Volunteering Stories: My old neighbor rom – by Elia

Honestly, I don’t know much about the Roma. Or rather, I don’t know them very personally. Until now anyway. I mean, until 4 months ago I lived in Bologna, Italy. The only thing I knew about the Roma in Bologna is that years ago Aunt Titti and the others bought Willy’s trailer from the Sinti. Like in the beginning of the movie “The Snatch” when Turk sends Tommy to buy a caravan from the Roma outside London, but the wheels of Will’s caravan were and are still attached.

Anyway before I came to Baia Mare, my knowledge was very limited when it comes to Roma. Much music: Fanfare Ciocarlia, Goran Bregovic, Gipsy Kings, Sinan Hoxha. The movie Gadjo Dilo by Tony Gatflif. But on a personal level I’ve known few and little of Roma in my life.

After 3 months in Baia Mare and several opportunities to meet and be close to the Roma people of this city maybe I can have a little more objective idea. Not of all of course.

Having always rejected the narration that the Italian mass media make of Roma, I have always felt a bit of romantic charm for these people. The opinion that many Romanians have here about Roma is not very different from the one that many Italians have.  Just look at the simple urban planning report, where the center ends and the periphery begins, where the periphery ends you find the Roma majority communities.
“Roma don’t want to work” “Roma don’t want to study” “Roma are lazy” “Roma steal” “Roma are smart” “Roma are bad” “I knew a gypsy who…(complete with something that demonizes the gypsy)” “I went to school with a gypsy who never came though”.

If you look back at the history of the Roma people, from the beginning of the migratory route from India to the arrival in Europe and the European diaspora, I noticed that, in every chapter of their history, the word “integration” is not common.

So reading, I asked myself this question: “If we are the product of our environment and our history, would you like to see that a people who spent a millennium being hunted and discriminated against, from India to Spain, maybe they have become angry because of the constant ghettoisation they have suffered, and if we are the product of our history, if a history so long lasting for centuries seems to me more than normal that it is not resolved just because they are told ‘Lazy Gypsy go to work‘?

At school they never told me about the Porrajmos, the Roma holocaust. Why? Is it less important than the Jewish Holocaust or the Armenian genocide?

The feeling that I have is that in general, a people that has never had borders, is squeezed into a world full of borders. And if I think about this feeling it all seems clearer to me. And so I find it hard to convince myself of the prejudices that one has about the Roma. There will also be examples of “the Roma I knew did this“. But I have learned not to judge the history and culture of a people by the examples made at the bar or on the bus. The problems and discomforts of society are analyzed at the root, not at the last leaf.  Even if I have been confronted several times with the difficult character of some Roma, especially children, I do not believe and do not adhere to these prejudices. Because at this point it would mean becoming part of yet another chapter of segregation against a people who are born free and who have struggled over the centuries to have their condition of freedom accepted outside all borders, clashing with a world that is terrified by the concept of freedom and allergic to a world without borders, without walls, without barriers.  I dream of a world without all this, a world where a people who have never made war, like the Roma, can be accepted and respected.  Not privileged but equal. With the same rights, with the same services guaranteed.

Much of the music that I listen to and love, if it does not come from Afro-Americans, it comes from Roma.  And this music, as well as all the musical genres born from suffering populations, such as gospel and blues, speaks of a millennial old culture, of a secret language, of a way of life, of a pride that the last ones, from one part of the world to another, preserve as much as possible in order not to be annulled by the cultural decay to which capitalism has brought us.

And here I close.

The volunteer is hosted by Team for Youth Association in the PLAY project, on a 5 months European Solidarity Corps project in Baia Mare. The content of this testimonial does not reflect the official opinion of the European Union. The responsibility for the information and views expressed in the article rests entirely with the author.