Page 7

S treetS ense.org

November 10 - 23, 2010

7

‘We are not ashamed, we are proud of being Roma’ The racist slurs are shrugged off by Marcella Ungureanu, 32, who was one of the first Roma to move to Manchester in search of a better life.  “People sometimes make us feel that we should have shame for being Gypsies but there is no shame in it,” she says. “In Romania the word for Gypsy - tsigan - is a negative thing, an insult. But it is our identity - this is what we are. We are not ashamed, we are proud of being Roma and of our culture. Yes, there are some people in Manchester who say bad things about us, but you get that everywhere and most people here are kind.” Ungureanu is dressed in the typical style of a Romanian Roma woman - with a long patterned skirt and a loose headscarf. She has an open face, sparkling eyes and wears a permanent, disarming smile. Speaking partly in English and partly through an interpreter, she explains that like many Roma from her country she never got the chance to go to school and married young, at just 14. She gave birth to her first child two years later but life was difficult and jobs hard to come by for anyone, especially Roma. In 2003, she and her husband Daniel came to the UK and settled in the Gorton neighbourhood of Manchester. Today, two of their four children live in Romania with their grandmother, and the family share their home with another Roma woman. The main challenge for her community is work, she says, before asking whether we know of any jobs. The Ungureanus make ends meet by selling The Big Issue in the North but she would like to clean or look after children and her husband wants to find work fixing satellite dishes. She smiles. “Most of us want to work but the problem is that we can’t get jobs. I think it’s unfair that people judge us because a few Romanian Gypsies do bad things. British people look at us and are scared because they think we are different. They say we are criminals but they are wrong. We go to church and we don’t drink or smoke. We are not fighters. We like to stay together, we like to be quiet and stay out of trouble. There is no reason to be afraid of us because we are good people.” There are between 10 and 12 million Roma across Europe. Linguistic clues sug-

PHOTO By The Big Issue

By Ciara Leeming, The Big Issue

There are between 10 and 12 million Roma across Europe. Linguistic clues suggest they originate from northern India and moved through Persia, Turkey and into the Balkans, with migrations brancing off into Russia, Scandinavia, France and the Iberian peninsula and the British Isles.

gest they originate from northern India and moved through Persia, Turkey and into the Balkans, with migrations branching off into Russia, Scandinavia, France and the Iberian peninsula, and the British Isles. Over recent years a new wave of migration has been taking place, with central and eastern European Roma moving west - first as asylum seekers and more recently as members of the enlarged European Union. Slovakian Roma have been living in Glasgow for the best part of a decade, and other UK cities are home to Ro m a f r o m Po land, Hungary and elsewhere. A community of Czech Roma has formed in Salford. About two million of Romania’s 22 million people are thought to be Roma. Not all are poor but the vast majority live in poverty and face high levels of discrimination. It is not difficult to understand why so many have left but the hysterical reporting of the recent crackdowns in France and other countries risks turning some into pariahs in their chosen cities. Standing with his friends on a tightly packed terraced street on the border between Gorton and Longsight, one of the

most multicultural areas of Manchester, 16-year-old Florin Calin, one of a handful of young Roma men who speak really fluent English. A thoughtful and articulate young man, he is exactly the kind of Roma that some believe could help his community thrive in Manchester if offered some encouragement and a helping hand. For Calin’s family too, life in Gorto, however imperfect, is preferable to the alternative back in Romania. They arrived as asylum seekers in 2002 and were sent to Gorton after an initial stint in London. Once given . leave to remain, father Gima found work selling The Big Issue in the North. Calin and his brother were the first to complete high school. “Until about two years ago, very few of the children went to school,” he says. “My brother and I were the only ones for a long time but now about 70 percent are being educated. In many countries you have to pay to put children through school so Roma families can’t always afford it. There are about five of us young people who speak really good English now and two of my cous-

We like to stay together, we like to be quiet and stay out of trouble. There is no rea-

son to be afraid of us, because we are good people

ins are working at the school as translators. So it’s worthwhile. Once I get my papers from Romania I hope to find work doing this as well.” It was partly economics that drew many within the community to the UK, he explains, and cultural preferences are behind the fact that so many Romanian Roma moved to one relatively small neighbourhood. They have links to another community in London. “What a lot didn’t realise though is that it is not really possible for them to find jobs in the UK because of the law. That’s why so many of them are selling The Big Issue in the North. “Now the council has started making that difficult. My family used to receive housing benefit but in February that was stopped because they say selling the magazine is not self-employment. This happened to a lot of people. We have appealed. It is very difficult but we just have to find other ways to get on. A lot of Roma people believe this is happening because they want us to leave Longsight. “Manchester’s my home though - I’ve grown up here. If I went to Romania I wouldn’t know how to find my house. People around here are generally fine. There are some rude people who shout names but we are okay. We try to keep out of trouble. We just want to get on with our lives.”

StreetSense_forWeb_11.10.10  

S treet S ense.org SUG GEST ED DON ATIO N Where the poor and homeless earn and give their two cents 65 cents for the Vendor 35 cents for pro...

StreetSense_forWeb_11.10.10  

S treet S ense.org SUG GEST ED DON ATIO N Where the poor and homeless earn and give their two cents 65 cents for the Vendor 35 cents for pro...