Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Branded Thief - At Birth!

When I was fist asked, now years ago, to address a small group of people to talk about a subject I have now been writing about for over 10 years, namely to talk about Gypsies, Roma as they are rightfully called now, a matronly lady piped up from the back row asking “aren’t those the ones that steal?” Not once, but interrupting my initially rather academic talk, over and over again, with “aren’t they the ones that steal?” Until, I finally stopped my neatly prepared little talk and rather sharply retorted, “Have they ever stolen from you, personally, Mrs……?” The lady blushed, and I continued with my talk.

The other day in the dog park, I was talking to an educated gentleman, a cosmopolitan European about the present persecutions of European Roma, when to my surprise he started telling me how “these people pick a village clean”. Taken aback, and at this point passionately involved in the Roma cause, I asked him, “please tell me what you have personally witnessed along those accusations toward the Gypsy people!” The next day he approached me and said, “I personally have not witnessed anything of the sort, I guess I have fallen into the trap of repeating prejudicial beliefs.”

Now I want to go over to other side. Imagine yourself being born Roma. Two very close friends of mine, both highly intelligent, both evangelical pastors, both of them had not been denied the privilege of formal education, both self-taught and intellectual by nature. They talked to me about the pain of being dismissed as inferior, even criminal by birth - declared criminal without any justification.

One person close to me actually was pick-pocketed by Gypsy kids in the streets of Rome. I had to explain to him the why. Gypsies in Italy arriving from the Baltic states where they have a history of slavery and severe marginalization, are denied all rights, all possibilities to earn an honest living. The children learn how to steal to survive, because they cannot be thrown into jail. If the parents get caught, leaving their children behind, they will starve to death.

As I have written before, during the war, when food and shelter meant survival, I knew not one person who did not steal. I did. Even the Catholic declared that “Mundraub”, stealing food for survival was not a sin.

Branding a Roma thief at birth is to inflict a deep and lasting wound, a handicap that is hard to overcome. Here in America we have about a million Roma. On a recent radio interview my host remarked “One doesn’t ever read about them in the papers over here,” meaning criminal activity. “That’s because,” I said, “given only the slightest chance they are like everybody else. They are Americans first, Roma by inherited culture; a beautiful culture which I am trying hard to give justice to.”

Prejudice is a dangerous phenomenon. Prejudice can kill, it is killing Roma in Europe as I am writing this. Do not be a silent by-stander, stand up for human rights for all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Lure of the Open Road - The Spirit of Nomadism

Like the wild geese I love, come late Fall I pack up to migrate south - 1500 + miles by car. “Why don’t you fly,” a fifty-year young man asked me. “Because,” I said, “for one, I am taking my animals. “ Only 2 dogs now, versus the several horses, 2 dogs, 2 cats and one bonsai tree I used to load up and caravan to the South. “But most of all,” I added, “I love the open road.” Leaving all the unnecessary junk we all accumulate behind, taking only the strictly necessary and driving into change - of weather, of landscape, of people. My mind is wide open as to what lies ahead, the unexpected. It’s like turning your face into the wind and letting your soul fly.

I grew up nomadic. Because of our flight from the Nazis, by the time I was 7, I knew nothing but war and moving on, always moving on - leaving behind memories of massacres, killing fields, ambushes and round-ups. It almost felt as if by walking on you could bury the horror underfoot. So that, for a long time, I only remembered moments of beauty. To this day, the howling of the wolves sends goose bumps down my spine. For then, their howling reassured us that for the moment all was safe, that right then no strange intruder was lurking about. Then there were those moments after the bombs stopped falling, the shooting stopped and the life of the forest resumed in full force. I thought of those years as happy, maybe because I was too young to see beyond our own survival.

The horror started when the so-called “Peace” trapped me in the place where I was born – Cologne, Germany, the place where I was told I must now settle down. A place in ruin, a place foreign to me, infested with rats and crime, a place of defeat, where I had to fester amidst the true horror of it all now out in the open. I had survived the war in freedom, but would I survive the peace forced upon me in a place of entrapment with people I grew up to consider as my enemies. The hopelessness of the war’s aftermath would never quite leave me.

Roma/Gypsies in Romania have lived under hopelessness far greater than what I experienced. Enslaved until 1865, exploited and scorned ever since, when a United Europe opened borders that had confined before, those Roma followed the first sign of hope ever, only to be flung back into a misery greater than the one they left.

Open your hearts to these most vulnerable people who have been part of our Western culture for over 600 years. Unite in the demand for their human rights.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Photographs of Roma/Gypsy children in European shanty camps!

On my annual migration South, driving 9 hours a day, this time through pouring rain, the radio blasting tornado warnings, my eyes focused on the tail-lights of the slow moving cars and trucks ahead, what rose to my mind were the photographs of Gypsy children in those condemned Western European encampments. Here are these Roma, mostly from Romania, where they were enslaved until the late 19 hundreds, exploited and marginalized ever since. When a uniting Europe opened her borders, they followed what to them appeared like an opening to hope, only to be met by hatred and persecution, once again. No prospects of work, housing, health care, most of all no acceptance.

Yet, look at the photographs of these children. They look well dressed. Some little girls have ribbons in their hair. The round handsome little faces of some dark-haired, some blond children Roma children expectant, alert. They look loved, trusting next to their parents, their elders. Compare that to the slums of other poverty stricken peoples. And I wonder, are any non-Gypsies struck by this seeming impossibility, this incongruity?

To me, it comes as no surprise. That is because I have known Gypsies, now rightfully called Roma all my life. I know that to a Roma, children are God’s greatest gift, a gift to be nurtured and cherished. Even in Kosovo, where survival was from one day to the next, with nights full of threat, the children were watched over and protected above all.

These children, now chased from Free United Europe, like all children, deserve a better future, a future of equality at last. A six hundred years presence should guarantee them the same rights as other Europeans.

Help the Roma and their children. It will create a better world for all of us.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Effects of Severe and Enduring Poverty on the Gypsy People

It is true. I have been mostly focusing on the positive side of Roma
culture. That is because this ethnic minority has been relentlessly
beaten down for so long. Their spirit, however, has never been truly
defeated. Their defense has been to withdraw into invisibility. This has
helped them to survive, as Gypsies, but the more they withdraw, the more
the problems they face keep increasing. And now the time has come to
make a stand, for the places to hide are disappearing like arctic ice.

I am not an academic, although I have read every piece of research I
could lay my hands on, and there were many. I am not a politician. I am
merely another human being, a writer, an elder with lots of life
experience, who happens to have love and respect for the Roma people.
Our paths have crossed since I was a child. I have known them in
different countries, of different tribes. I have known some while still
nomadic, those who grew up nomadic then settled down, those who have
been settled for centuries. I am fully aware of the seemingly
insurmountable problems they are facing, most of them not part of their
culture, but a result of extreme poverty. To name a few, in my opinion
of course:

1- Roma, especially in the Balkans and Eastern Europe urgently need a
new type leadership. Whereas, while still nomadic, their leaders were
chosen because of their intelligence and their selflessness, poverty
drives the bad apples to the top. Men often without scruples toward the
majority that surrounds them, but unfortunately not caring about their
own either. Exploiters, not humanitarians. No different from the Mafia
in Sicily, Russia, gangs in black ghettos, the drug lords in Mexico,
etc. That unfortunately is the dark side of humanity. That is no
different for Gypsies. Unfortunately, this does not just happen in the
poor camps, but higher up, where money destined to change living
conditions for the poorest Gypsies never reaches its goal.

