Family is the most precious thing a Romany can have

Eva RidajováNové StrasecíSeptember 2000
The other day I was visiting my parents in Chomutov. An elderly Romany woman, an acquaintance of my mother, had come for a chat and was sitting in the kitchen. A beautiful tawny girl, her granddaughter, was running around the flat. I sat down next to the visitor and chatted her up. We talked about all kinds of things, and eventually started discussing children. She had a story to tell, one about a gift from God. Listen to it and reflect.
"My story began more than thirty years ago.
My name is Marie Janová and I live in a small village close to Chomutov. Thirty years ago I had just turned twenty and was getting married. I was marrying a boy from our village, my childhood sweetheart. I was healthy, vigorous and full of energy. We both wished for a beautiful, happy life and wanted plenty of children.
That’s why we started building a house of our own. My husband Laco, who is a mason, both our families and I had to work on the construction for years. It took us a long time, and I became pregnant before the house was finished.
Hard work, worries, and the lack of money took their toll on me. But after five years of drudgery, we could finally move into our house.
Soon afterwards my health started to fail. I was diagnosed with a heart condition and had to be operated on for it. There were complications, and I spent half a year in the hospital.
I was frightened. More than for my life I feared for Laco and our four-year-old daughter. I was afraid Laco might leave me.
They forbade me to have any more children. Both Laco and I come from large families and we had wanted plenty of children.
Another woman might have been happy to be in my shoes. I had a house, a daughter and a good husband. Still, I wasn’t happy.
When I told Laco that we could not have any more children he took to drink. He had always wanted a son, to keep the family alive. He started to go to the pub with friends, leaving me alone with our daughter: alone in our big empty house.
Our family was slowly breaking apart and our great love was dying.
Laco took a lover and even brought her to our house.
I suffered for a whole year. My heart was breaking in pieces. I couldn’t get over it, and went to my mother to ask her for advice. Eventually both my mother and Laco´s mother had it out with him. They were worried for our sake.
Laco took the reproaches of both our mothers to heart. He realized that he loved us and did not want to lose us. He stopped frequenting his friends, and one day suggested that we adopt a Romany boy, something I had proposed long before.
I was happy again, and regained my peace of mind. My health started improving too.
We started sorting out all the formalities. Because we wanted a Romany child, it didn’t take that long and half a year later we were given a four-month-old baby boy.
Later on we adopted two more children, a girl and another boy, both of them already of school age.
When I was forty-five our children were already grown up and I had even become a grandmother.
Then one autumn I fell ill. Thinking that it was flu I went to see the doctor and he sent me for several medical exams. Imagine my shock when he told me that I was pregnant!
I decided to keep the child, though I knew it was risky.
Laco didn’t even want to believe that, old as he was, he might finally get a son of his own blood.
But that’s what happened. I gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby boy, our coveted Laco junior.
His father was so proud that he strutted around the village like a peacock. Finally we were a complete family, and a very happy one at that.
Our son was a gift from God.
All our children are doing well, and our eldest daughter and her husband are just building a new house for themselves.
Our family has grown very large. The backyard is always full of grandchildren. There are ten of them, and they play together with their little uncle.
I’m glad that I didn’t succumb to emotions when my marriage was at stake. I have managed to keep my family together.
Family is the most precious thing a Romany can have. We underwent a test of our faith in God, and now I can feel his love wherever I go.”

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