care for her siblings, so that she could work. They were poor, the family had four children, and her stepfather was away on military service. She liked to go to school, especially because she could socialize with other children and avoid working in the house: “it was better in school than at home, because they made me work at home”. She went to school in Calvini, where her family was living at the time. When the woman was eight or nine, the family moved

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to Slănic, and she stayed at home. The most important thing for her is being able to sign her name and to count, but she cannot read very well. She would have liked to stay in school, but her parents did not permit it. As an illegitimate child, she was often abused by her father, while her mother cared little for her education. Because the family was poor, there was no money to spend on stationery; besides, the parents needed someone to look for their younger children while they worked. The woman remembers little about her classmates. She feels that education is highly important for people because “it’s difficult not to know how to read”, especially because one cannot get a good job. Her appreciation for education is visible in that she helps her granddaughter with schoolwork, and is very proud that, during primary school, her granddaughter had constantly been the first in her class. Marriage and family. The woman was first married when she was 15, an arrangement her mother had made to spare her more abuse from her stepfather. To save her daughter from the beatings, the mother married her to a Roma man from Aluniş. After her marriage, she moved to Aluniş to live with her husband’s family. Her first marriage lasted around eight years, and she is still legally married to the man. They had no children. My parents, my mom, her second husband used to beat me up, and so, to save me from the beatings, she got me married. She was the one who found the man. (Roma woman, 61) She left her husband and returned to her family in Slănic, because her husband was away from home most of the time, he disliked work, and shared her stepfather’s propensity to abuse her. She met her second husband in her parents’ house in Slănic. He was related to the husband of her sister, who was living in Bălţeşti. She moved to Bălţeşti in 1974, when she was 28, and has lived with her common law husband since. He is also still legally married to another woman. After their arrival to Bălţeşti, they lived with her husband’s stepmother, in a two-room house. I didn’t get divorced… my second husband died, and I still didn’t get divorced and kept my first husband’s name. I was legally married to my first… I lived with the second, he had also been legally married before; he never got a divorce. (Roma woman, 61) She has one 32-year-old daughter, who dropped out of school in grade 5 and has seven children. Her daughter used contraception, but it led to health problems, so she preferred to have children. In her opinion, a family should have a maximum 80

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of four children, so that they have the resources to raise them. At the time of our interview, the woman’s common law husband had died, and her daughter’s family (eight persons) was living in the same household. The extended family is united and has experienced no major conflicts. The only squabbles usually occur because of the limited resources. Occupation. The woman started working when she was ten and had to care for her siblings. Afterwards she accompanied her parents when they were working temporarily in agriculture. While she was still living with her first husband, she worked for a while at the brewery in Azuga, without being formally employed. I was a temporary worker... I started working when I was ten… with my parents, working the fields, whatever they were doing. I also worked at the brewery in Azuga, but I had no papers. I’d work for three months, that was the deal before, and then you’d be hired again. (Roma woman, 61) After she moved to Bălţeşti, she started helping her husband with his metal work and selling of his products. She does not have a pension, because neither she nor her husband was ever legally employed. The main source of income in her household is the social support from the Mayor’s Office. Her son in law sometimes works as a blacksmith, although raw materials are scarce. He is the main bread-winner in the household, but only when he can find work. Migration. The woman’s life took her from Calvini, where she was born and lived until she was eight or nine years old, to Slănic, where her family moved. She was married in Aluniş, lived for five years in Azuga where she worked, and then she arrived in Bălţeşti, where her common law husband was living. The house she has lived in for the last 33 years belonged to her husband, who also has children from his previous marriage. Life satisfaction. The woman is not happy with her current life, mainly because of the scarcity of resources. Her health is not very good, and she has no money for the drugs she needs. If she were to start over again, she wishes she had been able to stay in school longer, so she could get a regular job and “have rights”, namely the right to a pension. Our respondent’s life story is typical for a Roma woman of her age. Having dropped out of school early, she started working at a very early age, but never managed to obtain any formal qualifications. She performed unqualified work, and after moving to Bălţeşti, she took up the traditional Ursari activity of metal work. Her

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personal history was deeply affected by domestic violence, both during childhood and later. Her daughter has chosen to follow the traditional path of a Roma woman as well. Although our respondent was unhappy with her personal situation, her discontent was mostly related to the lack of material resources and the inability to cover her material needs, rather than the life strategy that she had followed.

Tradition-oriented male with a life strategy based on accumulating material resources

Our second respondent is a Roma man, 60 years of age, who was born and lived in Bălţeşti, and who has taken up the tradition of metal-work from his parents, and passed it on to his children. His neighbours are Romanian, and his household is made up of two families. He bought his house and land in Bălţeşti, and his current household is made up of three houses, of which one is “good”, and is used as a guest house. He can be considered “rich”, because he managed to build a house on the land of his parents, and then was able to buy land and a house from the Romanians. His life followed the typical Ursari path, living in the community and practicing the traditional activities of his people. Childhood. The man was born in Corneşti, Dâmboviţa County, in 1947. His parents spent the winter there because his father, who was from Bălţeşti, was then working in Corneşti as a blacksmith. He was born during the famine, he says, and his parents were working for a rich family, and living in their house, on rent. He had four siblings, and he was the eldest child. Three of his siblings are still alive, and they all live in Bălţeşti. The siblings, who are all metal workers, get along very well. They are authorized for metal work. The man meets his siblings almost daily, because his house is located on their way to “the road”. Although he was born elsewhere, he grew up in Bălţeşti, where his parents returned soon after his birth. His parents lived on the outskirts of the Ursari community, surrounded by Ursari neighbours. The man’s father was a good blacksmith and metal worker, and his mother was a homemaker, although she would occasionally help her husband in his work. Schooling. The man went to school when he was seven years old, and dropped out in grade 4. Although he was 14 when he dropped out, he was just in grade 4, having not made the grade close to four times, because “I didn’t like to learn”. His dislike for learning was related to his position as the eldest son, who helped his father with the metal work. His family was poor, and he went to school barefoot and with his clothes in tatters, with a homemade back-pack.

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It was the family thing... because I was the eldest, I couldn’t leave my dad, I was his right hand… because of my parents… it’s not that they didn’t let me go to school, but there was no time… we were naked, barefoot… we had back-packs made of scraps. (Roma man, 60) His classmates were Romanian, Ursari and Roma from Izeşti. There was a primary school in Bălţeşti, and afterwards children could go to junior high school in Podenii Vechi. What he liked most about going to school was socializing with other children, and his best friends were the Ursari that he still meets in his neighbourhood. He did not feel discriminated against by his teachers. He only missed school when his father needed his help, but like he says “I wasn’t good at learning”. In the opinion of our respondent, education is highly important for a person, teaching them to express themselves, as well as providing them with the opportunity to get formally employed. It’s very important… because it prepares you… you learn things… if you’re unprepared… you don’t even know how to talk, you can’t express yourself… you don’t realize what you need, what you could do… now we’re fighting to keep our children in school. (Roma man, 60) Marriage and family. The man married when he was 19, and his wife was 14. The decision to get married was entirely his own, with no intervention from his parents. After the marriage, the new couple lived with the woman’s parents for one year, after which they built their own house. The couple had four children, a son (35) and four daughters (40, 30, and 28, respectively). The children are all married and live in Bălţeşti. They also raised the son of a sister who died young. The young man lives with his family in his adopted family’s household, and all the daughters live in their husbands’ houses, but return home when they have marital problems. The man’s daughters married when they were in their early twenties, and have only one child each, due to health problems. His older children stayed in school until grade 10, while the younger daughters only stayed in school until grade 8. All the grandchildren are going to high school, in Ploieşti. The family’s women used contraception, to a lesser extent during the communist regime, when their access to it was curtailed. Nevertheless, they feel that a family should have as many children as possible. The man has lived in his current house for “twenty odd years”, a house built on land located in the Romanian community. One of the man’s siblings remained in the old house. The only conflicts in the man’s extended family are related to money

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issues, but decisions are made democratically, by all the members of the family. Occupation. The man started work when he was twelve or thirteen, helping his father with metal work and sales. During the communist regime he had a pension for the ten years that followed his return from military service, because of a health condition. He worked for eight years in constructions, in Gura Vitioarei and in Câmpina. I worked in constructions for eight years, in Gura Vitiorii, Câmpina, I was digging ditches. After that, I didn’t work; for ten years, I was retired due to ill health, after I had been in the army. Then they passed a decree. I had to go to work, if I worked four hours I could keep my pension. I didn’t like that, so I went to work full-time, eight hours a day. (Roma man, 60) Also during the communist regime, he worked for six years as a temporary worker in the greenhouses of Feteşti and Cernavodă. For these jobs, the family would live the community during spring and would only return during fall, in October or November. The man preferred to work for the greenhouses because the jobs paid better. His entire family would accompany him and receive a place to stay and food from their employers. We worked as temps. They’d give us food and lodging. I worked like that for five or six years… as a temp… until 1989, I was even in Medgidia. (Roma man, 60) After 1989, the man returned to his traditional metal-work occupation. This is currently the main source of income for his family. Besides, they receive social support. Our respondent and his son are the bread-winners of the family. Migration. The respondent has lived in Bălţeşti for sixty years, of which he has spent the last twenty in his current house. He used to commute while he was working in constructions, and while he was working on the farms, he took his family along, like many of the Ursari. We’d take our entire families, no one would stay behind… we’d lock our doors and leave. On the farms we used to have livestock… and bring everything back, we’d bring cabbage, pork, corn… everything we needed for the winter. (Roma man, 60)

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The man’s son worked in Spain for two months and a half, picking olives. Failing to find better paid work in Spain, he returned home. Satisfaction with life. Our respondent cannot be said to be happy with his current life, because he does not have enough money to achieve everything he would like to. He would like to make improvements to his yard and house, and be able to help his children and grandchildren build their own houses. I, personally, aren’t satisfied at all, because I don’t have enough. To do everything we’d like to… I’d improve my yard, I’d make my house more beautiful… improve our lives. But we have no money. (Roma man, 60) An individual focused on a growth strategy, our respondent, despite the scarcity of the resources available to him, lacked the human capital (in terms of formal education), but maximized his available resources (his traditional trade), accumulated material capital (by acquiring a house in a Romanian neighbourhood), and invested in the education of his children. His children are more educated than the average Roma as well as the average members of their community. Moreover, the man’s grandchildren are enrolled in high school.

A young Roma female trying to break with tradition

Our next respondent is a 31-year-old Roma woman, born in Bălţeşti, and married to an Ursari man. She was married at 18, has three children, and helps her husband in his traditional blacksmith activities. She is also one of the women who has used contraception and she is determined that her children receive a formal education. Childhood. The woman spent her childhood in Bălţeşti, where she was born in 1976. She has three siblings, two sisters and a brother. One of her sisters is married in Bucharest, another one in Grindu, Ialomiţa County, while her brother lives Bălţeşti, in their parental house. She is getting along best with her sister from Bucharest, who is married to a Roma man, mainly because she visits her on a regular basis, on her family’s trips to sell their products. She does not get along very well with her brother, because he is “rather grumpy”, although they meet daily. Distance reduces her contacts with her sister who lives in Grindu to a minimum; the sister in question got married to a Romanian man when she was 25, and has a child. The woman’s parents had stable jobs for a while during the communist regime; her father worked for a window-making company, while her mother worked for a poultry farm in Boldeşti-Scăieni. After her parents stopped commuting for work, they worked as temporary workers on the farms in Feteşti, Cernavodă, Medgidia.

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They would take their entire family with them in the spring, after Easter, and spend the summer on the farms. After 1989, the woman’s parents returned to the traditional Ursari occupation of blacksmiths. They had jobs when we were children. My dad made windows here in Scăieni and my mom worked on the poultry farm. They worked there for a while. I don’t know for how many years, and then they went to work on the farms. (Roma woman, 31) The only times when the woman’s family left the community when she was a child was when they would go to work on farms, on a seasonal basis, from spring to fall. Their entire family would accompany them on these trips. Education. The woman started school at seven, and dropped out when she was in grade 7, at 13. She dropped out because she did not like to study, although her parents would have liked her to at least finish junior high school. Because of the yearly seasonal work on the farms, children would miss months of school, namely two months in the spring, and one in the winter. Honestly, I didn’t like to study, my parents wanted to support me, to send me to school. (Roma woman, 31) She cannot say what she liked about her school years, although her results were good during primary school. They deteriorated after she started going to junior high school. She feels that the most important thing about education is that she knows to read and write, which allows her to help her children with their studies. Her classmates were Romanian, Ursari, and Izeşti Roma, and she got along best with her Ursari neighbours. She still visits with her Romanian former classmates who also live in the neighbourhood, and her best friend was another Ursari girl who moved to Izeşti. They are still friendly. The woman did not see any discrimination practiced in school, and got along well with her teachers. Her parents were interested in their children’s education, would collaborate with their teachers, and supervise their homework. If the children’s school results were poor, they would be punished by their parents. The woman’s brother dropped out in grade 10, and her sisters in grade 9 and 8, respectively. She started missing school after grade 5, and when she would accompany her parents on the farms. The woman was not interested in continuing her education, and did not participate in the Second Chance program, because she did not have anyone to leave her children with and do the housework. 86

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According to her, her poor school results in junior high school were caused by the yearly trips with her parents. Besides “not liking to study”, her prolonged absences may have contributed to her early abandonment of school. Despite the above, she wishes that her children go to school, because it is the only way they “can make a future for themselves” and later obtain legal employment with stable incomes. I tell my children now to stay in school, not to do as we did. It is very important for a child to stay in school, to make a future. We are sorry now that we dropped out and have no rights. Wherever we go, it follows us. But I want my children to go as far as they can. (Roma woman, 31) Marriage and family. The woman married when she was 18. Her husband is a member of the ruling Danca family. She chose her husband herself, with no intervention from her parents. After the marriage, the couple lived with the husband’s parents in a separate two-room house in the same household. There are five persons living in this house, including children of 11, 7, and 3, respectively. The woman’s older children are in school, and her eldest son has constantly been the first in his class. Her seven-year-old daughter is in grade 1, and the couple plan to send their youngest child to kindergarten next year. The older children did not go to kindergarten because there was nobody to take care of them. The woman wishes that her children go to school and have good results so that they are then able to go to high school and obtain stable employment. I want my son to go to school, to become somebody, not necessarily somebody great, but I don’t want him to stay here and work like we do… I want him to have a stable job and make money. The same for my little girl, I want her to go to school, like my son. I want her to have a job, not to get married like I did. I don’t want her to depend on a husband, I want her to have her own job and to be able to support herself. (Roma woman, 31) The woman does not wish to have more children, because they are difficult to bring up without money. For this reason, she has started using contraceptives. Her GP gives her an injection which protects her from pregnancy for a duration of three months at a time. Children are hard to bring up. They need many things, and you have to provide for them, even when you don’t have money; they need food and they need clothes. They need some hygiene, so as not to get sick… it’s been very hard for me. (Roma woman, 31)

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Decisions are made by common agreement in the family, and the conflicts are not violent. The main source of conflicts is the lack of money. Occupation. The woman started working when she was 12 and would accompany her parents to the farms, helping with farm work. After her marriage, she started helping her husband with metal work and the sales of their products. The main source of income in the family is the metal trade, and the woman’s husband is making the most money. The family also receives social support. The woman did not try to obtain legal employment because she needed to take care of her children, but her husband tried to get legally employed. He soon found that his salary was insufficient for the needs of his family. Migration. The woman’s husband spent a month working in Spain, without finding any stable jobs. His five days spend picking grapes barely provided him with enough money to be able to return to Romania. Life satisfaction. The lack of income is the main cause of the woman’s dissatisfaction with her current life. The family has raised a house on the outskirts of the Ursari community, where the woman’s brothers in law also have houses, but they did not have enough money to build a roof. If she was to start over again, she would not get married before she had enough money to be able to provide a better life for her children. Not being married… starting over again… I wouldn’t get married until I was able to make money. Because of the children. I wouldn’t want… I’d get married at 25 to have more for my children, to be able to offer them something so they don’t have to suffer. There are days when we have no food for them, or clothes to send them to school in. It’s very hard. (Roma woman, 31) The woman in this example is oriented towards ritualism, traditionalism, and reproducing the traditional model: she married at 18, failed to stay in school for the mandatory duration at the time, is a homemaker who also dabs in the traditional trade of her people. Nevertheless, her thought patterns indicate that she is willing to break with the traditional model, such as her decision to use contraception and the desire to invest in the education of her children. Moreover, she made no mention of domestic violence, which was prevalent in the story of our other female respondent. Her attitude to the present is one of dissatisfaction, mainly caused by the fact that she had followed the traditional path.

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Young Roma man oriented towards change

Our next respondent is a 25-year old man who graduated from high school and is enrolled in university. He works as a Roma liaison in the Mayor’s Office and lately has emerged as an informal leader of the community, who enjoys the respect of his peers, mostly due to the help he provided with obtaining social support from the Mayor’s Office. Childhood. The man was born in Bălţeşti. He is the fourth of five siblings (three boys and two girls). Two of his siblings live in Bălţeşti – a brother and a sister, while his other brother and sister are married in Bucharest. Three of his siblings are legally married to other Roma persons, and the common law spouse of his brother who also lives in the community is Romanian. He gets along best with his younger brother who also lives in the community, across the street from their parents’ home. His brother is also enrolled in university. His eldest sister, who is 32 years old, lives in Bucharest, is married to a Roma man, and is a homemaker; her husband trades scrap metal. His 27-year-old brother who also lives in Bucharest works for a furniture company, and his Roma wife is a seamstress in a mall. His sister lives in one of the Roma neighbourhoods of Bucharest, while his brother lives in an area of mixed- Romanian and Roma- population in the same city. His sister who is also living in Bălţeşti is 30 years old, and lives with her Roma husband in the Romanian area of the community. Her parents in law, Ursari Roma, bought the house “in the center village, among the Romanians”, over 20 years before. The couple do not have stable employment, and have been working abroad, in Spain, for the last few years. The husband left first, spending around six months abroad, and then his wife joined him for two months. They both worked in agriculture. The youngest brother is a 3rd year student of the Faculty of Oil and Natural Gases of Ploieşti. Our respondent meets his youngest brother most often, due to the proximity of their homes. He meets his other siblings less frequently, especially his brother and sister who live in Bucharest, whom he meets two or three times each year. He feels closest to his youngest brother because “we have similar goals in life, and we are educated”. Only the man’s father is still alive, and working as a temporary worker for the local wood processing plant. His mother used to be a homemaker, but she also helped with metal work and selling the family’s products in order to support her children in school. The man’s father worked for 24 years in the oil industry, in the extraction areas of Băicoi and Boldeşti-Scăieni. Sometime in the late 90s, restructuration caused him to become unemployed. During the man’s childhood, the family spent approximately two years in Băicoi, in an apartment building, because the father used to be employed at the

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extraction site of Lilieşti. Then they moved to a house in Ţintea for a while. The family had to move mostly because the two sets of grandparents refused to offer them shelter. The situation was caused by the refusal of the man’s mother to marry the man her family had picked for her. She ran away from home on the day of her wedding. Later, her parents found her and forced her to marry the man, although she was only 16. After the family returned to Bălţeşti, they spent a few days with the maternal grandparents, who later asked them to move out due to having insufficient room for two families. They requested land from the Mayor’s Office, and were awarded a piece of land which was covered in walnut trees. The man’s father cleaned the property and raised a tent where his family lived until their house was built. The seven members of the family lived in one room with two beds until the rest of the house was built. They got married and had five children and we wandered from village to village … Băicoi, Lilieşti, Bălţeşti… and then we settled here... I remember... my grandmother did not want to let us live with them, and the same with my paternal grandparents… we spent with my maternal grandmother, I think, two or three days, and then they threw us out, they said “get out, we don’t have room for you”… so for this land… he went to the Mayor’s Office and talked to the Mayor, and he was told that this was the only spot we could get, here where we are now, and there were walnut trees everywhere... an orchard… so my dad cleaned up the place, set up a tent… and they lived in a tent for quite a long time… and then he built this house, two rooms, one kitchen, a hallway, and a porch… at first, only one room was done… and we all moved in that room, and we were seven people sleeping in two beds… the walls weren’t even painted, they were black… well, that’s how it was in the beginning. (Roma man, 25) The man’s parents did not have a happy marriage, especially because his father was prone to violence. To the children, their mother remained a special person who had taken care of them, was strict, but encouraged them to go to school to “live like people”. Education. The man went to school when he was seven, but had to drop out in grade 2, due to his mother’s being hospitalized for a year. When his mother returned home, she insisted that her children be accepted back to school. Although he remembers it as difficult, gradually, due to his mother’s insistence, the man dedicated more and more time to his studies, and his school results improved. Well, I went to school at seven, as was normal… but I remember that in grade 2 or 3 I dropped out… my mom had health problems, kidney stones and she 90

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was hospitalized, she was in hospital long enough that we dropped out of school… because our sisters had their own thing, they had to cook and clean, and all that, they had no time for us… to wash us, dress us, and send us to school. (Roma man, 25) The man’s mother was the main drive for his education, and she worked alongside her husband to insure the necessary income. She used to participate in parents-teachers meetings, and she helped her children with schoolwork. The father was not interested in education, because he did not think much of it. When the man’s mother died, his father refused to support his sons who were then enrolled in the vocational school in Boldeşti. My mom was in charge of selling the pots and pans, but he and my older brother would join her too. She always did her best to get us what we needed for school, stationery, food, clothes, everything we needed. I can say we didn’t go through the same hardships as other families… because having a stable income… my father who had a stable job, and extra income from the sales, we had more to work with… but I remember that my poor mother worked very much… rain or shine… she’d go and sell pots and pans so we have food and stay in school. (Roma man, 25) His favourite subjects in school were “Romanian and Math”, but he also enjoyed Biology and Phys Ed, especially because of the encouragements he received from his teachers. His math teacher offered him the most support. I used to like Romanian and Math very much … I was among the best in my class in Math, my teacher, he was a wonderful person, he was more than a teacher to me… he would advise me like I was one of his own children, I loved him a lot, and especially because he saw I was from a large family with problems and still we like to learn… he’d help us along, all the time… I also liked Biology, the headmistress of the school was a Biology teacher and I would learn just because I liked her, but I liked the subject too … the subjects I disliked... I don’t know ... I never liked Russian, I took Russian in school, but never liked it. I liked Phys Ed, sports, we used to play handball, and that I enjoyed greatly. (Roma man, 25) The man graduated from junior high school in Bălţeşti, and then went to vocational school and high school in Boldeşti-Scăieni. He is now a student of the Spiru Haret University, School of Law and Administration. His mother died when he was a junior in vocation school, and the sudden lack of support caused him to want to drop out of school. His teachers helped him graduate. He went to night

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classes and commuted between Sinaia and Boldeşti-Scăieni, having found a job in Sinaia which helped him stay in school. The man feels that everything he learned in school was important, and that education is extremely necessary for everyone, especially because it opens the door for a job. It’s hugely important, a person without education is like a child without a mother, or a plate of soup without a spoon. That’s how it is… without education, a person is finished… they have no future. It is school that shapes one’s personality and prepares them for the future… for a job… anything… education is the most important. (Roma man, 25) In the Bălţeşti school, the man had few Roma classmates, the majority being Romanian. He did not feel at any time that he was discriminated against, quite the contrary, he was always a role model for his classmates, due to his good results. Many of his former classmates graduated from university and lost touch, but the man kept in touch with the ones who still live in Bălţeşti. His best friend from school, who was Romanian, moved to Bucharest with his family, so they lost touch. He did not have Ursari friends, because he had little spare time. His mother insisted he did his homework before being allowed to go out with friends. It was quite all right… only two or three of the other kids were Roma, but I got along fine… no, better than fine. I never felt like they were reticent to deal with me, I was never discriminated against. Actually, I was probably getting more attention than some of them who weren’t learning as hard, and set as the right example… but I had wonderful classmates. (Roma man, 25) All the man’s siblings went to school, but his sisters and older brother dropped out in grade 4 and 5. His younger brother is the only one who followed the man’s example. He never missed school, because, unlike other Roma families, his parents would not take the children along on their sales trips. Moreover, he would be punished by his mother if he missed school. He was also enrolled in kindergarten, but all he can remember was that he was a bit of a handful. The attitude of the man’s mother towards education was the biggest influence on his decision to stay in school. Another reason was the desire to find stable work and be able to leave his parents’ house in Bălţeşti. After the death of his mother, it was the teachers who supported him. Soon thereafter, he found a job. During his high school years, he was supported by a lawyer from Sinaia, for whom he later worked. 92

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My teachers paid for my room and board. I went to the principal when my mom died, and I told them that neither I nor my brother could continue our studies… we have to drop out, there’s no way about it. And they said, if you want, come and live in the boarding house, and we’ll pay for your room and board, just so you stay in school; to us, it was a dream come true... We got along incredibly well with our teachers, and we tried to do even better in school as a way to say thank you, we obeyed them, we didn’t do anything we weren’t supposed to. (Roma man, 25) years.

