Author of the Month: Alija “Ali” Krasnići

Ali (Alija) Krasnići was born in 1952 in Crkvena Vodica, a town near Obilić in Kosovo. He never questioned his identity as Rom and his mother tongue, Gurbet-Romani; they were a natural and central part of his life. In this sense, Krasnići is a tradition-conscious Rom. However, he does not consider the traditional values of his forefathers nor Romani as something static which cannot be subject to change.

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The Passage of Time

These few weeks have been hard ones for me.

Jaj, de pro khoča man tuke mangav,
de odmukh mange, so me kerdjom.

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Author of the Month: Emil Cina

Emil Cina was born on 13 December 1947 in the Libeň quarter of Prague. His forebears came from Slovakia, from Kurim u Bardějova, where they owned agricultural estates and made their living trading horses. Mr Cina is the nephew of the famous Romani author Ilona Lacková. He trained as a milling-machine operator in the Auto Praga factory in the Vysočany region and after his military service, during which he was a tank operator, he delivered coal around Prague for 20 years with his brother and father.

“Through my poems I do my best to inspire Romani people not to forget Romanes. This is our language. It’s what keeps us together, which is why I do my best to preserve it,” Mr Cina said

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bokhale mulenca / with hungry ghosts

The traumas my family suffered were like pebbles – hundreds of smooth, round, grey pebbles – stacking wearily on top of one another. This one a beating by the Hlinkova Garda; this one a week without food; this one a squalling baby gone silent and bloated in the night; this one and this one the SS Einsatzgruppen; all of them adding to the weight of their lives. Some were jagged – memories of loved ones faces, torn in terror; Dachau; Dysentery – cracking the smooth facade of life after.

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Run – denašto

I’ve been thinking, thinking about running.

Maami and Papu fled the Holocaust, the hungry smoke nipping close at their heels. Viewed with suspicion and hatred, they weren’t welcome anywhere they set down. My father, born in the ragged blood-red dawn of a post-War world, fled the memories and the sadness in his parents eyes.

Baba and Papo fled their culture, hiding in the anonymity of assimilation. My mother, born in the smoke of bombed-out houses, fled the broken reality that surrounded her.

I ran too. Three hundred dollars, two suitcases, and one chance. I fled the suffocating, stagnant breath of arranged marriage, illiteracy, and poverty. I ran more than eight thousand miles on the promise of freedom and education.

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Books. Words. Lives.


Our spirits are made of songs and our hearts are made of gold. We live in abject but picturesque poverty. We fear God and the police. We are passionate and indestructible.

We are childish, exotic, backwards, barbaric. Genetically averse to hygiene, education, and employment.

Nomadic, wild, primitive.

The embodiment of difference; of other.

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Hunter to Hunted

Yesterday, I discovered (via Facebook) that someone was attempting to sell a shirt via the popular website “Zazzle” (an online retailer that allows users to upload images and create their own merchandise, or buy merchandise created by other users, as well as use images from participating companies), that was extremely offensive.

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My grandmother was a refugee; she had no home.

My parents were home – but that home didn’t want them.

My family fled the war in Germany that ate up the continent. Half of my family swallowed whole by Hitler’s campaign. The other half crawled home with scars that wrinkled their voices as they spoke. They were not welcome where they tried to make their homes. Their way of life, illegal; their skin too brown and too suspicious. They ran for their lives, across countries, across oceans. When they finally placed down their hearts, they were asked to leave. They had no passports, no birth certificates, no official documentation.

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identity / identiteja


That was the word I heard every day of my life growing up. We were Gypsies and sometimes Tinkers, Knackers, Pikeys. I thought we were all the same – all the Irish Travellers (Pavee), Scottish Travellers (Nagin), Kale, Romany, Romanichal, and Romani. My grandmother called the Pavee and Scottish Travellers who lived near us “parne romane” – White Roma and didn’t treat them any differently to her own family. If someone needed something, we all helped each other. It wasn’t only Romani being evicted, it was Travellers too.

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Nostalgia as Forgetting

If I asked her, Maami Babka was only Romani (or accordingly, Gypsy). If pushed she refused to identify herself, saying nothing but, “sam Roma, som Romnji!” I used to get angry with her, sometimes, as she seemed to deliberately evade or misunderstand my questions. In my grandparents eyes, we were not immigrants, we were refugees. Still running from a war-ravaged Europe full of Nazis and hungry smoke. They saw no changes and no reason to change in the world. They didn’t live anywhere. They waited. They waited to be evicted; to be told to move; to be chased by demons of the past.

But, the stories they told belied this fear and continued flight.

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Instituting History

My cousin Penhelli was always outspoken, loud, brash, tough. She’d punch a gadžo boy in the face soon as look at him. I was never that strong.

A little over ten days ago someone hacked my blog and my personal computer. I immediately wanted to curl up and give up; tired of fighting the incessant hatred, I let the tears slowly trickle down my face, carrying all my hope and heart with them. I thought about Peni, then. How she’d have just started shouting at the computer, bashing it uselessly with her hands, spitting on it.

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Without Words

I sometimes wish I couldn’t read. I wish all these foreign letters and words didn’t make sense to me and that I could spit them back out, undigested. I wish, like my grandmother, I could cast aside the gadžikanji čhib and wade unknowing through the world around me. I wish, like Papu, I could spend afternoons sitting on the back step, puffing clouds of smoke into the pale blue sky, words like my breath, quiet and unhurried.

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The Day of Forgetting

There were no dates that we remembered our dead, at least not those who faded away, smothered by the hungry smoke, devoured by the Holocaust. Not even my grandmother’s lost children who lived such short and hungry lives, their names whispered in nightmares and memories too sharp to hold. The heat of summer, of August, brought fruit and vegetable picking, visits to long-distant relatives throughout Europe for weddings and last-goodbyes – France, Germany, Poland, Slovakia. I had no idea of the atrocities committed at Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka, Lety, Dachau, and hundreds of other Concentration Camps. I had no idea of the mass-murder of thousands of Romani on August 2 in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

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Passing Definition

I was raised to code switch admirably, to play the part, to step out of one world and into the next seamlessly. It wasn’t a conscious decision on the part of my parents – it wasn’t even their decision at all. Baba Edita prided herself on her good English and her ability to pass. She knew all the ladies on her morning walk into town and would ask after Mrs. Robinson’s children, or Mrs. Williams’ husband. There were lots of other, similarly passing Romani on her walk too – the Bucklands, Fowlers, and the Coopers down on Hope House Lane – and they would stop and chat about the weather or hundreds of other beautifully British banalities.

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"Mi del o Del,
kaj te barol the
barvaljol amari
romanji čhib,
so lakere šukar lava
kovljaren o jilo,
u lakere godjaver lava
phundraven e godji.
Mi lakere gule
lava ačhaven
bachtalo drom
maškar o

"Oh Lord, let our
tongue grow
and flourish,
the tongue whose
beautiful words
make our hearts melt,
the tongue whose
wise words
open our minds.
Let its sweet words
build the
road to happiness
among people."

~ Milena Hübschmannová

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