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A Modern Woman

I don’t know the name of the old Gypsy woman who entered Roxy this morning and thrust her basket under my nose. I dropped in a few coins, which she looked at closely, then theatrically rolled her eyes in disgust at my parsimony. She moved on to the next table. Then she went to the counter, pointed through the glass to a cornetti. Soon the bar man brought her a latte to go with it. She took a seat near the door.

She’s a familiar sight here in Forio. When she’s on duty she puts on quite a performance for the rich tourists. She exaggerates her limp, and often sits on the steps of Santa Maria di Loreta and wails loudly, as if she has just lost her entire family.

The Gypsies, according to The Shoah Resource Center, a school for Holocaust Studies, are a people who have been living in Europe since the 15th century and share a common language, culture, and until recently, a wandering way of life. Also called Roma, they were among the groups persecuted by the Nazis. About 200,000 Gypsies, and possibly more, were killed throughout Europe.

The Gypsies probably originally came from India, and migrated to Iran by the 14th century. They reached Hungary, Serbia, and other Balkan countries by 1438. Next, they spread into Poland, Russia, Sweden, Spain, and Great Britain. Some Gypsies converted to Islam or Orthodoxy, but most became Catholics, while still observing much of their pre-Christian religion. Their language split into many dialects; only today is it becoming a written language.

Because of their nomadic lifestyle, the Gypsies made a living mainly from trading horses and other animals, peddling, silver and gold work, and music. They were not allowed to own land where they lived, and were often accused of stealing by the locals. Because the Gypsies were deemed different and foreign, they were treated in a hostile manner by their adopted countries.

I get the feeling she, despite first impression, is a very modern woman. Her jacket, for instance, is soft black leather. Her crutch is aluminum. She wears a silver bracelet and gold rings. Fully aware, she instantly spotted my camera and knew I was photographing her. I presume she didn’t object because I had, after all, given her a small sum. She understands a little is better than nothing at all.

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A very interesting gypsy story.

With the way she looked at you, you're lucky she didn't fling the latte in your face!

Very interesting garb she has on....all that heavy clothing, yet no shoes?

Great story and pictures! I, like simonette have family roots in that supposedly trace back to gypsies in Russia, Romania, Poland and the Ukraine - on my dad's side - though my no deceased grandparents refused to talk about anything from the 'old country'... only saying that it's better to look to the future and not to go digging in the past. (I wonder what they were hiding).

Anyhow, thanks for sharing this, I really enjoyed it.

this is beautiful
love the photos,
& am very intrigued by this particular woman
i'd love to know more about her

I just did a paper for one of my classes that discussed the Gypsies and the Holocaust. It's curious -- wackjob Holocaust deniers aside, nobody's trying to claim the Jews weren't horribly affected by the Holocaust, yet in many situations, Jewish people are very opposed to the Gypsies being mentioned on the same monuments as they are.

Seems a horrible thing to be 'it's all about me, me, me!' about.

Anyhow. For you or others who are interested, here's two books I read for the paper and hope to have on my own bookshelf someday:

1. Alt, Betty and Silvia Folts. Weeping Violins: The Gypsy Tragedy In Europe. Missouri: Thomas Jefferson University Press, 1996.
2. Trigg, Elwood B. Gypsy Demons and Divinities: The Magic and Religion of the Gypsies. Secaucus: Citadel Press, 1973.

this is for several reasons: while many (most) of the Jews taken away were professional members of society, gypsies were (are in some areas) looked as alien, not part of society in the first place.

dr. mengele's favorite test (i use this term lightly for that crazy fucking insane motherfucker) subjects were gypsies; a favorite past time of the guards were to pick an arbitrary "bride" and "groom" and make the prisoners perform traditional rroma or jewish weddings, when the "weddings" ended they gassed them.

especially in America there is a bias with the holocaust since the ones who run the museums and control the output are Jewish. in the US holcaust museum in Washington DC there were fights to even get anybody else mentioned as victim, in israel in 1993 they refused to mention anyone else in history textbooks as racially targeted. i think, partly it has a lot to do with upbringing: when you are raised from childhood to think nothing we suffer(ed) the most, when you are raised with israeli politics, you're going to scoff at anybody else trying to make a claim.

the ones doing education on the holocaust are either identify the jews the most or are jewish, generally speaking everyone else is grouped together in the "other" catagory: "homosexuals, communists, slavs, gypsies, and mentally retarded."

What an interesting story and photos, John! You certainly do come across some very interesting people were you live, don't you? :)

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