The man supported his younger brother during his school and university

He received moral support from his other relatives, to “stay in school, and get a job”. The man’s Romanian neighbours think highly of him for having fought so hard to finish school and get a stable job, and his fellow Roma think he is a role model, although they no longer think of him as Roma, but as Romanian. Marriage and family. Our respondent has never been married, mostly because he does not wish to start a family before he has “the means for it”. He has never lived with a partner, although he has had a number of relationships. He does not wish to marry a Roma woman, because he thinks they are not educated enough, and their behaviour is improper for the norms of morality. He is interested in an educated woman with a stable job, and his ideal family would be made up of two children, so that he would be able to provide for their needs and desires. I had no time... I’m 25 years old and in my freshman year in university... but my thoughts are… getting married while I’m in school, how would I pull it off, what would I have to offer my wife? I’m not going to marry a gypsy, it’s enough that I’m gypsy myself… I’d never marry a gypsy. Why? First off, because they’re uneducated, and second… I wouldn’t stand to see my wife in that skirt all the way to her toes. Even if they don’t wear those skirts, their behaviour isn’t proper, I don’t like it. I’m trying to get integrated, to live differently than they do, because I don’t like how they live. So that’s why I’m unmarried. I want to have a united family, first of all an educated family, and a wife with whom I can speak about anything. (Roma man, 25) The man believes that both men and women should only get married once they are mature adults, which only happens after they are twenty years old, in his opinion. He feels that girls getting married when they are 14 or 16 is immoral, because they do not know anything at that age, and end up having children for whom they cannot provide.

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Occupation. Our respondent started to work when he was 19. Up until then, he received material support from his mother. His first job was as a cook help at a restaurant in Sinaia. He then moved to another restaurant in Ploieşti, where he was closer to school. After that, he worked for a bakery in Bălţeşti. In the meantime, he attended a massaging course, and then got hired as a masseur in a hotel in Gura Humorului. In December 2006, he graduated from a social assistance training course and was hired by the Mayor’s Office in his native commune in March 2007. He is now the liaison with the Roma community at the Mayor’s Office in Bălţeşti. The main source of income of the man’s family is his salary; his father receives social support. When I first got a job, it was in a restaurant, as a cook help, but in reality I was doing pretty much everything a cook does… and then I worked in another restaurant in Ploieşti. After that, I worked for a bakery, and then I went to a massaging class and I worked as a masseur in Gura Humorului. From there I was hired by the Mayor’s Office here, and in the meantime I graduated from a social assistance course, I’m getting my diploma on Tuesday. (Roma man, 25) Migration. Despite his young age, our respondent often moved away from Bălţeşti, for varying reasons. Born in Bălţeşti, he moved with his family to Băicoi and then to Ţintea because of his father’s work, then he went to the vocational school in Boldeşti-Scăieni, got a job in Sinaia, then in Ploieşti, in order to be able to graduate from high school. He then returned to Bălţeşti for a short time, working in a bakery. His purpose was to save money and be able to support his younger brother in school. He then worked as a masseur in Gura Humorului, a job he took because of the good pay and the board. Finally, in December 2006 he returned to his native commune to work in public administration. The man’s younger brother spent an average of three month in the last couple of years in Italy. His motivation was not as much work, as it was seeing the world. Although he earned more money than he did in Romania, he returned to finalize his studies, in order to be able to find a stable job and obtain a certain social status. My younger brother was abroad the last couple of years. He didn’t do it because we didn’t have money, or food to put on the table. He said “I want to see the world, I want to see what it’s all about, and if I end up making some money in the process, the more, the better”. So he went to Italy, and spent about four months there… and then he returned… I told him “you’d better stay in school, because all the money you make in Italy is temporary income… being an engineer is different” and he returned to school. (Roma man, 25)

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Life satisfaction. Our respondent is among the Roma who are stating that they are happy with their lives, mainly because he managed to finalize his education and to find a stable job, which confers a certain social status upon him. I’m generally very well pleased. Why? I couldn’t tell… do I want to get rich?... I don’t know… but what I always say is “Thank you God that I am the way I am”. There are people whose lives are far worse than mine… what I have, I worked for, had I been born rich, who knows what I’d have done, become a junkie or gone to prison, who knows. But because we were never rich, I always thought about my family, money can make you crazy, it’s better to have a balance… I mean, like anyone, I dream of having my house, a car… but everything in its own good time, I wouldn’t want to get rich overnight. (Roma man, 25) The man’s only wish would be a different job, because he feels it is difficult to work with the Roma, whose mentality needs to be changed through education. Our respondent is oriented towards development strategies. Born in an aboveaverage Roma family, he enjoyed financial stability from an early age due to his father’s stable employment. The migration experience acquired as a child was useful when he decided to continue his education and get employment. The resources of the man’s family have always been a combination of income from stable modern employment and traditional work. The family’s strategy, and especially the mother’s strategy, was to invest in human capital, in her children’s development. This resulted in two of the children being enrolled in higher education. Our respondent also acquired trades (massage, social assistance) which allowed him to continue his continual investment in his own development. We must however mention that the Ursari community contests the man’s ethnicity, due to his above-average education. This is an attitude that the man’s own father shares. We can conclude that even if the Ursari recognize on a declarative level the importance of education, the individual cases of persons with above-average education are excluded or at least discriminated against within the community.

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chapter 4

The Roma of Geoagiu


ROMA PEOPLE - STORIES OF LIFE

The Roma of Geoagiu

Melinda Dincă

The Gypsy District, The Music-players Street, The Town of Geoagiu, Hunedoara county Located: along Geoagiu River Total number of Roma persons: approx. 800 (of which only 200 stated their ethnicity as Roma during the 2002 census) Total population of Geoagiu: 3,000. Other ethnic groups: a few German and Hungarian families, making up approx. 1% of the total population.

The Community The Gypsy District Roma are not defined by their spoken language as an ethnic group. They do not speak the Roma language, and as far as they can remember, they never have. Yes. They’re Romanized. I mean, we, all the people in the district, hundreds of people, we can’t speak gypsy. We can’t speak it, we never learned it, nobody ever has. (T.C., 80) The Roma language? Nobody can speak it, nobody from our community. (L.E., 52) The community recognizes the other features of their ethnicity, and considers them as defining. The Roma live in a well-defined territory, along the Geoagiu River, in the center of the town, on a street suggestively named: the Music players Street. The Roma are mostly Greek-Catholic (of the total 405 Greek-Catholic persons in Geoagiu, 100 are Romanian, while the others are Roma). A large number of Roma are Orthodox, and approximately 7% of them are Evangelical Christian. Regardless of their religion, the Roma are not practicing, with the exception of the Evangelical Christians, whose membership is fairly active. Only about 10% of the legally married couples are also married in church. Church marriages and baptisms are exceptional occurrences in the community, and the religious celebrations are hardly observed. The Roma’s habits, traditional occupations, and social practices readily distinguish them from the other locals. The physical appearance of their houses and neighbourhood, the large families living in the same household, the low

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level of education, and the large number of persons still practicing the traditional occupations of brick-makers, blacksmiths and singers, together with the low degree of integration with the majority population of Geoagiu, and the very low number of persons formally employed by comparison to the high number of persons living on social support- they are all signs of the uncontestable differences between the Roma and the rest of the community. The setup of the community. The town of Geoagiu, which became a commune in November 2000, stretches over 213.64 ha between the riverbanks of the Geoagiu and Mureş Rivers. The total number of the population is 3,000, and the commune is made up of the following villages Aurel Vlaicu, Băcâia, Bozeş, Cigmău, Gelmar, Geoagiu-Băi (a nationallyrecognized tourist destination), Homorod, Mermezuş-Văleni, Renghet şi Văleni. The ruins of a Roman castle, located on the Western side of the commune, on the Simeria - Geoagiu county road, places the age of the settlement to at least over 2,000 years old. The Roma community of Geoagiu. The Roma community of Geoagiu had been mentioned in the works of the writer Ioan Budai Deleanu, who used it as inspiration for his best-known work, Ţiganiada: “For we have always known, and it is widely known that our gypsy nation has come from Egypt and is related to the mighty pharaohs [...] This has opened my eyes to many a thing, and especially to our destiny, for we are unfortunate not to have been born and raised there”. As far as the Roma villagers from Geoagiu can remember, however, before WWII, only five or six Roma families lived here, whose descendents we can meet today, by the names of: Bacrău, Trandafir, Buţi, Pojoni, Gligor, Ispas and Iacob. In the last 60 years, the Roma population of Geoagiu experienced a relatively stable natural growth, with the exception of recent years, when the collapse of the industrialized regions of the country brought in migrants from Hunedoara, Cluj and Timiş county, as well as from Valea Jiului and the neighbouring areas (Orăştie, Simeria, Petroşani, Călan, Brad), and from Moldavia. Today, almost a third of the total population of Geoagiu is Roma (approx. 800 persons), although only 200 of those declared themselves Roma at the latest census. Life of the Roma community: habitation. The Geoagiu Roma live in the Gypsy District, on the Music-players Street located in the center of the commune on two rows of houses alongside the bank of

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the Geoagiu River, who are significantly different in appearance from the rest of the town. At the end of this street, there is a new street of Roma houses being built. It is a new project to build new, roomier houses employing modern and more resistant construction materials. Until recently, all the houses from the Gypsy District, were made of mud or raw brick on a wooden structure, with hay roofs. All the houses had only one room, and the total area of one household was hardly larger than the house itself. Brick houses are still the norm today, but they have been mostly renovated during the last five years, with the complete rebuilding of the most rundown houses. Except for a few apartment buildings located on the Western side of the district, all the other houses, old and new, have one floor, with an average of one-tothree rooms. Generally, five to fifteen persons live in each household. They rebuilt the houses! They were very poor! Dirt poor! They were… let me tell you… They built their houses from mud, or wood from the forest, stuck together with mud, and… hay. Even the Mayor’s house was covered with hay. Ours too, but we tore them down, and made them modern … (T.C., 80) The Geoagiu Roma have never owned land or gardens. For this reason, they have no livestock, apart from horses, in a few cases. The sounds of Music-players street are definitely urban, coloured by the barking of dogs, the meowing of cats, and the typical music of suburban ghettoes. Because of the increase in population, the community had to find solutions for housing. In the last four years, the community expanded, perpendicularly on the main street. The new houses are reaching the final stages of construction. The land they are built on used to belong to the Greek-Catholic church, but was exchanged with agricultural land by the Geoagiu Mayor’s Office. All the Roma in the Gypsy District, including the owners of the new houses, have legal proof of property for their land, following a project initiated by the Geoagiu Mayor’s Office and finalized in the last two years. The main road of the town and the Gypsy district are linked through a short street, of approximately 150 m in length. This road is paved, unlike the main street or the new street of the community, which are covered with pebbles in places. The infrastructure of the Gypsy District is being built, having been inexistent a mere five years ago. There are three access roads to the community, partially covered in pebbles, which are partially inaccessible during the rainy season. The district is connected to the electrical network. The water network covers the entire community, and there are only two wells, both of them on the main street.

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The natural gases network covers half of the community, but will be extended in the future. Yes. So they start now, the way they already did, with paving, and everything… Running water. Electricity. Most people must be connected by now. I don’t know if all of them are but… generally, they’re mostly connected. There’s no sewage system in Geoagiu. I mean, there is, but only for the apartment buildings. For gas… I don’t know that they have it… I mean they have it, but not all of them, only this side here. Yes. No, the ones on the other side don’t have it. There is ditty that goes like “People scratch their eyes out because Buti has a gas stove!” (E.M.M., 33) The roads are still pretty bad, but… Pebbles don’t last… there’s a lot of mud, it’s difficult to get by and… (Are the other roads in Geoagiu like this?) No! Many were like this… they paved them in the last four years, and they’re still working on it now… They worked on two fronts, for the roads in town, and the ones in the villages. There are around three access ways to the community, three entrances … (Are they paved?) No! No, they’re not, we’ve been promised they will be since last spring, ha ha, (Infrastructure, utilities…) We have running water in the entire community … No sewage! There is a project for 30 billion to… they promised it will be used for a sewage system. (Are the houses connected to the water main?) They’re not, the main runs through the street… So that’s what we managed to do, and then it’s up to each person according to their possibilities… to get connected… or… We have two … we also have two wells in the community for those whose wells were contaminated … (What about the natural gas main…?) It goes as far as the middle of the community. We have asked the authorities for an extension, but… it’s very expensive. We made formal requests, we obtained the authorizations, but because it would cost a lot of money… we gave up. That’s one of the priorities for us now: extending the gas network, a sewage system, and the road. (T.B., 22) Life of the Roma community: families. The new couples, generally common law spouses, live either with the man’s or the woman’s parents, or builds a new house- generally a one-room house built next door or as an extension of the man’s parental house. The age at marriage is usually between 15 and 18 years old. The marriages used to be concluded mainly with people from outside the community, but today it is “better to get a wife from the community” (T.B., 22). The traditional occupations are maintained. The ethnic endogamy is maintained rather

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strictly because of the social exclusion of the Roma. The occupational endogamy, however, has decreased – “Tradition says… they’re brick-makers from father to son, and singers. That’s it. That’s all we do.” (T.B., 22), “they used to learn from their parents” (T.C., 80). The average number of children per family is six or seven, with rare exceptions of smaller families. Over half the total population of the community is under age. The birth rates are high, and contraceptives are rejected due to the traditional model of large families. Generally, up to three generations of a family live in the same household, and the population growth is constant. Well, up to now it was like this: father, mother, six or even eight children, even more. Now, each child has a house… a family. The youths got married, at first they made one room, that’s the pattern… Now they usually build another one … (How many children does a typical family have?) Six, seven. (How old are they when they marry?) Up to eighteen, by eighteen they already have children … (What does the family do?) Tradition says… they’re brick-makers from father to son, and singers. That’s it. That’s all we do. [Wives] it’s good to choose them from the community. (Are there mixed couples?) No. But there are no barriers. (Are most marriages legal?) No, quite the opposite. They got married legally for that law that would make them get 200 Euro… This is my opinion. In the last four years many things have changed… Yes, they choose their spouse, but they have started realizing that it is good for their children to go to kindergarten and to school… it’s good to build a bigger house, pay for the utilities… (T.B., 22) Our respondents come from large families, which follow the pattern of the community. Most of them have five or six siblings, are living together with up to three generations of their extended families, and, with the exception of our youngest respondents, they have an average of four-five children each. Poverty and a lack of formal education have been passed on, together with all their effects, from one generation to the next. Children start work early, as temporary workers, earning their own living, as well as the living of their families. Most children also drop out of school after concluding the primary cycle, rarely graduating from junior high school, and start their own families soon after reaching puberty. It is the case of our first respondent, who had been recommended by another person in the community: Look at that lady, she’s a poor woman, without many children… Can he interview you, Ma’am?

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The lady in question is now an adult. She had eight siblings, of which four are still alive. Her parents are dead. She dropped out of school in grade 4 because she had to work. She got married because of poverty: after the death of her parents, her older sister told her to look for a husband, because she could not live in her sister’s household any more. She then got legally married at 14, but the young couple had no money for a church marriage. All her life she had worked in other people’s household, doing menial chores. By the age of 20, almost all the members of the community have their own families, and already have at least two or three children. Although perceived as legitimate and desirable, civil and church marriages are not also perceived as necessary for the Roma. In the last few years, the new legislation, which rewards civil unions through money, has increased the number of legal marriages. Civil law unions are still the most common in the community. Far from being immoral or promiscuous, like the traditional society would be tempted to label them, civil unions are strictly monogamous and apply the traditional marriage rules of the majority population. All in all, poverty, the lack of education, the slow changes in the traditional occupations of the Roma, the transformation of the social and economic context which affects all the practices, habits, and traditions of the Roma, all have clear effects on their family life. Life of the Roma community: education. The number of school age children involved in the formal education system is very low. The average number of years spent in school is between four and seven. In the last couple of years, the Mayor’s Office designated a school liaison for the Roma community, who insures the access and participation of children in school, but the improvements are still insignificant. The cause, but also the main effect of low education for the Roma community is poverty. Children must work from an early age to insure that their families have enough food and resources. Local Roma leaders feel that the compulsory school participation provided for under the communist regime was beneficial for the community, insuring decent living conditions, mainly due to the need for workers in the industrial field, which was well-represented in the region (Hunedoara county) at the time. I don’t know how to put it, so, they do enroll their children in the primary cycle. They generally do, because we go, and we have the census and… this is the population that has to be in school. After kindergarten they’re not allowed anymore, and… we each go where we live. What I mean is that us, the older ones, we know where everybody lives. We don’t know all of them by name. But they don’t

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know when the children are born, you know. And if the child is of school age, they wonder, does it have to go to school? (L.E., 52) Most of the members of the Geoagiu community graduated from junior high school. However, dropping out of school, especially during junior high school, seems to be the norm. The overwhelming motivation seems to be poverty, the need that children participate in their family’s income-generating activities alongside their parents and siblings. In the girls’ cases, marriage is also a factor. They marry as early as their early teens and move with their in-laws, where they have to take care of their new families. Girls often drop out of school well before getting married. All the existing generations are following the same pattern. All our respondents who dropped out of school regret it to a certain extent, but see no possibility to return to school, despite their sometimes young ages. Most persons, who expressed regret about dropping out of school, correlated it directly with their inability to find stable work, and have better lives. Nevertheless, education is not perceived as a value by the younger generations, and often parents have no resources which would enable them to support their children in school past the primary cycle. Life of the Roma community: economics. Traditionally, the Roma of Geoagiu used to be brick-makers and singers. Nowadays, most people are unemployed and earn a meager income from temporary work in the household of the better off families of the community and the region, or larger incomes from working abroad (approx. 5% of the Roma). Other sources of income include prostitution and social support. Up until 1989, the Roma used to be included in the industrial field alongside their traditional occupation. The situation has changed considerably: traditional occupations have all but been abandoned, and the economic restructuration of Romania has changed the fields in which Roma could find stable employment. We used to play chords. We used to be four siblings, and we played at weddings. So we played the chords… and we were the best around. And we got pensions from it… and I’ll see if I get anything from it … Some were singers… some were making bricks… Around here, in Orăştie, Arad, Timişoara, Cluj, Bucureşti, Ploieşti… We played at weddings… and the money would come… lots of money… How to put it?... We even had shows. For money. (How long did it last?) Well… from… 1950 to 85. And if we weren’t in our band, they wouldn’t let us sing at weddings and parties. The police would take us away. The Mayor would send them. So, that’s how it was…” The learned to make bricks, and a Hungarian man who was living with 104

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a gypsy, taught them to build with bricks. And they would teach each other. And they passed it on to their kids, their grandkids… They learned as young children to make bricks, that’s why so few of them went to school back then… No… [Nowadays] they don’t do it anymore… Or if they do, they do it for… I used to make bricks… since I got married, since I was 18. I was a brickmaker until I turned 60… 65. But not here… in Hunedoara… Almaş, Poiana There was nobody here… there was nobody here during the summers … They were all away making bricks. And now… Back then you could choose your job. At Cugir, in Simeria, wherever you’d go and knock on the door… a mason, you could be whatever you wanted, a blacksmith… a mechanic … (So what do people do now for a living?) Well, now they just work for people… temporarily. And they work for each other too, they help each other. They go to pick the corn, the potatoes. They work the land. That’s it. (T.C., 80) The relations inside the community. There are few ways the people in the community help each other. Usually, people support each other solely in crisis situations. There are a few leaders who enjoy respect in the Gypsy District: the local Mayor’s Office liaison, the Greek-Catholic priest, the Evangelist pastor and some of the community’s elders. These are able to bring people together to solve the crisis of the community. They also play the part of liaisons between the community and local authorities, as well as the Romanians. Relations with the majority population. The relations with the majority population are correlated with the economic relations between the two communities, which are otherwise isolated from each other. The majority population hires temporary workers from the community, to help them with their common household activities, agriculture, or construction. This is based on the money offered and the mutual agreements between the two. There are few conflicts between Romanians and Roma. The most recent conflict is related to the funds gathered by the Mayor’s Office for the Roma houses which were affected by flooding during the previous summer. Romanians feel that they were treated unfairly because they had lost crops in the flooding without receiving any financial help, while the Roma houses were rebuilt on the Mayor’s Office money. Generally, any help for the Roma from the Mayor’s Office is regarded by the Romanians as an undeserved privilege and a disadvantage for themselves. Interactions with other communities. The most significant interactions with other communities are represented by the arrival and integration of the newcomers, during the past two decades. The

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integration of these newcomers in the community also entailed the acceptance of new values, behaviours, and approaches to life. The Romanians perceive the newcomers as the cause of the poverty of the Roma community and the initiators of the unfortunate current relations between the Romanians and the Roma. The people born in Geoagiu generally remain in the community. Small numbers moved on, looking for a better life, but they usually settled in the same region. Even when they leave the community, family members usually stay in close contact for the rest of their lives. Thus, the Geoagiu community is more of a destination than a source of migration. Persons who had lost their jobs during the 90s economic restructuration and who then found it difficult to find another form of employment have been able to get integrated easily in the community, further reducing its general level of welfare. The Roma assimilated them easily. However, the older generations, along with the Romanians, disapprove. The newcomers are seen as lawless good-fornothings who hide in the neighbourhood, who steal and look for trouble. The police had to intervene more than once in the fighting initiated by the newcomers. We have the locals, and the newcomers. Many people dislike the newcomers. They only bring their problems here. So most of the newcomers came here because… well, some are running away from the cops. And the riot cops sometimes come looking for them, because they know they stick together… they get out of prison and come here, because they think the police can’t find them here for some reason. (E.M.M., priest, 33) The persons born in the community only leave it temporarily to find work elsewhere in the region. They are normally gone for short periods of time, and generally return to the community. (Where were you born?) Here… (How many siblings?) We used to be eight, but five died… only three of them left. I had three sisters, and the rest were all boys. (Do they also live here?) Yes, all of them. (Where did you live as a child?) Here… (woman, born. 1966) (Where were you born?) Here… (Where did you live as a child? Here as well?) Yes. (I.M., born.1979) (Where were you born?) In Orăştie… (How many siblings?) Sev… six siblings. Four girls and two boys. (Do they also live here) Yes, all of them. (Where did you live as a child?) Here. In Geoagiu. In… the same house… (P.M.C., born. 1981) (Where were you born?) Here, in Geoagiu … (In this house?) No, across the water… (Where do your siblings who are still alive live?) They’re here, in the district… (man, born. 1946) 106

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Only 2-3% of the population went abroad for work, and only for small periods of time, usually between one and three months each year. Work abroad is usually illegal, which usually insures that most people do not leave more than once. Interactions with the local authorities. The support received by the Roma community after the flooding, the construction of the electricity, running water and natural gases networks, the facilitation of the inclusion of children in the education system through “second chance” projects etc.- all these contribute to the tension between Romanians and Roma. The latter are perceived as being privileged by comparison with the Romanians. There was the water… the electricity. Yes, I think most people are connected by now. Some of them illegally… There is no sewage system in Geoagiu, except for a few apartment buildings. For the gas… they’re not yet connected… I mean, not all of them, just this side of the village over here. Yes. No, the other side’s not connected yet. (E.M.M., priest, 33) Yes, the ones who work and want to get out of this poverty, they received support from the Mayor’s Office, and from the locals… they use the taxes we pay to give them money, actually. And they connected them to running water, electricity… It was the Mayor’s Office that helped them. But they could have done it themselves, they should understand it’s for their own good and they could help. If only they’d understand this! It’s not like it’s all falling from the sky … (primary school teacher, 52) Current issues in the community. Our Roma respondents were quick to point out their issues. Most of these are related to poverty. The others are part of it: women wish they had less children, men wish they had stayed in school so that they could find a stable job and later be eligible for retirement benefits. The main problems of the community are definitely poverty-related, coupled with the low level of formal education. The lack of agricultural land is another important issue for the community. Because of this, but also as a result of the current social and economic changes, brick-making, the traditional occupation of the community, has almost disappeared. It is still being practiced sporadically, although the community’s brick-makers had built all the local administration’s buildings before WWII, along with most of the residences in the area. The lack of land makes it difficult for the few families that have taken horse rearing as an occupation to make any profit of it. The community’s leaders also mention the lack of social cohesion and constructive associations between the Roma as issues.