2- Again I am optimistic about a new type of leadership for Roma. I have
found the type of intelligent, selfless leadership reborn in evangelical
Roma, who are leading their congregation back to the old values via
religion. One particular such Roma pastor stood up for his rights
against a strong Southern county and won. Roma leaders like him, with
love and understanding, lots of help from the majority that rules, can
lead those long suffering European Roma to truly integrate into European
majority life, without losing their own culture, which, to my mind, is
in Europe's interest to preserve. But only Roma can lead Roma.

3- The division among the different tribes. This has always been the
norm. Just like in war zones the partisans split off into smaller groups
to avoid detection and getting killed, so these 'eternal strangers' had
to travel in small groups to survive, else they would have appeared like
an invading army. This of course created different cultures. Now they
have to unite, at least in Europe to achieve an effective political voice.

4- The Roma women in Europe are emancipating. This is to my mind of
extreme importance. They have always been the preserver of their
culture, but they have done so as backseat drivers. As a woman I have
the highest respect for the Roma woman. They remind me of the women of
partisans who dragged their kids through warzones. Only to the Roma the
war has never ended.

The true integration of Roma into European majority societies will take
lots of understanding of the problems caused by poverty, patience and
willingness to help them overcome the results of centuries of
marginalization. The time is now to undo the harm done to the Roma people.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Europe Forced Roma/Gypsies Off Their Ancient Treks and Set Them Up For Failure

Their culture was different from those of settled folks. They were entrepreneurs specializing in iron-smitheries, lace and candle-stick making, basket-weaving, dealing in the animal that was sacred to them, the horse. Nobody can handle a horse the way a Lovara horse-dealer can. But most of all they were artists, dancers, singers, musicians, poets, actors and circus performers. They added joy to the often drab lives of many.

Their strength centered on absolute honesty and loyalty within the tribe. Their leaders were chosen because of intelligence and selflessness. Strict cleanliness rules surrounded their daily lives, rich with children. They watched with horror of killer war after killer war of the settled folks. A silent minority, they withdrew and moved on.

But the laws of the settled folks were rigid and strictly enforced. They allowed for no freely moving parts that did not belong. So little by little, these peace-loving nomads found their treks barred. They were pushed into areas nobody else wanted, hidden from sight. Here they were offered no schooling, in order to be branded as ignorant. No sanitation in order to be called dirty. No opportunity to make a living, so that theft was often the only means of survival, so that would mark them as thieves, or lazy.

The time has come to right these century-old wrongs. The Gypsy people are like all other people. They have their good and their bad. They do have different value systems. To them rich is not what you own, but what you share. Life is there to enjoy within the circle of those you love. Try and look at our world through their eyes: - the wars, the dictators, the inequality, the deterioration of family life, the obsession with worldly goods.

We, the non-Gypsies, should celebrate not destroy what is left of their culture. Stop persecuting the Roma people. They for one do not deserve it.

Europe Forced Roma/Gypsies Off Their Ancient Treks and Set Them Up For Failure

Their culture was different from those of settled folks. They were
entrepreneurs specializing in iron-smitheries, lace and candle-stick
making, basket-weaving, dealing in the animal that was sacred to them,
the horse. Nobody can handle a horse the way a Lovara horse-dealer can.
But most of all they were artists, dancers, singers, musicians, poets,
actors and circus performers. They added joy to the often drab lives of

Their strength centered on absolute honesty and loyalty within the
tribe. Their leaders were chosen because of intelligence and
selflessness. Strict cleanliness rules surrounded their daily lives,
rich with children. They watched with horror of killer war after killer
war of the settled folks. A silent minority, they withdrew and moved on.

But the laws of the settled folks were rigid and strictly enforced. They
allowed for no freely moving parts that did not belong. So little by
little, these peace-loving nomads found their treks barred. They were
pushed into areas nobody else wanted, hidden from sight. Here they were
offered no schooling, in order to be branded as ignorant. No sanitation
in order to be called dirty. No opportunity to make a living, so that
theft was often the only means of survival, so that would mark them as
thieves, or lazy.

The time has come to right these century-old wrongs. The Gypsy people
are like all other people. They have their good and their bad. They do
have different value systems. To them rich is not what you own, but what
you share. Life is there to enjoy within the circle of those you love.
Try and look at our world through their eyes: - the wars, the dictators,
the inequality, the deterioration of family life, the obsession with
worldly goods.

We, the non-Gypsies, should celebrate not destroy what is left of their
culture. Stop persecuting the Roma people. They for one do not deserve it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Persecutions of Roma/Gypsies Have Never Stopped, 1400 to Now. Why?

Unlike settled Europeans, who fought war after war over territories,
their own and those of their neighbors, all Roma ever wanted was to be
left alone. Instead of war they showed respect to the territories they
crossed, as well as the bigger animals that shared their living space.
They arrived into Western culture with a great variety of professions –
iron-forging, horse-dealing, basket weaving, lace-making etc., and of
course entertainment – music, dancing, traveling circuses with all kinds
of performing acts, fortune-telling.

So why the enduring hate? The reasons on the part of those who live a
settled life have been explained, examined, over and over again –
xenophobia, prejudice, misconceptions, the need to produce a scapegoat
to blame for their own times of trouble.

But what about the part of the Roma themselves? I personally believe, as
more and more open territory came under control, the professions the
Roma had travelled with for centuries became obsolete through
modernization, the Roma were forced into poverty and areas encircled by
the totalitarian law of Might is Right. By then, what had once been the
Romani way of survival was turning against them. Life in small,
traveling units, by then had resulted in division instead of unity, lack
of unity in turn made them vulnerable to attack, lack of opportunity for
work, forced them into petty crime (within their own culture, theft,
lying were considered high treason, and practically non-existent).
Instead of human rights, a Roma baby received brands that he or she
would never able to erase.

But I firmly believe a new day is dawning for the Roma people. I see,
that instead of withdrawing into invisibility at the onslaught of
persecution, as they have done in the past believing that only then they
could survive, Roma people are starting to unite. Modern type leaders
will start to emerge from their midst. They are starting to demand their
European birth rights, thereby exposing the hypocrisy of countries who
call themselves democratic. As they do so, idealistic non-Gypsies have
started to, and will increase in numbers, march along their sides in

'Opre Roma' (Roma Rise) is becoming a reality.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Standardization of American Fiction

Once upon a time, until roughly 60 years ago, those born to write,
lovers of reading, blessed with talent, embarked on this journey of the
mind in isolation. When in trouble, because that journey is fraught with
obstacles and pitfalls, they sought out other writers to share the agony
and the ecstasy, the hopes and the uncertainty, drawing knowledge from
the giants of the past who had paved the way, searching for hints to woo
and conquer that ultimate bride - THE READER. Once the fledgling novel
was hatched it was sought out by or handed over to publishers big or
small who cared, many had a vision. They took the new-born novel and ran
with it, along a lengthening path into the welcoming readership.

