One week before Christmas I’ve seen the biggest misery I’ve ever witnessed till now, in Romania and in general. At school we have a 8-year-old student of Roma origin, Florin. Since he is the dirtiest child I’ve ever seen in my life, I had the faint of an idea how his life conditions at home are like. I feel drawn to taking special care of him. That’s why one day, as he hadn’t come to classes for half a week already, I went to his place with his teacher Adriana. We drove to Checheci, a poor district of Arad that is margined by a big Gypsy settlement. We hoped to meet the parents there to talk about the importance of Florin’s school attendance. As we approached the settlement, we already saw a lot of poorly dressed children playing outside on the snowy street. Florin was among them, dirtier than I’ve ever seen him. I was surprised how pleased he was to see us as he introduced us to his fellow playmates. Lead by Florin we made our way to his home, passing depressingly poor looking houses.
As we arrived at his place, I couldn’t believe my eyes and I was deeply shocked. Florin’s house was no more a garden shack, with garbage and rubble piling up in the yard all around the house. Covered with a layer of snow th scenery looked ironically peaceful. As we entered the house, my shock persisted at the sight of the interior. The single room was pitch-dark inside, just with a small fireplace giving light and a bunch of candles. It was freezing cold, since the windows we’re only covered with chappy plastic foil instead of glass. It was obvious, that they neither had electricity nor running water and the inside didn’t look much different than the trashy yard. Florin’s grandmother was at home, taking care of an infant that lay on top of a heap of blankets, which piled up in one corner of the room. I was told that they live here with five people in total – a fact that seems absolutely impossible to me.
It was pretty hard to talk to his grandmother, since she obviously didn’t see much sense in Florin’s school attendance. During the three months in Romania I’ve learned, that this is a quite representative opinion of many Gypsies towards education. In the end she agreed indifferently on sending him to school next day. As I expected… he didn’t come, neither the next day nor the following weeks.
I feel deeply sorry for the children, who get born into a culture that rather swallows than nurtures them. “Nurtures” in the meaning of enabling them to unfold their natural given potential, in the means of education, personal freedom and the chance of choice. I don’t see much potential of change left in the adults, because also they where born into this culture, mainly raised without education and hardly ever teached the value of integration. Hence I think that concentrating on the Gypsy children makes most sense in the way that they are going to be the next generation of their folk. And it always makes sense to invest into the next generation…