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Few of the current generations are still interested in the traditional brickmaking and singing occupations. On the one hand, none of these occupations were ever practiced legally. Income was obtained per day of work, or per event; it was normally a mix of money and goods. On the other hand, currently there is no demand for either of these occupations. Mud bricks have been almost entirely replaced with more resistant materials (including in the community itself ), and entertainment rarely includes Gypsy singing bands any more. Although traditional occupations are losing ground, the “tradition” of working temporarily and illegally is maintained. The youths start working alongside their parents at an early age. Normally, the older siblings are taking care of the younger ones. Moreover, the lack of formal education precludes their access to legal, stable employment. People

A woman... Look at that lady, she’s a poor woman, without many children… Can he interview you, Ma’am? The common perception of the district is significantly distorted by comparison to that of an outsider. The lady we are going to describe is hardly poorer than the majority, if by poor we mean the opposite of rich, nor does she have less children than the average number of children of a Roma family, or, even less so, than those of a Romanian family. Moreover, if we go through all the interviews we have conducted, we soon notice that the factual information our respondents provided is inaccurate. Let us look at our current respondent: she was born “in ’66” – so she is 41 years old; she married “at fourteen” – namely in 1980; she has eight children with ages between “32 and 16” – which would mean that her first child was born when she was only eight years old. Another respondent said he was born in 1981 and, only 35 minutes later, he claimed he was only 18. This was the case of roughly half of our respondents. The primary school teacher told us of similar problems she encounters on a regular basis: … has two sons. One of them is named Bacrău Constantin, then he had a girl, and then another son, and he called this second son Bacrău Constantin as well. Nothing more. So he didn’t know which child is which. But these are young children, preschoolers.

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Beyond these inadvertences, the portrait of our first respondent is clearly that of a simple life, similar to that of previous generations. Seen from outside, her life reproduces entirely the lives of her elders and of her own generation, which offers a poignant image of this stagnant community. Childhood. She was born “in 66” in a family of eight, three girls and five boys. Only four of her siblings are still alive. One of her brothers still lives with her, and all the other lived or are still living in the district. All the respondent’s neighbours are her Roma relatives. Her parents died a long time ago. They used to be brickmakers. All the ten members of her family knew the trade. Brick-making is still the occupation of all her surviving siblings. Education. Our respondent went to school until she was 11, when her parents died, and her siblings became unable to support her in school. She was the youngest child, and despite her siblings’ efforts to live together in their small household, she had to abandon school. Her siblings graduated from junior high school, but she dropped out of grade 4. She went to school in the community, and she has fond memories of those times. She used to like math, and she thinks she learned many useful things in school. She got along well with her schoolteacher and with her classmates, who were all locals. She still keeps in touch with her former classmates. She even works for some of them in exchange for money, so she can support her own family. Of all her siblings, only one brother stayed in school longer. He liked to study, and despite their hardships, his siblings supported him in school for a few extra years. Marriage. Shortly after the death of her parents, the woman’s older sister, who was already married, and with whom the woman was living in their parents’ house, could not support her anymore and decided to find her a husband in the village. As a rule, married women live with their spouse’s families. She was 14 when she got married and moved in with her in-laws. She has lived there ever since, with her husband and their eight children, in only two rooms. She has a hard life, with the typical hardships of large poor families whose only source of income is temporary work. Her husband has a drinking problem, and this often causes conflicts between them. Her children, she says, have ages between 16 and 32. Her daughters left the house early, getting married like their parents. They also dropped out of school early. Only one of her daughters stayed in school until grade 7. The family’s three sons are still living with their parents. They also dropped out of school early because: “they wanted to. We wanted them to stay [in school]… they would hide somewhere

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instead of going to school”. For her children, she wishes happiness, a better life and “happy families”. Her own relationship with her husband is strained, mostly because of his drinking problem and the poverty in which they live. Ideally, our respondent thinks a family should have two children. In reality, she thinks, it is God’s will. It was God’s will that her family had eight children. She has never used contraception. Occupation. The woman has been working since she got married, as a child of 14. At first she worked for the grocery store in the village. She was never employed legally. After that, she started working for her neighbours who needed help with their households and common chores. She has always supported her family. Her husband and sons are not hard workers. One of her sons gathers and sells scrap metal in Orăştie. The others are also temporary workers, but make little money. The woman tried to find legal employment several time, but failed to. Mostly, she could not get employed because she was often pregnant. She received money for two years after the birth of each of her children. That income was lost once her children grew up. She has never left the village, not even in search of work. Life satisfaction. The woman is not at all happy with her life. She lives from one day to the next. If she could start over again, she would not get married. What satisfaction? With what? We barely have enough to survive … (What would you do if you could start over again?) Well… I’d never get married!

A man...

This young man has already achieved enough to be able to keep his head high in front of his generation. He got married at 20, like most young men. He built the house in which only his family lives, which is a luxury not many can afford. His goal in life is to work. To make money. To be able to get out of the poverty that holds his entire community back. And to achieve his goal, he dropped out of school early and does not have a trade, which is his only regret. He is aware that if he had stayed in school for a few more years, he would have been able to find stable, legal employment, and earn more money. He does not see any way to remedy this situation now. He cannot return to school, because his family would be unable to fend for themselves. He and his wife are living on social support and temporary work in constructions.

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He is half pleased with his life. On the one hand, he managed to overcome the bare minimum of other people’s lives, by building a house for his family. On the other hand, he is aware of having followed too closely the traditional community pattern, looking for immediate gains and neglecting his education. Childhood. The man is 28 years old. He was born and has always lived in the district. He has a brother who also lives “here” and a sister who is working abroad, in Spain. The brothers meet daily, and see their sister every summer for a month or two, when she spends her holidays in the Gypsy District. The man’s family has always lived in the district. His parents were never legally employed, in his words they were “homemakers”. The man’s father, who is of retirement age, has no legal income and lives on the support provided by his children. The man’s brother is the only member of the family who is legally employed and has a trade. Education. The man considers school an opportunity to find a job. He would have loved dearly to have learned a trade at the school’s workshop. He remembers it as the best thing about school: practice in the mason’s workshop, where he could have learned masonry for large constructions. But he never returned to school after graduating from junior high because “there was no money. I just couldn’t…” He missed school often when he was in school anyway, because that was “the way it went with boys”. They skipped class to roam the streets. Some of his classmates are still his friends. He remembers his teachers as good, some of them strict. When he graduated from junior high, at 14, his schooling was done. He sometimes thought of returning, but now he is convinced that he would be unable to: he has a family, he has to make money. He had stayed in school thinking he would be able to learn a trade and find a stable job. He did not have enough ambition to go to high school, like his brother, however. Like himself, his sister graduated from junior high, and never returned to school. When he was in school, his parents showed interest in his education, but were not insistent enough for him to go to high school. Marriage. The man got married when he was 20, out of his own choice. He was also the one who chose his bride. They were married at the Mayor’s Office. In the eight years since the marriage, he managed to build a house for his family. Unlike most young men who get married, he did not want to live with his parents. He wants to have two children – “I think two is enough” – but he also believes that it will be God’s will as to how many children he will have. His relationship with his wife is good, with the conflicts that “all families have”, usually caused by the insufficient resources.

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Occupation and migration. The man was never legally employed. Although he has been the bread-winner for his family for the last ten years, he has always worked “on the black market”. Because he does not have a trade, he changed employment frequently. He receives social support, and works in constructions or helping his neighbours, anywhere there is work. I never had a stable job… well… I’d help with construction work, with anything… just temporary work, here in the village, and elsewhere too… in Izvoru, Chingi… in other places too… (Where else?) Well… sometimes outside the county too… Well… even in Hunedoara… where else… in Sebeş… In people’s homes… (Do you work now?) No, I have social support. Sometimes, for a couple of days… (Were you ever employed legally?) No. I couldn’t find… no… they wouldn’t hire us…. Like other people… we didn’t find any… companies to hire us… Others can, for a month, a week… (Have you ever worked abroad?) Yes. In Spain. Not for long. Three months (Only once?) Yes. Same as here, in constructions. (Why did you come back?) They didn’t want me anymore. They didn’t give me another job. He once went to Spain looking for work. He had to return after three months of construction work, because his employer did not renew his offer of employment. His sister, however, has been working in Spain for the last five years, accepting any kind of work. She returns home every year for holidays. The man does not think she will return to live in Romania, because she has no house in the community. Life satisfaction. The man does not express satisfaction or dissatisfaction with his life. To quote him: “it’s half-half ”. He regrets not having acquired a trade in school, which could have insured a better life for his family. What can I say, there’s not much… not much satisfaction… it’s half-half… I can’t say I’m dissatisfied either. (What would you do if you could start over again?) I’d stay in school! Yes… yes… for any job today… you need a trade… If you don’t have a trade… (I.M., born. 1979)

A retired man…

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The story of our retired man, who “created” a trade for himself, is a happy one. His entire evolution represented consciously adopting a life strategy that our respondent was satisfied with. He understood early that education will offer him a future. Childhood. The man was born “across the water”, at one end of the Gypsy District across the Geoagiu River, on December 1st 1949. All his family’s neighbours were Roma. He lived in the same neighbourhood for twenty years, when he got married and moved to his in-laws house. He spent 17 years living with his in-laws and then he returned to Geoagiu and built a house in the district, together with his wife. He had three siblings: two brothers and one sister. They got along with each other, but his favourite was his older step-brother. Because he was older and we could get along, we’d obey each other, we were step-brothers, we had different fathers... The siblings are all still living in the district. Education. The man graduated from junior high in grade 7. He then failed to pass the entrance examination for the vocation school in Cugir. He was admitted in the vocational school in Alba Iulia for the next three years. He graduated when he was 17 and promptly found a job at an agricultural cooperative. Education was his chance, and he took advantage of it. The man’s parents though uneducated, encouraged their children to go to school. When the man was rejected by the vocation school in Cugir, his step-father accompanied him to Alba Iulia, to help him get admitted at the school for mechanics. He liked school because he learned a trade which offered him a future, and also because he did not need to pay for his schooling, although he was from a poor family who had no means to support him in school. When the man was young, school had more value than today. It gave him “a trade” and allowed him to find a job immediately after graduation. He thinks that today, the access to education is more limited, and graduating from high school would not automatically mean that a young man could find a job. Since the age of seven… no, back then you’d start school at seven, and graduate from junior high in grade 7, then, as we were poor, I went to Cugir, and I wasn’t admitted, it was difficult back then… only those who had… I mean… from what I heard… where you could go to school back then … (What was the school in Cugir?) It was a vocational school… so… afterwards me and my stepdad went to Alba Iulia, to the school for mechanics… I spent three years there … So I thought…(How old were you?) Well, I was 17 and a half. And that’s when

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I got a job… I received an advance of 300 lei… in Şemeu, Orăştie … in the whole county… I used to live here, and would go where I had to work, I’d commute to Vinerea, Haţeg, Călan… I’d get bed and board … (Did you like school?) Well, I had to like it … everything was free, from my socks to my toothpaste, all I had to do is be good, be a good student. So I did something with my life, I learned a trade… I made a living, now I have a pension… It was useful… very useful, more useful than it is now, because now kids go to school, and they have nowhere to work after they graduate, they all go to work abroad… you can see it on TV… or hear all about it on the radio. The man was the only one in his family who stayed in school. His siblings dropped out during junior high school. His youngest brother attended a six-month on-the-job training. Marriage. The man met his wife when he was 21 and got married with the blessing of his parents and his in-laws. Well, I married my wife only because my parents and hers approved… All four of them agreed. We all had to be in agreement, my wife and I, and our respective parents. He is a widower now, but says that his two granddaughters – the daughters of his daughter – are the light of his old age. The man’s daughter did not feel the same way he did about education. She dropped out of high school to get married. She followed tradition in moving to her in-laws house after marriage. The man believes that the ideal number of children for a family is two. He only has one daughter because once he and his wife decided to have another child, his wife was too old to be able to conceive. Occupation. The man had had stable employment ever since he finished school, as a mechanic and a tractor driver. He was employed by the county agricultural cooperative, and spent a lot of time commuting to Orăştie, Vinerea, Haţeg, Călan. His transportation, along with his bed and board, were paid for by his employer. The man is proud to have held stable employment for 38 years. He retired two years ago. Because of the difficult circumstances of his work, he was able to retire before the legal age. Life satisfaction. The man’s level of satisfaction with life is moderate. He has less money than he would like, now that he could buy “anything in the stores”. If he were to start over again in nowadays Romania, he would be at a loss. He would still learn a trade to be able to live a decent life. He is now retired and lives on his 700 lei monthly pension. He would not leave his family to go working abroad. 114

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Well… Not really… So, so… I don’t have enough money… That’s the main problem. Now you can find anything you want in the stores, but everything’s expensive, and you can’t pick everything you’d like… (What would you do if you could start over again?) If I was seventeen again, you don’t know anything about the future at seventeen! You’re still a child… ha ha… Only when you’re 25… that’s when you know enough… but see, there’s nothing to do here in Romania, you leave when you’re seventeen… the parents leave and the children are left to their own devices… they leave their children with no support … That’s life! If I was 25 or 30 now, I’d look for a job, here in Romania, to make some good money each month… why bother going abroad when the foreigners are now coming to work for us… I’d be happy to make enough money here in Romania and stay here!

Another woman…

Our next respondent represents a social and cultural pattern which was transmitted with few changes from generation to generation. The pattern is reflected in the poverty, the limited access to and interest in formal education, and a shortsighted vision of life and the world, hindered by the hardships of the day to day living, which leave no time for long-term planning. This woman remembered the highlights of her life with dignity, but also with a lot of sadness. She has always lived in poverty, but she also has always worked hard to overcome the hardships of daily life. She is happy to have been able to raise her four children, who support her now. Nevertheless, she still suffers because of the hard life she has lived, the lack of support from her husband, and her ill health. Childhood. The woman was born on 29 July 1944 in the house behind her yard. The new house she is living in belongs to the woman’s daughter. The woman had six siblings: five brothers and one sister. All her brothers are deceased. Her favourite sibling was her youngest brother, whose children she raised after his death. Her sister also lives in the village, two yards down from the woman’s house. Her sister has been paralyzed for the last five years. All the siblings spent their lives in the village. The woman’s parents worked illegally all their lives. Of all the siblings, she was the only one who stayed in her parents’ house, and, after the death of her parents, she raised her family there. Her family of origin was poor, everybody working “almost for nothing”, just to put bread on the table for the following day. The seven children started working young, together with their parents. They all worked in brick-making or worked the land for their better-off neighbours. Education. None of the siblings stayed in school for long. Their parents had no time to supervise their studies. The woman dropped out of school in grade 4, and

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she never considered returning to school. Work came first. I was seven. And I only went to school for four years. (Why?) We were many siblings, and our parents didn’t have money. They were so poor! We were living in poverty, that’s how it was… they could barely provide for all seven of us. We always went with them to make bricks, to care for the cows… to the fields… they taught us, all seven of us, they taught us all to work. The woman believes that school is more important today than it used to be in her day, because one needs an education in order to find a job. For the kind of work she and family performed, they did not need an education. But today, she does not think that one can live doing temporary work, so acquiring an education is the only way to find work. For this reason, she encouraged her children and grandchildren to go to school. They all stayed in school for longer than she had. Even if you find work, a job, see, I told my grandchildren, my children, I told them to stay in school, and they all did, I didn’t let them drop out… All my children were in school until grade 10. Marriage. The woman married when she was 17. She thinks that 17 is a good age for marriage, unlike 12 or 14. She met her husband and they decided to get married together, and both their families approved. The couple stayed in the household of the woman’s mother. The couple had two sons and two daughters. They all have their own families now, being aged between 36 and 44. The woman encouraged them to go to school and learn a trade. All the woman’s children graduated from junior high school, and one of her sons also went to vocation school, and learned a trade. Although he could not find work in the field he was qualified for, it was easier for him to find a job in Orăştie. He is working there now, and has his own house to return to in the district. The woman has four good children, she says, and she is always welcome to live in their houses. She spends most of the time in one of her daughters’ household. She never received support from her husband. She mentions always having been in charge of the household and the caring of the children. Three years before, the woman’s husband left her and failed to keep in touch with anyone in the family. He returned to the district days before our interview with the woman, and moved to the house of their son who is away at work in Orăştie. He expects his wife to take him back. The woman believes that now that they are both old, they will be able to support each other, and she thinks she will take him back. Her husband is better educated than her, and it was easy for him to find work. However, he never kept a job for long, mainly because of his drinking problem. He often left the family, so 116

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the woman was mostly alone, “both man and woman in our household”, until their children were older. Because of the husband’s ways, there were frequent conflicts between the spouses. Occupation. The woman started to work when she was barely a child. She used to accompany her mother, who tended to the households of richer people. She worked in the local grocery store when she was 14. Her job was to clean and prepare vegetables for drying. She also worked for the local cooperative for five years, tending to the cattle. Because her husband was most often away, she had to work hard for her four children. The woman was 50 when she became too ill to work. She had a stroke and now suffers from diabetes. She never qualified for retirement benefits. Her daughter helped her to apply for them, but she had only been registered as working legally for two years, which, she was told, was not enough. She currently has no income and is entirely supported by her children. Migration. The woman often followed her husband when he found work elsewhere, together with their children. Every time, they would return home in less than a year, because her husband was unable to keep a job for longer. After 1989, the woman’s family stayed in the village. Her daughters got married and left for Germany. However, despite lengthy stays, they decided to return home. One of their children only spent four months in Germany, and “hated it”. The woman’s sons in law are still in Germany, while her daughters and grandchildren all returned home, a perfect repeat of her own relationship with her often-absent husband. Life satisfaction. If she could start all over again, the woman would not get married. She feels that her life was made even more difficult by the lack of support displayed by her husband. Her marriage, she says, was the worst thing that ever happened to her. (What would you do if you could start over again?) I’d never marry any man! (How do you mean?) I would never! I did want to have children… but no… never… I never would marry anyone. I was miserable, more miserable than anyone… I sometimes think, I never went to jail, but my marriage was worse than jail! All my life since I got married. It was awful. So that’s why I feel that way…

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chapter 5

The Roma of Mimiu


ROMA PEOPLE - STORIES OF LIFE

The Roma of Mimiu

Daniel Arpinte

The Community Setup of the community The community is made up of two parts: the Mimiu Vechi area (made up of Halanca and Smârdan) and the Cătun area. The community is located to the south of and on the outskirts of Ploieşti, close to the Astra refinery. The information related to the date when the Roma settled in the community is contradictory, but most opinions cite the end of the 19th century as a likely date. The area used to be part of a boyar’s estate, whose slaves used to be Ursari. During WWII, the area was abandoned due to the frequent bombings aimed at the refinery. Immediately after the end of the war, the Roma returned. During the communist regime, the community was slowly abandoned as a result of the integration policies thereof. The Roma regarded these policies as acceptable, because they normally would be rewarded for leaving the community with jobs and apartments. After 1990, the Roma started returning to the community, as the cost of living skyrocketed. A large part of them had lost their jobs and were unable to support themselves elsewhere. During the communist regime they got jobs and most of them also received apartments, because they had many children. They lived there, but, after 1989, what happened was a tragedy for them, because they didn’t have enough money to buy these apartments. So the apartments were sold to other people, and they were thrown in the street, so they had to return to their old huts. Many of them returned here after 1989. (school liaison) The Roma returned to their old households in the community, even when they had no proof of property. They were able to do so, because the area had not experienced the demolition policies applied elsewhere, with the exception of the houses located on the land which is now property of the refinery. There have been no issues caused by the lack of property proof. They returned to the houses where they had relatives or where they knew they used to own land. If someone knew their grandfather had a piece of land

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somewhere, even if there were no documents, they’d build a house there. (Were there any issues related to the land?) No, because they know each other. People knew who used to own each piece of land. (Roma liaison) The same tacit agreement worked with the public authorities; the land currently used by the community has no legal status. No claims of illegal occupation were ever made, although a large number of families returned to the community after 1990. Life of the Roma community: habitation / infrastructure. Most of the old houses are made of wood and mud. Even after 1989, many temporary-looking mud huts continued to be built. Some families built new houses after a while, employing quality materials and in accordance to some housing regulations. This was possible because of an increase in the income as well as of access to information about constructions. The men who worked in constructions in other areas of the country and abroad acquired experience about how to properly build a house. On the average, three or four families live in the same household. Some of the one-room-houses shelter even 12 or 14 persons. The houses are generally sparsely furnished. Some families rebuilt and extended their houses, in most cases after working abroad. It is easy to identify the families in which at least one adult is working abroad on the basis of the appearance of their homes and the investments they have made in comfort. The community is located in the most polluted area of the town. Because of its proximity to the Astra refinery, oil has affected land so severely, that the Roma were able to use oil by-products directly from the soil. Digging a hole in the ground was sufficient to ensure heating for a family, and sometimes even parts of its income. Water has always been a problem, because all the underground waters were contaminated with oil. A drinking water network was available in the entire community until the mid 90s, when the water company decided to close it. 35 families from the Cătun were reconnected to the water network through a project run by our foundation. Air quality is also low, both as a result of industrial activities, and of the practices of the Roma. Due to the lack of resources, many oil by-products are burned during winter by the poorer families. Many households are illegally connected to the electrical grid (through their neighbours). There is no access to public transportation in the community, which renders commuting difficult. There have been applications for the extension of a bus line into the community, but they were rejected as unprofitable by the authorities. There are no paved roads in the community, with the exception of the refinery’s access road. There is a pebble road to the monastery of Cătun, which is relatively famous in the area.