That path was bombed, made impassible. Now those born to write, lovers
of reading, blessed with talent are processed by those who teach to
write, who dictate the rules of 'how to' and 'when to, and 'what not
to'. An art form has turned into an academy. Writes the
"huffingtonpost.com: The academy is ruled by 'theorists' who consider
their work superior to the literature they deconstruct, and moreover
they have no interest in contemporary literature." And to finish the
newborn novel off, again writes "huffingtonpost.com: As for conglomerate
publishing, the decision makers wouldn't know great literature if it hit
them in the face." And last but not least, the coup de grace, same
source "And the mainstream reviewing establishment (which is crumbling
by the minute) validates their choices with fatuous accolades,
recruiting mediocre writers to blurb (review) them."

Want to know my personal opinion? WRITERS UNITE.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Often Art Succeeds Where All Else Fails

Once upon a time, alas by now a long time ago, when Gypsies or to be
correct the Roma people where still allowed to follow the nomadic lives
of their choice, there were those afraid of and maligning, rightly or
wrongly, strangers who entered their settled lives. But much stronger
than the prejudice against the Roma outsiders, were perceptions of
freedom and romanticism they inspired. Great writers depicted their
lives with love and longing: Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dumas, Marquez, and on
and on. But as the last of their ancient treks were barred and they were
pushed more and more into subhuman poverty and isolation, with their
freedom they soon lost their romantic sheen, leaving nothing but
misconceptions, lack of empathy, and downright racial hatred. By
contrast I have never met a person who personally knows the Roma people,
and who hates them and/or still harbors these misconceptions.

To reverse the increasingly one-sided negative image of this ancient
ethnic minority, I feel art is starting to play a dominant role. Fashion
shows with beautiful Roma women showing off their colorful and fluid
attires, movie and documentary film makers are and have been entering
the day-to-day of their lives and art. More than fifteen years ago, I
started research on my novel Dosha, flight of the Russian Gypsies. A lot
of my material came from the Russian Gypsy writer Mateo Maximoff, for
the rest I prayed that God give me the power to do justice to their
harmonious and rich culture. When I started, Gypsies in Western Europe
lived mostly in harmony within the majority that surrounded them. Then I
merely wanted to reveal the reality behind the myth. Now that an
economic downturn has stirred up renewed and deadly persecutions, I hope
my novel will highlight the inhumanity of their persecutors. Once again
humans are persecuting and killing fellow humans, the very act that
originally decided Gypsies to keep moving into the sanctity of nature,
and thereby remain outsiders to the human killer fields.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Save The Roma/Gypsy Children Of Kosovo

I was told by Roma in Kosovo, that their families had been settled in
houses, in villages for centuries there. They had jobs, they had small
business. They lost everything including many loved ones during NATO's
"humanitarian" bombings during the last Kosovo war. This in turn, with
UN troops looking the other way, was followed by the Kosovo Liberation
Army's and triumphant Albanians' vengeful campaigns of rape, torture,
random assassinations of Roma believed to have sided with the Serbs. The
surviving Roma were either expelled or forced to live on lead polluted

One who I am honored to call my friend, Paul Polansky, a poet and tried
and true friend of Kosovar Roma, told me children are born with bleeding
gums and stunted growth on those dumps. He took several of them to
Germany for observation and possible help. Many other Kosovar Roma had
sought refuge in Germany. Roma children were born and raised there. Now
they are being forced to return to Kosovo, into an environment of
hatred, possible torture and death.

The Roma are like us. They love their children. Back them up by raising

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Political Invisibility Vs. A New Type Of Leader For Europe’s Gypsy/ Roma People

There are between 12 and 16 million Roma living in Europe. Increased
persecution coupled with an absence of legal protection and the most
basic human rights are pushing Europe's Gypsy people to protect
themselves the way they have for over 600 years – they withdraw into
invisibility. Their life-expectancy is low, the general health of many
is often poor, their children are discriminated in school or are not
obtaining formal education at all. They are murdered by fire-bombs in
their sleep, women and children openly attacked in the streets, and
newspapers, radios and television stations rarely direct attention to
Europe's latest episode of a holocaust that never really left.

It seems that Roma are waking up to the fact that a new type of leader
is needed for their people, one who unites, at least to the outside, the
many separate tribes. He has to be Roma, for Gypsies can only be lead by
one of their own. One who builds bridges across the ancient divide
between Roma and the majority population and starts chipping away at the
many misconceptions held rigidly by both sides. A leader like Martin
Luther King comes to mind, a man of faith and dedication, who believed
in using civil disobedience and other peaceful means to cross the racial
divide here in the States. I have known such Roma men: Mateo
Maximoff, a Russian Gypsy, living in Paris. He was a man of religion, an
evangelical pastor. He had reached across the divide, was backed by
friends on both sides. Gypsies then, up to 1999, the year of his death,
were doing relatively well in France. He was and still is well known by
Roma here in the United States. There are Roma like him right here in
the States, just as there must be in Europe too, Roma men of faith,
dedicated and selfless. Change has to happen, and it has to happen now.

Monday, July 12, 2010


[Roma Virtual Network (romale@zahav.net.il)]
July 5, 2010

"There is a real desire in France to silence all stories dealing with
violations of Roma rights, and so very few are aware of what is about to
take place this week, in a small shanty town called Hanul, located in
St.Denis"………that's near Paris,France.


Anybody remember the holocaust, porraimos (the devouring) as the Gypsies
call it? Well that's exactly how that started. No press. After that 80
million Germans looked the other way. Only when the American press
finally picked up the story, by which time millions of innocent people
had been murdered, did the world do something about it.

How many lessons does it take, for some fundamentals to finally sink in?
What you do or let happen to others, will in the end catch up with you.
Germany paid dearly, and was only able to get up from her knees, when
America pulled her back up.

The Gypsies are Europe's most vulnerable and, yes, innocent minority.
Maybe they steal when they're hungry, not different from any other
hungry mouth, but they have never been killers. They are our human
brothers and sisters, part of our human family, stand up and speak out
for their rights. It will create a world in which all of us can thrive.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Racist

A person who had followed me on social media wrote me a note, calling me
naïve and romantic in my position toward Gypsies. I kept no notes, so
this is from memory. They are all alike, the person stated, and
proceeded to tell me what had happened to them in Italy. Namely, Gypsies
had entered a store, had separated this couple into different corners,
took their wallets and left.

1. Anybody who grows up in a war is ever naïve; they would never live to
tell the tale.

2. Gypsies had entered the store. Were they wearing traditional cloths,
hat, neck scarf and all? The only indication to me that these may have
Gypsies is they left this couple alive.

3. This brings me to the cause of such behavior, should they indeed have
been Gypsies. I grew up in part in Italy. In my days there were Roma,
established Roma there, they bothered nobody to my knowledge. In those
days, the fifties, poor, underprivileged Italians were doing the
stealing, although they often did not leave their victims alive. The
problem with Roma arose with a sudden influx of Yugoslav Gypsies, many
of whom had served as human shields during the brutal wars in that
corner of the world. Now in Italy, they have no place to stay, no work,
no protection and on and on. They have two options to survive: beg or
steal. Which would any of us chose? Growing up in the war, everybody
stole. The German Catholic church had a word for it, "Mundraub" i.e.
food theft, and declared it not a sin.

