Yevgenia Navrotskaya: It is worth to see them

April 8 – International day of Romani

This woman gives an ambiguous impression. Externally simple, easy in communication, extremely communicative and willing to share an enormous amount of information she has, she makes you suspicious at first sight. But over the next few minutes an indifferent interlocutor is completely captured by the willingness to listen, ask, and learn.

Eugenia Nikolaevna Navrotskaya, generously gifted by God with desire to explore, to experience, to share what she learned, for the last three years has been working on Transkarpathian television of Roma edition. And her indifference cannot but bring a real delight. For several decades, the main topic of research of the educated historian Mrs. Eugenia has been life, culture and history of gypsies.

This unusual hobby is one more reason for, so to say, surprise of others. However, books on Roma history and culture, bilingual phrasal books, the tragic pages of the Gypsy Holocaust, published by her, perseverance and personal attitude in studying this difficult subject convince that Eugenia Navrotskaya’s interest in the original people, around which there is a uniquely colorful aura of mistrust, is genuine and motivated.

– How come such an unusual hobby?
– I think the first time my attention was attracted to the gypsy culture by Tivodar Michael, who in his lectures on the history department of ethnography in the Uzhgorod University, in a very bright, keen and interesting manner was talking about romas. Of course, I had experience with them when we were living with my parents in Korolevo. At that time Roma’s settlement was located there.  However, it was not more than just a contemplative experience. And in the late 90’s Aladar Adam, with whom fate had brought me together much earlier, asked me to start working on a Gypsy newspaper. I first visited the all-gypsy Congress of Journalists in the Macedonian Ohrid, where I saw a huge number of newspapers published in Europe … Actually, it all started from there…

 Myroslav Horvat at the round-table meeting in Kiev.



But they say that the Roma are not very welcome to communicate with representatives of the ‘not theirs’ …
– Of course, we had to deal with a lot of naughty things. But … In order to understand a human one has to go through a lot of work, and what’s most important – a desire to do it. Not speaking about the entire nation! My first personal experience with Roma that occurred in 1981, when I came to teach at the Roma school, was very difficult. It is suffice to say about the heating furnace, which at that time stopped being used everywhere else… In addition, to keep children’s attention, interest them, convince parents that education is necessary – all this required considerable effort. It was then that I began to study the history of the Roma school…

Is it worth attention?
– Any fact to understand, predict how it will affect the life, deserves attention! For example, did you know that the Roma school is open at the order of Masaryk? I personally know that there were several of them in Transcarpathia. The existence of a minimum of three of them is beyond doubt: in Mukachevo, Seredne and Uzhgorod. At that time, according to the documentary records, enclaves existed in Transcarpathia in 33 towns and villages. Currently in 121Transcarpathian villages, towns or cities there are places of compact residence of Roma. Schools attended by little gypsies operate in 115 of them. In Uzhgorod secondary school № 13 study more than 200 children, in the 14th one – 60.

 Eugenia Navrotskaya and Valentina  Zolotarenko – a woman from Kiev, who belongs to the genus, leading its history since the 17th century, is fluent in the language of the Roma-serfs. 


– And do they want to study?
– You see, you follow common stereotypes… There is no a particular emotion, sign or color, you can use to describe the entire nation! It is impossible! Those people, with whom I worked, want to have decent salary, work and life. It requires knowledge. It’s true that most believe that their daughters do not need to be literate and that the Roma live in a society divided into groups. But these features need to be studied in order to look for the ways to help them…

To integrate …
– It is a bad word! What do you mean by integration: the loss of national culture and characteristics?

– If mud belongs to a national culture, then – yes!
– Another stereotype! Most of the Gypsies whom I know well are pathologically neat!  Do not think that cleanliness is a caste feature of the ‘white’ people! One my friend gypsy, who has been cleaning the streets of the city for her entire life, once said to me sadly: ‘You, white, are so dirty! Every day we clean up piles of garbage after you in order to find the next day the same mount of dirt!’ And if you are squeamish with the hospitality of Gypsies, who are unlikely to venture to invite you to visit them, you should know that they won’t eat in your homes either. At least, I was faced with the Rome told me: ‘I am not going to eat in this house. It smells bad!’.

Eugenia Navrotskaya and Natalya  Varakuta, a resident of Donetsk, the chairman of the society of Roma women "Miriklya" (necklace), poet.


You might think that their homes are impregnated with aromas …
– Don’t! It isn’t the nation that stinks, it’s poverty: unheated rooms, old things, the lack of good household…

– But there have been attempts to provide Gypsies with decent housing. Everyone knows how it ended …
– And again, in order to really help, you need to know how to do it. There was a story. In the Czech army there were two soldiers, with whom no one wanted to talk, and they were forced to share a room and service, and even wear a mortar together…

Is this a parable?
– Yes, I won’t call you their names! So. One of them was a Communist, the second one – a Rome. After decades the communist Czech, who became a deputy defense minister of his country, visiting Uzhgorod, wanted to meet his Comrade, who at that time was Birov. It turned out that the Roma had 13 children, who found it very difficult to wade through the ditches, which surrounded the enclaves at that time. This ‘upset’ the Czech, who asked local authorities to resolve the issue. Then the representatives of the educated population got apartments in the old town, others were given former military dormitories in the streets Thalmann and Pirogov and others were awarded with land, authorities helped them with loans and employment for them to build their own homes. Thus the quarters at today’s Shakhta appeared. Time has proven that this decision was very successful. I am convinced that the experience, knowledge and desire can help solve many problems.

With Myroslav Horvat, a journalist from the TV channel ‘Tysa-1’, announcer of the programme ‘Romano Jivipen’


– By the way, Does only our society have these problems?
– Unfortunately, no. I will never forget how in the early 90’s the representative of the Soros’ fund in Europe Ms Deborah Hurting said something like: ‘If the countries which stepped onto the path of independence, do not turn their face towards the Roma, in a few decades their economies will drown  providing social assistance.’ Wisely and prophetically, isn’t it?

– So what should we do?
– Not to lie at least. In 1989 the number of Roma was announced at the closed conference of regional officials in the Transcarpathian region. At the time there were more than 20,000 of them. According to the census of 2001 there were 14,003 gypsies. The Healthcare Department in the Transcarpathian region showed in 2012 a figure of 39,270 Gypsies. Now tell me, voicing the percentage ratio of people with, say, tuberculosis, which figures will be used? Who will we deceive this time?

Zola Kondur, a Chairman of the International Roma organization ‘Chiricli’ (birds).


– And do they need our help?
– I’ll tell you another story. I once heard a gypsy telling her child: ‘If you are naughty, this white auntie will take you.’ After my, as I thought, fair outrage she replied: ‘Isn’t that what you say about us?’ … For us  they’re all the same… In Transcarpathia there live four ethnic groups of Gypsies which have their major differences: in Uzhgorod – Slovak Roma, in Beregovo – Hungarian, in Korolevo – orthodox keldelary, in Poroshkove – blue-eyed Vlachs. How much do we know about them, and do we want to know? How many Ukrainians know that the famous Lina Kostenko wrote a wonderful poem about a gypsy poet ‘Gypsy muse’, based on historical facts? The Roma have an expression: ‘You look at us, but you do not see.’ So maybe it’s time to see them, or at least, try to understand them…

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