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Life of the Roma community: families. Mixed marriages are rare, and never involve different Roma nations. Few marriages are legal, mostly because of the lack of property papers, and to a lesser extent, the lack of identity papers. Thus, some 18-19 year old mothers in the community do not even have a birth certificate. A typical family has five-seven children, with smaller average numbers for Romanian families. Most marriages are concluded at an early age, close to the age of consent. Some Roma nations maintain the tradition of marriage at a very early age, closer to the onset of puberty. Most of the Roma are Orthodox, with significant numbers of Pentecostal and Adventist followers. The latter are mainly the Roma who returned to the community after the collapse of the communist regime. Life of the Roma community: education. There is no data regarding the percentage of school abandonment, mainly because, alongside the children who drop out of school, some children are taken out of the local school by their parents to be enrolled elsewhere. Most children drop out of school after grade 1, or while in junior high school. Girls usually drop out of school when they decide to get married, while boys drop out once they are old enough to make an income for their families. Parents take their children along to work, because they don’t have anyone to leave them with, and then, when the children grow up they do the same. It’s inherited, so to say. Sadly, this means they drop out of school. (Roma liaison) No child of the current generation has stayed in school after the primary cycle. In most cases, children either accompany their parents to fairs for long periods of time or their parents discover that, despite going to school for a number of years, their children cannot read or write. In the case of girls, the protective attitude of parents also plays a part, school being seen as an environment which is incompatible to the girls’ future status as wives. It is very rare for girls to graduate from junior high school, which is fairly common for boys. The lack of resources further contributes to the low levels of interest in education. Most families lack the stable income necessary to support a child through schooling. They see education as necessary, but hard to achieve. They don’t even have shoes and clothes for their children. You can see children coming to school in sneakers when there’s snow outside, or without socks … (school liaison)

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Most parents do not value education, because the chances of finding stable employment without higher education are almost inexistent. The community school has run a number of projects to improve school participation, at least for the mandatory eight grades. There are adults who participated in the “Second Chance” program, but the results of these projects are unimpressive. Another form of intervention aims to convince parents of the importance of education. Recently, the school has participated in a PHARE project, “A Second Chance”, “The School For Parents”, where they are taught by the teachers of our school. There’s also a collaboration with the Art Fusion Theater from Bucharest, through which we try to communicate more closely with the parents, to try and instill in them a certain responsibility for their children’s education, and the importance thereof. (teacher at the local school) Life of the Roma community: economics. Shortly after 1989, one of the reasons that the Roma returned to Mimiu was the presence of oil by-products in the land, which could be extracted through a simple procedure: digging a hole in the ground. The families used the by-products to heat their houses, and even sold them, in certain cases. The practice was so widespread, that some families had dug holes in their own homes, and social status was measured by the number of holes each family owned. They still use oil for their stoves, and they used to sell it. Everyone had holes. While the refinery was open, they had access to oil, afterwards, it was over. It was a measure of richness, they used to ask each other “So how many holes do you have?”… and the more you had… (Roma liaison) After the refinery was closed, the volume of oil quickly decreased, and the extraction activities moved outside the community, on the route of the old oil pipelines. The presence of oil was one of the main reasons the Roma returned to the community, especially in the case of families who lost their jobs in the mid 90s, and had no money to cover the expenses of living in apartment buildings. Scrap metal collection was a profitable occupation for a long time, especially after many companies were forced to abandon their industrial sites after 1989. In a significant number of families, there is at least one adult who is incarcerated. Most of these were convicted during the time when scrap metal collection was at its peak. They would be fined by the police, but because many of the changed their addresses and never received the fines, they ended up being arrested instead.

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Some of them ended up in jail because of the craziness with the scrap metal… There aren’t many families in this situation, but they needed an income, and since they couldn’t prove their innocence, because their identity papers stated their old addresses. So they received their fines at the old addresses, and nobody could get a hold of them, so the court found them guilty in absentia. So they landed in jail, without even knowing what had happened to them. That’s what happened in most cases. (school liaison) Trade is currently the main occupation of the Roma, especially those who had traditionally sold their products at fairs. Even during the communist regime, when the men were employed at the refinery, the women continued the tradition of trade. A small number of adults is employed at the cleaning company in Ploieşti or has an independent source of income. Almost half the families are estimated dependent on social support, sometimes coupled with income from temporary or seasonal work. The low level of stable employment and the lack of employment opportunities determine the Roma to choose activities with a high volume of work. Because of this, children usually work alongside their parents, or as surrogates, taking care of younger siblings. The families in which at least one adult works abroad enjoy a higher standard of living. They managed to renovate their houses, and in some cases extend them. The local teachers noticed an increase in the standard of living of children from these families. They improve their houses, buy what they need for them, and their children. You can tell which children have parents abroad. It’s not like they make huge amounts of money, but you can still tell the difference, their children aren’t like the others, who come to school for the free lunch. Some of the children are really only sent to school for the free lunch. (school liaison) Lately, many people have started looking for work in other areas of the country, especially in Bucharest. There are persons who found employment through relatives and relations from the community who already enjoy good relations with their employers. Apart from the extra income, the experience with constructions has begun to show in the improvements made to their own houses. It is rare, nowadays, that houses are built without a foundation or without the minimum in constructions regulations. Relations inside the community. Over 90% of the total population in the community is of Roma descent. A few Romanian families live on the outskirts of the community. The majority of the 124

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Roma are Ursari. However, they cannot be identified by any traditional features. There are few isolated cases that still follow tradition. As a rule, Ursari Roma are quick to give up on tradition. This was further encouraged by their lives among the Romanian population during the communist regime. Other Roma families also live in the community. The Moldavian Roma arrived in the community in the 60s, and a small number settled in Mimiu, while a much larger number settled in another district of Ploieşti, called Malu Roşu. The other Roma families live at a certain distance from the rest. There are maybe five families from Moldavia, and they don’t mix with the Ursari. They don’t want conflicts with them, because of the children. There is another Roma nation, a few families that the Mayor’s Office couldn’t find land for anywhere else. Well, the Ursari don’t like them there. So now the Mayor’s Office is looking to find land for them elsewhere. (Roma liaison) The other Roma nations are more traditional in their lifestyles. Their children marry younger, and they are “paid for in money”, they use gypsy justice, and the women are wearing their traditional long skirts. These nations’ relations with the Ursari are tense, both parties avoiding contact. They live apart from the Ursari, and they are mainly isolated from them. Some of them moved to the community after their houses in another district were damaged by flooding. There have been conflicts between them and the Ursari, but now they are tolerated, mainly because it is known that the Mayor’s Office is trying to relocate them. The Mimiu community has one recognized leader, who insures the relations with the authorities and gets involved in projects aimed for the Roma. In recent years, a group of Roma representatives was created, which has improved the implementation of projects and the intervention of public institutions in matters of Roma interest. There’s also an NGO, its president is the school liaison for school no. 19 and he made a team of people to represent the community. Now the people have someone to go to, to discuss their problems. People understand if you take your time to explain things to them. (Roma liaison) Support networks work even outside blood relations, as illustrated by the fact that neighbours help each other, by allowing poorer neighbours to connect to their electricity and water networks. During the construction of the water network, the community participated, by digging the ditches for the water mains. Elderly people were helped by their neighbours.

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Yes, they help each other, I mean when the water network was built, the ditches weren’t deep enough, so people started improving them out of their own decision. The company in charge of the works couldn’t believe it the next day. If they see that something’s done for them, they help to make sure it’s going to be done well. There were older families who couldn’t dig for themselves, so their neighbours did it for them. (school liaison) The church often participates in providing support for the children who go to school. The priest uses resources obtained from the monastery in Cătun, which is a destination for church-goers all over the country. Relations with the majority population. The Mimiu area used to be recognized as an area of the town, and the Roma were appreciated by the majority population. If you talk to the old people, they will tell you that the community was wellseen, they call it a boulevard. They never specified a certain timeframe, but the people in their 80s told me that they used to come here for a walk. There is another Ursari district in Ploieşti, and they don’t like that very much, but they have always accepted our community. Those were the good times. (Roma liaison) The percentage of Romanians living in the community is under 10%, but they have privileged status. Their houses are located along the main road, and are noticeably neat. Conflicts are the norm with the Roma from other nations. Most frequently, they are related to a commercial area located in the center of the community, an area which used to be under Ursari control. In 1993, the conflict turned openly violent. Relations with the local authorities. The existence of a Roma liaison improved considerably the relation of the community and the local authorities. This liaison, employed by the Mayor’s Office, arbitrates the relations between the authorities and the community. Meetings between the representatives of the police and the Partida Romilor [The Roma’s Party, ] have been organized, in order to improve the relations between the Roma and the police. An immediate effect of the latter was the decision of the police to stop the brutal raids it used to conduct in the community. When major conflicts occur, the community leader can attempt to diffuse the situation first. They held meetings with the police, Partida Romilor, of which the community leader is a member, they tried to organize their relation as a collaboration. They 126

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used to have night raids, and these were traumatic for the women and children. But they still intervene if something happens, the community leader can ask for help to diffuse the situation. (Roma liaison) Both a school and a health liaison are active in the community. They have participated in the implementation of several important projects, which have made their roles visible for the community. The school is currently running a series of projects for the children and the adults who want to return to school. Also, the school’s conditions have been vastly improved in the last years, due to outside investments. Other social projects aimed to reduce the percentage of children who drop out of school. The health liaison convinced many people to apply for identity cards so that they could have access to health care. Current issues in the community. Access to health care is not widespread because many families lack the proof of property necessary for applying for identity papers. There is no local health care facility in the community, and the closest facility is in a neighbouring district. Due to the poor housing condition, there are several cases of TB in the community. There are some TB cases because of the living conditions, there are children who were born with malformations; then there was the lack of drinkable water, but this problem is solved now. Before, the conditions were awful. And sometimes the Mayor’s Office forgets about the trash bins around the community. (school liaison) The percentage of employment in the community is low. Trade, as the main source of income, is seasonal and cannot insure the income of entire families. Some families are also involved in the collection of scrap metal, and seasonal work in agriculture. The problem is that they have no money, no training, no qualifications. There have been attempts to find them jobs with the minimum wage, but it didn’t work, because they don’t want to work for the minimum wage. They’d rather work illegally, and make more money. Maybe if there hadn’t been the tradition of trade, they’d accept minimum wage work, but once they see they can make more money off trade, they don’t want to work for 300 lei a month anymore… I mean, if you think about it: the money they’d spend commuting, for lunch… (Roma liaison) Another issue is the poor infrastructure. No company wishes to invest in an area without a clear status. For instance, the Mayor’s Office cleaning service does not dispose of the garbage in the area because there are no individual contracts with the

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locals. These contracts cannot be concluded unless the owners of the land in question produce proof of property. Garbage is periodically disposed of, but there are no facilities for its temporary storage. Because of this, until garbage is disposed of, the community members usually just throw their waste outside their own yards, which frequently causes conflicts between neighbours. The Mayor’s Office approved four trucks for garbage disposal, but only two showed up, and after two loads, the driver told me the truck was full… the day before yesterday, when the trucks showed up, all the gypsies wanted their garbage removed, they paid 5 lei each, but I had asked for the trucks for these mountains of garbage, because they’re a source of illness. But the gypsies got mad and threatened to cut up the trucks’ tires. So I told them to go ahead, and I’ll send them to jail, they threatened me with knives. I am here to clean up the community’s garbage, it’s their job to bring their garbage here. (community leader) The living conditions are precarious due to overcrowding and poor access to utilities. Except for a few lanes in the Cătun area, which are pebbled, all the roads are unpaved and become difficult to negotiate during the rainy season. No investments were made in the improvement of roads, although the costs involved in paving them would not be high. Although some families will benefit from a PHARE project aimed to provide them with property and identity papers, the general lack thereof is one of the most important problems of the community. The people  G.G. Childhood. He is the firstborn son of his family. He was born in 1957 in Ploieşti. He has six brothers and one sister, with ages between 27 and 45. All his siblings have families, the three older ones living in Tulcea, while the rest of them are living in Mimiu. The man grew up with his parents in Mimiu until he was seven, when he was left to the care of his grandparents from Plopeşti (Prahova County) because of his parents’ divorce; he lived with his grandparents until he came of age. His father used to make home appliances and jewelry and sell them legally at fairs around the country. 35 years before, he decided to settle in Tulcea, where he had found a better market for his products. His wife refused to follow him and divorced him a few years later. The three older siblings followed their father to Tulcea, while the others stayed behind with their mother in Ploieşti. The man was sent to his grandparents, who 128

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were poor. Because of that, the man had to attain financial independence, which he did by accompanying his grandfather to fairs. I was around 9 when we started travelling across the country to the fairs. My grandfather made chains, chutes, little boats… the way it was before, and I used to accompany him all over the country. I did this until I was 30. The man’s siblings from Tulcea, who were living with his father, graduated from high school, are married, and have one child each. His siblings from Ploieşti, who stayed with their mother, all dropped out of school in grade 10, except for his sister who stayed on to graduate. Regardless of their level of education or the parent they grew up with, all the siblings kept the tradition of their family’s occupation. Like their father before them, they are all involved in trade. They’re travelling salespeople, like my dad, but they’re not selling their own products anymore. That tradition was lost. They don’t make jewelry anymore… like they used to do before. My oldest brother knows some of that trade, but I don’t. Now they buy stuff, they buy it from Europa [a cheap convenience store, ], like everybody else: they buy it and they resell it. They add something to the price; they buy toys, clothing… this and that. Education. The man graduated from junior high school, at the school in Plopeşti. He has stayed friends with some of his former classmates, and he is proud of their professional achievements. He never felt discriminated against when he was in school, because “there was no difference back then, it’s now that there’s a difference. Before, nobody would say they don’t want to share a desk with a gypsy”. He still meets with his old classmates, and is collaborating with some of them, Roma experts employed by public institutions, on common projects. Yes, there were Georgescu Florin, Ilie Răducanu, Enescu Georgeta, Pişcot Ioaneta who were among the first in the class; girls would be among the best in the class, so I’d get jealous “how can girls be better than me”, because I’d be less good than them. We were very united, we used to get along great, we’d have lunch together… I had no problems in school, I was respected by everyone, and I still meet with them now, one of them works for Dero [detergent company] as a secretary, Georgescu is an inspector for the garda financiară [Romanian equivalent for the IRS in the US], Elena Georgescu is chief of customs, others are drivers, butchers … and we always stop to talk when we meet. With Ilie Răducanu, who’s Roma, I am in touch very often, and I’m also friends with Georgescu. They invite us to their birthdays, or over for a couple of beers.

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The man’s favourite subject in school was history, but the main prop of education for him was in the practical abilities that he acquired. He learned to make household items that he now sells. Later, this skill came in handy, and he was even involved in the planning of his grandparents’ house. He used the knowledge acquired in school when he built his own house. I used to work in the workshop, that’s what we used to call it then, and our teacher would teach us to make little houses out of cardboard, matches, so at one point I started to enjoy that and I would make them on my own. I could even make lamps. Afterwards, when my grandparents built extensions to their house… I made the plan. They were surprised to see I knew how to make the measurements and everything, so I told them I learned it at the school workshop. And that house is still standing, it is standing in Bariera Bucureştilor. And I also made the plan for my house, I didn’t need anyone to help me. So it was very important that I learned these skills. Because he would accompany his grandfather to fairs, he would often miss school. He remembers that his principal helped him keep up, through individual work. They were exceptional people, especially one lady, she’d help me during her class. “You should stop going to the fairs, because your future’s not there, you have to come to school”. I’d miss school because we used to leave during summer, and return during fall, so sometimes I’d miss two or three weeks, because we were at the fairs. So then she would help me catch up and work with me individually, for free. Although the man’s grandfather caused him to miss school by taking him along on his travels, he was also interested in his school performance. The man would be punished when his results were subpar. His mother accepted that his travels would cause absences from school, but she did insist that he graduates from junior high school, which was the minimum level of education required for a stable job. Especially my mom, she was very strict. My dad was less so, especially because he was away. My mom would beat me up, she was very insistent “you stay in school at least until you graduate from junior high… or you’ll never have a job, and you’ll be sorry later”. So I stayed in school, but I’d miss a few weeks every years. My mom cared about my results, she’d go to school and talk with my teachers, not like nowadays when parents don’t care about their kids. Even my granddad was 130

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interested in my results, if they were poor, he’d take his whip out. If I’d get an E, I was dead. After graduating from junior high school, the man dropped out of school to work. The poverty in which his family lived was his main reason not to return to school. His mother did not have enough money to support him through high school. I liked to go to school, and I’d have liked to stay in school, but during those times the lack of money made me go to fairs with my granddad so we could make a living; I had to do it to make money. My mom was separated from my dad, they had both remarried and I couldn’t ask them for money, they each had their own families. But I got along well with my siblings, there were never problems. Later, as an adult, the man would have liked to go back to school, but his responsibilities to his own family got in the way. He had received support from the Roma leaders to enroll in high school, but he abandoned the idea. Yes, I applied for high school, but then I didn’t go. The Party members were upset – “you’re a smart man, you can speak well… it’s a shame, if we had an opening for you in management, you don’t have enough education to get it”. They were right, but I can earn money as it is, without any high school or university. The man considers education important for one’s professional opportunities. He feels that a higher level of education would have opened his way to a political career. And I’m not talking about junior high school, you need to at least go to university. Without a degree, you can’t make it. Marriage and family. The man was 25 when he met his future wife, at a fair in Feteşti. One year later, they were married, despite her parents’ opposition, who would have wished a son in law with a stable job. Her parents’ disapproved, especially her dad: “you’re marrying that one, with the fair, he doesn’t even have a job, he’s moving back and forth… you don’t need that one, you need a man with a stable job”. Well, in the end she chose me, we eloped and I took her to my parents. The couple’s first son was born one year after they were married, followed by three more children. The man built a house in Mimiu, and later he got a job at the refinery. Although he did not give up his traditional occupation, his refinery job

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allowed him to provide for his family. After a year that we spent with my mom, I built my house in Mimiu. We had children, and all was well. During Ceauşescu’s regime, she would go and sell seeds at the stadium, she’d make some money, so I took a job, because we had to send the children to school. It was more difficult when the children were small, because we had them one after the other, and we needed to find clothes and shoes for them. The man’s oldest son graduated from an auto mechanic school, two more children graduated from vocational school. Only his youngest, who had health problems, never returned to school after graduating from junior high school. All the man’s children work are sellers, although he would have liked them to have stable jobs. I’m not happy that they’re all sellers. I’m not happy, because that’s no future for them, but they just did what they saw me do. My oldest son has his own company. The other three travel through the country, to fairs. Nothing is certain: they can make money at one fair, get nothing at the next. That’s not something they can build a future on, and I’m unhappy with their choice. The best choice for them would have been to work at the refinery, it was close, they wouldn’t have to spend money commuting. They didn’t have to become engineers or anything, but at least have a stable job with stable income. Occupation. The man started working alongside his grandfather as a child, especially during school holidays. After leaving school at 19, he dedicated his time to his traditional occupation. At 30, he got hired at the local refinery, loading and unloading trucks. He considered his work conditions decent, and the stable income, coupled with social support, insured a decent living for his family. In 1990, the man left his job, but he still receives unemployment support. I worked three shifts, and I used to make 1700 lei a month, plus the 7-800 lei we received for the children. I was well-pleased, I had enough money to live, and even buy what we needed in the house. Now I can’t afford anything anymore. The Roma were the first to be sacked by the refinery in 1990, we used to be around 300 Roma working there. The man’s job at the refinery was also perceived as a way to conform to the rules of the communist regime. He continued to sell his products at fairs. Had he not applied for a permanent job, he would have run the risk of being arrested, according 132

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to the law then in force. His work pass gave him a passport for freedom. I worked at the refinery, but on Saturdays and Sundays I’d also go to fairs, to make some extra pocket money. But I had my work pass, because if the police would stop you, they wouldn’t ask for your ID, but for your work pass. So I’d show that to them, and I was free. Many Roma went to jail because of that. You could find a job easily back then, but the Mimiu Roma have their tradition in their blood, and that’s why many of them had no stable jobs. They’d leave for the fairs in March and come back during the fall. The man continued his selling activities, and in 1995 he took his first steps into politics, by joining the Roma Party. Soon he became one of the local leaders, the vice-president of the district, then the town president, and then the county vicepresident. He is currently the party coordinator for the whole southern region. Migration. The man had a stint as a worker in Germany in 1991. He worked in an auto parts workshop for a few months, and managed to earn enough money for his family’s needs. Although he would have liked to return, the restrictive work visa conditions imposed on Romanian migrants afterwards prevented it. I was there in 1991, but not for long. I spent three months in Germany. I would take engines apart, and be paid 50 Deutschmarks per engine. So I’d get paid daily depending on how many engines I could work on. When I returned home, I had 3000 DM, clothes for my children, and a second hand car. I couldn’t speak German, but the guy who hired me, illegally, helped me get the car, it was almost brand new. I had it for five years, never needed to work on it, and then I sold it for 11 million. (Why didn’t you return to Germany?) I didn’t go because then I entered politics. But I heard that many Romanians went there, and there was trouble, and then they didn’t allow Romanians there anymore. Life satisfaction. The man regrets not having gone to high school, mainly because he will be unable to continue his upward trajectory in the party’s ranks, or to work for a public institution where he could improve his people’s lives. The first thing I’d do would be to get a university degree, and then try to get to work in management, to be somebody. Even at my age, I’d return to school. The party sent me to high school, but because I had children, and we didn’t have money, I didn’t go.

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His political ascent, due to his leadership qualities, is limited by his low education level. Although he admits he had had the opportunity to return to school, he did not take it, due to his concerns to provide for his family. It is the same choice which troubled his entire childhood, when he had to neglect school in order to make a living.  R.A. Childhood. The woman was born in 1979. Her grandparents used to make combs that they would sell at fairs across the country. When the woman’s parents were still children, their families moved to another community, located in the center of the town. Her paternal grandparents moved to the Mihai Bravu area, while her maternal ones in the area of the South Railway Station. The woman’s parents met at a fair, and decided to get married shortly thereafter. Her mother was 14, and her father 23. The woman’s father used to work at the refinery until 1990, but he also had a small business, selling household items. So my dad had a salary, but, beside the salary, he’d go to fairs with my grandparents. He used to make all sort of things that he then sold – trinkets, small bags. After 1989, my dad resigned from his job and he applied for an authorization to continue his business, and that was our source of income. Nowadays, his business isn’t going that well anymore, so about five years ago, my dad became a taxi driver. My mom has always been a homemaker. When she was 19, the woman’s mother gave birth to the last child of the family. The four daughters, born within a year of each other, are in their twenties. One of them graduated from high school, while the other three had no notable school results. Two of the sisters graduated from junior high school, while another dropped out of high school in order to get married. The younger girls graduated from junior high, and one of them was accepted to high school, but then she eloped and got married to a boy. My family was very upset then, especially my dad. Afterwards, she’d have liked to finish high school, but my parents didn’t let her. My youngest sister was friends with some bad influences when she was in grade 8, they’d skip school together, so my dad told her that if she’s accepted at the economics high school, he’ll let her stay in school. She didn’t make it, by a thread. My other sister finished high school, but didn’t manage to graduate. She’s now my mom’s right hand, my mom had a triple bypass, and there’s a lot of work to be done around the house.