4. This person's knowledge of Gypsies, if that is indeed who they were,
is basically that one run-in. She is now ready to condemn 12 million of
them. I have known Gypsies/Roma all my life. I have encountered them in
the woods during the war, I have lived with them, have been close to
them. I have never felt threatened, nor been afraid they would steal my
belongings. Would that be true for all? No! They are people like us.
They have their bad and their good.

So how do you deal with racism? This person, however hard I tried to
convince him/her of the contrary, had turned into a racist who will
spread his/her very impassioned impressions to whoever will listen to
it. Worse he/she will pass it on to their children. And there lies the
true root of racism. Racism starts in the home. In the interest of world
peace and survival: fight racism at its roots.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Decade of Roma Inclusion: Is it Working?

2005-2015 A political commitment by Governments to fight Roma poverty
and discrimination. We're half-way through. Has it worked?

On the political majority side, if anything prejudice and vicious
persecutions in a down-economy have risen. What about the Roma side,
Europe's largest minority? Gypsies are always a reflection of their
surroundings. While still nomadic, they lived in perfect harmony with
their surroundings, respecting life of humans and animals alike. Their
response to the wars raging around them, has always been avoidance. But
they have been forcibly pulled off their ancient treks and pushed into
cage-like settlements into the poorest, least law-abiding sections of
Western society, where they have to survive surrounded by prejudice and
downright hatred. But Gypsies have had at their core family ties
stronger than of those who surround them. These families close in on to
themselves when they feel threatened, a tool of survival, yet by now
resulting in a weakness of the Gypsy population as a whole. The Roma
population has been and still is divided into tribes and family units.
As a result they do not, nor ever have had, a unified political voice.
This and their peaceful nature makes them very vulnerable and defenseless.

The big question is, why an intelligent, talented people with strong
family ties and loyalties, who are not known to turn to violent
reprisals, fanaticism or radicalism like so many other ethnic groups,
why are they so maligned and hated.

The answer is simple: Those around them do not know nor understand them.
They see them only through the eyes of prejudice and misconceptions. The
big task is for both sides to learn more about each other, have the
separate communities get into real contact.

My personal feeling is that, so far, the economic downturn and the
efforts made by several human rights organizations have so far merely
raised awareness of the existing and enduring problems. To my mind that
is a step in the right direction. The next step has to be finding a way
to solve these problems, through education, training of job skills,
acceptance and respect. For the Roma the prize cannot be a loss of their
culture. Theirs is a peaceful culture, we can learn from them in that
respect. The petty criminality they are accused of is a function of
poverty, no different than existed among Europe's poor before their
nations turned wealthier, offering an escape from poverty. Now only Roma
seem to have to live under third world conditions, that is what now has
to change.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Who is Behind the Successful Rise of the Neo-Nazis in Hungary?

[Herald Scotland, Monday 14 June 2020]:
Hungary's far-ight backed by 'rolling Moscow roubles'
Gabriel Ronay in Budapest, Hungary

13 Jun 2010

"Hungary's Jobbik party, the shrillest among Central and Eastern
Europe's far right parties, has been exposed as having received secret
financial support from Russia as quid pro quo for its anti-European
Union and anti-Nazi bluster.

The issue of 'rolling Russian gold roubles', and alleged 'Iranian cash
gifts' helping sustain a virulently anti-Roma and anti-semitic party
that flaunts its hostility to Western liberal democracy is troubling
Hungarian public opinion.

The proto-fascist party's xenophobia and strong-arm actions against what
it calls 'the criminal Roma' have secured it a measure of popularity –
and, because of its anti-Western stance, Russia's interest is not

All I can say, as one who grew up in the midst of racial strife, to the
Hungarian people: Watch out. Racial strife kills on both sides of the
aisle. Remember the American Civil war! Remember Germany. They killed
all those people, but there was nothing left of Germany in the end.
They were lucky the American offered them a helping hand, else…………nobody
knows what would have happened to a Germany in rubble.

Friday, June 11, 2010

MOTHER TERESA -- tiny Gypsy woman, Great Saint to us all.

I always believed she was an Albanian Gypsy, but a Roma friend told me
she was a Macedonian Gypsy living among Albanians. One thing I am sure
of, Mother Teresa, never asked the question – who are you, where are you
from, what ethnic group do you belong to? She worked among the poorest
of the poor, hers was the heart of true humanity. A guiding light in a
destructive world, nobody deserves more than Mother Teresa to have the
Empire State building lit in honor of her 100th birthday.

In fact her type of religiosity and goodness of the heart I have found
among other religious Gypsies. I have been religious without being a
churchgoer since my childhood days in a war zone. I once told a Roma
pastor, a church is only as good as its pastor. I have come across only
a few religious leaders who actually stuck their neck out to help the
persecuted. I rarely felt God in the European churches I grew up with. I
did feel his presence, a true gift, in a Roma church in Florida, which I
frequent as often as I can. There too, the pastor, his wife and his
congregation, even in these tough economic times, try to reach out to
whoever is poor and near.

We are all of the same human race that from time to time produces a true
star. Mother Teresa is such a star. She would have wanted us to stick
together, and work toward a better world.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

GYPSY, the word

It was a misnomer from the beginning. When a group of travelers arrived
into medieval Europe in the fourteen hundreds, they were believed to
come from Egypt, therefore they were called Egyptians/Gypsies. These
colorful travelers, entertainers, fortune-tellers, horse-people did
nothing to dispel that misconception. Their country, ever since leaving
India hundreds of years before, was the open road; they interacted with
outsiders merely to supply their families with the necessities of life.

At first these entertaining people were greeted with open arms, they
brought joy into the harsh life of sedentary folks who were divided into
a handful of rulers and a vast majority of the poor who had to serve
these few rich and powerful. But it did not take long for this
underclass of peasants and servants to become envious of the freedom and
independence of these often dark-skinned nomadic strangers, who were and
always had been people of peace. The sedentary folks started taking up
whatever arms were at hand – after all wars were part of their lives –
and went to hunt down these nomads who abhorred violence and killings.
They killed many outright, in brutal medieval fashion, many were caged
like animals of the wild. The persecution of the Gypsies, their real
name is Roma, has had its ups and downs, but has never truly stopped. It
is reaching another peak in Europe as I am writing this.

Many, not all, of the Gypsy people now want to be known as Roma only.
That is their right, their choice. To them the word Gypsy has become a
derogatory term, a curse. I cannot help but feel a certain sadness. To
me personally the word Gypsy has always meant warmth, loyalty, and love
of life. In my darkest moments there was always some Gypsy or other to
pat me on the shoulder, to sit down with me and talk. It is not the
Gypsy who has sullied that word, it is us. For, be honest, who among you
has ever experienced harm done by a Gypsy, a Roma? Most of you know them
only through hearsay and prejudice. In reality they are part of and
contributors to our culture. I would feel mournful at having to bury the
Gypsy word. But nomads have always buried their loved ones and tragedies
and walked into the future. We have much to learn from them.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Howling Of The Wolf!

