©Valeriu Nicolae, 2002, all rights reserved. Published in The Romani Diaspora in Canada: History, Culture & Equity Issues, Editor Ronald Lee et al., 2003, Canadian Scholars Institute Press, Toronto, Canada. Required Course Reading for Spring Seminar, NEW 343HI, University of Toronto.
This is what real life is about for the majority of Romanian Roma, a life most of our politicians don’t care or don’t know about.
Where ever I go people ask me where I am from. The answer is always complicated because I have to explain that although I am from Romania I am a Gypsy (Roma doesn’t say anything to most of them). In Europe, when I give this answer, people look at me like I am crazy. Gypsies are the people no one wants around: the thieves and the beggars who cheat everybody and live rich and carefree lives. But I was the manager of a respectable company with partners all over the continent. I did not prominently display any big gold rings or chains; in fact, I seemed to be absolutely normal. In North America the reaction when I say I am a Gypsy is usually “cool!” They think I must be a free spirit with some mystical ability to read their future in their palms, even though I work as a programmer. None of them know or want to know that life for the majority of Roma in Romania is a daily struggle for survival and nothing else.