Gypsy = peep Bo? by Ioana Popescu

A Young man of gypsy ethny who comes from an assimilated family seeks to connect to the identity of the community to which he belongs and help his fellow people.

Costinel Marin is from Iași, he is 26 years old and comes from a family with 4 children, all of them boys, among whom he is the eldest. He is communicative, responsive, and funny. He has a glance in his candid and bright eyes which stays with you for a long time after you met him. He has many plans and he uses all the resources which he finds in order to fulfil them. At present he succeeds in connecting work at a project with EU founding in the agricultural field with the fight for a better life of the gypsy communities excluded socially.

He tells simply about his family and about gypsies in general. „Romani people, not gypsies. As you tell yourselves Romanian people, we tell ourselves Romani. Besides, gipsies is always used with insulting meaning”. We divide ourselves in many tribes: the blacksmiths, the copper-smiths, and so on. These names come from our jobs, it is understood. We are very good dancers and singers, but I don’t have such talents at the professional level”. He likes nice parties, music, dance, he feels at his ease among many people, he seems a real entertainer.


He is very fond of his family and he thinks this aspect as being a defining feature of the Romani community in general. His parents always strived to provide the 4 brothers everything that is necessary; his father is a welder and works in constructions, and the mother is a housewife of many years, focusing on the children’s growth. Together they take care of a household which they maintain in the countryside, left from the grandparents, which ensures them an additional income through the obtained agricultural products.

His family comes from ‘’the fireplace Romani people’’ origin. These were the first from the Romani community who gave up mostly at their traditions and they established in the villages, working predominantly in agriculture. At the same time, the fireplace people represent the category with the greatest assimilation grade by the majoritarian populations. In Costinel’s family, with every generation, the connection with the identity of the Romani community is lost bit by bit. Whereas his parents know very well the Romani language, he says that sometimes has difficulties at this chapter and not only once was surprised finding out certain customs or superstitions specific to the Romani traditional community.

Up to about 20 years he didn’t have any Romani Friends except for those from the family, and this thing was never strange for him. „I left from high school thinking about helping my ethny”. But he felt that he doesn’t know well enough the community to which he belongs and he is not connected enough to their situation. He decided to register within an association from Iași which activates in the domain of gypsies discrimination, and for about 2 years he gained experiences and beautiful memories, he met Romani people not only from the traditional area but also from the assimilated ones and he made friends with them.

In this period he got in touch directly with many communities of Romani people who live in miserable conditions, without knowing their rights or even essential things about the ethny to which they belong. From this reason, by the majority of actions and events which he undertook together with his colleagues within the organisation, he strived to improve the information grade and awareness of the possibilities for development which the Romani people can access at the level of these communities. They presented them the history of the ethny and they put at their disposal real information about the approaches which they can undertake in order to ensure themselves a better life. For the young gypsy people with limited possibilities they put at their disposal data bases with the scholarships which they can benefit from in order to continue their education and they developed campaigns of information and guidance in high school regarding the special places form Romani within the faculties. Then Costinel realized that this is the segment in which he’d like to move a little bit things, in the ostracized communities which don’t seem to have any chance.

He met there a Romani young man coming from a traditional community of copper-smiths, whom he admits he discriminated when he met him. He had reticence about him, because he thought that the strong connection with the tradition could prevent him from his development and adaptation to the real context. He then realized that he was wrong by prejudices, and now, together, he is at the beginning of the approaches for the starting up of an association which can activate in the area of the Romani people discrimination and which can contribute to their development. They want to continue to change mentalities, not only of the Romani people, but also of the Romanian people.

Although he has great plans, Costinel is aware that these take a lot of time and effort. When he finished his studies, because he felt he cannot stay in one place, he applied with a project on EU funds, for the young people installation as farmers, by using the land left from his grandparents in the countryside. Obtaining the approval, he took responsibility to develop the Project, to attend specialized courses and to become a farmer with suitable documents until its completion. Now he is already in the 2nd year of implementation and he can be proud of an orchard established with the received funds, in which he grows cherry trees, apricot trees, plum trees and vineyard. He juggles with the two activities so different which he took responsibility of and he seems to have place for others as well.

He sees himself as a happy case in Romani community, because his family encouraged him to follow an education, not only him but also his brothers. His father has 10 classes, and his mother 8, but this didn’t impede them from supporting their children to dream of a better education. His mother told him that if he likes a future, to study. Regarding the continuation of the studies after high school, he says it was something normal, „I received an education at home and therefore I had to attend a faculty”.

He graduated the BA studies & Master’s Degree in the Political Sciences field at the University of „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” from Iași. He chose this field because he wants to reach a position where he can contribute with tangible results at the development of the community of Romani people. A problem he feels as being urgent for the Romani ethny is the inadequate representation of the Romani in politics. „For example, if we have to make a comparison with the Hungarian ethny, we easily realize that, although they are less in number than us, they benefit from a much better representation in the decisional area”.

At the faculty he was accepted on one of the places reserved for young Romani people, which he considers important for their encouraging to move on with their studies and have a solid education. An important problem, even dramatic which Costinel feels at the level of Romani ethny is the poor education of which young people benefit from, due to the traditional conceptions of the community. „To us, the majority of the parents think like this: you learn a profession, you get married, you have many children… and that’s all. Unfortunately, this opinion is old fashioned at present, it makes the progress difficult as a community even more”.

He didn’t feel discriminated in his acquaintances circles, friends, or at school, but rather he perceived a general discrimination of the ethny to which he belongs by reflecting on him because „of the natural bronze”. The moments in which the people avoided him in the crowded bus, or when he heard a mother telling her child: „if you are not obedient, I will give you to gypsies” were surprising for him and convincing regarding the image the Romani community has in front of the majoritarian. „What hall I do then, tell her: wait, madam, I won’t steal anything from your bag? What is it good for? I could possibly make the situation worse…And imagine yourself how I felt seeing that a little child will be inoculated with the idea from a few years that the Romani person is something bad, that gypsy = peep-Bo…”.Costinel is waiting for the approval of the association name reservation whose bases he put now, he started working at the documents of starting up together with his colleagues and he is preparing for the spring works from the country. And he remembers: „ a gypsy is not equal with peep – Bo”.

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