Monday, November 27, 2006

"Villagers Block Gypsies Return To Their Homes"

On Page A7 of the NYT today this headline, which began "In Slovenia...", described an extended family of 31 Gypsies who were met by about 1000 villagers who blocked roads when they tried to return to their homes(I am reminded of a scene from the "The Beauty and the Beast" animated feature). The family was evicted from their home one month ago when a Slovene who they had allowed to live with them got into a bar fight and injured another Slovene. After mobs surrounded their house at that time, the government made the family leave. The government had planned to move the family against their wishes to a suburb of Ljubljana(the capitol city), but had to withdraw when the citizens of that suburb protested. Confined to living in an army barracks for a month, the family returned to their home without asking, and were met by the mob. They were turned back, and later told that despite the fact that they owned the land that they were returning to, they had no right to it since they had not obtained proper permission from the housing authorities to build their homes.

Since this is "news" in the NYT, is it an unusual occurance. It is not. I recently read "Bury Me Standing, the gypsies and their journey" by Isabel Fonseca. This book is a remarkable combination of history, folklore, current events and investigative journalism that tells a story of persecution over centuries. Gypsy poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and early death are all record breaking within Europe. They are certainly the largest minority in Eastern Europe, perhaps all of Europe.

What has happened to this minority, as detailed in Fonseca's book, is that they have been relegated to some cultural blindspot as a result of a multi-century process, and even in socially progressive western Europe their issues are below the surface. In Eastern Europe, this example from Fonseca's book is noteworthy.

A government pamphlet called Romania's Population published in 1972 found that "Romanians, Hungarians, and Germans were found to account for 99% of the population, the remainder comprising other nationalities including Ukranians, Serbians, Croats, Slovaks, Russians, Turks, Jews, etc." Gypsies were etc. In a 1992 census they were found to be 15% of the population. But in a way Gypsies seem to be viewed as a stateless people that don't exist, especially in Eastern Europe where they live in large numbers.

The persecution of Gypsies continues, and "Bury Me Standing" delivers the story, which did not stop in 1995 when the book was published. It's a first hand account of life with Gypsy families that can make one feel that they are taking a small step into understanding the Gypsy culture. Combine that with a history of their migration from India many centuries ago, and the centuries of being viewed as either a slave or pariah in Europe and it's a fascinating story. Today this is still an open issue and a complicated one given the proud, insular and unique culture of those concerned. There are more than 12 million Gypsies in the world today.


Anonymous Pickpocketed man said...

Many people have only the experience of having their pockets picked by Gypsies, me by young students in Barcelona, by older women flower sellers in Madrid, and by children in Florence. That's just three times over many years, but it is an aspect of life that limits the sympathy that should be focused on this group.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Gypsy Catcher said...

Many times gypsy girl ask man to her room for "good time." When he get there, her father and brother jump out of closet with gun and rob him. This is origin of of famous Kazhak expression "gypsy good time."

1:05 PM  

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