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The woman is not married, and lives in her parents’ house. They moved from Mimiu two years before, and currently live in the center of the town. At the time of the interview, the woman’s sisters were also living in their parents’ house temporarily, because they were renovating their own homes. Although she has been in relationships before, the woman has not considered marriage yet, her priority being her education. Education. The woman graduated from a teachers’ school in Bucharest, and is currently enrolled in the School of Business Administration. She graduated from junior high school in Mimiu. Because most of her classmates were Romanian, she thinks that her presence was seen as surprising. She remembers that her primary school teacher refused to admit her to class, blaming an administrative mix-up for her reluctance to accept a Roma student. I started to go to school when I was seven. I went to school no. 9 in Ploieşti. It was large school, and my mom took me to school on my first day. She was very young, she was 19. They called out the names of the children in each class, and for grade 1, my mom didn’t hear my name, so after all the kids went inside, she looked on the lists with all the children. She found my name and we went in, but when the teacher saw me, she didn’t want to let me in and sent me to the principal. So we went to the principal, and she saw herself that I was enrolled in class 1-B and sent us back to the teacher. And the teacher still didn’t want to let me in and, until the principal accompanied us to class, she didn’t let me in. Maybe because I’m darker too, who knows what she thought. Well, finally she let me in, and things started to change, although there were still kids who called me gypsy. But from grade 2 we had another teacher who loved me very much because she saw I was shy, so she forbade all the other children to pick on me. The woman encountered many issues because of her ethnicity, often being the target of her classmates’ irony. The protective attitude of certain teachers, as well as her above-average results did in time change her classmates’ perception of her. One of my deepest desires was to be first in class. In grade 8 I was first in class, but I still didn’t make the grade to receive first prize. The same happened later, during the woman’s freshman year in high school. She remembers her first weeks in high school as a time when she was discriminated against. She nevertheless keeps in touch with her former classmates, and will be in charge of the reunion marking ten years since they graduated from high school.

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I was the only Roma girl in class, and the boys, who weren’t very nice, would swear at me in the gypsy language, but I wouldn’t reply. It didn’t last long, just a couple of weeks, because then we received homework and they started seeing that I was pretty good at Chemistry, Physics, so they stopped, they tried to become friends with me. By my senior year, everybody liked me. When the woman graduated from junior high school in 1998, she applied to an economic high school, but failed to be admitted. She would have liked to study to become an accountant. When I graduated from junior high, I had to pass an exam in Math and Romanian to get into high school. I wanted very much to study to become an accountant, but the competition was high for that high school. My parents went to see the results, my dad looked on the lists with the children who had been admitted, and my mom on the ones with the kids who had failed. So they found me on the list for the classes of business and trade. When they told me, I cried, because I had really had my heart set on becoming an accountant. After graduating from high school, the woman applied to the University of Oil and Natural Gases, but did not qualify for a scholarship. She found out about the special scholarships for the Roma, and applied for one at the Partida Romilor. Due to misunderstandings, she was not awarded the scholarship, but was recommended by the school board for the Credis School for teachers. She was awarded a scholarship for specializing as a Roma language instructor, on condition that she was going to work as such after graduation. A lady from the school board sent me to apply to Credis, to become a teacher. The Credis College is part of the University of Bucharest, and when I phoned, they told me I could apply, but I’d have to pay tuition. The secretaries told me, that Mr. Sarău still had some openings for scholarships, for Roma language instructors. I had never heard of that job before. I didn’t know anything about it, and I wanted to return home, I was going to go to the train station. I was very undecided, but eventually I went to the college and submitted my papers, and I was accepted. The woman thinks that education can facilitate the progress of the Roma communities. Because the average Roma parents do not value education, it becomes the only chance for their children to overcome their parents’ condition. In Mimiu, children still drop out of school early, becoming involved in housework as early as their early teens. The highest level of studies for a child enrolled in the community school is junior high school. 136

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Of course it’s important, education is the basis of society, and more so for Roma children. At this time, many Roma parents don’t realize that education is important for the future of their children, and even here in school we have problems, because the older children, and in one case even one girl in grade 7, drop out of school to take care of their siblings. Other girls get married. Occupation. The woman has been a teacher at the school in Mimiu for the last three years. The contractual obligation of her scholarship was to return to the community to teach the Roma language after graduating from college. They paid my tuition for three years, and in my second year I had to teach the language to continue receiving the scholarship. I went to the school inspector to find out more, but I didn’t get much help, she just told me to come here and obtain the agreement of the parents. Some of them didn’t approve, “why would the children need to learn the Roma language, when they already speak it at home?”. Maybe the parents’ advice was more useful, I mean, school is obviously useful, because without it you can’t do much in life, even my granddad knew that. At college, I learned dialects of the Roma language; I can understand all the nations, and we have more than one nation at school- so I can understand them all. I am Ursari, so that was the only dialect I had learned at home. Life satisfaction. Although the woman had to take detours from her initial education plans, she is currently following her dream to graduate from a business school. She considers that her college years and her work as a teacher are very important, due to the experience she has gained. There’s nothing to change about my life, maybe the fact that I couldn’t go to university when I initially wanted to, in 1999. I’m not sorry that I’m only doing that now, though, because I am happy with my job. The fact that she lives with her family is more important for the woman than her career. I am very happy now because I have two beautiful nephews… what’s most important is that we stay healthy and live each day. We don’t and never have asked for anything else from life. Despite the hardships she has encountered, the woman is the only one in her family who is going to fulfill her dream of obtaining a university degree. Although she has had bad luck at certain key times in her life, she is currently on the path she

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has chosen for herself ever since she was a child.  C.T. Childhood. The man was born in Plopeşti, a village in the Negoieşti commune, in 1958. He lived with his parents and grandparents in a community of Roma singers, which had nevertheless given up on most of its traditions. They were Romanized Roma, couldn’t speak their language. The men used to be singers, and the women… my grandma was selling things- she made ice cream, sold sunflower and squash seeds, she also went to the cooperative, like everyone else. The man’s parents moved to Ploieşti when he was 12. His father, a talented singer, felt that a town would provide him with more opportunities for employment. My dad realized that you had more opportunities in a town, and he wanted that I go to a good school. My dad’s family were all singers, and he was a true singer, he had audio and TV recordings. He was the best singer in Prahova County and maybe in the whole country at that time. About 40 years ago, he was in, so to speak. Education. Although the man’s community of origin valued tradition, his father encouraged him to stay in school. Regardless of his later job choices, his father thought that the man’s future will depend on his ability to possess a high level of education. My dad knew that if I go to university, I’ll have a future. (Did he suggest a school in particular?) No, that didn’t matter, he just knew that because he had dropped out of school after four years, he then had to return to school, because without a junior high school diploma nobody would hire him. The man’s family supported him wholeheartedly to insure that he would be admitted in a higher education institution. He graduated from high school, but did not manage to be accepted by a university. Of course that my dad, with his life experience, realized that my future was to go to school. He really didn’t want me to be a singer, he insisted that I have to study, his goal was to send me to university. He did his best so that I had time to 138

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study, he didn’t even send me out to buy him cigarettes. I was a bit frail too. So I graduated from high school, and I applied to university, but I didn’t make it. And then I had to do my military service, so afterwards I didn’t have much choice… After his military stage, the man applied for university again, still without success. Although he wished to respect his father’s wishes and graduate from university, he gave up on his dream and instead became a singer himself. So I tried to apply to university one more time, but I had lost my ability to study like I had before. My mom, in the meantime, she got me a piano and a violin, and I also learned classical guitar, so I had a trade, so to speak. I was employed as a choreographer, and an instructor at the House of Culture from Mizil, Vălenii de Munte, where I taught guitar for years. And then I would play at weddings, restaurants, I think I made my living off music for at least 20 years. The man remembers that one of his favourite subjects in school was history, and he wishes he had learned more about the past of his people. His desire was fueled by the situation of his community, which, despite breaking with tradition, is still affected by the biases of the majority population. Because of my dad, I was curious as a child, I got that from him. There didn’t seem to be a clear reason for us being here. I come from a Roma family that couldn’t speak the language, so we were somewhere in the middle. The ones who can speak the language don’t like us, and the majority population calls us gypsys, so we’re confused. This isn’t just about my family, there are many Roma in this situation. So without the possibility to find concrete data… history is the only one which could offer us answers. The history of Romania, and the other subjects I took in school – ancient history, the middle ages, contemporary history – it was all the “normal” history, heavily influenced by communist propaganda. Only after 1989 did I find out what real history means. But I liked the history of Romania, because I thought of myself as Romanian, when I was a kid, I was a real patriot. We have our own loyalty to those we live with, our own respect… that’s what my family taught me, that’s our education. One of the reasons I want to have access to real history is to elucidate our own history. I thought that if I could go to a university, I’d have access to our history, but during Ceauşescu’s times, there was no way I could do anything like that. It was to the man’s advantage that he went to a school where Roma students were the exception, although there have been times when he felt discriminated against by his teachers and peers. He did appreciate, however, the competition between his

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peers, and the high standards imposed by the school. First and foremost it was contact with the others, and also competition, wanting to be better than the rest, while maintaining my respect for them. All this caused me to be appreciated. At one time, when we moved to Ploieşti, I was the only Roma student in school. At first, there were doubts and biases. I remember that during high school, my Romanian teacher would never give me an A, even if I deserved it. All I would get would be a C, even if I deserved more. I realized in time that she just didn’t want to give me an A, maybe because I was darkerskinned. In time they started to appreciate and trust me. The man thinks that the education he received in a school outside the community was better. Also, contact with Romanians, with many of whom he became friends, helped him understand life in other terms than the community he hailed from. I only felt discriminated against when dealing with two or three teachers. In time, I became friends with most of my classmates. Had I gone to a Roma only school, I wouldn’t have stood a chance to become motivated. My parents were also reticent at first. I’d go to my classmates’ homes after class… and their education, the way they lived would influence me. I’d spend the day in their homes, and at night I’d return to the Roma community. I call myself lucky for having been able to experience both sides, so to speak, of the Roma and Romanian life, because I learned things from both. The man decided to apply for university again in 2000, on the advice of a friend. He was admitted with a special scholarship for the Roma communities by the School of Social Assistance. Between 2004 and 2006, he also obtained a Master’s degree. After 1995, I worked as a singer throughout the country, up until 2000 when something happened: one of my friends who had applied to university several times reminded me that I could do it too. So in 2000 I applied to the School of Social Assistance, after having studied for a couple of months, and applied for a special scholarship for the Roma. I had a scholarship throughout my university years, I concentrated solely on my studies, my GPA was constantly high, I knew I couldn’t work, and had to concentrate on either my studies or my work. I had to study for the scholarship, and then I applied for and received a Soros scholarship as well. My wife and family supported me. I then obtained my Master’s degree in 2006, and went on for a training course in community development. It was the first program of the sort in the country. 140

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The man believes that the special scholarships for the Roma people must continue, especially because in most cases, Roma persons do not have the same initial level of training as Romanians. He feels that he would not have been admitted to university, had he had to compete against Romanians. Ever since I was a child, I was told that I was intelligent and capable to go places, so I took it for granted. When I was preparing to apply to university, some of my friends were joking about it, because I was 40. But to me, it doesn’t matter how old you are, you have to do something, and it’s okay if you happen to enjoy it. Marriage and family. The man has been married for 24 years, and has one son. His son is following the family tradition, and is enrolled in his junior year at the music school, learning violin. I think it’s a family tradition, I used to play instruments myself… if it works for him, I’ll let him do it, but if it doesn’t… I’ll try to find something for him to do. But I saw that he has real talent, so I’m letting him do it. We wish that he graduates from high school and goes on to university, and I think music will be his career, because he is very talented. Occupation. Immediately after his military service, the man found a job as a choreographer and cultural instructor at a local house of arts. He also obtained his freelance authorization, which allowed him to perform at weddings. At the end of 1990 he lost his stable job, as houses of arts were not making enough revenue to be able to continue to function. I could have found a stable job, but it attracted me… things so happened that I ended up specializing in community development, and I finally am employed legally and have paid all my taxes. I realize now that time is passing… I also earn more money this way than if I were working for the government, and that’s another benefit. I’m still performing, not as much as before, because I have no time, but I do it mostly for our son, because there’s nobody else who’s a performer in my family, he’s like “the last of the Mohicans” and needs all my support. After losing his job, the man travelled outside Romania for over two years, and then returned home because his lack of salesman skills. After his return, he continued to work as a performer. Life satisfaction. Graduating from university, even at an age when most people are making their retirement plans, gives the man his satisfaction with life.

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I am very, very happy. Most of all because I graduated from university, which gives me the most satisfaction, even if it doesn’t involve gaining money. My university colleagues were appreciative of the fact that I was able to keep up and have outstanding results at my age. I don’t know how long this positive discrimination will last, but I experienced it first hand, and it was of utmost help to me, because I wouldn’t have been able to go to university otherwise. I didn’t have a method to prepare myself, unlike others who come from educated families. I would just study for… what I enjoyed. Some things I didn’t study because I didn’t like, so I couldn’t have passed any exams on those topics. Had I had a tutor, it would have been different, but it’s very difficult to do it by yourself. Now I can help my son with his studies, and I didn’t need to get a tutor for him to pass his junior high school graduation exam. I applied to study history three times, and I ended up studying social assistance, and it was the subject for me. God helped me realize that it was my path, and even as a performer, I don’t think I was better than I am now. I am now content and I have discovered the true meaning of happiness. Although the man was successful in music, and his traditional occupation never failed to provide him with sufficient resources, he never hesitated to embark on his studies, despite his age. He managed to work in social assistance, a field in which he believes, and which he feels is right for him.  M.H. Childhood. The woman was born in 1960, in Ploieşti. When she was a few months old, her mother abandoned her to the care of her grandparents, and moved to Bucharest, where she remarried. The woman had sporadic contacts with her mother, but her primary care-givers were her grandparents. M.H. never met her father. I never met my dad, but I heard he was dead. I would have loved to meet him, and see what kind of person he was. I asked one of my cousins to call him: “you know who’s sitting next to me right now? Your little girl.”, but he said it was too late for him to meet me. Education. The woman went to school in Mimiu. She has fond memories of those times, and the friends she made. Although she never had above-average results, she graduated from junior high school, like most children from the community. She credits her grandparents for the support she received to stay in school. Although most of her classmates were neglecting school to help their parents, the woman’s grandparents struggled to offer her the best conditions for study. Their income 142

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insured that she enjoyed a decent lifestyle for the times. The headmistress, who was also the Romanian teacher, I liked her very much. She’d come to the gypsy district to call us to school and she would say to me “Learn, Măriuca, because you’re the most beautiful child”. I loved my childhood, you know, and I loved to study. If I liked a subject, I could learn it right away. The lessons we had to learn back then were nice, and history was great. I look at children now and they’re not learning what we did, their lessons aren’t as nice. The woman abandoned school in grade 8, to get married. She is sorry that she did not stay in school, which could have offered her the chance to find a good job. It’s very important. I didn’t know how important it was then… and now I have to work in the cold, I have to sweep the streets come rain or shine… or else I lose money. If you’re educated you can find an office job. And I had the brains for it… Marriage and family. The woman lived with her grandparents until she was 14 and decided to get married. It was a hasty decision that her grandparents did not approve of, especially because of her early age. The woman’s grandparents managed to dissuade her, and then sent her to live with her mother in Bucharest, where she did get married three years later. My grandparents were desperately looking for me when I eloped, and after three days they found me and took me back home. And they sent me to my mom in Bucharest so that the gypsy I had eloped with couldn’t marry me. I had met him in school, and I was very fond of him, it was puppy love, I didn’t know anything about love, but once a kid wants something, it’s hard to dissuade them. The woman’s first marriage only lasted a few years. Despite giving birth to a girl, she divorced her violent husband. The woman worked in Bucharest for while, following in her mother’s footsteps as a janitor. Shortly thereafter she returned to the community, where she married her current husband. The woman’s daughter from her first marriage lives with the couple, in their house. Her daughter is 17, has graduated from junior high school, and is now helping her parents with housework. Occupation. Until she was 27, the woman worked as a janitor in Bucharest. She lost the possibility to get employed as such after 1990, and decided to return to Mimiu.

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Until I was 27, I worked in many places in Bucharest: I’d clean apartment buildings, and then I worked as a salesperson in Romarta [a clothes store, ], but after they passed the property law, the land the store was built upon was given to its owner, and I lost my job. I really enjoyed that job. The woman became a homemaker after her marriage, but with her husband becoming ill shortly after, she decided to look for a job. For 12 years, she worked illegally at the refinery, cleaning the workers’ quarters, and her income was made up of the latter’s voluntary contributions. She had to leave that job in 2006, mostly because of the difficult work conditions, but also because of the fluctuating income. She then found a job for the cleaning company in Ploieşti. I then returned here and I got remarried, and, when he was healthy I didn’t work. Up until nine months ago, I used to work at the refinery without papers. I worked there for 12 years as a cleaning woman, I’d clean the washrooms, the showers… I’d work until I couldn’t see straight, and had no rights – if I was sick for a day, I’d just have to catch up, because I had no right to take days off or anything else. And for what? I also had to go from door to door to get 10 lei from each. Some would tell me they didn’t have money and to return next week, and they kept sending me away, like I was a beggar. So I had no rights for 12 years. Life satisfaction. The woman’s grievances have to do with the living conditions in the community and the health of her husband. The living conditions in the area are bad, and the recent changes show no chance of significant improvements in the near future. The woman’s husband has a major health problem, and cannot work anymore, having retired from his last employment because of his illness. I am happy to be healthy, but it upsets me that he’s sick, and we don’t have much. You do laundry and hang them to dry, and when you bring them back inside they’re black, because people burn tires, clothes, everything they can grab from the garbage to keep themselves warm… and when I do laundry… I’m sick too, I had surgery, I have sinusitis. Nowadays, you have to work, nobody will give you anything, and I’ll work for as long as I’ll be able to, and when I’m not, I’ll just die. The woman feels that there is nothing she needs for as long as she can provide for her family. Her main concerns are the health of her family and losing her job. Since God made me complete, I can earn an honest living, all our family was like that, we weren’t ones to steal or do bad things. I always wanted to be loved 144

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and respected. I now work for [the cleaning company], and as for how much they like me, they respect me for working hard. And my family is hard working too. The woman’s childhood was marked by the absence of her parents. She decided to become independent at an early age, at first through marriage, and then through work. The woman’s wishes for the future are simple, keeping a job, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle for her family. She also values conformity, and especially adherence to the law. Her life principles are “to work, to avoid bad things, never to steal”.

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chapter 6

The success stories


ROMA PEOPLE - STORIES OF LIFE

The success stories

Delia Bobirsc

This chapter is dedicated to a holistic approach to the life stories of some ethnic Roma. Although each personality and each life story is unique, the analysis we performed represents a holistic read of what a life story would be. We are not suggesting this read as the only “true” approach, but as an alternative read based on the data we have gathered through our interviews. As a note, all the names used in this chapter have been changed to protect the privacy of our respondents. Our interviews were structured around the major parts of our respondents’ lives, such as: childhood, education, marriage, family, work. So why did we choose to retell the story of these people’s lives? Why are they important? We selected our respondents based on their level of formal education. Our respondents are people of different ages, with different family and work situations. Two of them – Elena and Andrei – are still young enough to be planning their lives. Claudiu is a middle-aged man at the peak of his career, while Ioana is an adult with a vast professional and life experience. So how do their lives differ? Each of these people has constructed their life in a highly individual pattern. If we were to look for similarities, we could note that all our respondents come from poor families. Another similarity is the support they have received from their families to invest in education and become leaders of their communities, and respected citizens outside them. Beyond these common aspects, each life story is unique. Ioana’s life is all about her career, each stage of her life being another lesson in development. Her “recipe” for success seems to be hard work and personal involvement. Claudiu’s life story is highly positive and relationship-oriented. His positive attitude insured that he has always approached life as an optimist. The people in his life – relatives, teachers, friends – have all contributed to his ability to stay positive and competitive. He has been on an upward career trend ever since high school, and is currently a political leader. Andrei’s story is about building family relations, shattered during an early childhood marked by loss and abandonment. His entire life was affected by the lack of a father figure, and the insecurities created by repeated moves at an early age. Our youngest respondent, Elena, has experienced life as a series of learning stages. One of the most important parts of her identity has been reacting to negative stereotypes by embracing her Roma ethnicity.

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Ioana Childhood. Ioana was born in 1959, in a village close to Focşani, as the youngest of four children born to a mixed family. Her parents themselves were children of mixed families, her paternal grandparents being a Jew married to a Roma mixed blood girl4, while her maternal grandparents were a Roma man married to a Roma mixed blood. The story of Ioana’s childhood revolves around the trauma related to the separation of her parents, and the absence of a father figure. Six month after Ioana’s birth, due to repeated domestic violence, her mother abandoned her family and took shelter in her parents’ house, located next to her own. After a few months, when the children were left in their father’s care, their parents decided to separate and share responsibility for the care of their children. The older siblings, a brother and a sister, moved to another village with their father. Ioana and her older brother were left in the care of their mother. Ioana was reared by her mother, unlike her brother who also spent time with their father: “he was the ‘commuter’, he liked to live with my dad because my dad was rich. My mom was poor in all ways, not only because she didn’t have money”. Ioana spent her childhood with her extended family, and does not feel like she missed her father, emotionally, although she also confessed that: “I obviously received affection from three fathers and three mothers, but there is a kind of affection, of education that you can only receive from your father, which I never had and I still miss, and will miss for the rest of my life”. She first met her father when she was seven and her parents legally divorced, splitting their goods and the custody of their children. When having to describe her infrequent interactions with her father, Ioana says: 

I had no relationship with my dad, absolutely none. I just knew he was my dad. I remember he’d come visit his sister, who was our neighbor, and my mom would tell me “your dad will be here”. […] My mom would advise me “get out in the street”- which meant I could pretend to go see one of my uncles and run into my dad, as if by mistake. So my dad would give me a kiss and 10 lei, I think it was. And that sums up my relationship with him. Words like violence, pedantry, strictness, jealousy, lack of communication, fear, discontent, unhappiness come up again and again in Ioana’s description of her father. The portrait is completed by Ioana’s grandmother’s reasons to marry her daughter to this man: he is well off, he has a trade – he used to make shoes – and his skin is lighter than that of the average Roma. Sons in law were chosen on pragmatic grounds, not emotional ones (Ioana’s grandparents took exception to her father’s 4 In our respondent’s view, a mixed blood is the result of a mixed marriage, in which one of the partners is of Roma ethnicity.

