Roma Family History Afternoon

Dancing to Roma music.
Dancing to Roma music.
Roma children socialising.
Roma children socialising.

Story: Carrie Hedderwick, Photos: Nicholaus Hall

Sheffield Companions Club hosted a Roma Family History Celebration on June 24 2008, to bring together many of the Roma families, mainly from Slovakia, who have settled in Burngreave, Fir Vale and Page Hall in recent years.

The migration routes of Roma people over the last 2,000 years were displayed, alongside photos of Slovak villages and peoples’ relatives, and a slide show of a recent visit to Bystrany in eastern Slovakia. Food (provided by the Ashram) and the music of Horvathovsi – a family group comprising of three guitar players and three singers – were enjoyed by all 60 attendees, including Roma and local people. Horvathovsi have performed traditional Roma music at various festivals around Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and also at Fir Vale Festival last year. The atmosphere encouraged people to get up and dance and other musicians joined in with additional drums, a sax and more guitars.

Enjoying time together.
Enjoying time together.

Marion Horton, from Barnsley based Ad Ed Knowledge Company; spoke with a number of people about their families and backgrounds.

Communist Regime

‘M’ spoke of how life for his forebears had been difficult under the communist regime (which lasted until 1990), but that there had been more work available. His father had died aged 32, and his mother had to bring up eight children alone, whilst working for a local farmer.

“Many Roma children can only speak Romani, not Slovakian, because we were not allowed into the Slovakian schools. Such racism is very common; most white people would not sit next to a Roma on the bus. Even when the government did give money for projects to benefit Roma villages, the money was often left unspent by the local councils.”

M. and his wife said that they were very happy to be in the UK, and although there were problems, they expressed appreciation of ‘the many big-hearted people’ in Sheffield.

Travelling, collective community

A young man, R., was keen to talk about his childhood in Slovakia. He had been orphaned and was brought up in a children’s home. There was no segregation between white and Roma children there, but his early life had been hard, and he felt the home did not prepare children for adult life.

“Roma people are happy and jolly, we are a travelling, collective community, very musical and able to have fun even when times are bad. But I would like most for all Slovakian Roma people to be able to get proper jobs in Slovakia – that is our home after all.”

This was an event to remember – an opportunity for people to share memories, to talk about the past and the present. Hopefully this is the first of many events where Roma families can meet, socialise with local people.

The afternoon was organised by the Barnsley Black and Ethnic Minority Initiative and the Ad Ed Co., and funded by National Heritage Lottery Fund.

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The content on this page was added to the website by Kate Atkinson on 2008-07-20 12:06:35.
The content of the page was last modified by Sam Galbraith on 2008-07-21 14:11:56.

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