Parallel childhood: Christmas dinner for Transcarpathian Roma People

20 January 2016, 12:00 | Reports | view photo | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

Tetyana KALENYCHENKO

A rough touch of corrugated paper. A pleasant tingling of Christmas wreaths. We arrange candles and get ready to light them, hiding the slight trembling of fingers – it is for the first time and we are nervous. We are looking forward to their arrival, Roma families from the camp in Uzhgorod, who will find themselves in the atmosphere of a home dinner.

Happiness for the 14-year-old Zoltan is football. Their team in a Transcarpathian village has no captain. But this does not prevent the boys spending hours running after the ball. “What is a dream? I was never asked about this. I thought that everything was fine,” Zoltan said at the Christmas Charity Dinner for Roma families held on 9 January in Uzhgorod, at the Community of St. Egidius and “Youth for Peace.”

First, the café owners refused. It was hard to imagine how they would give the entire hall for four Roma families with all children. Later, the bus driver almost fainted at the sight of more than 30 kids who happily ran into the bus interior from the camp. But then he calmed down, making sure they won’t do not harm. Uzhgorod residents are not willing to see them anywhere except as beggars – the traditional picture for any city. But this Saturday for the first time a Pizzeria received 42 Roma people (including eight adults), for whom the volunteers worked a little Christmas miracle.

“I have never felt so happy,” Zhorik looks at you with such shining eyes. For the boy this is the first family holiday when he together with his parents and brothers and sisters went to a world where no one would look at him as a stranger. Moms with babies in their arms, correct their hair dressing – for them it is the first trip to the restaurant for a lifetime.

  Подарунки для ромської дітвори

Dream of young Zoltan

After the common prayer, during which the children made a sign of the cross in a funny way, the volunteers sat down with their families at the festive tables. We met the older youth: Haynola (a 14-year-old schoolgirl), Atilla (a 16 years young guy) and Zoltan, a 14-year-old athlete. It was difficult to talk, because only the latter knows Russian and Ukrainian. He says he learnt it on his own, so he is a translator. The guy says that he has not been to school already for a month, because even in the 6th grade he was not taught to read and write, and teachers and other children bully him as unwanted. So when parents do not force him to work, he can play football a plenty of time.

Золтана мріяHaynola is luckier – she keeps going to school but she cannot adequately write. Most of all she loves to jump over the rope with girls, singing and dancing. She always takes care of younger sisters, who all embrace each other and cannot express their delight s of sharing Christmas. During lunch, the family raised to perform Magyar carols in appreciation to volunteers

We asked what children were dreaming of. “I want everybody were always fine,” Zoltan says after a pause. For him a telephone is good, because there are games - he saw it from older guys. Football players, friends and family are good for him, especially when there is nothing to eat and to wear. He also likes to go to church, there are two of them near their camp – if no one is cast out, of course. Later the boy remembers his dream – to learn to read. But it still looks somewhat unlikely.

The kids cannot keep sitting at the sight of St. Nicholas. They spin, lean to him, bounce and wait for the gifts. Senior children have to perform a carol or a poem to earn a surprise. Adults examine their packages with fascination – they include mostly warm clothes and toiletries. Haynola immediately grasps shampoo and shower gel, runs to boast to her sister. But the main lucky ones are the owners of footballs. Zoltan does not leave hold of his ball, imagining how he will play in the evening. He gives us a promise that will learn to play better and think about the sports school.

Gipsy band not going to the sky

For the first time coordinator of “Youth for Peace” Olga Makar met with Roma people in Kyiv. She could not get past the open-air settlements that emerged in Goloseyevsky array. She found out that almost everyone returned to Transcarpathia in winter where they outlive cold times until a new ‘season’. After several visits we had the idea to create a special holiday this Christmas with the help of Uzhgorod activists.

The Roma families call their home a camp in the village of Ruski Komarivtsi in Uzhgorod, where they have their cottages. Besides barracks there are common kitchens, open bathroom in the middle of the yard and improvised football field. On average, they have 7 to 9 children in the family, where everyone learns to work since childhood. However, even adult men are rarely capable of reading anything, let alone writing, unlike Baron, who not only knows several languages, but is the leader and passes this right for inheritance. They bring him all the earnings, of which he gives back a part to the families and takes the rest for himself. For him a few cars, an estate and luxury baths are not a problem.

Except for begging, Roma have another business in Transcarpathia – they move vehicles and do the paperwork involved. In the summer they move to Kyiv, where the earnings are higher. Thus, the children are forced to work for a family with no time for games and training.

