Friday, January 21, 2011

Where To Begin?

I had a very interesting conversation today with some of my students in one of the upper grades. We were discussing social problems in Romania, having started by explaining that you can start driving at age 16 in America, but you cannot drink until you are 21. This led to discussions about alcohol and it's use amongst minors, drugs and which were the most common, and a few other problems.

I asked what they thought Romania's biggest problem was. "Gypsies."

I acted a bit surprised, though I shouldn't have been. The anti-Roma sentiment here in Romania and in other countries in Europe is quite well known and very acceptable. We discussed the specific complaints against the Roma community, whether anyone had hands on experience, and finally what could be done. The conversation continued until I asked "So what is the solution to the Gypsy problem?" Without any hesitation...

"Kill them all."

I was disturbed, certainly. I sputtered something about the Holocaust, and how I hoped the world wouldn't sit by and watch genocide happen again.

Except we have, time and again. The country I live in borders Serbia. That happened in MY lifetime.

Where do I even start? I'm glad we had the conversation, but it is hard to know where to go. I want my students to keep talking about this- but I also struggle with sitting and listening to such open hatred. What now?


  1. I spent 2 weeks in a Gypsy community. The people who translated for us were Romanian teenagers who loved Jesus and therefore could love even the most hated people group in their country. Jesus. Jesus is always the solution. I struggle with that truth as a public school teacher, but the truth is he is "the way, the truth, and THE life." He is "the first and the last." Jesus Christ, God incarnate, can shake our hatred and turn it into love. Share his love with your students in any way you can :) Demonstrate your compassion towards the gypsy people. Your students will notice the light shining out of your heart and that you are different. "Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven."

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  3. (Just posting again because I had some glaring grammatical errors)

    I'm a Canadian who's been living in Romania for a summer with my Transilvanian boyfriend. I came here knowing about this problem, but I was determined to keep an open mind.
    Time and time again I was disappointed. I witnessed a gypsy child of five yell obscenities at an old man for no reason, and proceed to throw a bottle at him. I've seen them steal, hurt others, and hurt each other.

    I think it is a mistake to feel pity, and to constantly see them as victims. Many choose to live in squalor, force their children to beg, and sometimes go as far as to cripple them at an early age so that they earn the sympathy of passersby.

    My boyfriend has been attacked on plenty of occasions by gangs, and at an early age was robbed in a movie theater. They even threatened to take his shoes.

    The government has given them plenty of resources to help themselves: education breaks, housing (beautiful old Saxon houses which they promptly destroy), and more).

    Despite what I've seen and how racist this all sounds, I refuse to hate them. I don't believe that the answer is EVER to hate.
    I believe that the native Romanians need to find tolerance and compassion within themselves, but also that the gypsies need to motivate themselves from within. The answer can only come from a change in attitude.

    I met one young man who has helped to shape my entire outlook on their race.
    He was clearly a gypsy, but was different from the majority in a number of ways. Sadly, he has rejected his heritage out of shame. However, he is a model citizen and a source of inspiration.
    Despite growing up in an orphanage where he was frequently beaten, he decided to better himself. He somehow found the will from within to see himself through school, study hard, and become independent. He was polite, well-spoken, well-dressed and self-sufficient. An honest, working man with a career in welding, an apartment, and a girlfriend.
    Despite his prejudices, my boyfriend approached this youth as an equal, and shook his hand as a friend. We walked home with hope, and I'm not ashamed to say I had tears in my eyes. I'd never met such an incredible individual before. What's more is that he sat at a table of white Romanians and was accepted without question.

    I realized then that the change must come from both sides. It's unclear how to encourage it, but I've seen that it's not out of reach.