For a long time I didn't remember seeing them. But I remember their
howling, like true Gypsy music it went right to my heart. It enabled my
soul to lift above my body and fly. Taste the beauty of freedom. For I
knew that while the wolves howled, we were safe in those forests, or in
those abandoned buildings, where we hid getting away from Nazi killers,
or anybody else who killed before asking questions in the war zones of
World War II. For who knew the forest better than the highly
intelligent wolf? Always on the prowl, communicating with each other,
they knew before anybody else if there was an intruder, a killer on the
prowl. Then, a few days ago, while walking my beloved pooch around a
pond, I noticed a black dog standing in the water and intensely staring
at his feet. That's when I remembered a wolf, like the dog, fishing.
Then other memories came back, witnessing a wolf, almost playfully
jumping up and down, while catching mice. "It's what they live off," my
father told me.

I buried most of my memories of war in order to be able to walk into the
future, but wolves left their imprint on my soul. I have since studied
them through reading. They live by moral codes we most value in man:
they choose a mate for life, they are loyal to each other, they both
care for the pups, and in fact the whole extended family does. I've have
never heard of a wolf attacking man, except maybe in self-defense.

We must stop the killing of this noble and beautiful creature. Look into
his human eyes! Killing them from the air for sport, is abhorrent,
sub-human. Save the American Wolf!

Thursday, May 20, 2010



I was a teenager when I first arrived in the States. I arrived from
Italy where, as the poor relative of a wealthy family, I was told the
facts of life. Marriage was not about romance. It was an alliance of
mutual benefits. Since I was penniless, my sole assets were good looks
and health. The latter was of prime importance, since my major
contribution was to ensure the continuation of an old family line. (I
never signed on to that one on the dotted line since I was a rebel since
birth. I did, however, apply the concept later on in my life to the
breeding of top competition horses.)

Formal education for a "young lady" was not required, I was assured.
Instead I was taught to talk about art and music in multiple languages,
appear not too intelligent, and eat modestly when in company. Of the
utmost importance was virginity. How else could I guarantee not to
function as a cuckoo's nest? In those days, in the Italy I inhabited,
potential in-laws were allowed to study you in detail, whereas the
potential suitor was limited to a mere ogle, but any type of touch was
out of the question, as was time alone before an official engagement.
These suitors often had titles, but resembled in no way Michelangelo's
statue of David, which I in turn used to ogle, discretely, wondering.

With that preparatory introduction into life's facts, I arrived in the
U.S. There, in a small town, I was to attend an American high school for
six months out of the year. What I found were bobby socks, strange ways
of dressing, chewing gum and blowing huge bubbles, and a culture of
Romance; from going wild while dancing jitterbugs, to the grindingly
slow cheek-to-cheek dancing in the dark. Allowed were open appraisals of
a girl's curves, followed by whistles (behavior reserved for lower
classes in Italy, and mostly applied to tourists from Northern
countries). Rampant was an activity called 'Necking". This was carried
out mostly in the backseats of some parents' car, movie theaters, in
parking lots, or along riversides. Everything was allowed: touching,
'French' kissing, except………IT. Nice girls were virgins here too on their
wedding night. In America, if this was not the case, an American friend
told me, you simply assure him he is the second, i.e. slip-ups can
happen. In Italy by contrast, I was told there were surgical procedure
to put things back into order.

Any type of nudity was out of the question. No bikinis, as heavily
guarded virgins in Italy were allowed to wear, no nude pictures in
magazines. The kind of openly pornographic material I was used to seeing
on newspaper stands in Paris were, I believe, here were punishable by
U.S. law. I felt like an alien who had landed on Planet U.S.A. Of
course, instead of peer pressure, I had family pressure. Juvenile
American sexual behaviors were strictly off limits to me. Nor was I
tempted. Came prom night. Several young men, among them the high school
tennis star asked me out, but I was obliged to go with a young man,
intelligent, nice and nerdy, simply because he was my cousin's closest
friend. The evening was awkward, with much blushing and little dialogue.
When finally he walked me back up a hill to our house, and in front of
our entrance bent over and out of nowhere shot his tongue toward my
mouth, like a sleepy lizard catching a fly, my instinctive reaction was
to whack him across the face, which in turn sent him flying to his
parents stationed in their car at the bottom of the hill waiting for his

That same evening my cousin told me, he, the prom date, only did what
was expected of him. So did I. Of course now, 2010, Grandma Sonia knows
that date was somebody's most beloved son and hope for the future, who
had finally gotten up the courage in the chiaroscuro of our house
entrance. In retrospect I'd say, we merely remained, each of us, on our
own side of the cultural divide.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

WRITING, good/bad …… versus…… LITERATURE, good/bad,What’s The Difference, Really?

Since I am either a nomad, -- which I used to be fulltime, but have
since forsaken -- or a workaholic, -- which I used to be part-time, but
now am full time -- I read strictly for fun. Now fun varies from person
to person, just as when someone reviews a book, he or she is merely
expressing his or her personal opinion. Do not let that influence you.
Make up your own mind.
As for myself, I actually had great fun reading Chaucer in Middle
English with the help of a great Chaucerian scholar. While I owned close
to 20 horses, -- i.e. muck muck muck stalls till you drop drop drop
--- I had almost as much fun reading Romance novels. I spent close to a
year reading close to one a day. (I didn't get much sleep when I was
young. One of the Pharoas said: Sleep is the brother of death, which
somehow stuck to me). I was amazed at how well these writers, the good
ones, were in command of their craft. So are the ones who write
marvelous series.

So why, would they never be considered for a Nobel Prize or the
Pulitzer? Which happen to be some of the great and few rewards for the
serious writer. It's the word "serious" that makes the difference.
Literature serves as the mirror to our lives and to our place in
history, even to our fantasies. It has to be brutally honest. It has to
have meaning. It, more than any other art form, goes into the depth of
our lives, easily combining the life of the body and that of the mind
and soul. To do this, the writer has to be master of the craft of
writing. He also has to be able to afford the time and isolation to
create such works of culture and history. He has to be able to make a
living. We have already lost some of our brightest minds to banking,
instead of the sciences because of the lure of the mighty dollar.

Striving for good literature is more important than striving for
commercial success. It is a cause for which writers and readers have to

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Perilous Maiden Flight Of The Newborn Novel.

You write, because your passion is the written word. You make love to
life, in order to give birth to creatures made of words. The incubation
is often longer than for any other creature born of mind or body. Labor
is long and painful. But at long last your creature born of passion has
come to life. You have to let it fly. But the journey ahead is perilous
and instead of friends is full of judges, who decide who will live and
who will die. First are the hunters, agents for those who have conquered
the power to decide who can seek the light and who will be banned to the
realm of shades. You, mother of your creation tries to shadow your
hatchling with wide spread wings. But those who judge your hatchling
from the ground below and you, will rarely see eye to eye. You are from
different spheres. When, suddenly, luck comes to your aid. One of your
own is chosen to claim a piece of glory for its own. You cannot help but
glow with relief and pride.

Not so fast, for there is more.

