from Tchalai’s Zigane Tarot (1984)
Many of the children and families with whom we work are Roma (Gypsy) and as such, live on the edge of society, often in squatter communities on the margins of Arad and surrounding towns and villages. Pictured are two of our Roma girls who come daily to the centre. They are lovely, warm, kind hearted people who have become friends. Here they had just dressed one of our volunteers in traditional skirt and the red ribbons usually seen in the hair of little girls (just as I used to see when I lived in India!) Roma have been the victims of discrimination and mistrust for centuries. Linguistic and anthropological evidence indicates that the Roma people originally came from northen India and migrated across Asia and Europe between the 10th and 13th centuries.
Throughout their history the Roma have repeatedly suffered forced assimilation, persecution, banishment and deportation. Few people realise that the Roma were also victims of slavery in Europe, the Americas and elsewhere until 150 years ago. During the Third Reich in Germany the Roma were targeted for extermination by Hitler but I am not aware of any special memorials or days of remembrance for them and if such things exist then they are not well enough publicised.
The Roma are one of the most persecuted ethnic minories in Europe. Racial stereotypes and myths developed over the centuries in order to justify the persecution of Roma – they were accused of being lazy, thieves, witches and child abductors “The Gypsies are coming, the old people say. To buy little children and take them away …”
Any study of history shows us that a people who are marginalized and rejected have to find alternative ways to survive in society and often such people become the victims of social problems such as alcoholism and unemployment. Discrimination in all it's forms is an evil to be fought against and we at Vis de Copil (A Child's Dream) constantly look for ways in which we can help break down the barriers which exist between the Roma and their neighbours.
I'll finish here with the words of Indira ghandi, the former Indian Prima Minister in her opening speech at the International Romani festival in Chandigarh in 1983:
“There are some 15 million Roms dispersed across the world. Their history is one of suffering and misery, but it is also one of the victories of human spirit over the blows of fate. Today the Roms revive their culture and are looking for their identity. On the other hand, they integrate into the societies in which they live. If they are understood by their fellow citizens in their new homelands, their culture will enrich the society’s atmosphere with the colour and charm of spontaneity.”