omukhel

[I haven’t posted in a very long time – between falling pregnant and being extremely sick for almost four months and the whole world falling apart (Orlando shooting, the murder of British MP Jo Cox, and the Brexit vote), I just haven’t had any kind of desire to put personal thoughts into the world. I apologize for my absence and hope it can be forgiven. And with that, here are some relevant ramblings:] When my paternal grandparents fled to the UK during World War II, they did so deliberately. It wasn’t a shot in the dark. They had relatives there already, relatives who said that England was a good place. A better place than Europe. Bombs fell, concentration camps swallowed their victims whole, but the green fens of England were largely quiet. I don’t know how, exactly, they made it to England. Some form of boat probably. They arrived in Portsmouth, I think. Or maybe Dover. I don’t know. But, it didn’t take long for them to travel north, with other families, into an area that was not widely regarded as a Gypsy area and where we were still quite a novelty. After the war, England was shaken to its core, but it was still a much calmer place than the rest of Europe and in the north of England, life had remained largely untouched by German advances. Maami and Papu had no thoughts of ever assimilating or “becoming British”. They were Roma and Roma they would stay, whatever that meant. They had survived the bombs, the [Schutzstaffel] Einsatzgruppen, the death camps, and the long journey to England. Whatever they...

Unwelcome

“I can see that the sadness has returned. And it’s not a beautiful sadness- beautiful sadness is a myth. Sadness turns our features to clay, not porcelain.” ― David Levithan, Every Day

Maami Babka was always sad, even when she was happy. Her heart had been lost along the way somewhere, perhaps in Slovakia or perhaps with the ghosts of her family. Her eyes were always distant, as if looking for the heart that was already lost. She spoke sparingly and when she sang, her gravelly voice dragged rough over our emotions.

Becoming Indian

This past week the “International Roma Conference and Culture Festival 2016,” was held in Azad Bhavan, New Delhi, India, which purportedly “officially validated for the first time” the Indian (and Hindu) origin of the Roma. Looking at the conference brochure, some of the attendees listed surprised me (and some did not). What surprised me the most, was the sudden insistence that we are children of India and a push to reconnect us with “sister communities” in Punjab and Rajasthan and comments by respected Roma, such as Jovan Damjanovic the president of the World Roma Organisation- Rromanipen that, “recognition from the Indian authorities will be the first step towards countering the negative perceptions about the Roms.”

Empty windows

I was born here.

Or rather, close to here, further up the valley.

A late February snow dusted the roofs and children scuttled between the shacks gathering wood or water. At least that’s what I was told. I remember visiting with Maami and Bibi Lemija, standing a while up the valley, reminiscing about the osadas that no longer existed. The ones that were replaced by trenches and tanks during the war. The ones that vanished in smoke and screams.

How Will You Honour Them?

Today marks the United Nations International Day of Commemoration of Victims of the Holocaust. For only the third time in its history, there will be a Romani/Sinti speaker. Please show your support. Wear red. Take a moment of silence. Share your photos, videos, and memories.

A thin blanket of snow lay on the window sill and the 4am sky sat heavy above. I could smell the warmth of bread from the kitchen and the fire chattered in the living room.

“It’s time,” Maami said

bisterkerel / Always Forget

Our response to the collective traumas that befell our people mirrored that of the states in which we lived – suppression and denial. Just as we moved on with our lives, so the nations around us moved on with theirs. After the Holocaust, my family did not know what to say to one another. How do you talk about something so horrific? Metaphors about hungry smoke, wolves, and butterflies trickled through their conversations, but nothing was really ever said outright. They simply pushed it away, deep in the corners of their collective mind.

Similarly, we have consistently been erased from Holocaust history and remembrance. Politics of memory – suppressing remembrance of these traumas by burying them deep in the political system – assigned our experiences to oblivion.