Last but not least, fellow writers, there are the reviewers. And, after
all that circling and search in flight they can swat your newborn to the
ground. By then you, its creator, have stepped naked into the world.
Every pimple, every scar, every part of your body is out there in the
open, there for the world to examine, to take apart, like a sentence
that can't be put back together again. But……………..

You not to worry, beloved writer friend. Never forget, it is you who has
the wings. It is you, who knows how to fly. All it takes is find the
proper place to land. Once there, shake your feathers, let brilliance
shine from your eyes, as you seduce your mate the reader, into your nest
of fantasy and life that knows no limits .

Monday, April 26, 2010


[Roma Daily News] American student discovering "Gypsies in France."

I hope I am not the only one upset about this tale, of an American
student coming across her first live Gypsies in Paris/France. Her
perception vacillates between the Disney depiction of the Gypsy girl
Esmeralda of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and upon meeting desperate
Gypsies trying to survive by begging and/or stealing in the streets,
snapping to the conclusion that the latter had to be part of their DNA.

Should you blame the girl? We all know racial prejudice starts in the
home. But this is no child, this is a student studying global studies
and history. Her brain should be trained to question before jumping to

What she saw had very little to do with Gypsies. It had everything to do
with poverty. When I was a young girl, living in Italy in the 50's, the
same behavior, theft, pick-pocketing and much worse was common in the
streets of Italy. Then the perpetrators were part of Italy's vast
poverty in a society that to me, a child of war, seemed feudal: The very
rich, little in between, and a vast incredibly poor underclass. They
had the advantage of at least being in the country of their own. The
poor Gypsies the student came across often are refugees of a war in
Yugoslavia, where many were used as human shields. Most of the ones in
the street are homeless, hungry, desperate in a world that doesn't seem
to care.

Friday, April 23, 2010


It's the yearly migration from South to North. A generous fellow 'snow
bird' friend sends me off with "Solar" - 9 CD's, 11.1/2 hours. I try to
protest. Since the written word is the altar at which I worship, I am
very finicky about what I read. I will glance at many a new book, but
refuse to read for the sake of keeping up, or because I have nothing
else to do, which is never. My friend leaves the Audio on my porch.

First day of my 22 hour drive: I insert the first CD of "Solar." It's
the story of a Nobel-price-winning physicist. I grew up among such
persons, there were times when they shared my living space, but their
minds were forever far away. So, listening to tale of such a one, of
course I'm hooked. I am fascinated by the ease with which Ian McEwan's
creates mental labyrinths that lure his reader to explore the hardest
theoretical argument for a lay person to follow; translating complex
science for the consumption of the non-scientific mind. His protagonist,
Michael Beard, goes so far as to get funding for the creation of a
fictional power station, complete with switch, for him to throw, that
would alter energy consumption from polluting to clean.

However, it is during explorations of the personal inner world of
Michael Beard - his agile, problem-solving, work-obsessed mind with the
underlying character of a louse - that I feel most acutely the happy
play of the writer behind the tale. Here his male fantasy reaches
unprecedented heights, as his protagonist - a fat, bald, stingy guy not
only has sex aplenty, but is loved by every female, young and riper,
with whom he crawls into bed, marital or long-term affair. I furthermore
did not come across any dead zones, tempting me to switch to local news.
I cursed the Jersey Turnpike where my mind had to turn to survival in
bumper-to-bumper traffic instead of listening and savoring the exploits,
both mental and physical, of the horny Nobel-prize winning physicist.

I did feel something was missing. But then, in almost every novel,
something is missing. I was curious how other readers felt. Upon my
arrival on the weekend there it was: Front-page - The New York Times
Book Review: Human Orbits, by Walter Kirn:

"According to the perverse aesthetic of artistic guilty pleasure,
certain books and movies are so bad – so crudely conceived, despicably
motivated and atrociously executed – that they're actually rather good.
'Solar,' the new novel by Ian McEwan, is just the opposite: a book so
good – so ingeniously designed, irreproachably high-minded and
skillfully brought off – that it's actually quite bad. Instead of being
awful yet absorbing, it's impeccable yet numbing, achieving the sort of
superbly wrought inertia of a Romanesque cathedral. There's so little
wrong with it that there's nothing particularly right about it, either.
It's impressive to behold but something of a virtuous pain to read."

In other words the reviewer, Walter Kim, pans it. And, once again, I am
struck at how personal the enjoyment and identification with any art
form has been and still is. Of course a review is always someone's
personal opinion, no more. I personally have been often disappointed
when, after reading good reviews, I bought the book, only to find it
painfully mediocre. So reader – beware!

Monday, April 12, 2010


[Roma Virtual Network]: Interview with Adriatik Hasantari by Ariadna.

"I came to work on Roma issues at the end of 2002, so it's been more or
less seven years. I was working in a settlement in Tirana, when
habitants from the north were coming south for housing. We were trying
to use games to work with children, to give them some social life. At
that moment, I began to work with Roma children. The point is, when I
was working with Albanian children, I couldn't get their attention. I
had to give them a banana to get their attention. But Roma children
didn't need fruit. They needed attention and they needed to learn. In
one month in a very poor area, the Roma children were able to write
their names and calculate numbers, and these children were never in
school before."

Bravo! For years now I have been reading nothing but European reports of
how Roma children have to be sent to school for the mentally retarded,
or classrooms set aside specifically for them. I myself, who have been
involved with Roma since childhood, came to the conclusion that whoever
came to these findings needed special education, or maybe some classes
in understanding Roma. Personally, what always struck me when getting to
know Roma, was their eagerness to learn, men and women alike. How
devoted they were to their children, whom they consider their most
valuable assets. How they wanted, like most parents, a better life for them.

I personally found Roma children to be quick and intelligent. They
otherwise could not survive in a world surrounded by hostility and
persecution as is theirs. Of course, Roma parents in many European
countries are hesitant to sending their children to the sorts of school
that treats them as retards or persons to be scorn. Most non-Roma would
refuse to send their children to school under those circumstances.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

WRITERS/READERS ---- Beware of Hype over Substance!

I don't know about you, but as I collapse after a long day's work,
searching for something interesting or funny on TV for relaxation, I
switch through . . . what? Hundreds of channels at my paid-for disposal,
to find mostly reruns of crime shows, sitcoms: rarely do I find a new or
original program.

I was really looking forward to the movie "Avatar". Something different,
I thought, from the typical blockbuster movie. And the technical effects
were indeed extraordinary, poetic at times. But something was missing,
an underlying structure that would have made it great. What was the
missing link?

I had been a great admirer of the first "Star Wars" movie. The technical
effects were superb, the characters original and new. Most of all there
was the storyline that took us on a magic carpet into a world of fantasy
made believable. The alien as well as the human creatures portrayed the
heights and depths of ourselves. The fight between good versus evil, was
one we could and wanted to identify with.

It had precisely what "Avatar" was missing, a great storyline. Writers
create plays and story lines, for movies, for TV shows. Great writers
create work that truly impacts, scenarios that expose our deeper selves.

The U.S. used to have an abundance of such talent. Where has it gone?
Without meaningful literature our culture will have a dark hole at its
core. It will decline and, ultimately, collapse.