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violent behaviour and the failure of his first marriage). When trying to explain her father’s violence in grown up terms, Ioana discusses his frustrations and his unhappy private life. He loved my mom very much, but didn’t know how to tell her this, and treated her like an idiot. For instance, he’d beat her, and my mom would ask: “Why are you doing this?” And he would answer “So you have no time to think about other men”. It was obviously jealousy, a lack of communication, and fear… that’s why they broke up. Ioana’s mother dominated her childhood. Her life’s history started to become clear from the very beginning of our interview. Ioana describes her as the most beautiful girl in their village, hard working, but whose home life (her family, four siblings and their two parents, was very poor and used to live in one room) forced her parents to marry her to a man whom she did not want. Her parents forced her, they invented a story, which is what we Roma do. When parents disapprove, the kids elope, and when they return… I did tell you how much they value virginity… so when they return, the parents can’t say anything anymore. I guess that’s what happened to my mom. She was the most beautiful girl in the village, but she was poor, and my dad was well off, both he and my granddad were shoe-makers. Before her marriage, to make ends meet, Ioana’s mother used to work in the households of richer neighbours. She would also sell berries that she would pick from the woods during summer, in the marketplace, in Focşani. After leaving her husband, she worked as a caretaker at the local school, and then as a maid for the richer people in the area. Ioana’s early life was centered on the traditional values of her community: being a virgin when one marries, a good homemaker, respecting her husband. Ioana learned to take care of the home, to cook and clean. However, Ioana admits that both her grandmother and her mother encouraged her to go to school, so as to avoid a repeat of the misery of their own lives. Her grandmother, who deeply regretted having dropped out of school in grade 4, taught Ioana to read, and her mother supported her with money throughout her schooling years. Anyway, according to her own hard life, what my mother passed on to me was exactly what she wouldn’t have liked to do, namely to go to school. So my only option was to go to school. And she tried as much as she could to make sure I had clothing and food. Any parent would wish that their child has everything they need. 150

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Ioana’s siblings chose different paths in their lives. Her older brother went to a vocational school, and graduated as a welder. Then, during the internal migration, he worked in the mining field. He is now retired, and has five children. Ioana’s sister went to high school, and worked as a primary school teacher for a year in a mountain village from Vrancea County. The location of the village and the hard life in the mountains made her leave her job, and get hired at the Iron Manufacturing Plant in Galaţi. She is married and has two children. Ioana’s older brother with whom she grew up influenced her career choices the most. She describes him as a writer, a bohemian, “a great leader of the Roma movement”, the very originator thereof. In another context, she says that “he was my mom’s favourite son”, and “I had to take care of him”. To insure that his children have a better future, Ioana’s brother took his family to another country to start a new life. [...] he took his family with him. Everybody does it, they all want to give their children the future they never had, and would put up with the harshest conditions for the sake of their children. Ioana’s life story is also an apt description of the community where she spent her early years. Because of the communist assimilation policies, the Roma families were forced to live among Romanians. The community was not a traditional one, and few people could speak the Roma language. In time, they were integrated in the Romanian community, and adopted its habits. Nevertheless, Ioana can remember taking part in traditional gypsy balls as a young girl. They were organized in Odobeşti, and offered the young Roma the opportunity to meet their future life mates. Each year, and sometimes twice a year, there were gypsy balls, a good opportunity to meet other young people, make friends, and eventually get married. I was too old when I was at my first ball, I was 19. The tradition was that parents would take their children to the balls. Education. Ioana went to kindergarten and junior high school at the local school. Another result of the integration policies was that Roma students were distributed between classes. Because of that, Ioana’s best childhood friend, of which Ioana fondly remembers that: “[…] she liked to hold hands with me. I once asked her why, and she said she liked that my hands were soft and warm. Now when I think about it, I think for me it brought a feeling of safety and trust, apart from enjoying her friendship, like any other child”.

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Ioana remembers her teachers as well-qualified, strict, and treating everybody fairly. They encouraged competition in school, and the extracurricular activities, like chess competitions and folk dances. “Competition” describes Ioana’s schooling years very well, both at school and at home. I was an active child, I always tried to be competent, I was in competition with myself at first, and then with other children. Ioana was a very good student, the first in her class throughout junior high school. In her senior year of junior high school, she only managed to come in second, which was upsetting, especially because her mother punisher her by not letting her take flowers to her principal. She was deeply hurt by this gesture, which was embarrassing not only in front of her teacher, but also in front of the community. Ioana’s mother was the main supporter of her education until she finished school. When I was in kindergarten, my mom was the cleaning lady there, and then the same when I went to school. Because she was always there, I couldn’t skip school, I had to study, because the teachers knew who my mom was and would tell on me. One of the crossroads in Ioana’s life was choosing a high school. Due to her belief that her daughter needs a trade, Ioana’s mother encouraged her to apply to a teacher’s school, although Ioana’s dream was to go to a theoretical high school in Vidra. It was the first failure of her life. Ioana failed to pass her music examination, although she had been in a folk band throughout junior high school. Thinking back on this episode, she says: “so I don’t know if it was discrimination, I think it was something else, I didn’t have anybody to lobby for me”. Determined to have her daughter learn a trade, Ioana’s mother then sent her to a vocational school in Tecuci, where she once again failed to be admitted. Finally, Ioana’s mother agreed to let her try for the high school in Vidra. Following her acceptance, Ioana was a student in the high school for two years, despite of its reputation as being a high school for “the rich”. Ioana experienced the transition to high school as a critical event. The expectations were high, and Ioana failed to qualify among the top of her class throughout high school. Life in a boarding school was also testing. We had no free time. At boarding school, we always had to do something, studying, even sleep. The supervisor checked to see whether we were in bed and sleeping at night. We had a uniform and a number. We weren’t allowed to wear 152

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short skirts, or trousers. I spent two years there. What the experience taught me was to be neat and orderly. I guess this was partly passed on to me from my dad who was pedantic about order, and our supervisor was very much like my dad. Ioana remembers that her supervisor categorized her family as “disorganized”. As a teenager, Ioana did not understand what it meant, apart from the fact that “it was a bad thing”, that her family was of “doubtful” origin, and there would be repercussions if she failed to meet the school’s requirements. Ioana remembers her high school teachers as very strict, and also very well qualified. They knew their students, and their students’ families. Ioana remembers that her principal trusted her, because she also knew her older siblings. One time, the principal asked Ioana to report on one of her colleagues, who had been transferred from Focşani, for disciplinary reasons. Her memories of the incident include a funny episode of teenage love. My principal and my supervisor made me report if she met boys, because she was very beautiful. So what did the girl do? She was kissing a boy in the boarding school’s yard, hidden behind the trees. So I had to watch that and then report on her. And since a boy also liked me, I was doing my reporting hidden behind the same trees, kissing this boy. So my principal would ask “What did Stela do yesterday?” “She was kissing somebody” “Who?” “That boy” “So what did you do?” “Well, I was also kissing somebody”. Ioana’s life at the boarding school was hard. Her main sources of income were the social support that she received as a one-parent child and the money that her mother could send. She remembers that at one point she grew very upset with having to wear hand-me-down clothes. This caused conflicts between Ioana and her mother, who could not afford to cover her high school expenses. Eventually, Ioana had to leave the high school and find employment. In grade 10, my mom told me that she realizes I needed pretty clothes at my age, but other girls have jobs, and so should I. So I dropped out of high school, and went and got a job with on-the-job training. Ioana remembers the shock she felt when she realized she would not be able to graduate from high school: “my family was unable to support me so I can have a decent life”. Work experience. One of the defining moments in Ioana’s life came when she decided to have her own trade and make her own way in life. From that time, her

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professional life became her obsession. She describes her life following that moment as difficult and obstacle ridden. She started out working in the textile industry. In order to be accepted in the vocational school in Buzău, she had to first complete six months of work as a maid in the house of a very rich woman who was in charge of the selection process. Ioana remembers: “[...] I have very good memories of that time, but also some sad ones, because it was the first time that I was away from my mom for more than five days in a row”. After completing her training, Ioana moved to Focşani, where she worked in the textile industry for 13 years. This completed her transition into adulthood. I finished the school in Buzău and I returned to Focşani and I started work. For a while I rented, and then I received an apartment from the state, I bought furniture, I started living with a man, and that’s how 13 years passed. Ioana decided to continue her studies, so she graduated from high school, after studying nights. She thinks that her mother passed her interest in education on to her, while her brother nurtured it, especially her reading. My mom passed on to me the learning part, and my brother took care of my education. He would lend me books to read, Freud, Cioran. University. Ioana was 32 when, encouraged by her older brother, she decided to apply to the School of Law in Bucharest. She can remember some of the reasons which influenced her decision: her discontent with life in general, a need to change her environment, to meet like-minded people, to learn new things and be able to have a career. Her mother had asked Ioana to move to Bucharest and watch over her brother, which further contributed to her decision. Following her visits to Bucharest, Ioana became familiar with foreign events. Ioana took the decision to apply to university during a short visit with her brother. After being accepted, she decided to move to Bucharest. I had grown to be isolated, because I had nobody to talk to about my thoughts, my readings. I was an average woman, I should have been content with my man, my noisy friends. We had two houses, because my boyfriend also had his house, and he also had a car. I was earning good money, etc. So as I was saying, I was uncomfortable with myself, plus there were only women working at the factory. There was a woman, one of my colleagues, with whom I had worked for many years, and we had many arguments, and she’d never forget to remind me I’m a gypsy. 154

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Then, I needed to change air, it’s human nature to change environments from time to time, to change what you do, to even change things about yourself. So it was the time to make changes, although I seemed to have everything I wanted. When I came to Bucharest, I actually closed the door and left, not even telling my boyfriend that I might not return. I just came to see how my brother is doing and the next five days I applied to university and was accepted. Why the School of Law? Ioana’s decision is closely related to her entire life, and especially her childhood experience with an abusive father. She recounts her decision: “when I decided to apply for law, it’s funny, but it counts as motivation. My mom would tell me of how often my dad would beat her, so I said, childishly, that I’m going to apply to Law School so I can find a reason to lock my dad up to punish him for all he did to my mom. And for all he did to me too, because, having grown up only with my mom, I wouldn’t make any difference between her and me. I was still in school when my dad died, so that motivation kinda evaporated”. Ioana took up the challenge of moving to Bucharest and overcoming her fears of a big city. Without a job or any resources, she had to accept her brother’s support. She lived with her brother for the first two years, who offered her a job as his personal consultant at the Ministry of Culture. Her student life turned out different than she had imagined it. Because her high school years were cut short, Ioana wanted to experience student life to the fullest. She often thought about how she was going to go to class, spend hours reading and socializing with her mates. This did not happen, on the one hand because most of her classmates were public servants with families, and on the other, because she herself had to work to support herself. When talking about her university years, Ioana remembers telling her classmates about her mixed parentage. After her confession, she noticed a certain coolness in the way her new classmates were treating her. The situation improved after the first round of examinations, when Ioana helped her new classmates study. It was again competence that helped me in university. Had I not been good and helping my colleagues to pass their exams, I’d probably have been isolated. Career. Ioana’s description of her career stresses the time and energy that she invested in becoming a professional. Since I arrived in Bucharest in ‘92 and up to this interview, I worked enormously. If I have any regrets, they’re about not taking care of my needs better. I placed too much importance on work, so that when I say something, people would believe me and pay attention. I never gave much thought to getting married and having children.

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After working in a factory from a very early age, Ioana spent her university years as a personal consultant to her brother at the Ministry of Culture. She enjoyed her job, which had to do with the issues of ethnic minorities, because she had access to information about the culture, history and values of the Roma people. It was not sufficient for her to understand the Roma traditions, however. As a result, she decided to work for a year in a Roma organization whose president was a traditional Roma. This helped her land a job with a human rights organization in 1996. In retrospect, Ioana can identify the abilities which recommended her as a project coordinator. She says: “[...] all of a sudden I was involved in project coordination, I was a law student, it was obvious that I could coordinate law projects. Also, I’m a very talkative person and I’m close to people, I know how to listen, so I was going to be good as a trainer”. She enjoyed her time with the human rights organization because she gained experience, both professionally and personally. Musing on the best times of her life, Ioana thinks they happened during these years: “I think they were 96-98 when I was in Bucharest for a week at a time, and spent the rest of it working in the country. [...]. I think those two years were the happiest years of my life”. Her career advanced rapidly. She had the opportunity to work with a Dutch sociologist who was also financing the implementation of community development principles. She could apply both her knowledge of the law, and her expertise in sociology to community development, which enabled her to later promote a sociological approach to communities in government policies and start her PhD thesis. Ioana’s participation in training courses outside Romania enriched her life experiences. Her views of the world were changed by the interaction with different cultures, and different approaches to social realities. [...] I can’t begin to describe the cultural shock the first time I travelled abroad, to Budapest. I had to speak a foreign language, and I couldn’t speak English, because back in my day we studied Russian and French. […] I interacted with foreign people, and I realized what it means to be in another country, and when I returned I was changed and challenged. Then I started up in the Soros network, which offered me a different kind of education, and especially experience in diplomacy, interacting with people of different mindsets. If you pay attention, you can learn anything and manage, if you don’t… It looks like I paid attention, I used all the positive examples that I encountered to my advantage. After she left the human rights organization, as a result of different opinions between Ioana and the president of the organization, her friends advised her to make a future plan for herself. This is how she decided to set up a community development agency and start a fundraising campaign for organizational development. 156

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[...] I had to do something to further the community development concept that I had learned. I ran a strong fundraising campaign for my new organization, we already had one strategic investor, the Dutch investor I had already mentioned, and the Soros Foundation was among the ones I applied to for funds, and which granted them. I had 10 employees, so it was a serious organization, we had money, and we enjoyed great success. In 1998, as Romania was getting ready to become a part of the European Union, Ioana was elected to represent the Roma minorities in a joint government work group dealing with an improvement strategy for the Roma people. Both the minister and the representatives of the Roma organizations praised her contribution to this project. As a direct result, Ioana received the task to insure the elaboration and implementation of the strategy. When Ioana made the decision to become a public servant, she weighed many factors: she did not want to give up the management of the agency she had created, give up on her freedom of opinion, or accept the low income of a public servant. However, Roma leaders were pressuring her into promoting the interests of the Roma ethnicity. As a result, in 2000, Ioana became a member of the government team working to implement the strategy to improve the situation of the Roma people. In retrospect, Ioana considers her five years as a public servant “interesting”: “[...] I managed to obtain 50 million Euros for Romania’s community development, which for me is a great achievement, I travelled a lot and wrote a lot, and I am now better known abroad than I am in Romania”. By mid-2007, Ioana had become a state secretary. From the point of view of her freedom of action and decision-making, Ioana does not see her new appointment as very productive, and feels that she did not give it enough thought before accepting. I see it as one of my unwise choices, because if beforehand I could express myself, in the sense that my former bosses believed in me and my abilities, and would give me a lot of independence, including in decision-making. As a state secretary, having to manage 50 young, inexperienced people, and having to deal with the institution’s domestic and international relations, it’s not an easy job. Ioana’s experiences as a state secretary were “unfortunate”, but she wishes to share them. At first, she sees herself as “uncomfortable” for certain organizations and public servants, because she did not accept “unauthorized” and “untested opinions”. Because she wanted to turn the public institution she was leading into an organization of specialists with the necessary expertise to solve the issues affecting the Roma people, her “style, language, methods” were becoming increasingly disagreeable to the status quo, and she ended up being replaced as the head of the agency. Other unhappy

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memories are related to the multiple discrimination acts she has experienced. She says: “the higher on the social ladder you climb, the more you’re discriminated against and rejected”. She has two real-life examples to support this, firstly the way she was treated by the clerks at the General Secretariat of the Government: They just had to keep me standing around waiting for 45 minutes and tell me about the Roma before they’d approve a document. So I came to realize this was a form of disrespect, for me as a woman, for my position and last but not least, for me as a Roma person. Another example is related to her experience as a mixed blood during a three week study scholarship in Brussels, where she was studying the institutions and organizations of the European Union, within the context of the Roma issue. She was sad to discover that EU officials were distant and disinterested in the issues facing the Roma in Romania. To make her voice heard, she had to change her approach: “I realized I couldn’t be honest, that I had to use their own methods. As soon as I’d say that I worked with the unheard people and I’m trying to give them a voice to express themselves and have their problems solved, I became interesting for the EU officials.” In conclusion, Ioana’s experience as a state secretary can be summed up as follows: “Apart from the one time when I wanted to marry a Romanian, and his family rejected me, I never felt more discriminated against and more isolated in my life than when I was a state secretary”. At this time, Ioana feels she is experiencing a recovery, “reinventing” and “reformulating” herself to create another path for the future. Her current source of income is her consultancy work. On the short term, she wishes to finalize her PhD thesis, and on the long term, she plans that, along with changes in her private life, she will involve herself deeper in public life. Relationships and family. Ioana’s adult life was focused on her career, to the detriment of her private life. When she was in grade 7, the Roma mother of one of her classmates who knew Ioana’s father asked for her hand for her son. Both Ioana and her mother were focused on her studies, so the proposal was rejected. Ioana rejected another marriage proposal from a performer she met at a gypsy ball. At that time, marrying a performer was seen as a “chance”, because of their social status: “they were rich, had the right connections, and because they met many people, they were educated, not to mention street-wise”. Ioana remembers that her mother, in her attempt to create the impression that they were well-off, borrowed furniture from the neighbours, and even got connected to electricity to impress her potential in-laws. 158

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Ioana is curt about the circumstances in which she met the man she was going to spend 13 years with, as a common law wife: “He was also a worker, he used to paint cars. I was a worker. We met at a party. We liked each other, and we were good together, so we spent 13 years together”. Despite her reluctance to give details, Ioana mentioned that her common law husband was 16 years older than her, the nephew of “boyars” on whose lands her mother had worked. The differences in social position between the two, along with the discrimination she perceived from her mother in law made this an unhappy love story. My mother in law would visit and she’d grab my hair, I had long hair then, and she’d grab quite a handful and would say “yes, you’re beautiful, you’re smart, you’re a good homemaker, but I can’t stand you because you’re a gypsy and your mother used to work for me”. The reluctance of Ioana’s partner to legalize their union caused their eventual break-up. Ioana decided that there was no future for their relationship and wanted to break up with the man when she returned to school. Nevertheless, their relationship continued as a long-distance relationship for another two years. For a while I’d commute to see him, because I felt guilty about leaving him after all these years, but I think it was more important for him that, despite we loved each other, he could never make me his wife. When you’re young you don’t care so much about marriage, because you have your whole life in front of you and you don’t care, but at some point you grow up and you need to get married, because of the stability, the certitude and social status that it entails. The relationship ended when the man died. Ioana remembers another conflict with her in-laws before the unfortunate event. Her mother, who was upset about what she perceived as Ioana’s illegitimate relationship wanted to convince her inlaws to allow a marriage between the two lovers. The conversation became really tense, and ended once the man’s mother blurted out: “before my son marries your daughter, I’d much rather see him dead”. About the same time that Ioana made the “unwise” decision to accept her appointment as a state secretary, she also engaged in an “unwise” relationship with an artist, who, she feels, did not love her for what she was, but because she was “a gypsy”. Ioana did not have more luck in relationships with her fellow Roma, despite feeling that such a relationship has more chances of success. The traditional perception of the gender roles (the woman being reduced to being a homemaker, while the man is the breadwinner), however, along with the perception that the man must have the dominant social position did not help the relationship. Moreover, Ioana was the

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man’s superior at work. Because of this conflict between the public and the private, everyday situations, such as the man requesting Ioana to cook for him at a late hour, became tense and in time, caused the two to break up. I tried, at one time I thought that if I try to live with a Roma man, it will be different. Emotionally, it’s true, I was more open, trusting, the flow of feeling between us was natural, unforced, but we had other problems. He couldn’t accept my dominant social position, the fact that I was making more money than him, my work schedule. He thought that he was always right, the most handsome, strongest man in the world, the only bread winner in the family… because that’s how he had been raised. Ioana thinks that the best age for marriage for a Roma girl is 18. She thinks it is a suitable age because Roma girls are trained to be homemakers and mothers, and to a much lesser extent career-women. [...] we, the Roma girls, are educated to become good homemakers since we are little, to take care of our man, as if we were his mothers, to insure harmony in the home, and, if we have younger siblings, to take care of them. Romanian girls are educated according to other values and principles, they are told they come first, and then their husbands. On the other hand, Ioana believes that it is the girls who should choose their husbands, and not their parents. Ioana believes that the best age for marriage for a man is “adulthood”, which is different for any individual case. Life satisfaction. Ioana makes no difference between her private and professional life when discussing life satisfaction. Her job brought her satisfaction, yet not fulfillment because “fulfillment comes from the small joys that you get through your family”. Family is the most important factor in causing a person to be satisfied, Ioana believes, saying that: “However strong you are, and however much attention you receive, if you have no family, there’s an emptiness that nothing can fill”. Ioana is well-pleased with her professional life, which has provided her with recognition, personal power, income, personal development, and, not in the least, the power to improve the lives of entire communities. Her private disappointments are evened out by her professional achievements. She is especially proud of having been able to implement social change in a Roma community, through using local resources – manpower, raw materials – to enable people to build their own houses.

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For me, the main achievement was helping them to build houses. It was a completely participative process. They only knew to make bricks. So I managed the process so that they would make their own decisions, being the managers of their own small project, whose results were going to be for their own benefits. When talking about her future, Ioana mentions her interest in people. She considers herself people-oriented, affectionate and sympathetic, without expecting anything in exchange. For me, personally, there’s not much I can still do now, but professionally I think I can still do things, but I need a team. A few active minds together can promote change, unlike an inactive crowd. Ioana’s role models along her life were her parents when she was little, and other persons who improved her life and supported her career along the way. Her older brother was the driving force behind her career choice. He actively supported her through her university years, and suggested her involvement in the Roma movement. Another big influence during the last 15 years was Renate Weber. Ioana says “apart from the emotional connection, Renate taught me what being an active militant means”. Women rarely have other women as role models. Apart from Renate Weber, another role model for me was the controversial Margaret Thatcher. I was raised among men, from my dad with whom I was left as a baby, to my brother who, being older than me by four years was the first to take me to the library. And I worked among men in the last 10 years. In conclusion, Ioana’s life story is a story about her career. She recounted each stage of her life in terms of personal development and growth. To be successful in life, Ioana thinks: “It’s important what you do with yourself, if you only depend on what you learned during university, or you’d rather have fun, or only work when you have to, or if you really embark on a life-long continuous learning”. Claudiu Childhood. Claudiu was born in 1975, the third child of a Roma family from Bucharest. He has a sister, older than him by 13 years, and brother, two years older, as well as another sister, two years younger than him. The main influences of his childhood were his parents, whom he describes as caring and warm. 

