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July 10, 2013 / TAB

Romania- Tea with the Gypsies

      An enterprising young woman named Karla has opened her home and culture to visitors and risked censure from the Gypsy community at large. Her parents are supportive but she is isolated within the community because of this activity.

     She has recently escaped from an abusive relationship and returned home with her young son. After participating in a project exploring the Gypsy culture, she decided to start a  business which gives the world access to what is usually closed to outsiders. She offers a unique experience and answers any questions openly.  She explained the tradition of girls leaving school at 11 to go in “training” to become a good wife, usually at 14. She objected to the concept of enforced “slavery” and blind obedience to a husband who is expected to keep things in line with violence. 99% of first marriages (always arranged by the parents) fail. We discussed how she feels when she is automatically rejected by outsiders just because she is a Gypsy (a term she prefers to Rom).

     I was unaware that the Gypsies have their origin in India and the society is set up in a caste system. Karla’s family belongs to the Gabor caste, the highest one. They are assimilated into regular village communities and the children go to the regular local school until they drop out to go into the family business (boys) or start the road to an early marriage (girls). The lower castes are the ones found begging or scamming. There are few nomadic groups anymore.

      Her mother and grandmother welcomed me into a modern house for tea and sweets made by the local woman who bakes for weddings and other celebrations. On display was mom’s dowry items which have never been used. They will stay on display until Karla’s younger brother brings home a wife. 


IMG_0948 Karla’s father is a metal worker and was making rain gutters and supports, heating the metal in a forge and pounding out the shapes, on the day I visited. 





It was an amazing experience which I’m so glad to have been offered. 

More photos of Romania at:



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