We have to recreate an environment where our writers are able to
perform. We have to shrink the hype and allow substance once again to
blossom. Let readers (I know they're out there, waiting), not big
corporations decide what will make it to the top.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

WRITERS UNITE – Before it’s too late.

The New York Review of Books – March 10, 2010
Jason Epstein: PUBLISHING: The Revolutionary Future

"Traditional territorial rights will become superfluous and a worldwide,
uniform copyright convention will be essential. Protecting content from
unauthorized file sharers will remain a vexing problem that raises
serious questions about the viability of authorship, for without
protection authors will starve and civilization will decline....

"The difficult, solitary work of literary creation, however, demands
rare individual talent and in fiction is almost never collaborative.
Social networking may expose readers to this or that book but violates
the solitude required to create artificial worlds with real people in them."

Brilliant article in my favorite literary magazine. Thank you Jason Epstein.

More to follow……………

Leave comments, let's find a way to unite and find a system not only to
work together, but to reach out for our readers and their support.

Monday, March 22, 2010

MATEO MAXIMOFF, Writer from an Oral Culture

He did not start out with exposure to the written word, although unlike
most Roma his father, a Kalderash Rom from Russia taught him how to
read, write and count. What he did bring to literature was a long
tradition of poetry and storytelling. His ancestors created poems for
special occasions, poems to be recited at funerals and left behind like
their history, without leaving a written trace. At the fall of night
nomadic Roma used to sit around roaring fires, letting their minds roam
free, creating wild stories of adventure and creatures only the mind can

He told me, for I was fortunate to be his friend toward the end of his
life, he started to write in prison, where he landed because of a family
feud. He translated that feud into his first novel, the Ursitory, the
novel that led me to Mateo. I was struck at once by the musicality of
his writing, although he wrote in French, not Romani. Yet even in a
language not his own, the sounds of his words were a major dimension of
the text. At the time I was studying Joyce and Chaucer, both giants of
the rhythm and sounds of their words enveloping their text. By
comparison Maximoff was a child of nature, an enchanting, seductive
artist drawing you into a world of natural magic. And like most true
writers, writing was the truest, richest form of living for him, to the
very end. I was supposed to meet him once again in Paris, but he was
already in a hospital for the last time. The year was 1999. There was no
way for us to communicate. No cell phones to reach each other. As a
result I did not see him while his life was fading, instead his image,
his husky Roma voice remained alive for me, as alive as the surviving
sounds and visions of his writings.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Distorted Brotherhood Of Man

I grew up in an era of mass murder. Hitler not only targeted Jews and
Gypsies. He targeted Poles, homosexuals, the insane, political
dissidents. Millions died in the countries he invaded. I understand 25
million Russians alone died in World War II. Hitler was of course far
from the only one using power for mass murder. Stalin and Mao Zedong
more than held their own in this era of horror and inhumanity.

It would take years for me to learn the full extent of the war. All I
grew up knowing was that any stranger was presumed an enemy. When in
doubt, kill. War on a planning board and war on the ground are two
unrelated realities. War on the ground has no logic; humanity is
replaced by killer instinct.

On the other side of that brutality was the need to trust. We trusted
our own. We trusted those we knew were persecuted like ourselves, those
who like us were on the run. Among them were Roma, then known only as
Gypsies. They were different from us, in dress, in custom, in language.
I don't remember animosity between us. Once back in Cologne, where I was
born, it was with a group of Gypsy kids that I "procured" potatoes and
briquettes for heating off railway cars in the dark. I knew we were
different, what brought us together was a humanity that was stronger
than the differences. Many of us had shared similar fates.

After the war I lost track of Roma. I lived in a world removed from
theirs, until 1995, when I picked up a pen and started to relive the
past. Once again, I connected with Roma as much as I could. I tried to
find out how Roma were faring in the after-war. In France I asked my
friend Mateo Maximoff, the Kalderash writer, how Gypsies were doing in
France. He told me they were doing alright, there was no trouble. All
the people from his clan had jobs in factories and hospitals repairing
pots, etc. In Italy I was told, Gypsies had resumed their lives from
before the war. They traveled the shores of the Mediterranean and the
Adriatic selling trinkets in the summer, doing itinerant farm work
whenever possible.

Then attitudes began to change. I witnessed the first open hostility
toward Roma in Paris, when a furious bell hop in front of a fancy Paris
hotel chased away a young Gypsy woman with a baby clutched to her chest.
Nobody seemed to care. The woman was alone with her baby, she looked
homeless. I later figured out she must have been a refugee. The Yugoslav
war, where Roma had been used as human shields, had come to an end. Roma
started to flood Western Europe in search of hope, only to crash into a
growing wall of hate.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Could The Dream Of Romasia Work In Reality?

[Roma Daily News] The first stone of Romasia, the land of Roma dream,
has been laid.

….."the idea was to purchase farmland, or to renovate derelict and
abandoned farmhouses where we could create working communities (many
have compared these Romasia farms to the Israeli kibbutz). The working
communities would consist of Roma families with a certain kinship,
people with skill in construction, agriculture, cattle-breeding – skills
that exist in practically every Roma nucleus, and are often carried out
to a high level of specialization and expertise."

I have lived on a Kibbutz in Israel in the early 60's. It was the
purest form of communism, in the good the sense, that I have ever come
across. The problem is that this form of isolationism cannot sustain
itself without solid bridges to the world that surrounds it. In this
increasingly complex world everything has to boil down to a give and
take. We all have to fit into and share this modern community of man,
otherwise instead of creating a separate community/country we create a
zone of war. I believe in diversity of cultures, I also believe that
without building bridges of peace and cooperation they will be endangered.

Meanwhile….. "the dream of building Romasia has gone ahead – but with
the help of private funds. The project is underway in Arad (Romania)
while the first plot of land has already been purchased in Costata
(again Romania)….."

Something positive has to happen to offer Europe's Roma a life worth
living. I do hope and wish this could be that solution, and it could,
with all sides willing to compromise.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Legend Of When Roma Still Had Wings….

And those forced to live on the ground envied the Roma people their beautiful wings, with which they were able to soar in freedom high above the misery below. That was the way of Gypsy life until the day they were lured out of the sky by an open courtyard glittering with gold and precious Stones. From the moment they landed, blinded by greed for the glistening treasures, dark ravens robbed the Gypsy people of their magical wings. It was from then on, that Roma were forced to cross the land of the Gadje like everyone else on the ground.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gypsy Soul…

The credit for this belongs to Orhan Tahir, a young man from Romania, who collects and sends these YouTube video to me on Facebook. To my mind this video combines the Roma’s love of horses, music, dance and love itself. Watch and enjoy!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Adieu To A Rrom I…Sadly…Never Knew.

[Roma Virtual Network]: Died: 24 December, 2009, in East Kilbridge, aged 60.

Alexander Kennedy “Elic was a great character who lived life to the full. He had a great sense of fun and loved engaging with people from all walks of life. He loved nothing better than taking his vardo (traditional Romany wagon) to what is now left of the traditional Gypsy gatherings such as St. Boswells, Brough Hill and Appleby. The first thing he would do was light up a “stick fire” where everybody would congregate and pass the time of day. Whether you were Giorgio..” (non-Gypsy) ..”or Gypsy Traveller you would walk away with a history lesson. If you hung about long enough, and many did, you would get a right good feed from the many pots cooking over the fire (nouvelle cuisine was certain not on his menu).”

