Aunt Margita hasn’t forgotten who she is

Emilie HorackovaMimonJuly 2000
My aunt Margita grew up in the Slovak village of Dubrava. She and her family were the only Roma in the village, and were very poor. But they lived in harmony with the other villagers.
Like other Roma, Aunt Margita came from Slovakia to Bohemia to find work. Workers were needed in the Czech lands, and they got housing here.
Margita was young and beautiful. You couldn’t tell she was a Rom: she looked more like a Slovak girl.
When she came to Bohemia, her family worked on construction sites. They helped out at the Slapska Dam. There she met an Italian man who had come to this country during the war. It was love at first sight, and soon they were planning their future.
Several years later they were living in Prague with their four daughters.
Then about fifteen years after they were married, her husband decided to return to Italy.
That meant another difficult decision for Margita. After getting used to living in Prague, she would now have to start all over again in a new place where she did not speak the language.
But she adjusted quickly. The oldest in her fmaily, Margita left her mother and other relatives behind and followed her husband to the unknown country.
During their years in Italy, she had another daughter.
Time flew by, and the children grew up. But their mother hid the truth about their origin: she never told them they were Romany. And many years passed without her seeing her brothers, her sisters or her mother.
After some time they moved to Germany, where they live to this day.
I remember her visits with us in Prague. Her suitcases were stuffed with presents and clothing, and that made everybody happy.
In Germany she never told anyone that she was a Rom. She just said she was Italian.
Now she is seventy-six, and has a grandson and many great grandchildren. Her daughters are also married to Italians.You wouldn’t believe that Romany blood is coursing through their veins. Only one of Margita’s daughters is dark. The others all have gorgeous white skin and light hair.
When Margita’s husband died she told her whole family, including her sons-in-law, that she was a Rom. They accepted it – they love her very much – and began to visit us here in the Czech Republic.
We’re getting to know each other, and they laugh about their grandma turning out to be a Rom. And they’ve started to learn the Romany language. They speak German, Italian and a bit of Czech, and we’re beginning to study Italian. They know who we are, and they are not ashamed of us.
Aunt Margita comes to visit her mother’s grave and to see us. Although she can’t hear very well anymore and her legs hurt, she keeps coming – and each time she brings someone with her. Last time she brought her youngest grandson, so that he could get to know us too.
Our aunt doesn’t want us to be forgotten after she dies, and constantly reminds her family who she is, and where she came from.
She and her children have a high standard of living. They own restaurants and hotels. They are way ahead of us, and have had experiences that we can only dream about. Despite all this, Margita comes to the Czech Republic at least once a year to visit her family. Aunt Margita hasn’t forgotten who she is.
Mixed mariages are common nowadays. Many Romany girls have started out on their journey through life with a non-Rom. Even in the Czech Republic there are many mixed marriages. Some of them last a lifetime.
My aunt likes to come back to us, the Romany people. She knows some of us are poor, but she is proud to be a part of her nation. For years she denied who she was. She must have had her reasons. But she never forgot!
Some do forget, though – or are forced to forget.

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