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October Sets the Gypsy Blood Astir

October 13, 2010

Gypsies pass by Daniela and Jaro's house in Pazova this past spring

As Eastern European countries enter the EU, their gypsies (Roma) have been flowing into Western European countries, bringing their music, caravans and problems with them. It’s hard not to have preconceived ideas about the Roma, and prejudices against them run high.  Today, the papers report that Italy closes the door on Gypsies. 10/13/2010 Washington Post article by Anthony Faiola.

Growing up in Canada, Pauline always used to warn me about the gypsies; they would kidnap me and sell me into slavery, or steal my purse, she said. I disliked them and I was afraid of them, yet in all my life, I had never even seen one.

Gypsy woman arriving at Ellis Island - Photograph by Augustus Sherman, 1910

Until now.  It was breakfast in Pazova, and a faint  clip-clop sound became louder and louder as a horse came down the road.  “Gypsies,” Jaro said.  I sprang up and out of my chair and ran around to the front of the house to take a look.  A horse and battered buggy quickly rode by, father and son aboard. They were both tan, and the boy’s long, blond, tangled hair was blowing in the wind, his clothes filthy and torn.

I asked about the gypsies in Vojvodina.  “They fit in fairly well,” claimed Jaro, “some attend school and have regular jobs like teachers, even doctors. They are not all bad.”

Roma (gypsy) public housing in Dolny Kubin.

A week later, I encountered gypsies again, this time in Dolny Kubin, Slovakia. We were driving by cinder block buildings erected during the communist era. For the most part, they were freshly painted in bright colors and well maintained.  But one group of green buildings was not. Laundry was hung out to dry, paint was peeling, windows were broken, and satellite receivers sprung from many windows. “Gypsies,” muttered my cousin Michal. “They don’t work, they don’t attend school, they live in public housing, commit crimes and yet they all have flat screen TVs and satellite service.”

Slovenian Gypsy family arriving at Ellis Island, by Augustus Sherman, 1910

“There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir; We must rise and follow her; When from every hill of flame, She calls and calls each vagabond by name” By William Bliss Carman.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2010 7:03 am

    My great grandmother was/ or was called a GYPSY . She was from Hungry, but moved to the USA. She would wear a head scarf and a big gold hoop earrings. She also made head cheese! That is all i know about her.

    On the other hand, i worked in a store where a gypsy family would shop and they would steal all the time!

    Great Post, I need to find my pic of my great granny 🙂

  2. October 14, 2010 8:51 am

    Yes, find a picture of her – would love to see it! I think head cheese is popular still today in Hungary, and my grandparents made head cheese too. My dad still does!

  3. gipiana permalink
    November 16, 2010 7:36 pm

    well i know my family have gypsy backgrounds.. and there not bad as “some people” say . . we dont really talk about it .. but there still gypsy’s in my family till dis day. my granmotheer and aunt mariasSanta.. so idk lol

    • November 16, 2010 11:25 pm

      I have been reading up about gypsies. They are very close knit, almost tribe-like, and don’t like to share much with outsiders. They don’t read or write, and so a lot of what they do and believe seems mysterious to outsiders. I’m sure there are just as many good gypsies as there are good people in the general population.

  4. brandy riddle permalink
    April 21, 2011 4:23 am

    I am a Roma (gypsy) woman . I am also over the Romany Womens Union in North and South America we also have a sister group in Europe .If you are interested in learning more on your roots send me a email or look us up on facebook . Romany Womens Union -The Americas . You are welcome to stop by .

    • April 21, 2011 9:14 am

      Hi Brandy, I am interested in learning more about the Roma. I checked out the website, and will love to learn more. Tonya

    • gypsy marie mason permalink
      July 29, 2011 2:31 pm

      i am gypsy and my name is gypsy and would love 2 learn more of my fam around the world

  5. Maya Balog permalink
    May 4, 2011 7:54 pm

    I am a gypsy from Serbia. I was born there but currently live in NY ❤ love to all..

    • May 6, 2011 8:36 pm

      Do you know much about Gypsy life in Serbia? I would love to learn more. It sounds like a very close-knit group that carries on traditions through story telling and songs.

  6. gypsy marie mason permalink
    July 29, 2011 2:32 pm

    i am from us

    • July 29, 2011 4:19 pm

      Do you know much about your family from Europe – where they are from, when they came to the US, etc? Do you keep in contact with them still?

  7. Artkana permalink
    September 22, 2012 7:39 pm

    That woman is not a gypsy woman. Someone made that up on the internet. She is a slavic immigrant woman and very far from looking like a gypsy. Gypsies are Indians.

    • Claudia permalink
      June 23, 2015 3:00 pm

      I agree. That lady is not gypsy. By the outfit, and her general look she appears Transylvanian to me She could also be from Maramures. Gypsy outfits do not look like that, that’s a traditional peasant costume. Also, blue eyes are very rare in the gypsy community.

      • September 30, 2015 12:08 pm

        I visited Ellis Island this past weekend, and her picture is on the wall there and labelled as a gypsy…

  8. Lulu permalink
    August 4, 2013 3:07 pm

    You shouldnt use the word “Gypsy.” ..Its an exonym and a slur.

  9. Yaya permalink
    October 1, 2013 12:41 pm

    Artkana is correct. The photo of the “gypsy” woman on Ellis island isn’t a gypsy at all, she is a Ruthenian immigrant.

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