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Claudiu’s father is the defining figure in the young man’s mind: he was talented, skilled, hard-working, famous, honest, wise, and a good father. The man’s description of his father is strongly emotional: “he was his own man and he always knew what was best, he loved his family, he was a winner”. Claudiu adds: “there are people who are born with a special talent, and because he valued his own talent to its utmost, he was recognized in society, in his own community, and in his family”. Because Claudiu lost his father when he was five, he has precious memories with him, and was strongly influenced by his family’s stories about him. He nevertheless remembers: “We were young when he died, but I remember very well how he’d make time to be with us, and he would take us to the park and buy us presents”. Claudiu’s relatives told him that his father moved to Bucharest when he was 12, from a village in Ilfov County. He was an apprentice mason. When he was 20, he went freelance, and soon became a well-known sculptor. Many of the statues decorating Cişmigiu Park in Bucharest belong to him, as well as the exterior design of Henri Coandă Airport. Claudiu’s mother was always there for him, a “superwoman”. Widowed when she was 37, she took over the education and support of her four children. When Claudiu’s father died, his mother did not have any source of income. She found a job as a night watchperson and managed to keep her children in school. Claudiu deeply respects what he sees as the sacrifices she made to insure that her children would have a better life. I call her a superwoman because she managed to educate us, encouraged us to go to school, and was always there for us. She was our mother and our father. We remember our childhood, because we still live together, my family and my brother’s family still live with my mother, although we had the means to have our own houses. But the love and respect that we have for each other has kept us together. Claudiu’s mother stressed work and education as the criteria to be successful. She saw the education of her children as a “long-term investment”. She managed to support her children financially and mentally, only requesting from them that they stay in school. Claudiu remembers her telling them over and over again: “if you want to make it, and be successful, I’ll help you all I can, but you have to go to school and do something, learn a trade”. Claudiu describes his siblings in few words. His brother is mentioned the most often. He went to a vocational school where he had a scholarship which became very important for the family’s income. Claudiu’s brother went on to university and became a telecommunication engineer, the provider of his family. He is currently married, but has no children. Claudiu’s older sister went to an economic high school, but then got married and had a child, which prevented her from going to university. 162

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She is now a full-time mother to three children. Claudiu’s younger sister is the general manager of a store. Claudiu also mentioned members of his extended family, without dwelling on them. Claudiu grew up in a Roma community in the Herăstrău district of Bucharest. Most of the Roma in the community were Ursari, but there were other nations as well, and a few Romanian families. Claudiu’s family is part of a Roma nation that broke with the nomadic tradition, and settled down to practice a trade. He remembers that people in the community were respectful of each other. Formal education in the community, Claudiu says: “was a reason for segregation, because some people idolized school, while others couldn’t understand what it’s good for”. The community wasn’t traditional, I guess we can call it multicultural. There were more than one Roma nation. Communication was good, and there was a great deal of respect, regardless of the nation we were from. Some people had normal jobs. The Ursari were more traditional, they were a closed community, they had their traditional card reading. But communication was good, and we respected each other. Claudiu remembers that he was a well-liked child, his neighbours often asking him to run errands for them. I was very loved by my neighbours, they all liked me, and I remember I was running errands for them, I mean they’d ask me to. They were older people: “go grab me some yoghurt, some bread”, and I remember that I’d run all the way to the store, and I’d get extra money from them; I was happy for the pocket money because I was a kid, I’d buy candy. But people liked me, and often called me to visit. Education. Regarding his education, Claudiu says: “school was good to me; I was fascinated, I liked it very much”. His favourite subjects were the humanities, especially the Romanian language and literature. Claudiu remembers being discriminated against in primary school, and being extremely upset. He remembers being in grade 4 when there was a celebration for the president of Germany. All his classmates took part, dressed in white, and carrying flowers. As he was getting ready to join them, his teacher told him he was not allowed to, and sent him home. At the time, he did not understand this rejection, but later, he came to realize that: “I was dark-haired and I guess my classmates were going to be in the front row, and one of them would be kissed by both the president of Romania and that of Germany.” The event was a source of anguish for a long time, until Claudiu understood that: “it was masked discrimination, I mean, they weren’t

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actively discriminating against me, but they’d forbid me from taking part to certain events”. However, not all of Claudiu’s memories of school are sad. He remembers becoming a “pionier” (junior party member), and the extracurricular activities that he used to love. We had to do our “patriotic duty” almost every year, and I personally used to love that. It was a way to socialize with my classmates. We’d go to school on Saturdays and Sundays and paint the trees, clean the school yard, paint the fences. We’d learn driving, civic education […] we had sports events. We had soccer competitions between schools. His relations with his classmates were good, and he stayed in touch with many of them. One of his one-time classmates is now the general manager of a TV channel, another is the leader of the fan club of a soccer club. He thinks that most of his classmates are “extraordinary people, with different jobs today”, and he is still seeing a few socially. One of Claudiu’s memories of school is a good example of the relations between classmates at that time. He remembers his whole class helping a child who had family troubles: “I remember I was in grade 5 when we went to see a classmate who had troubles. His mom had died, he was living with his grandma, and she was very old, she couldn’t move, so he was staying at home to care for her. […] They were terribly poor, and he was in trouble, so we helped him, we’d go over and help him with homework, and we made him come back to school”. Claudiu thinks that he was “highly appreciated by my classmates and my teachers”. Because he was a serious student with a difficult financial situation, his teachers encouraged Claudiu’s mother to send him to high school. His mother was constantly checking on his school performances, regularly going to the parentteacher meetings. My mom told me that both my Romanian and Math teachers wanted to meet her, to talk to her. Well, my teachers knew that we were poor, and they wanted to talk to my mom, to encourage her to keep me in school. Claudiu went to high school. It was his mother’s decision that he would not drop out. Claudiu chose his high school after consulting with his teachers and his family. Although he wanted a military career (along with a classmate, he wanted to enroll in the military school in Breaza), Claudiu went to a theoretical high school for a year, and then moved to another school, which was located closer to home.

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I’d have liked to go to military school in Breaza, but I didn’t make it, I would have had to move there for four years. And I imagine my mom didn’t want me so far away. I was still a child then, I wasn’t a grown man, and my mom said no. Claudiu’s performances in high school were good. He remembers those years fondly, his relations with his teachers and classmates as pleasant. He remembers one event in particular, which profoundly influenced his self esteem. After his Romanian teacher was replaced in grade 11 with a reputable teacher, renowned for her qualifications and strictness, Claudiu’s class had to pass a test on the first period with their new teacher. When the tests came in, Claudiu’s grade was the highest in the class. He remembers this teacher as important for his motivation and future performances. Claudiu further remembers that she awarded him with an A: “I got an A for the first end-of-semester exam, she had never given anyone an A, and I remember that she had tears in her eyes and she told me ‘this is the first A I have given anyone in 18 years’”. Because of the special relation he had forged with this teacher, Claudiu soon became the best in class, and would often receive different and more complex tests than his colleagues. It was a great encouragement, and it was also a responsibility, I couldn’t just read over a lesson and deal with it, I was stimulated to become the best, because now I knew ‘I’m an A student, I can’t let her down, and I can’t let my classmates down, and least of all myself ’. I didn’t study for the grades, but it was a great encouragement. Claudiu continued his performances with exceptional results at the Romanian exam of his baccalaureate. It is another event that he wishes to detail for us. While he was waiting with his classmates for the results, Claudiu was called in by the president of the examination commission (currently a known trade union leader) to be introduced to the teacher who had graded his paper. He remembers: “I walked into the headmistress’ office and the commission was there, so he introduced me and said ‘here you are, ma’am, this is the mysterious Mr. M. C.’ so I saw a lady in the back, whom I didn’t know, she was actually a well-known Romanian teacher. She stood, extended her hand and said ‘congratulations, your paper was the best and I suggest you go to the School of Letters’”. For Claudiu, this was the confirmation of four years of successful studies in high school. Claudiu again remembers the extracurricular activities that he participated in during high school. He remembers having a Romanian girlfriend, but has no particular anecdotes involving her. He does mention, however, that his ethnicity was

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never an issue for his private relationships. After graduation, Claudiu felt that he had fulfilled his mother’s expectations of him: “she was very proud and happy with my education”. As a natural evolution following his interest in the Romanian language and literature, Claudiu applied to the School of Letters. Without delving into his university years, Claudiu remembers that he was a good student, and he was an avid reader and a bohemian character. He nevertheless did not sit his license examination, and therefore does not have a degree in letters. Initially, he postponed getting his degree to work abroad. This was the time when he decided to take up his responsibilities as a provider for his family. I was always a responsible child, even though my mom never had to tell me “this is your responsibility”. I felt responsible, I would assume responsibilities naturally, to my mom, my siblings and to myself. I knew someone had to bring home the bread. The opportunity to work abroad for higher pay came as Claudiu’s family experienced renewed financial difficulties. Following discussions with a friend who was working in France, Claudiu decided to temporarily migrate to this country. It was a bad time for my brother, my sister didn’t have a job, my mom was making minimum wage, so I felt like I had to chime in, I thought ‘so what do I do now, stay a student forever, and eat my books for dinner?’ I mean, in a way, it was poverty that made me leave. Everybody at that time thought that you could make real money abroad. Claudiu did obtain a degree in political science. After many work experiences that we are going to describe below, he decided to go to the School of Political Science. His choice was motivated by his desire to involve himself actively in solving his community’s issues. He wanted to find ways to reduce poverty in Roma communities and make the voice of his people heard. [...] I understood that politics was the only way to fix things. If you want to really change something, you can only do it from the standing of a politician, but only after you understand the whole of social relations, the nature of institutions and how they work. Claudiu applied for and received the recommendation of the Roma party for a special scholarship as a Roma person. Claudiu’s renowned teachers rendered his experience at the School for Political 166

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Science unique. He remembers a few of his teachers, who are active in public life, or even famous politicians themselves: Cristian Pârvulescu, Petre Roman, Codiţă, Miroiu, Mihaela Vlăsceanu, Alfred Bulai, Vintilă Mihăilescu. Claudiu remembers that his classmates appreciated him, and consulted with him on a number of projects. He never felt discriminated against, to the contrary, he feels that he successfully changed the perception of his teachers about the Roma people: “I’m sure I changed their perception, at least academically, when it comes to Roma people, and the potential of some young people”. I never felt discriminated against by my colleagues, we always got along. I never felt isolated, and I was very happy that my colleagues would consult with me, they’d give me a call at night “Claudiu, what do you think of this project, what should I do?”. I mean, some of my colleagues were excellent students, and yet they’d ask me for advice. Claudiu feels that his performances were exceptional, and he became better every year. The symbolic and formal recognition of his teachers supported this belief. It was again my feeling of being responsible for my performances, and of striving to become better. I passed my license exam with an A, and I was admitted in a Master’s program with an A, I was the first in my class. Claudiu’s performances continued while he was enrolled in a Master’s program of public policies and European integration. Claudiu strongly values academic excellence and competitiveness in school. He says: “false modesty aside, now that you’re profiling me, you should mention that my paper was the only one to get selected from the degree papers for PhD programs. So, given the new Bologna system, I could have skipped my Master’s degree and gone directly for a PhD. My paper didn’t deal with Roma issues, it dealt with political doctrine and ideology. It was tiled Definitions of Marxism in Romanian Political Thought”. Career. As we have already mentioned, after four years spent as a student of the School of Letters, Claudiu left for France. A Romanian friend helped him find employment, as a waiter. However, the income he was able to obtain abroad was below his expectations, and he understood that it was not the kind of life he wanted to live. The failure to be admitted to a French university deepened this feeling. After only two months spent in France, Claudiu returned home.

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It just wasn’t me, I always say ‘this isn’t me, and I don’t want to spend my life doing this’. And I always did what I liked and what I knew best. I tried other things, I tried to find a way to go to school there, but I didn’t know anybody, and eventually I gave up and returned home. After his return, Claudiu worked as a sales manager for an ISP for a while, and then returned to his older love, a military career. He worked for three years with the “blue berets”, as a career army man. Once his lack of a university degree caused his ascension in the military to come to a halt, he decided to leave. The Romanian military at that time didn’t allow me to go to university at the same time, the schedule was very strict, and there was no way to go ahead without a degree. It was very important that you have higher education, and I didn’t want to be a sergeant forever […] I didn’t like it, I had no way to move ahead inside the system, and I could see people who didn’t have my training moving up, so I decided to give up. I didn’t want to fence myself in. Claudiu feels that all his past experiences had their benefits. His three years in the military was a way to fulfill the dream of the 14-year-old boy who had wanted to go to military school in Breaza. The next stage of Claudiu’s life was a way to find himself, and decide on a different path. This came about once he decided to return to university. Once Claudiu chose the School of Political Science, he spent the next four years dedicated to his studies, and to the Roma party to which he had become a member. To insure his income, Claudiu and a friend set up a small business as dealers for a well-known mobile telephony company. Claudiu had to pull out soon after, though, because his school and political activities were taking most of his time. The Roma party that Claudiu was a member of soon became the center of his life. I was involved from the very beginning, the electoral campaign of 2004, when I helped them with logistics. Afterwards, there was always one thing that made me take this whole thing very seriously: in May 2004, I was elected president of the youth branch for Romania, so I had an official status. At this time, Claudiu’s work is for the Roma party. He also works as an expert on PHARE projects. In this latter capacity,: “I am the author of a methodology on solving the lack of ID documents for the Roma people on the national level. I am also co-author of an action plan for Bucharest, which is actually the model for the rest of the country”. 168

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Family. Claudiu believes that the best age for marriage is between 27 and 35 years old for a man, and 23 to 28 years old for a woman. He would like to have two children. Claudiu married his wife six years ago. A mixed blood, she was born in Bucharest and is 24 years old. She is a Business School student. Claudiu confesses that there have been conflicts with his in-laws early in the marriage, mostly caused by a lack of communication. On the other hand, Claudiu’s mother did not want her son to move out of her house. Claudiu does not wish to speak about his marriage, because “these are private things, and I protect my privacy. All I want to say is that I love my wife very much”. Claudiu and his wife do not have children yet, but he wishes that his children “be real human beings who respect the Christian moral values, get an education and be real leaders, regardless of whether they turn out to be boys or girls”. Claudiu lives in the same house where he grew up, with his mother, and the family of his brother. He mentions that the choice to live with extended family was not motivated by poverty, but by the strong family ties. Major decisions are made by common agreement, and all the members of the family participate in the process. The head of the family is Claudiu’s mother, but his own point of view is important for the rest of the family. Within his marriage, Claudiu says that decisions are also made by agreement between the spouses, although he tends to impose his own views. I never imposed my point of view, except when I had to, I mean, because my wife wouldn’t know how to do something, or when we’d go somewhere where my wife had never been, I had to impose my own views. The conflicts inherent in an extended family are nevertheless minor and shortlasting. Most of the times, these are caused by failing to respect “the rules of the house”, which are established by Claudiu’s mother: “for instance, sometimes my mom thinks that my brother forgot ‘to say thank you for dinner’ or he left his stuff around, you know, small things, but they are important for us. We don’t want to disturb the order.” The house is managed by the women: Claudiu’s mother, his older sister, and his wife. Everybody pools in the money needed to pay the bills: “we do everything together, it has always been so, there’s no such thing as cooking for oneself or buying detergent and only doing your own laundry, we do everything together”. Life satisfaction. Claudiu is able to identify indicators of the quality of his life, albeit subjectively: family harmony, a circle of friends, social appreciation, money. From all these points of view, he considers himself very happy. His only source of

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(slight) discontent is the financial side. Claudiu feels that he should have given more importance to money. His fulfillment, however, comes from the harmonious relationships with his family, and he considers his marriage as the most important achievement of his life so far. His only regret is also related to family, namely the early death of his father. Accordingly, Claudiu’s only fears about the future are: “health, and I can’t even bring myself to think that my mom is ever going to die”. Claudiu’s life story is a study in staying positive. He admits having experienced negative experiences and thoughts very rarely. He remembers best the positive things that have happened to him. Despite considering his marriage as his best achievement, Claudiu’s description of his adult life was focused mainly on his career. Claudiu would not change anything about his life. He remembers his childhood as stable, and his admittance to high school as the moment when he took a big leap forward, in terms of personal development. Ever since, he has slowly moved up. Andrei Childhood. Andrei was born in 1985, in Bucureşti. His mother came from a Roma family from Prahova County. During the 80s, her family moved to the village Voluntari, close to Bucharest. His father’s family followed a similar path, having moved to Bucharest from a village in Dolj County. Andrei’s parents met at work (they both work for the main cleaning company in Bucharest), and his father left his family soon after his son was born. Andrei’s father played no part in his son’s life, which has been centered around the ambitious character of his mother. Andrei says: “There’s nothing I can say about my father, because I don’t know him, he left me when I was a few months old”. After repeated questions from us, Andrei adds that his father was not highly educated, may have been arrested once, and may have two daughters. However, he mentions that he has no relationship with his father, and does not even own pictures of him. 

As far as I know, my parents met at work, moved in together, and after I was born, they started having problems, he wasn’t a family man, and my mom decided to raise me by herself. He didn’t care about his family, didn’t care about supporting us. When Andrei was nine years old, his mother remarried. Andrei’s relationship with his Roma stepfather was cold, and he remembers that he used to be jealous of his stepfathers closeness to his mother. Later, Andrei disliked the way his stepfather was fulfilling his responsibilities to his family. He feels that his stepfather did not work enough to support his family, squandered its resources, and has no affection for his wife and daughter. 170

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For some years now I don’t get along with him, since I grew up and became a man. He never tried to be responsible, never gave any attention to his daughter, and I can’t accept this, because I believe that a man should care for his family, work, make money, and take care of his children, his family, especially since we had to sell houses and cars because of him. Andrei draws a portrait of his mother: she is ambitious, determined and strong. She encouraged her children to get educated. When he thinks about his mother, Andrei says that she was there for him all his life. She provided him with financial support and motivated him to learn and constantly develop himself. He respects his mother for the education she gave him. Throughout his school years, Andrei’s mother supported him from her income from the cleaning company and even by taking extra jobs. She is his guide in life, and has always closely monitored his school results. It was a very good thing that she wanted very much to invest in me and my education, so I can go far. [...] It was a matter of personal pride for her to show that she knows to raise her children, and she has my respect for it. Although Andrei has no direct reproaches, it is obvious that he disapproves of the way his mother managed her relations with her husband’s family and her financial resources. Andrei has a 13-year-old stepsister who lives with his mother in a village in Argeş County. He qualifies the relationship with his sister as good, although he rarely sees her now that he moved to Bucharest. He may have two stepsisters of similar ages from his father’s subsequent relationships, but he does not have details about them. Andrei’s relationship with his stepfather is not “cordial” and, although they live in the same city, they rarely meet. The family gets together for important celebrations during the year, Easter and Christmas, in the village where Andrei’s mother currently lives. My stepfather has been a taxi driver in Bucharest for 15 years, and I live in the university campus, while he rents in the city. My mom and sister live in Argeş, 130 km away from Bucharest. My sister goes to the same school I went to. My mom is retired, for the last three years she has had serious health problems. My dad, I usually see him when I phone him to take me somewhere, and I pay for the ride, sometimes he took me for free when I didn’t have money, but I insist on paying because I know him well enough not to want any talk about it. I see my mom and sister very rarely, there were times when I didn’t see them for two, three months in a row, because of the distance or because I didn’t have the time

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to go see them, last summer I had my license exam and my Master’s exam, and then I left for Italy. Andrei also has three cousins from his mother’s side living in Bucharest, but he is not close to them. He is not staying in touch with any other relatives from either side of his family. The family’s domestic migration. Andrei’s childhood and teenage years were a constant move between Bucharest, Voluntari and Domneşti (Argeş County). He spent his early childhood and the first years of school in Bucharest, in the Baicu area. As a result of his mother’s decision to sell the house in order to buy a car which was going to enable her husband to work as a taxi driver, the family moved to his village of origin and lived with his family. Because of the conflicts between Andrei’s mother and her mother in law, after one year his mother decided to take her family to her parents who lived in Voluntari. Because they shared the house with Andrei’s two uncles and their families, conflicts arose once again, which made Andrei’s mother move to Argeş. Andrei lived with his mother and sister until he graduated from high school, when he moved back to Voluntari. During his freshman year in university, Andrei lived with his extended family in Voluntari, and then they all moved to Bucharest. Soon after, Andrei’s mother got severely sick and could not afford to live in Bucharest anymore, so she moved back to Argeş with her daughter. Her husband stayed in Bucharest, working as a taxi driver, and rented an apartment, while Andrei moved to the university campus. After I graduated from high school, we again moved to Bucharest, because once again there was trouble with the mother in law, so they also moved my sister here and we rented for a year and a half. Seeing the problems my family had, I decided to move to the campus, my mom didn’t agree, I was alone for two or three months, I couldn’t afford the rent, so I moved to the campus, my mom and sister moved back to their village, and that’s how things have stayed since then. Andrei spent his childhood and teenage years in Romanian communities, and he was never educated according to traditional Roma customs. Given his father’s provenience and his last name, Andrei is part of the Kalderash Roma people. Education. Andrei’s education was affected by the frequent moves of his family: he went to school in Bucharest until grade 3, and then he went to school in Domneşti for one year, only to return to Bucharest for two more years afterwards. He graduated from junior high school in Domneşti, went to high school in Topoloveni, and returned to Bucharest to go to university. 172

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Remembering his first years in school, Andrei recounts that he liked to be part of a group. He had exceptional results in school, was the first in his class for four years, and in the top five of his class during his junior high school and high school years. He got along very well with his classmates, never feeling discriminated against or isolated based on his ethnicity. He remembers the pride of his mother and godfather after he managed to be the first in his class throughout the primary cycle. I liked to be a part of a group, I was among the best students in my class. There were 14 students when I went to junior high, and I was in the top five. […] I remember they took pictures of me in primary school, for the duration I was always the first in my class, and my mom was very proud of me. Andrei remembers that he was a sociable child who, despite changing schools frequently, managed to make friends with his classmates. Because of the distance between his schools, some of these friendships have since ended. I made friends, I was very communicative, but since I came to Bucharest we lost touch. The first two years I was here, we used to talk on the phone, but lately we lost touch, although I’m still in touch with the ones who are students here. Andrei’s life path was decided when he decided to apply to high school. At first, he wanted to go to a vocational school, and learn how to drive so as to obtain his driving license sooner. After discussing his options with his teacher and his mother, Andrei decided to go to a theoretical school in Topoloveni, 15 km away from where he lived. The location of this high school was the determining factor in Andrei’s choice, because the limited financial resources would not have allowed him to rent during high school. After I graduated from junior high, I didn’t know what to do, initially I wanted to go learn a trade. All the kids said that if you learn a trade you can get your driver’s license sooner, and you can get a car. I ended up choosing to go to high school, I think my mom advised me, and also my teachers. Andrei’s memories of high school are pleasant. In hindsight, it was the time of the greatest friendships. Andrei remembers his desk mate who “was also Roma, but he didn’t admit it, we got along really well, we were the funniest kids in class, we used to joke around a lot”. Nevertheless, Andrei adds, “during high school as well, I was in the top five of my class”. Andrei was very close to his principal. He remembers “I have fond memories of her” and “this is the best memory ever”. Andrei explains this closeness as a

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result of her Christian faith and the fact that she was also Roma. For Andrei, his principal was “a guardian angel”, who made sure that he stayed in school and was not discriminated against during high school, by either the teachers or the other students. Andrei describes his principal as a wonderful person, who enjoyed a good social standing and had money, and who loved handcrafted objects. Andrei recalls how they became close: “I remember I didn’t have money and my mom would tell me ‘ask your principal, and you’ll pay her back in a while’. I don’t know how I had the courage to go ask her for money, I’d ask for 5 lei, she’d give me 10 and not ask for it afterwards, and it happened more than once.” Finding out that the principal liked hand sown table cloths, Andrei’s mother wished to give her one as a present, but the principal insisted to pay for it, and offered Andrei’s mother a higher price than she would have received on the market. Andrei rarely missed school, and only when his family did not have money. He says “there were days when I stayed home from school because we had no money, I’d have to ask my neighbours to lend me money for school, because I had to pay for the bus”. Andrei was taught to appreciate education and work hard by his mother, for as long as he can remember. She had always been the one who offered him advice and encouragements at every turn. Andrei and his mother decided together on his university education as well. Andrei had more than one option: law, journalism, and sociology. Andrei himself would have chosen law, but his mother, taking into account the family’s finances, advised him to study social assistance. The reason she encouraged Andrei to follow that path was that she was employed as a nurse in a care center for children with disabilities, and as such was familiar with the field, and Andrei’s opportunities for employment after graduation. Andrei’s living conditions in his sophomore year were traumatizing for him. He recounts how he spent the winter, together with his family, in a house without adequate heating. Andrei’s parents decided to move to Voluntari, in his mother’s parents’ house, but due to conflicts with her in-laws, Andrei’s family had to move to a one-room “hut” in the yard. They had to live there until spring. I, my sister, my mom and dad spent nine months in a hut. It was made of concrete, and we had to insulate it with tar so we could stay inside, and build our own stove. I still feel tearful when I remember. It was -30C outside and we had a cat that we’d keep in our lap to keep us warm, I remember this clearly. During the spring of the same year, Andrei’s mother discovered she was ill, and decided to sell the land that she had inherited from her parents and move together with her family to Bucharest, in a rented apartment. The family did not manage to support themselves in Bucharest, however, and one year later Andrei’s mother 174

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decided to move to a village together with her daughter. This was the time when Andrei was on his own for the first time. Because he could qualify for free boarding on the campus (because of his GPA and being from out of town), Andrei moved to the campus. His new living arrangements were far from being satisfying, but he did not have the money to live anywhere else. Andrei worked as a volunteer for three NGOs throughout his university years. He learned to develop financing projects, organize fundraising campaigns and workshops, and work with children with disabilities. In retrospect, he notes that apart from the professional experience itself, he also managed to obtain extra income from his volunteer activities. One of the advantages was that they would award prizes. For instance, because of the fund distribution campaign that I run five years ago, I was awarded a money prize. And then there were studies I had to perform. So I’d take part in them, especially because I was trained in interviewing and questionnaires and so on “to make extra money”. And I’d get some money from them too. After graduation, Andrei decided to apply for postgraduate work in social policies and European institutions. He feels that he had fulfilled his mother’s expectations. His grandparents, who died when Andrei was in high school, were unable to partake in his academic success. Andrei remembers being sent money by his uncle every time he was the first in his class at the end of the school year: “he used to tell me that every time I’ll come in first, he’ll give 1000 lei, in old money. So each summer I’d be like ‘godfather, here’s my diploma’, and he’d give me the money. It was really cool.” Andrei believes that higher education increases one’s chances for upward mobility. He also appreciated the knowledge that he acquired, and which allowed him to find a career. Given that you can go nowhere without an education… It’s more important that it develops your thinking processes, and you can work in a different context, you meet people, you make contacts. Andrei does not feel that his ethnicity hinders his career. He sees it as an advantage, because when he was admitted to university, he received a special scholarship for the Roma. The transition from school to work. Andrei started work in his sophomore year. Besides being a volunteer in three NGOs, he also worked part-time in a grocery store, distributing advertising materials.