Roma seldom register official marriage. Women make out documents of single mothers to receive support from the state. To do this, the kids are going to school so that payments are not interrupted. They will be glad to learn to read and write, but other children do not accept them, and teachers do not pay attention. Therefore teenagers easily escape from there to be able to play.

One of the elders, mother Valya, in her 25 already has four children and is waiting for the fifth one. The young woman does not want a similar fate to her daughters, she said that they should not give birth before 25. But the average age of marriage and the appearance of a firstborn is still 15-16 years. The family is the foundation, everyone is attached to brothers and sisters, with absolute respect for elders. But it also provides income.

A joy for the community is the prayer gathering. Almost all Roma consider themselves Christians, and pray on a daily basis. Recently, the camp got the first pastor, trained by American Protestants that allowed him holding services on his own. They do not attend churches, because of attitudes of people's and priests, they do not want to be aliens in the temple. Valya adds that she considers the church a business and has absolutely no trust for it.

Вперше в ресторані

Teaching Peace

“We always thought how to change their situation. Gifts are good, but they do not change the thinking. So we came up with an idea of ​​Peace Schools for Roma and Kyivan children,”- says Anastasia Hrynenko. Such schools have been already running for several months in Kyiv (Soborna gallery) and at a school in Voskresenka district. Every Saturday morning Nastya and Diana Butsko are going to get Roma children from the camp, taking care of them and Kyivan children on equal terms. Not all Roma parents who want to take the children to work are ready for that.

The summer camp for Roma was a breakthrough as there the Roma and Kyivan children got into a happy separate world. They played educational games, learned to write and read stories, work together. Roma children were especially delighted by a stationary tub - they first saw the water run down into the tube.

Kyiv parents were volunteers of the Community of St. Egidius and their friends who are not afraid to send their children to special education. Thanks to teachers along with the Roma they will learn more about different nationality and culture, the culture of peace, paint pictures and posters, dream of peace in the world. Gifts for them were trips to the zoo and a sky-park where Roma first tried themselves as extreme sports fans.

The problems arose in the School of Peace in Voskresenka district, where only Kyivan students study. The director, who was initially loyal to the project no longer wants the circles of tolerance. The parents rose against them. Anastasia hopes that the simple lessons of tolerance and cultural diversity will continue.

Roma school has future

“We have a lot of dreams for the camp. We would like to lay out an orchard and a vegetable garden and launch an education project for Roma,” Olga Makar says. They managed to find a tutor from the same village, a young teacher who is ready to work with the Roma. The room also was found quickly – in the camping ground, one of the women gave her little hut where the doors and windows were then installed. They had only to find those willing to support financially the project “Education for Roma children.”

Breaking the circle of “typical” Roma activities is difficult. But even when they do certain steps to change, it is necessary to understand whether we are ready to support them in this. Then maybe the younger generation of the Transcarpathian Roma will not only be able to obtain basic education, but a different work and life in the future.

“Children from the Roma camps go to school. But this is not enough. It is important that the teacher does not put you at the last desk to ignore you, that he did not think that “avoiding learning is in their blood.” There is an unwritten policy that Roma do not need education. Nevertheless, we want to cooperate fully with the school so that the children obtain knowledge there,” Olga sums up.

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    • barni | 17 August 2019, 20:22

      Та ні "Нінєль-міхуєль" я був неароджений простою УКРАЇНСЬКОЮ СЕЛЯНКОЮ, в простій українській хаті, з діда-прадіда правовослвній родині(на відміну від тебе). Електика в мене в хаті є. А

    • enzian | 17 August 2019, 16:18

      Мішка, пий зеленку і закусюй бинтом. Добре допомагає від москвославія головного мозку.

    • Михаил | 17 August 2019, 14:24

      Вам пора лечиться электричеством! Во всех ваших комментариях, вы постоянно говорите гадости про Католическую Церковь и даже про самого Папу. Вас что, в детстве уронили с третьего этажа или просто

    • barni | 15 August 2019, 19:37

      Що ж, поблагослови Господи, ВИБРАНИЙ БОГОМ НАРОД !!!

    • barni | 15 August 2019, 19:30

      При всій повазі до владики Св"ятослава, але ж він фальшивить, простіть владико, але простонародною мовою Ви просто БРЕШЕТЕ, яке відношення має КАТОЛИЦЬКА ЦЕРКВА, до Київської Софії !?

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