To me nothing could describe the beauty and true humanity of traditional Gypsy life better than the above paragraph. I was very fortunate to have been invited in my younger days into circles of this beautiful culture. Many have tried to snuff out that culture as if it were merely the flickering light of a lone candle. But that culture has survived against all odds. I have personally met a Roma leader of that deep humanity right here in the U.S.A. Many of those I knew in Europe have passed on, men and women. But the Roma culture will go on giving birth to such selfless, noble character as the above Alexander Kennedy. May God protect Europe’s Roma, and let us down here on earth give him a strong helping hand.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Needed Urgently By European Roma: A Bridge To Hope

Nothing illustrates this better than a short documentary made by
award-winning filmmaker Arpad Bogdan. For years I have received
invaluable information from Roma Virtual Network. I received this link
through them. I implore my friends and fellow Roma activists to help me
get this urgent call for help into American newspapers, radios, and
Television stations.


The European Roma you'll meet in this documentary, are the same Roma
I've known and loved since my early years. Let's link hands and help.
Leave a comment on this blog, let's find a way.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hitler Versus Stalin, Who Was Worse?

When during a cable TV interview I was asked how I felt about Stalin
versus Hitler, German army versus Soviet army, I answered that although
upon chasing the fleeing German army, the Russians killed many partisans
on sight, I never felt the same animosity toward the Russians as I felt
toward the Germans. After all, the Russians had lost 25 million people
during the war, and war is always ugly and unpredictable. "On the other
hand," I said, "Stalin had killed more people than Hitler, but he killed
his own". This was not only picked up by my interviewer, Doug Holder,
who at once asked me whether the Jews and Gypsies had not been Germans.
To which I answered, of course, they were Germans. This same remark was
also picked up by a Roma lady, who posted that comment on a website not
my own. So what did I mean?

First, I was simply repeating what had been ingrained into me since
childhood in Europe, and I had left it in my mind untouched. I believe I
also found it written in books comparing the two dictatorships. I myself
was struck that I had never really thought about this issue, especially
since I firmly believe that if you live in a country, fought for what
you consider your country as so many German Jews and Gypsies had, you
are certainly a citizen of that country, and you should have equal
rights. I have since talked with several educated Europeans and an
American journalist, and I have come to the following interpretation of
what was commonly accepted as a statement in the Europe of the past.

Stalin killed his own, because communism had unified all Russians
minorities and ethnic Russians to be one people with equal rights, on
the surface. Stalin killed those who opposed his ideas and his regime,
no matter what their separate ethnic identities had been before Soviet

Hitler's ideology by contrast was about race. He wanted to create a
master race, catering to the romantic German notion of a 'greater German
space'. This dream festered in the German national mind ever since her
unification, through Bismarck, in 1860. Germany as a state was still
young in the thirties and remained extremely tribal. Germany's Jews and
Gypsies were not only of a different race, most were of a different
religion. Even a family like mine, although catholic like almost all of
Cologne, Germany, was looked upon as suspect, since we didn't look, nor
behaved like Germans, and we were of mixed blood. We never really
thought of ourselves as typically German. In fact many of us not only
resisted the Nazi regime by going underground during the war, but many
of us left Germany and changed passports as soon as the first
opportunity came along.

So, to my fellow Roma activists out there, let me clarify my feelings.
Now, that most of the former European countries are united into one
Europe, just as my family would not have differentiated between
mainstream population and German ethnic minorities, I now feel European
Roma and Jews are of course rightfully Europeans. They should have the
same rights, government protections and respect. They should also have
the right to preserve their own culture, the way of many other European
sub-cultures. I believe what we are witnessing now is a result of
remnants of that same primitive tribalism that scapegoats defenseless
minorities in times of economic downturns. But, although life is being
made unbearable, especially for many European Roma, now Europe's largest
ethnic minority, I am optimistic. I follow enough news reports to know
that within European governments and Human Rights organizations many are
fighting to repair this historical injustice. I believe this will come
to fruition in the end, for if this effort fails, so will European unity
and democracy. We do have to remain vigilant and united in our efforts
to fight for minority rights.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

KRISTALLNACHT ALL OVER AGAIN ... Only this time it’s against the Gypsies/Roma

[Roma Daily News] Turkey: Rising discrimination in society rings alarm

10/01/2010 – "The trend reached its peak this week when nearly 1,000
residents of Manisa's Selendi district attacked the area's Roma
community, stoning their homes and demolishing their stores in the
aftermath of a brief brawl allegedly over cigarette smoking at a
coffeehouse in the area on New Year's Eve."

The morning after the night of November 9, 1938, an aunt of mine rode
her bicycle through Cologne, Germany toward her place of work. What she
found were streets littered with the shattered glass of windows of
houses and shops of Germany's Jewish minority. It was the true beginning
of the holocaust, visible to all. The other German minority, her Gypsy
population, had no such visible signs. They were lured into death camps
with promises of work and a better life. It was a period of harsh
economic times and high unemployment.

I am a survivor of World War II. I was a child then, and we went
underground. We were never captured. But I lived through the whole
height of inhumanity. I was recently asked in a Cable interview, did I
think the holocaust would ever re-occur. My first answer was no, not to
the same extent of unlimited mass murder over several years. Not unless
news of these occurrences get suppressed in the media, as they did
during the first years of the German holocaust. On the other hand, these
occurrences have to be picked up by major mass media, they have to make
headlines. We, who are fighting for the Rights of Roma, have to make
sure that's where they appear. The Western Press has to zoom in on these
renewed persecutions of the Roma People.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


When I was a hungry child during World War II living with partisans and
others on the run from the Nazi regime, we stole from peasants who were
hoarding their food. The Catholic Church called that 'Mundraub', theft
for food, and declared it not a sin. When the partisans hunted wild boar
and rabbits in stretches of forests owned by German and Polish
aristocrats, who were the only ones allowed to hunt in their own
domains, the former called it poaching, the partisans called it 'law of
road'. When I moved from the poor to the wealthy side of the fence in
Italy after the war, the wealthy expected their servants, drawn from
within the poor, to steal a certain amount. In Sicily the poor,
exploited by absentee landlords, formed the Mafia and called theft even
murder justice. In the European proletariat theft was often accompanied
by murder. Theft is as old as civilization: it is usually a function of
poverty and hunger.

So why do so many paste that label on to the Gypsy/Roma minority, as if
theft were a Gypsy gene. Whenever I lived among Roma, I was never afraid
to leave my belongings with them. The Roma I talk to, consider having to
steal or beg to survive an act of shame. Even Hitler knew that among
nomadic Gypsies there was no crime. It was only after they were forced
off their treks into places of confinement and given only the poorest
possibilities to survive, that petty crime entered their way of life.
And petty crime it is, because, unlike theft by non-Gypsies, theirs is
of hunger and not accompanied by killings. So in the New Year let's
pull that unjust label off the Gypsy/Roma name, make sure that those who
have shared our living space for centuries are given the same rights and
opportunities. Close the gap that has separated us for so long.