Călin…pages from the story of the young Romani with white skin by Simona Roxana Poclid

When eyes are closed, everything else is black. Only the voice and the word guide you.

When he was 5 years old, Călin heard on the TV talking about Americans and he asked his mother: “What are we?” His mother answered him: “We are gipsy” and since then Călin wished he could find out more. He has not been living in a Romani community, he has never been told that he is Romani nor knew he what it meant. His parents told him over the years that his great grandparents were in the trade with metal objects (cauldrons, bells, and scissors) and were deported to Iasi. Here they met other people, different from what they knew before and they broke away from the Romani community. Călin’s parents were born in the city, far away from the isolated communities. They went to school and managed to offer their three boys a better life. His mother went to gymnasium at a music school in Suceava, then she went to a vocational high school and afterwards got a job at a cheese factory.

His father studied to become a professional driver in Siret and later he worked in the field. Călin went to school. In primary school, he was the leader of Romani children, he was playing with them and he was helping them to make Romanian friends. He reined his cousins and told them to do their homework. They respected him, although he was not sure of the reasons they were listening to him. Then he saw how other children were behaving differently, they were naughty and were treated differently by the teachers. He thinks that the Romani children‘s behaviour was due to the fact that teachers were treating them differently. It was difficult for them to come from one world where they had to scavenge through bins for food, to a world which they could not understand.

The young Romani with white skin had music in his veins and the joy to make people happy, by being in the middle of them. When he was in the second grade at Vatra Dornei School, he went to a cousin at the Children’ Club to register for the folk dancing course. In his family there were two cousins who were musicians and studied at the Conservatory. After he was admitted he met a professor who was playing the clarinet. He liked the sound a lot and he realised that was what he wanted to study He studied at Ciprian Porumbescu Art College in Suceava. He met up with his colleagues after hours and they would rehears together. This is how the band without name was born. In time they started playing at weddings, baptisms, and even funerals. Călin was 14 and he was managing by himself and was discovering life through music. He was where his soul was telling him to be, in the middle of the people, sharing happiness and beauty together with Romani and Romanian colleagues.

His childhood curiosity regarding Romani would determine Călin to follow his older brother into the Romani communities. His brother was involved in the program The Integration of Romani People in Society, run by the Romani Centre for Social Intervention and Romani Studies – CRISS. Călin’s wish was to find out more about this nice people, as he calls them today. “First time I was scared by the way they lived” confesses Călin, remembering how children from Tolici, Neamt County were thinking that the soap they brought was chocolate and they wanted to eat it. His brother was talking with the members of the community and was trying to convince them to send their children to school. He was involved in the program that was trying to integrate Romani in the society. Călin noticed the houses built of adobe, the lack of electricity and running water and did not understand what invisible wall is between the two worlds. When he tried talking to the community members he was looked at with suspicion and even told “You are not a gypsy!”

On one hand, there was his world, on the other hand, there was another one full of poverty and decrepitude, of which he could have been part of. He did not understand why Romani were marginalised by Romanians because of their darker skin while he was rejected by his own kin due to his skin being too pale. He understood then how little it takes for people to discriminate and to push on the town outskirts others who did not do anything wrong and who are not the only ones responsible for their behaviour. This is their world and because they cannot live otherwise they get used to things that for us seem intolerable. Călin says that people who lead the Romani should be the ones who needs to change their views. They should stop seeing the others as a threat to their world. They need to help the members of the community they lead to see behind the wall erected between them and the rest of the world.

He remembers the time when he was accompanying his brother to different communities, how parents were refusing to send their children to school, refusing themselves to come and study for a few hours. Many children did not have birth certificates and were sent to beg in the street or to help out their parents with different chores. Many were labourers, craftsmen or were living of benefits or child benefits. Călin was so impressed by what he saw that he felt the need to do something and to help changing this world. He wishes that one day paupers should stop seeking material gains and to see education as their only change for a better life. He wishes for every child to live differently and not know the suffering that poverty can cause, unable to see that there is a different world beyond the one he knows.
Beyond the world of Romani children who live in the community and are used to this hard life, there is another world where they can find their place and can live differently. Călin has succeeded because of his parents and he strongly believes that, even if Romani people are beautiful and united and have so many traditions which are their only richness, they deserve to live better. He is certain that every child like he can learn and that one is no different from any other Romanian.

His dream a few years ago was to study at the Conservatory, but his cousins advised him to choose a different degree. He knew himself that music is not what it used to be, especially classic music. Guided by his middle brother, Calin chose Communication and Public Relations in one of the places financed by the University budget. The band without a name is still meeting, united by the passion for music, although the roads of the bold boys playing by the ear are different. Just like in his childhood when he was helping his cousins with their homework, and was encouraging them to play with Romanian children, today, at university Calin has registered for the mentoring program specially created for the freshmen that start studying at Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi. Within some informal meetings, second and third year students are mentoring the freshmen, helping them getting used to the student life and the adventure of the next years. Calin has chosen to work with Romani freshmen, wanting to show them all what awaits them, to support them and to help them get a scholarship.

He is a third year student and his graduation thesis underlines again the desire of change. The title is “Depictions of Romani in the Contemporary Romanian Society”. Even if he did not feel discriminated himself he knows that discrimination exists and he feels compelled to help out. He feels he owes it to himself and because of this he wants to obtain a scholarship in Budapest to study Communications and Public Relations. He wants to show all Romani children that they can roam the world, they can study and dream and that they are capable of success.

“Program for Training of Romani Graduates” initiated by Central European University is Calin’s next dream. He does not want to give up his passion for music, but he wants to become a professional in communications and to get involved in programs that help young Romani to build themselves new lives. He is dreaming of going to Budapest together with his Romanian girlfriend and to win over the fate that society imposes at birth, just because one is Romani.

This article can be read here: https://samewhiteblue.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/calin-file-din-povestea-tanarului-rom-cu-pielea-alba/