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The current “Gypsy  problem” in France brings back in mind, to help us find different ways of analyzing the situation,  some forgotten  pieces from history.

In 40’s Marshal Antonescu was trying to solve another “gypsy problem” in Romania…”all Gypsies in Bucharest must be removed. But before removing them, we must consider where to take them and what to do with them. A solution might be to wait until the marshes of the Danube are drained and build some Gypsy villages there and let them fish….Another solution would be to negotiate with the big landowners. There…is a considerable shortage of workers in Bărăgan. We could build these villages there…at least some houses and barracks, a sanitation system, stores, inns, etc. We should set up a census and arrest all of them en masse, and bring them to these villages. We will build three-four villages, each for 5–6,000 families, and install guards around them so they cannot get out. They will live their life there and find work there too.”(Ciuca)

In 1942 roughly 25,000 Romanian Roma (around 12% of the total Romanian Roma population) were “evacuated” to Transnistria. “The May 1942 census, through its definition of the two categories of Roma, also showed the criteria for “selection” of those to be deported. It was based on nomadism and, in the case of the sedentary Roma, on criminal convictions, theft, and the lack of means to subsist. In some documents authorities also referred to the necessity of ridding villages and towns of the poor Roma population without an occupation or trade and no means of subsistence, without any possibility to earn a living, and those who made a living from theft and begging.”(International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania)

The “Gypsy colonies” were created just for  them in Transnistria. “Due to the malnutrition, some of the Gypsies—and these make up the majority—have lost so much weight that they have turned into living skeletons. On a daily basis—especially in the last period— ten to fifteen Gypsies died. They were full of parasites. They were not paid any medical visits and they did not have any medicine. They were naked…and they didn’t have any underwear or clothing. There are women whose bodies…were [completely] naked in the true sense of the word. They had not been given any soap since arriving; this is why they haven’t washed themselves or the single shirt that they own.

In general, the situation of the Gypsies is terrible and almost inconceivable. Due to the misery, they have turned into shadows and are almost savage. This condition is due to the bad accommodations and nutrition as well as the cold. Because of hunger…they have scared the Ukrainians with their thefts. If there had been some Gypsies in the country who were stealing…out of mere habit, here even a Gypsy who used to be honest would begin stealing, because the hunger led him to commit this shameful act.” (Achim, p.26-28)

In Spring 1944 the deported Roma  returned to Romania.  11,000 of them never made it back. Those that made it, came back to a country where, for another 45 years, were not even recognized as an ethnic minority.

References

International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, Final Report of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania: The Deportation of the Roma and their treatment in Transnistria, 2004, p.5-6

Achim, Viorel (ed.) Documente privind deportarea ţiganilor în Transnistria. Bucharest, Editura Enciclopedică, 2004,vol. 2: no. 249, (Report December 5, 1942)  p. 26-28

Ciucă,Marcel-Dumitru, et al., (eds.), Stenogramele şedinţelor Consiliului de Miniştri. Guvernarea Ion Antonescu,  Bucharest, Arhivele Naţionale ale României, 1998, vol. 2, p.181

The majority of he Romanians laws that I read have a destructive nature…I am not a law expert though, so it might be just my limited experience talking here but I feel like in Romania the  laws are given to stop or prevent, usually bad things (like corruption, anti-social activities s.o.) from happening. Very little attention is given to the constructive part of the law, on building up valid solutions to existing and future problems. Of course, for emergency situations the emergency first aid laws are good solutions. However, for problems that are hunting us for years now…those kind laws are useless.

Just to give you an example, to get a glimpse of how Romanian politician’s mind work. Weddings are celebrated with big fast in  Romania like in many places on this planet.  The Roma community however managed to make many people angry because of the way they celebrate them. In neighborhoods of Communist block of flats they bring their celebration  in the streets, they build temporary tents on public spaces to have their receptions there and have high voltage music until late at night.(all this information I got from different article in Romania newspapers during the last year) So we might say there is a problem. What does the bright Romanian politicians do? Make up a law that, they are going give their final vote for today, that says that “parties and weddings in tents or close by buildings where people live ” is not allowed (source). Of course there are some laws already in place that penalize  this kind of disturbance in the public life…but it does not matter: here comes a new one! A better one?  Don’t think so.

Not thinking about why those people are celebrating the weddings there, what community spaces do they have as alternatives, what are the meanings of this ceremony for the community…we (almost) have a new destructive law. Can anybody tell me what good is this law going to bring? Probably some money to some local budgets from fines…That’s how big the picture of taking care of communities is for Romanian politicians.

She’s 3.

Today, after working for awhile on my laptop I left it and went to prepare dinner. She sat close to it and when I turned she started keyboarding. I heard it and I turn right away.

“What are you doing?” I asked her.

“Nothing” she said but knew that she was not supposed to do that.

“I told you that you are not allowed to play with the laptop”

“But I don’t have one to play with” she said

“Why do you need one to play with?”

And calm as she always seems said:

“Because I need it in preschool”.

To a 3 year old it makes perfect sense that if I need a laptop for my school and work she needs one for her school too.

People working and studying in a small school in Sibiu, Romania decided to get ready for beginning a new school year by painting the schools’ building. The theory sais that the local administration was supposed to finance this work but the money sent to the school covered only the materials. So people who cared about the school from teachers to cleaning personnel, from pupils to auxiliary staff worked together to have a nice place for everybody.

This is a nice story but what is so special about it? Well, if you were a journalist from Romania and you would want to present this as a news you would definitely be amazed by the fact that teachers would get down on the job and prepared the classrooms for their pupils and all that before the beginning of the school year. The same “unheard of” attitude you would have when a pupil would tell you that he came to help because, in the end, he and his classmates are the ones using the space. Interesting enough the auxiliary staff’s work that was put to the same cause was not as important as the teacher’s so it was very briefly mentioned… The news in Romanian from realitatea.net is here

What I really like about this story is that finally people managed to think at their community first and then at the people trying to cheat them. (I know this might seem strange but it is actually very hard to do that in Romania nowadays. The way the journalist asked the questions is a clear sigh of this) The fact that the local administration (not a very poor one) could not pay for this type of work raises a serious question mark but between waiting for the mystery to be solved and getting the school ready the community decided on the right option.

Bravo for everybody working for their community from  “Emil Cioran” Middle School in Sibiu!

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