To retain your humanity in any circumstances

My grandmother was born in May, 1902, in the Grun gypsy settlement of the Spisska Nova Ves region in Eastern Slovakia. She came from a large family.
Her father, Josef Horvath, was a Romany musician, and her mother Marie raised the children.
My grandmother Helena Horvathova got married very young: she wasn’t even eighteen.
Well, "married?” In those days there were no civil marriages, only church marriages. We always honored tradition in our family, and the wedding was conducted in our way, the Romany way. The bride and groom knelt down, Then the mayor of the gypsy settlement, in Romany the Chibalo, bound their hands together and poured wine into their left palms. They drank from each other’s palms. He blessed them and wished them many children. They thanked their parents for raising them, for their love. And then there were two or three days of celebration.
The Roma played music, of course: there was a real gypsy band, or lavutara: at one time there were Romany musicians in every Romany settlement in Slovakia. In those days the Roma used to play in the communities and the cities: not only for other Roma, but also for whites.
My grandmother’s husband, my grandfather Josef Horvath, was played the violin and the bass, as his father and grandfather had done. My son Janko inherited this art, and plays the violin, the guitar and the organ.
My grandfather died young: he was forty-one. My grandmother told me he knew several languages. He was a farmer: he raised pigs to sell to the peasants.
In Spis there used to be a large German community. The Roma got along with them. They lived honestly through their labor.
After my grandfather died, my grandmother moved to Bilovec – in 1952 – to be with her sons and daughters. By then they had their families and work in Bohemia and Moravia, where they had gone to find jobs.
After the Second World War there wasn’t much work in Slovakia and the Roma were used to working and making an honest living.
I remember very well how my mother used to tell me about the life of the Roma in those days. It wasn’t like today, when many have forgotten their traditions, their customs and their Romany identity. Everybody loved one another; they helped each other and honored one another. Even though my grandmother had many children, she went to help the peasants in the fields during the haymaking, and she helped during harvest. She got payment in kind for her work. In the settlement grandfather and she built an oven where they baked bread, cakes and other things for everyone. In those days there were about seven hundred people living in the gypsy settlement.
My grandmother died in1979. She was one of those Roma who lived and worked honestly their whole lives. In Bilovec she earned the nickname of “the gypsy lawyer.” Even though she could neither read nor write, she always knew how to take care of her business in the offices. Later, when I already knew how to write, I helped her arrange various correspondence. I learned a lot from my grandmother, and I will never forget her.
I hold her up as an example to my four sons. Two of them are studying, Marek goes to seventh grade and the youngest, Romanek, will go to first grade in September.
We must not forget our ancestors. May their life and work inspire and motivate us.
Even though our ancestors lived cut off from the world, in a settlement several kilometers from the white villages, they always lived as our customs and our Romany identity dictate: never to lose your human dignity, your character, and to retain your humanity in any circumstances.

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  1. hello
    i am a Rom from Iran .please tell me how i can receive your Cds.
    thank you .

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