THE ROMANI: A FORGOTTEN PEOPLE

Photos and story by daniel owen


 

Life without running water, electricity and basic medical care is normal for the Romani people living in the "Gypsy" colony just outside the Romanian village of Cheriu in the Romanian region of Transylvania. The Hendre-Lucaci family struggles to survive in their two-room clay house with eleven children. With no formal education, the Romani children of Cheriu walk to the nearby city of Oradea, about an hour by foot, to beg for money and food. They often forage for scrap metal in a nearby abandoned artillery field. They sell the small shell casings and wire to the local scrap yard, giving them enough money to buy bread.

The children who don't meet the basic hygiene requirements set by the school administration are not allowed to attend class, though the village school only goes to the fourth grade. Many parents prefer that their children beg in the streets rather than attending school, since domestic work is scarce. “Without running water, how can I wash my children’s clothes?" says Angelica Hendre. "There is nowhere for us to bathe during the winter because the river is frozen.” She wants more for the future of her children, but the obstacles seem insurmountable. Labeled as beggars and thieves, the Romani people face fierce stigmatization within their own country, which can be a heavier burden than poverty.