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Because I was going to university and I didn’t have money, I decided to look for a job. So I worked at Cora [a grocery store], and got paid by the day. I was doing it so I’ll have my own money. After his junior year, wishing to find a stable full-time job, Andrei used one of his friend’s recommendations for a position as an insurance agent. However, the experience turned out to be disappointing. He describes it as follows: “[…] I even managed to get a 10,000 euro contract, but I wasn’t able to get constant contracts. That was my problem. So I worked for them for one year, but I couldn’t conclude contracts constantly. There were entire months when I couldn’t even get even one contract, so I’d just be spending money”. Because he was reluctant to request money from his ill mother, Andrei was now in the situation where he could not support himself in Bucharest anymore. It was then that chance helped him, one of the NGOs he had worked for as a volunteer offering him a job. In the fall of 2006, he became a project assistant, which was the job he held when we interviewed him. Migration experience. Andrei has little experience with migration. None of his family was away from the country for extended periods of time, for either tourism or work. He does take into account the future possibility of working abroad, but at this time his girlfriend still depends too much on her family to agree to leaving the country. Relationships and family. Andrei has been in a relationship with a Roma girl whom he met at work for the last two years. She no longer works for Andrei’s organization. The couple has never lived together, because his Bucharest-born girlfriend lives with her parents. Andrei considers his relation with his girlfriend’s family extremely good. Andrei feels that the best age for marriage would be 26 or 27 for a man, and 25 to 28 for a woman. His ideal family would have two or three children, based on his belief that siblings can and should support each other. Life satisfaction. Andrei is happy with his life: “at this stage in my life, I’m happy”. He is fulfilled by both his professional and personal life, and feels proud of his academic achievements. His sources of discontent are finances and his current living arrangements. He wishes to be able to support his mother and sister financially, but his income is barely enough for his own subsidence. The lack of resources also forces him to share a room with six more people. The thing is I don’t find it normal to live like this, we’re more than six people in one room, and you might have a conflict with someone, you know how 176

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people are. And I wish I could get my own place, where I could live without anyone bugging me. In retrospect, Andrei would like to change his past, including the frequent moves, and the tense family relations. He admits that the constant migration of his family created states of insecurity and lack of certitude which have affected his personality. I’d change my nomadic past. It defined me, sometimes I’m uncertain, I don’t trust myself, I’m inconstant. Sometimes I lacked the security of living in one place for a while: having my own space. It was always go here, go there. It was this constantly changing thing. And I’d change my mom’s relationship with her brothers and the mom of my stepfather. I’d like to see how my dad was, if he was any good, and that’s about it. Future plans. Professionally, Andrei wishes to become a trainer, to specialize in project management, group communications, or conflict arbitration. He would also like to set up his own NGO. The wish to provide support for others comes from his empathetic personality and his own unhappy childhood. He confessed to us that he would have liked to have older siblings to support him. I understand because I went through really bad times, and I hope others don’t, I don’t want others to. On the personal plan, Andrei wishes to find and meet his father: “I thought about looking for him, but I can’t now, I don’t have a car, I don’t have time, but I want to do it, for me, just to see what kind of person he is”. Andrei’s story highlights the importance of building a strong family, due to his early experiences with loss and abandonment. There are stages in his life that he wishes to forget, mainly because the feeling of insecurity that they have caused. The frequent moves of his family during his formative years have created a lack of belonging that in time has generated insecurity. Elena Childhood. Elena was born in 1987 in a Roma family from Brăila, a town where she lived until she was 14. Elena’s family was made up of her mother, father, a brother older by seven years, and her maternal grandparents. Elena remembers that as a young girl she only rarely played with other children, and spent most time indoors by herself. During primary school, she used 

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to watch soaps with her grandmother on Italian and Spanish TV, which helped her learn to speak a few words in these languages. From the beginning of our interview, one of our respondent’s strongest abilities was established to be her ability to learn foreign languages. As a little girl, I can’t say I was out playing with other kids, because we lived in a building where there weren’t many kids. I was mostly inside, playing either by myself with my dolls, or with my cousins. That was until we had cable, and I started watching foreign channels. Elena’s brother was an important influence on her life. Because their parents were busy, he was in charge of Elena’s school work. She calls him “a third parent and a teacher at the same time”, and also “my home teacher”. Elena thinks that he had the deciding influence on her academic choices. Her brother chose the schools where she went and watched over her school performances. Elena described her brother for us. He went to a theoretical high school in Brăila, and then went on to study at the Faculty of Public Administration in Bucharest. He was then actively involved in the Roma movement, volunteering for several Roma NGOs. For a while he worked for the Romanian government, as an expert on Roma issues, and then he worked in a similar position at the European Roma Est Center in Budapest. He is now the country expert for various social inclusion PHARE programs. When he was 20, he married a Roma girl. His wife now works in Budapest, and the couple gets together regularly. Elena talks about her parents in words including: wise, understanding, hardworking, warm, supportive. [My parents] are very understanding, and I think this applies to any parent, even if I sometimes think they’re not right, I end up believing that they are. They are fair in their judgment. Elena is very close to her parents, emotionally, and appreciates their counsel. She has learned the most from their advice: “I always ended up believing as they did, sooner or later I thought they were right. This is how I learned, because an experienced person, even if they’re not smarter than you, can give you concrete examples of life”. The material and emotional support received from her parents is seen by Elena as essential for her life choices. Her parents have always watched over their daughter’s choices, and intervened when they found it necessary.

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My parents were interested in my school results, but they weren’t obvious about it. They wouldn’t come to school each day to bug my principal either. They never helped me with school work. They would ask me each day: “Did you do your homework?” When I was in grade 5 and I had a hard time with school, my mom once made me study at 11 pm. Another think she did when I was learning to write was to check my notebook, and if she didn’t like my handwriting, she’d tear the page off. When I was in high school, they rarely went to school to inquire about me. Elena mentions that her grandparents’ generation already valued education. Although they would have wished to pursue higher education, Elena’s parents lacked the financial resources to support themselves. It was Elena’s father who projected on his children his thwarted desire to obtain a degree. They were many siblings, his father had left them, he was raised by his stepfather, and they were poor. When he was 14, he went to live with his natural father, and that’s how he went to high school, because if he had stayed in the village, he would have probably gone to work. His grandmother encouraged him “go to your dad, because he’ll send you to school”. His dad had another child, so he could only afford to send him to a vocational school. So my father wanted us to go to school. Also, we were good in school, and I think that was the most important part, if you see that your child can do it, why not ask them to do it. And if you’ve got enough money, even more so. Elena’s mother is an accountant, and her father a trade agent. For a while during the time the family lived in Brăila, Elena’s parents had their own business, which they had to give up when moving to Bucharest. When remembering her early childhood, Elena confesses to having spent little time with her parents, who were always busy. She does mention however that she has not experienced any emotional deprivation, because she was always with her grandparents and her brother, and her parents were spending their limited free time exclusively with their children. They worked from dawn to dusk, I would see them daily, but I can’t say I was spending time with them. I didn’t feel any lack of affection, like they say in American movies, because I had grandparents, I had a brother, and they too [her parents] were spending their entire free time with me, they weren’t doing anything else. I never had any problems because of that. And then, after we came to Bucharest, they had more free time, now their jobs are so that they have more free time.

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Elena’s first memories related to her parents are also related to educational pursuits. She remembers having received a magazine from her parents, and she would ask her mother to read to her. One evening, her tired mother told her it was high time she herself learned to read. From that time, Elena started asking about the letters, and soon thereafter she was able to read small words on TV. She associates learning to read with her mother. Elena remembers another funny episode, this time involving her father: “I remember all of us sitting down for dinner, and my brother chocked on something. We had a book we used so as to learn to read, and there was a lesson that my dad used to read to me called Pârvule, take it easy with the food or you’ll choke so my dad said ‘Cristi, take it easy with the food, or you’ll choke’ and I was laughing because I knew there was no ‘Cristi’ in the book”. Elena remembers the community she was born in, and in which spent her early childhood. It was a Romanian community, and Elena’s family lived in the same building as her mother’s godmother, who was very close to Elena’s family. Wishing to support their children better, Elena’s parents decided to move the family to Bucharest. This was a far-reaching decision, related to the parents’ longterm plans for their children’s education. My brother had been in Bucharest for three years, and when he was a senior in college, my parents decided to move to Bucharest: “Let’s go, because Elena will graduate soon, and she’ll have to go to university, and it’s better that we’re there than her having to stay with relatives or in campus”. After the move to Bucharest, the family had to overcome hardships, in terms to meeting new people in Elena’s case, and finding jobs, in her parents’ case. The district that the family moved to was predominantly Roma, having been chosen due to its proximity to the relatives of Elena’s mother, who helped Elena’s parents find a place to stay. Now they live in Giuleşti, there are many Roma, but it’s not a Roma community. My neighbours are Roma. The first year was more difficult because my parents couldn’t find jobs at once, but my brother had a job and he helped. Education. Elena went to school in Brăila, in “the least competitive class”. Describing her performances in primary school, Elena says: “It was easy for me to be the first in my class for four years, especially with my brother who was a third parent and a teacher for me”. She remembers enjoying studying, and getting straight As with congratulations. She felt proud about her school performances, and would recount them to her grandmother after school: “I’d go home to grandma, and tell her 180

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I got an A with congratulations, I remember one day I got home and I had gotten five of them”. Under the supervision of her older brother, Elena learned to read and write before she went to school. She has fond memories of her early years in school: “I like to think about those times, I didn’t have to try too hard, sometimes I felt bored because school was too easy”. Elena saw studying as a game, not an obligation: “I liked not having to try too hard, I never liked cramming, like they say”. [...] in grade 1 I knew to read and write, in grade 2 I could knew all the poems in the manual, I would learn them by heart over the summer holidays, so I didn’t have to bother during the school year. [...] I even knew fractions, he had explained them using an apple that he’d cut in four pieces. I remember crying and saying I don’t want to learn everything at home anymore, because I get bored in class. Elena has felt discriminated against because of her ethnicity from the beginning of her school education. Her primary school teacher would often make her “demonstrate” her abilities in front of her classmates. The confirmation of her knowledge was often followed by stereotypical appreciations like: “Elena, although she’s Roma, can read very well.” These biased behaviours had negative consequences on Elena’s personality, who, as a child, did not know how to react. The conflict between rejecting and accepting her ethnicity caused many internal conflicts. Elena was often upset and asked her mother for help. Her mother told her she had gone through similar experiences in school. Elena’s classmates were mostly Roma, according to the colour of their skin. Talking about ethnicity, however, was taboo. Elena remembers one episode when she asked a classmate about her ethnicity: “so I turned to her and asked her ‘Are you gypsy?’ and she said ‘Yeah, are you?’ and that was it. There were more Roma kids in class, but we didn’t talk about it”. Elena’s family did not discuss their ethnicity either. I remember that when I was in grade 1 or 2, I’d look at the kids with darker skin and think that they’re like me, but we didn’t talk about it. Besides, nobody at home talked about it either, whether we’re gypsy or not. My grandma used to speak in the Roma language with my granddad, everyone knew that, but we didn’t talk about it. After primary school, Elena was moved to an elite school in the center of the town, where she was studying IT and languages. She experienced difficulties adapting to her new school, especially because she lost the support of her brother, who moved

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to Bucharest to go to university, but also because of academic expectations that were far superior to those of her former school. The onset of her adolescence was an added obstacle, especially because she felt she had to act like a tomboy: “my parents had had my hair cut very short, and I felt more like a boy when I was in grade 5. It didn’t feel like me at all, once I wore a skirt, and my classmates laughed at me and told me I looked like a boy wearing a skirt. So I started to act like a boy, I’d wear boys’ clothes, and I was picking fights with all the boys”. Elena considers that her school performances during the first years of junior high school were good, but below her performances in primary school: “I wasn’t the first in my class any more, and I found it hard to adapt in grade 5. Then I caught up, and after grade 6 I was pretty much in the top five”. Elena’s relations with her junior high school teachers followed the same trend as in primary school. She was constantly positively assessed, yet the assessment was biased: “although she’s a gypsy, she’s smart”. Elena made her lasting friendships in junior high school. Two of her classmates became her close friends whom she visited with often, yet their ethnicity stayed taboo. With this friend of mine, I don’t think we discussed, I think it was the only friend – we’re still friends now – with whom I never discussed about being Roma. Although she’d come to my house and could see we were darker – that’s pretty much how people can tell that we’re Roma – we never talked about it. We go to the same university now, and she knows many things about me. Now I’m open about being Roma, but back then I didn’t say anything, not because I was ashamed of it, but I didn’t know what to say. After the family moved to Bucharest, Elena’s life changed again. She wished to go to a good school, and her parents made many efforts to fulfill this wish. Finally, she was admitted at the Spiru Haret junior high school, studying German, despite the fact that she had not studied the language before. Elena started off with an inferiority complex towards her mostly Bucharest-born classmates, but at the end of grade 8, she was the first in her class again. To her delight, she found it easy to adapt to the new requirements, and soon made friends with her new classmates. In retrospect, Elena feels that her expectations were betrayed. She had expected stricter teachers, and students who would be more ambitious and interested in schoolwork than in the schools she had previously been enrolled in. Elena chose her high school based on its reputation and her talent for languages. She applied to the languages class of the George Coşbuc high school. Elena describes her high school years as the time when her view of life changed. She learned to assume her identity and be open about her ethnicity. She mentions this 182

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change in her personality occurring due to the “open-mindedness” of her teachers and classmates, as well as to extracurricular activities which broadened her knowledge of people. Among the latter, she mentions a course in human rights, being part of a “public speaking” club, and her role in the elections for the Youth Parliament. Elena also worked for two years as a volunteer for the “Save The Children” organization. Elena’s English teacher, a fellow Roma, had an important part in the teenager’s life. She helped Elena assume her identity and react openly to discrimination: “I would have probably reacted different if it weren’t for her, I mean, she didn’t tell me how to react, as much as she taught me to feel good in my skin”. Ever since grade 9, she taught me that if I’m Roma, I don’t need to be ashamed of it, but I also didn’t have to brag about it. It’s just a normal thing and I should deal with it the same way any other nationality does it, be it Romanian, Chinese or whatever. And this helped me immensely with my relationship with my classmates, because I would have acted completely different had I not met this teacher, because ever since grade 9, my classmates had already started to call me names, like ‘gypsy’ and ‘crow’, you know, just the usual childish offenses. With the constant counsel of her teacher, Elena started to discuss her ethnicity with her classmates, and gradually she managed to overcome their biases. She also made friends in the process, and the “open atmosphere” of her school made her feel good, “at home”. My desk mate, who was very racist when we were in grade 9. When I told her I was Roma, she said I can’t be because I don’t stink, I wear nice clothes, and I am good in school. I was shocked, I couldn’t believe what people think about us. I talked about it with her very often, and she visited with me, and after she met my family, she realized it was absolutely okay. I made her understand that she only saw the Roma begging on the street, and the ones you see on the news, not the ones like my family… and there’s a fair amount of them. Elena remembers another episode from high school, which she feels is defining of the way the Roma are perceived by the majority population. Her German and Math teachers were biased and discriminatory towards the Roma. Elena was again experiencing the kind of stereotypical comments she had already gotten used to from her previous schools: “You’re really a gypsy?” “No, you can’t be a gypsy, Elena, you are the best in class at Math!”. This time, the teachers went one step further in their attempt to confirm their own biases. They asked Elena’s friends about where she lived: “they called my friends; they knew I was friends with three of my classmates, so they called them to their office separately and asked them if they have been to my

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place. I suppose they expected to hear that I lived in a tent, and I had a carriage with horses”. After obtaining an ARDOR scholarship, in grade 9, Elena spent a month in Washington, DC. This “interesting experience” made her consider going to university abroad. She applied to a university in Italy, but she was late by a week, and was not accepted. Then she went through all the preliminary stages to apply for university in the US: “I passed all the exams, the SATs, the Toefel test, I went through the whole process”. However, she did not send her application in at the last moment, because studying abroad would have meant leaving her family. She decided to go to law school in Bucharest instead. She chose law school due to her extracurricular experience during high school, as well as because she feels that law school is “the best, the most serious school, because you learn difficult stuff, not just easy subjects, and you can find a job afterwards. Yes, it’s only three or four options, but they’re all for good jobs”. In retrospect, she is happy with her choice: “I really like it, I’m not bored during class. I love learning about laws, I think this is the best career I could have chosen”. Elena did not make friends in university, mainly because she is busy with her work and studies, and she is closer to her work colleagues. She sees some of her teachers as role models, and she has forged close relationships with some of them. Career. Elena’s career is closely related to her education. Ever since high school, she has worked as a volunteer for NGOs. An energetic personality, Elena worked as a volunteer for an American NGO dedicated to Roma issues shortly after graduating from high school, and was soon offered a permanent job. She declined, however, because she wanted to dedicate most of her time to her studies. As a volunteer, she was involved in a series of activities: “the first time I was there, I was in an office, and I was doing all sorts of secretarial work. Then they sent me to the summer camp and I worked with kindergarten children”. Elena enjoyed working with children, but she felt it was not the right career for her. She wanted to work in a law-related institution. This became reality when a Roma human rights organization offered her the chance to work as a volunteer. Soon, she became indispensable to this organization and was hired for a permanent position. I knew M.M., he was a friend of my brother’s, and he called me to tell me about the organization, and when he started talking about human rights, him also a lawyer, I became all interested. I worked as a volunteer, he told me, you can be a volunteer for a few months, and if you’re good, we’ll hire you. After a couple of days they had already offered me a job. I don’t know what did it, I think I took 184

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some work home one day, and I came back with it done, and here it was, a week’s work all done. Elena is currently a project assistant in this organization, and is very passionate about her work: “it’s related to what my future career will be. I’m directly involved in our cases: we have cases of discrimination.” Despite enjoying her work, Elena is also disappointed by her experiences in the field. When asked what the most important lesson of her life has been, Elena confesses: “it’s very difficult to fight it alone. It’s difficult, being an idealist”. Elena is disappointed that certain leaders of the Roma organizations put their own interests before those of the people they are supposed to represent. I refer strictly to the work that we do, the Roma NGOs, and I wonder how many people do it for the Roma cause, and how many for their own interest. It’s pretty frustrating and I’m disappointed to say that few people care. I find it difficult to put my own interests first, like others do. If you can’t fight them, join them, but I find it difficult. Well, it’s a lesson, what can I say… one shouldn’t be an idealist (How should you be then?) A pragmatist, because it’s everybody for their own, like in the jungle. I should stop being such a child, I still have a lot to learn. Elena feels that her work is negatively impacting her academic performances. She considered leaving her job to dedicate herself completely to her studies. However, the experience she gained through her job convinced her that it is better for her future career to combine the theory she learns at school with the daily practice of her job. Because Elena is living with her parents, she does not need to pay many expenses. Her own income is enough to cover her daily expenses. She is covering her tuition from the scholarship awarded to her by the Soros Foundation. In retrospect, Elena does not feel that her ethnicity affected her education in any way. For her, it is the formal results that count: “I think that I have nothing to gain or to lose, I just have to work hard. If someone wants to judge me, then, as far as I am concerned, it is my school performances that they can judge me by, not anything else”. Elena considers school, along with family, the driving force in anybody’s life. She thinks that education can change people’s lives, through the upward mobility it entails. For this to happen, she thinks, a person’s family must value education. She then adds that her paternal grandmother “is proud and bragging about me and my brother”. Migration. The experience of Elena’s extended family with migration is vast. Her brother worked abroad, and her sister in law is also working abroad. Elena

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herself spent a short period in the US. Her maternal uncle is a German citizen, having left the country twenty years before. Five years before, her paternal uncles decided to move to Spain, having lost their jobs in Romania. Family ties are strong, although distance renders meetings infrequent. Family. Elena believes that a man should get married when he is 30, and a woman she is around 25 years old. She thinks that families should have as many children as they can support. Elena has a boyfriend, although they do not live together. Her long-term plans include marriage, and she would prefer a Roma spouse, although she does not reject the idea of a mixed marriage. However, she thinks that a mixed marriage would be affected by the common biases of everyday life. Even if he would be unprejudiced, there would be someone in his family to make me feel bad, and I don’t plan to make activism with my own family, and to start explaining why they have to change their views. Besides, I’m sure there would be someone in my family as well, maybe even one of my parents, who’d say “that Romanian” and I’d feel bad being caught in the middle. The same about his family, I wouldn’t want anybody to call me gypsy when they are mad, or him to be called a Romanian. Besides, I also think about how the children might have doubts about their identity. They’d feel gypsies when they would be with my husband’s family, and Romanian when they’d be with mine. Life satisfaction. Elena’s satisfaction with life is caused by both her academic and personal achievements. She feels lucky to have understanding parents and a brother who has supported her constantly in her career. Being able to go to university and have a job at the same time makes Elena feel content. Elena’s only regret is having given up too easily on the idea of studying abroad. This is the only thing about her life that she would change, given the choice. I’m sorry I didn’t follow up on studying abroad. Although I’m happy with what I have now, I keep thinking that it would have been different. And not necessarily in the US, I could have gone somewhere in Europe where it would have been closer to home. I’m sorry I gave up so easily. And I am also sorry that usually I don’t try again for things if they don’t happen right away. Elena wishes that in the future she will fulfill her childhood dream of working in the law field. She has doubts about her ability to stand the course in order to become a magistrate, however.

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Last year I wasn’t doing so well, and I had big plans, to become a judge, but that takes a lot of studying. It’s one of my biggest desires, and I can’t say that I’m lazy or uninvolved. I can’t learn day and night, however. And I don’t like to, either. I like to read something once and that’s it, and it worked in the past, but it wouldn’t work for this. I have to work very hard, and I’m not sure I can do it. Elena’s life story is a story about education, and what each school cycle taught her. One of the greatest lessons of her life so far is the way she managed to deal with the biases about her ethnicity, not by internalizing the stigma and rejecting her heritage, but by openly assuming it. She learned during high school how to change the biases of her teachers and peers, and her work in Roma organizations gave her the opportunity to directly fight discrimination.

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Š 2008 Soros Foundation Romania (SFR) All right reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form. Soros Foundation Romania 33 Căderea Bastiliei street, First District, Bucharest Tel: (021) 212.11.01 Fax: (021) 212.10.32 Web: www.soros.ro E-mail: info@soros.ro The points of view, findings and interpretations expressed in this Study are entirely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Soros Foundation.


Roma. Life Stories  

“A person without education is like a child without mother or a bowl of soup without a spoon”, says a young Roma of 25 years from Baltesti,...

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