She is free to choose a way of living

Emílie HoráckováMimonJuly 2000
The Romany people are divided into several groups, and each group observes certain traditions. This is a story about two young people who came from families to whom tradition was very important. Seventeen-year-old Tereza was sad about breaking up with her boyfriend. So her new hobby was to make boys fall in love with her: it was her method of getting back at them. She knew how to talk, and was able to bamboozle a lot of people.
One day a male cousin of hers came over for a visit. Tereza was alone. She offered him a cup of coffee and kept him company while he waited for her father’s return.
Tereza’s girlfriend was in love with this cousin, but things weren’t working out and he never made a move. Tereza knew this was her chance both to change that and to revenge both herself and her girlfriend.
Stefan was an easy prey, and she knew how to work on him. She had known him since they were little, and in no more than twenty minutes she had him completely under her thumb. That’s how she liked to play around with boys.
Her mother came home, but not her father: he was still with his relatives. So Stefan gave up and went home. Tereza was happy all day that she had added another name to her list of men whom she made fall in love with her. When her girlfriend came over, Tereza told her immediately about her conversation with Stefan. Her girlfriend was none too pleased with this development: she really liked Stefan and wanted to go out with him.
And Tereza didn’t know what results her game would have. Stefan visited Tereza often and was very nice to her. He brought her presents, which Tereza happily accepted.
He fell in love with her, and Tereza began to love him too.
When their parents found out, they were all very happy.
So Tereza realized she picked the wrong person for her victim.
Their parents began to discuss the future and talk about a wedding.
That really startled Tereza: she liked Stefan – but not as a partner for the rest of her life. So now she realized what she had done.
She tried to talk some sense into Stefan, but he liked the idea of a wedding a whole lot. He was very much in love with her.
Tereza was confused by everything that was happening around her. They were deciding her future without consulting her. Her parents thought that she was just being shy and would agree to everything, and Tereza was drowning in her own mess.
Stefan was not the right man for her. She needed some quiet time to decide what to do next and how to end the game that was no longer a game. Once when her father mentioned the wedding again, Tereza gathered up her courage and told him the truth.
Her father got very angry about what she had done and the shame she had brought on the family. He had given his word, he said, and couldn’t go back on it.
An argument broke out, followed by violence.
This was tehlast straw for Tereza. She went out to have fun at a Romany party.
On her way home in the morning she caught a glimpse of Stefan through her uncle’s window. She went in and leveled with him and suggested they stop seeing each other until things calmed down a little and people forgot. After she left, Stefan, shamed and disappointed, took a razor and cut his veins.
Tereza found out from her cousin who happened to have met their uncle. Stefan got medical treatment and Tereza was in shock. The incident confirmed her opinion that it would be a grave mistake to continue this relationship. She knew that if she gave in now, because she felt sorry for him, she’d never again be able to make decisions for herself.
Though she was fond of Stefan and maybe was even falling in love with him, she couldn’t bear to think that her decision was being made for her. People blamed her and felt sorry for Stefan and said that Tereza had no heart.
But Tereza laughed at him only because she felt that was the best response. If she behaved the way she really wanted to, deep down, she would never have been able to reverse the decision and someone else would have made it for her. She knew Stefan would get over it and be happy again.
She wanted to free herself from Romany customs and cut off all communications with Stefan. Tereza was miserable. She wouldn’t leave the house and suffered a great deal, but she tried to hide her unhappiness.
In two years she had other suitors, but now she didn’t play games and didn’t want to see them: her heart was still hurting for Stefan.
Time went by and Stefan and Tereza began talking to each other once again. But they remained just friends because Tereza didn’t want to be stuck in the same situation all over again.
Why did it end this way? Because Tereza couldn’t stand the pressure of the traditions that are alive among the Romany people to this day. The word of the father as the head of the family is sacred and irreversible to Roma. But Tereza was able to reverse it! She liberated herself because she did not want to live in the Romany way and submit to tradition – which she herself respected! There are many young people who can’t rebel like Tereza and remain together only to please their parents.
Today Tereza is still single. Singlke at twenty: an exception among Roma. And they cannot comprehend her behavior.
But she is happy to be single and to make her own decisions. And her parents have become more tolerant and don’t interfere with her choice of partner.
She is free to choose a way of living that might not fit in with the Romany way.

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