The Roma Ethnicity from the point of view of a Gypsy teacher

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The purpose of this study is to tell honestly, what I think about my race, the way we live and the disadvantages I had to face thorough my life. In this paper, I try to avoid presenting boring data about the gypsy community; I rather try to present it as I really see the problems, the negatives and values of my ethnicity. I also make an effort to give you an idea about the gypsy family life, habits. First, I would like to tell some words about my family. I come from a rather big family I have two sisters, they are younger than I.

The reason why I have written that it is a big family is that when thinking of my family I never think just about the close one, but also about the grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces. We are in daily connection, with this I want to express that the family relations play very important role in the life of a gypsy. We have strong relations with our distant relatives as well. As I have heard from my non-gypsy friends, it is not true for them. They just rarely visit their relatives. Holding strict connections with the relatives is very important in every gypsy family.

I do not think that there would be an exception. Here I would like to tell some interesting facts about the roles in a gypsy family as it is in my family. The gypsy wife stays at home to look after the children and do the housework, as my mother does. She has never worked. However, she had the greatest job, to hold the family together, put hot meal on the table everyday. We have never eaten at the school’s canteen. My father never allowed my mother to work. He thought that it is his task to earn money. He always said that in our close or nuclear family everybody has his or her own task.

My mother’s task is to take care of us and the household, his task is to work hard for the money to create a harmonic environment, and our task is to learn hard. He is not strict, but he never allows from this. I think, it is the ideal family structure. Therefore, I wanted to tell some words about my family. My grandparents are analphabets, all of them. I never felt shame about this, I was rather proud of them. You would ask why. The reason is that they reached, of course, with very hard work, that all their children learnt at high schools and became hard working people who are useful parts of our society, here I think of my parents.

Thus, I respect them so much. I know that we are exceptions in this field, because most of the roma society still does not take the notice of the need for learning. They do not see that the only way to adapt themselves to the society is giving their children the opportunity to learn. My parents aim was to give us this opportunity and we, I mean my sisters and me understood and accepted it. We saw that most of our gypsy friends got married so early had children and lived their life for day to day without having any goals in their life. They laughed at us while we were learning and they went out at weekends.

At that time, of course, I also wanted to join them, but my parents did not allow me, now I see that they were right and I am sure that I will do the same in case of my children. After finishing the primary school, I went to secondary school, where I was the only roma student at that time. I had a boy friend, as anybody else at the age of 14, but learning and the wish to make my parents happy was the most important. That was the first time, when I had to face discrimination; I had very good classmates at the primary school, so it frightened me very much.

Until then, I did not know that my race is so prejudiced. They did not care about the fact that I learnt as they did, had clear and nice clothes as they had, they just hated and excommunicated, banned me. I did not understand why, I never hurt them. Then, I realized that the reason of this behavior was my skin. It was darker than theirs was. There was no exception all of them hated me. The most striking sign of it was that I sit alone, at the last table. Sometimes, I had to defend myself by my hands. I tell you a story; once, I came down from upstairs at school and set about a girl.

I asked her to forgive me, but she said that she would forgive in case I change my skin colour, and she also said ‘Smelly Gypsy! ‘ I hate this. It is the only thing what really annoys me. It does not hurt me when someone says gypsy to me, he/she is right I am a gypsy; I am proud of my origin, but smelly! Therefore, I called her into the toilet and made her smell my clothes. She admitted that I was not smelly, but told the whole story to the director, but she stood on my side. It was very nice of her. It was very hard for me to go to school everyday, to such an atmosphere, but I decided to concentrate only on learning.

The fact that I have honest friends, non-gypsies as well, outside the school comforted me. Then I went to the University of Miskolc, to become a teacher of English. I decided it, when I came home from the USA. I experienced the racial discrimination there as well. I had black friends there who have to live with this every day. Therefore, equality and Martin Luther King’s dream is still just a dream. The reason why I have chosen this profession was to get closer to gypsy youngsters and make them learn. I was very happy when I got the diploma, my parents and the whole, great family was very proud of me.

