- Eastern Europe is home to millions of Romani, primarily in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia. There are also Romany people in Russia.
- Etymology. The Romani are widely known in the English-speaking world by the name "Gypsies" (or "Gipsies"), a holdover from the time when these people were thought to have come from Egypt, and a term considered to be mildly derogatory. The more accepted terms are "Romani", "Rom" or "Roma" (sometimes spelled with two "r"s - "Rroma"). The Roma are called "Sigani" in many Slavic countries (which is also considered derogatory), "Ashakli" in Kosovo, "Egyptians" in Albania, "Beyash" in Croatia and "Lom" in Armenia.
- Origins. The Roma people originally migrated to Europe from India. They came through the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), arriving in the Balkan Peninsula in the 1300s.
- Oral Traditon. Historically, as a nomadic people, the Romani didn’t write books or attend school to learn to read and write. Instead, like the ancient Greeks, they’ve long maintained an oral tradition where poets and singers tell stories about the Romani and their culture.
- Ethnicity. The Roma tend to be a darker-skinned people. However, in the course of their wanderings, some Roma have intermarried with gadjé (non-Romani), so there are even blond-haired and light-skinned Romani.
- Homes. Some Roma people are still nomadic and travel in caravans. Some of the Romani live in the poorer parts of towns, often in abandoned apartments. Other Roma have attempted to integrate with their neighbors. Some European nations have attempted to force the Roma to end their nomadic way of life by requiring them to register and to go to school and learn trades.
- Language. The Roma speak Romany (or Rromanës, a language related to a northern Indian dialect, particularly Punjab). It is spoken by about 5-6 million Roma people throughtout Europe and the USA. Some people consider Romany to be a group of dialects while others think there are several, closely-related Romany languages.
- Music. The Romani have a rich musical heritage. Their music has influenced jazz (swing), bolero, flamenco music, hip hop, and many classical composers including Franz Liszt. Romany dance is also well known for improvization and self-expression, and there have been well known Romany flamenco dancers.
- The "Decade of Roma Inclusion" is taking place in eight Eastern European counties to address the needs of their Roma citizens. The World Bank has backed this ten-year program intended to improve the Gypsies' socioeconomic status.
- Religion. Although the Roma people generally adopt the religions of the countries where they live, describing themselves as “many stars scattered in the sight of God”, they do have common rules related to cleanliness and behaviors regarding what is "Rromano" (to behave with dignity and respect as a Roma person) and what can be seen as part of "Rromanipé" (the “Romani world view”).
- Occupations. Roma groups often have occupations that are related to their nomadic heritage, such as peddling, horse training and trading, metal work, pot mending, recycling and collection of scrap metal, wood carving, storytelling, singing and music, dancing, and herbology.
- Oppression. Despite being enslaved when they arrived in Europe, being experimented upon and murdered by the nazis, having no single religion or holy book, no promised land to return to - these people have endured and survived.
- Kumpanias. The Roma live according to their own rules. Traditionally, groups of extended families formed kumpanias (bands) which traveled together in caravans. Each kumpania is headed by a voivode (chieftain) who makes decisions after consultation with a council of elders and the phuri dai (senior woman).
- Traditons. The display of wealth, lavish household decoration, and show of generosity are important elements of Roma culture. Many Roma women wear bracelets and necklaces made of gold, and headresses are decorated with coins. The display of prosperity and generosity towards others are considered very honorable.
- Marriage. Most Romany girls are expected to get married between the ages of 16 and 18. According to tradition, a girl shouldn't have more than four boyfriends before getting married, and if a boy asks a girl out, she should refuse at least twice before finally saying yes. Marriages are often arranged by the groom's family.
- Family. The Roma place great value on extended family.
- United Nations. Romanies are represented in the United Nations with a voting seat.
Total population uncertain. Estimates range from 2 to 12 million. (est. 2011)
Life expectancy at birth:
male: was 55.3 years in 1980
female: was 59.5 years in 1980
Total fertility rate:
6 children born/woman in 1980
The ancestors of modern day Romani people were previously Hindu but adopted Christianity or Islam depending on their respective countries due to missionary activities.
worldwide: 62% (2007)
in Bulgaria: 82% (2012)
ADOPTION FACTS ABOUT ROMANI CHILDREN
The "Social Homes" in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic and Ukraine have a disproportionately high number of Romani children being raised within their walls. Most adoptive families in these countries traditionally want to adopt only healthy, white, fair-haired children. There is a long-standing negative attitude towards the Roma in much of Eastern Europe. Those families who do adopt Romani children frequently experience prejudice, and themselves express the misguided anxiety that genetics will "predispose" the child to grow up to be lazy, unintelligent and/or dishonest.
Many Roma families live in poverty in these countries. They tend to start having children at a very young age, have a high birth rate, and are apt to have unplanned pregnancies. Because of these tendencies, these families are often encouraged to let the state care for their children in the "Social Homes". Romani families often plan to leave their babies only for a brief period of time, but that temporary time period often becomes permanent. The result is that the overwhelming majority of "healthy as possible" children in these institutions are of Romani heritage.
Romanian officials are concerned with the large number of abandoned orphans and pre-teen homeless children who live in sewers and canal systems. The estimates are that there are between 1000 and 10,000 or more (depending on which sources you believe) street children in Bucharest alone. Roma children account for about 80% of all children abandoned in Romania.
The Czech government opened up inter-country adoption of Romani children from their orphanages in 2008 after a study showed that "Gypsy children are never adopted by Czech citizens".
All of this has led to a high percentage of inter-country adoption of Romani children from these countries.
Resources are presented for information purposes only. Unless noted specifically as a FRUA INC group, FRUA INC does not endorse, nor have any connection with the following.
- Gypsy Lore Society
- Patrin Web Journal: Romani Culture
- Voice of Roma
- Romani People (Wikipedia)
- Factsheets on Roma
- Romani Roots
- The Roma (Balkanarama)
- Roma Beyond Stereotypes
- Les Roms de Roumanie (photographic essay)
- Cross Cultural Adoption
- Notes for Americans Who Have Adopted Gypsy Babies
- FRUA INC Facebook Page
- Karen's Adoption Links
- InterCountry Adoption Service Provider Search
- International Adoptive Medical Clinics & Physicians
- Child Welfare Gateway
- North American Council on Adoptable Children
- Hague Accreditation and Approval
- Post Adoption (US Department of State)
- Intercountry Adoption (US Department of State)
- PEAR (Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform)
© Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption Including Neighboring Countries
FRUA is a service-marked acronym of Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption in use since 1994. It and the full organizational name, Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption, are not to be used to describe any organization or service not related to FRUA, without permission.