Roma and Health

I have been reminded lately about the conflict many of us have in regards to our health. My grandparents would never see a doctor, preferring traditional remedies, ritual, and “time”. My mother was so very skeptical of Western medicine, my father too – refusing to go unless it was serious. In fact, when I was a child they kept me from going unless absolutely necessary. One caveat to that, however, was that I was born with a genetic (congenital) heart defect and needed treatment and monitoring until I was 18. They agreed to that though, because my lips were blue, I was out of breath, and it was clear something was terribly wrong. But, when it came to colds, viruses, stomach bugs, stings, sprains and the like, traditional all the way. Currently, I am facing major health concerns and I am receiving advice from both sides of the fence: traditional and non-traditional. I have people telling me I just need to do ritual cleansing or just do this and this or take these herbs or whatever; I also have people telling me I need serious medical treatment and long-term medication… and I don’t know what to do. I don’t trust doctors and hospitals. I don’t trust medicine. I don’t trust such artificial things. A report I found (linked in full here) states that “For many reasons, Romani women tend not to prioritise attention to their own health; at the same time they are often the primary caregivers in their families and communities”. Not only that, but it is the male head of the family who makes all of the...

Hate Speech

In my morning hunt for news articles, I found this one from the Digital Journal discussing hate speech and the Council of Europe. I found this particularly interesting in the wake of issues the Roma community recently had with a certain Hungarian Ambassador, Dr. Geza Jeszenszky. His comments, which claimed that many Roma were ‘mentally ill’ because of consanguineous relationships within our community, could easily be described as “hate speech”, whether or not the esteemed ambassador felt that way. Of course, he suffered no consequences for his actions. However, such language against us is not uncommon. The current French President, François Hollande called for “internment camps for the Roma” during his campaign – a campaign that won him the presidency. Similarly, the mayor of Baia Mare in Romania, Cătălin Cherecheş forcibly relocated dozens of Roma families to the administrative buildings of a dismantled copper plant. This followed the building of a 1.8 metre (six feet) high wall the previous year between a Roma neighbourhood and a main road. He won a majority vote of over 86%. Of course, in the general sphere (outside of both academics and politics) there is hate speech perpetuated by media outlets (who report on “Gypsy crime” or accuse Roma of murder or other vicious assault with no just cause). The internet is a hotbed of hate speech. I have encountered enough just in my daily life here online. My blogs have been hacked; I have received hate mail, death threats, and anonymous messages; I have been accused of so many horrible things. I have made the mistake of reading comments left on videos or...

Linguistic Idealism

I found an interesting article via WorldCrunch today (originally from Le Temps) arguing for Romanes to replace English in Europe. At first, I thought it was sarcastic, or some kind of strange humour, but the more I read, the more serious I understood it to be. I suppose I vaguely understand the argument – that the oppressed and marginalized should become the teachers and leaders of a new Europe. But, whether or not the author is serious, the article shows a naivety that most Europeans (and others) have about Roma and the Romani language. Although the author admits to “many dialects of this language being spoken”, there are in fact, as far as I know, more than 35 different dialects of Romanes spread across Europe alone (excluding those found in the Middle East, Australia, and North and South America). If Germann would argue for a new lingua franca then which one of these dialects should be chosen? It’s not even as if all the dialects are mutually intelligible across the spectrum (I know this first hand, since my grandparents spoke two different dialects). Just as there are many dialects, there are many different groups housed under the term Roma – especially as people think all “Gypsies” with dark skin are “Roma”, which is not entirely true. Even at the most basic level there are Roma and Sinte and within each of those branches there are sub-branches – Servika, Lowara, Ungrika, Kaale – and even within those there are differences. I am sure that each group would argue for their own dialect to be used as the lingua franca which...

Džal dromeha

Something Chad said to me in a comment here really started me thinking. When I was a child, no one said to me, “You are Romani”. No one said, “Stand up and fight”. In fact, no one really said anything at all. We were “Gypsies”. That’s what people called us, so that’s what we were. In some cases, we were “gyppos” or “pikeys” or “travellers” – people never sure who was who it seemed. But, I was never Romani. I never heard of the World Romani Congress (founded 1971). I never heard of any organizations fighting for our rights or supporting us. I suppose, I didn’t really hear about anything. No one read the papers, watched the news, or listened to the radio very much. Even if they had, Roma were never high on the list of priorities for anyone – and they still aren’t. When I look at my life versus, for example, my grandmother’s… there is no comparison. I was born in a hospital. I have a birth certificate (albeit one that was received late and was edited), I was allowed to complete school. I grew up in a house we owned (our families worked in general labour for many years after coming to the UK and my uncles built many of my relatives houses – including my own – it was a way to try and ensure that we got to stay). I was given choices she never had. She was evicted at least 4 times when I was growing up; we were never evicted once. Although they didn’t like it, I wasn’t forced to marry...

Words

I get asked all the time about whether any books have been written by Roma. The answer to that is a resounding YES! Not just academic works, not just by authors in the UK or the US – there are MANY Romani writers out there. They write stories, poems, transcribe their oral histories and narratives. There are so many wonderful writers and stories out there. One of the most beautiful books I’ve seen is “Molilese” by Medelaha El Ghali (Galija).   “Dinavelpe Liturgijake ašunimasa amalikane dilabimase katar Eparhija Bačko” – Serbian translation: priča se čita uz zvuke Liturgije u izvođenju hora Eparhije Bačke – English translation: story is read to the sound of the liturgy, performed by the choir of the Diocese of Bačke “Molilese si paramiče andar o Purano foro, kaj sas thaj vadže vi akana pe kav baro them trajil jekh djilabarno. Pe uže xainga astarela thaj pijela, thaj djilabela an barvalipe thaj sumnalipe Phurederesko piresko. Lese šuže hacarimase djila pomosarena čiriklja amalikane čičirimasa thaj Roma save phirena dromenca pašaj xainga. Crdine gaja čukare djilabimasa avena te pe lavute incaren thaj indaren gov djilabipe. Gaja ašunipe po Ašunero bero areslo vi džikav Phureder lesko” Molilese are stories from the old homeland, where there was still in this world a great singer. His songs lofty sentiments were accompanied by an orchestra of birds and Gypsies as they passed in the road nearby. Attracted by beautiful singing they came to play their violins and share that lovely sound....