I was the first to get a degree in my family. Fortunately, I do not have negative memories from the years spent at the university. I won life-long friendships. Most of them did not realize my origin. Of course, my skin’s colour was strange for them, but did not think I am a gypsy girl. It may have been difficult for them to realize that a gypsy is also able to get into a university. When I told them about my origin they were very surprised, but being intelligent people, they accepted it, and never hurt me. I liked those years at the university. At that time just a few gypsy youngsters went to universities, and they preferred art schools.

There are many roma people, who are very talented in drawing and painting, and in literature. Therefore, if a roma learnt further, most of them have chosen these kinds of educations. Today, at exhibitions you can meet many gypsy artists’ work. Their work is acknowledged today. If I describe their work, I would say that all of them have some mutual elements. For most of the roma artist, the center theme is the hard destiny of the gypsy society, motherhood, death and they use dark colours frequently. For a gypsy man his mother is the most important person in his life.

I know that for all the people his/her mother are the nicest, but they have some kind of a special connection. I also accepted that my husband’s mother is saint and invulnerable. It should be mentioned here that I have chosen a gypsy man to live my life with. It was very important for me, unless the fact that I am an educated woman I could never imagine marrying a non-gypsy. I would have felt frustrated when our differences will come in the forefront. I was brought up as a gypsy girl, unless the fact that they educated me, they taught me how I should handle the problems that are arisen because of my origin.

It is not sure that a non-gypsy husband would have also accepted those of my relatives who are not educated and living in bad conditions. With a gypsy husband, I can visit them without any judgments from him. After finishing the university, I went to a secondary school as a teacher of English. I was lucky again, because they accepted my origin and respected that I could emerge even the fact that most of my ethnicity could not. The first thing that I did was to take up the gypsy students of the school, but I never favored them.

I just sit down with them to talk about their family backgrounds and about their plans for the future. I told them that I am a gypsy, as they are. They were very surprised and from that time, they did what I advised them. They listened to me and understood my opinion that the only way for them to emerge is learning. I think that the fact that I succeed was a positive picture for them, and was motivating. As I experienced they mostly come from the lower class, they live in poverty, and they have many sisters and brothers, so their education is a great expense for their parents.

It often happens that they have to give up learning and find job in order to help the family with money. To avoid this I looked up scholarships and found opportunities for them. I helped them in writing the applications. All of them won and became scholars. I was extremely happy and felt that my fights for this profession were not needless. The parents were very grateful. Now I am at home with my baby son, but they still visit me, so I know everything about them. This presentation would not be honest if I do not tell the followings.

Another great problem I had to face is my own race’s discrimination. I mean most of them also disliked my family and me. The reason is that they thought we are overweening and look down on them. Of course, it was not true. I never felt shame on my relatives. It often happened that I was walking in the street with my friends from the university and I saw one of my relatives who was wheeling a dustbin, I welcomed him, even the fact that I could walk next to him without realizing him. One of my non-gypsy friends told me once that our situation is much worse because we are hated from two sides.

On one side, there is the non-gypsy society, who is not able to accept us and judge us because of our skin colour, and on the other side, there is the gypsy society who does not want accept that we emerged. I think most of them envy us. However, they also have the opportunity to process the same road what my family and me did. The family background in a large measure affects our identity. I may say it, because I was lucky. If somebody brings up his children as he or she differs from the others and the children are able to accept this difference, then they will not have traumas.

I wanted something and my environment motivated me. Living in minority is not so easy. I monotonously feel that I have to prove: I am a person with the same values as anybody else. Thus, I have an achievement pressure I always feel that I have to do more to gain the acknowledgement of the non-gypsy society. I myself always knew that I am a gypsy; I have never wanted to be anything else. I love my ethnicity. I never wanted to keep it as secret or boasting with it. Otherwise, it often happens that educated gypsies conceal their origins. I do not understand them.

They should be proud that they were able to emerge. One of the most important assumptions of the gypsies to adapt themselves to the society is education. In order to be competitive, gypsies should learn harder, it would improve their opportunities at the labour market, and improve their chances in life. I know that I would have other and better possibilities with my qualification but I think remaining a teacher I can do much more for my race. I have to show the way to my gypsy students how we can achieve to give a more positive picture of ourselves. Anyway, I think I do my best to achieve this goal.

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