Even Paris found them interesting. Especially Romany women for their traditional colorful skirts. They wore 16 of them, sometimes even more. They always carried all their property with them. Parisians admired their charm, sewed gold coins, their soothsaying, prophesizing, exorcising, tricks how to win love, how to hurt hated person, how to call death, get pregnant, etc. It is interesting to get to know ROMANY WOMEN.
Roms showed puppets, trained bears, monkeys and snakes. They knew the wild life very well too. Another reason why romipen deserves appreciation.

They also demostrated their skills in THE CRAFTS they practised.

Unfortunately, since the 15th century hospitality started to change into distrust and open disaffection towards Romanies nearly all around Europe. For the sake of safe-conducts they were excommunicated from church by Parisian archbishop in 1427. He even did not obey the pope’s seven-year command. The main reason was their behaviour which did not follow Christian ethics. Even if just in those time there were crusades and the reconquista.Was it the fault of the majority in various countries of the Middle Ages? Or was it the Roms? Is there an origin of mutual misunderstanding between Romanies and the majority in Europe?
Let us also understand where and when the first Romanies appeared in Europe in greater numbers.
Today they inhabit all continents. International representatives of Romanies estimate that there is about 10 to 15 million Roms all around the world, most of them in Central and Eastern Europe.
Yugoslavia 1348 France 1419 Sweden 1512
Czech Republic 1399 Belgium 1420 UK 1514
Germany 1407 Italy 1422 Finland 1515
Romania 1416 Spain 1425 Norway 1544
Switzerl. 1418 Poland 1428 Russia 1700

History was not always kind to the fate of Roms.
Let us look at some chronological data:

1496 – under the rule of Macmillan I Romanies were accused of espionage for Turks by the ”Resolution of Imperial Congress” in Freiburg and one year later again in Lindau

1500 – Macmillan I issued edict according to which the Roms can be punished for not leaving the German empire

1545 – Austrian follower of Habsburg dynasty Ferdinand I issued mandate which ordered the Romanies to be harmlessly exiled from the country

1548 – Imperial Congress worked out a resolution: whoever kills a Gypsy, shall not be charged with any crime.

1556 – Ferdinand I comes with a mandate, which allows Romany men to be punished with torture and to death, women and children were to be used for various work

1576 – peasantry is not allowed to leave Romanies on their land

1577 – German Imperial Congress agreed in Frankfurt am Main that killing a Rom is not a crime

In spite of stricter anti-Romany resolutions of the Congress they were still able to penetrate to the western world, especially from Poland and Hungary, and their number was still growing. Some groups reached even up to a few hundred people. However, it was not easy to feed so many hungry people and so the number of pilferage and trespass went up, concurrently with the antagonism of the native population.

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There was a certain relief during the Thirty year war. Europe had to deal with other issues. The war went on everywhere. Romanies were moving, they had no home, still they were able to survive! This fact brings back our admiration for romipen.
After everything settled down, all went back to the old times including the hatred towards Romanies.

1688 – Habsburg monarch Leopold I expelled Roms from the country

1697 – the same ruler declared them as outlaws: anyone could kill them as vermins, they cut the ears of women and children and banished them abroad

1701 – Leopold I became even crueler: the highest punishments applied even to women who were arrested repeatedly

1706 – the successor Joseph I placed boards on borders which forbade the entry of Romanies; the picture spoke for itself: there was a man hung on gallows, woman and boy whom they cut ears and birch with scourge.

1710 – edict for governors was issued: to cut the right ear of Romanies in Bohemia and left ear to Romanies in Moravia.

1721 – the ruler Charles VI was not any better – he legalized murdering of adult Romany men and women.
It is hard to believe what a civilized society in some parts of Renaissance and baroque Europe was able to do. This was also the time of building majestic cathedrals, spectacular castles, famous paintings and sculptures worth admiring. However, the behaviour to Romanies can hardly be admired and we would rather forget this period of Romany history. It is a memento for both sides. It is an example of how far we can go, though Romanies were warmly accepted by the majority at first!

Romanies got through this hard period and they survived. It is no wonder they tried to, avoid laws of the majority and become more sly towards the majority.

They made up their own rules of good and bad, PATIV AND LADZ.
For Romanies these principles were always sacred and their violation meant tribal trial. KRIS by Vlach Romanies applies even today.

Matyas Korvin-Kresba-Janda
Fortunately not all Europe was so harsh to Romanies. For instance in Bohemia the word gypsy as a nickname stood for courage. In 1481 king Matthias Corvinus named John of Slupsko a gypsy, for he commanded a group of Roms which served in the king’s army. And his family used this nickname as late as the 18th century.
Noble family of Romanies from Čermná had a head of a gypsy in their heraldry. Until the half of the 16th century the non-Romany people in South Bohemia used the nickname Cikán (gypsy) very often. There are written testimonies of financial gratuities for Romany groups who were passing through in the same century.

In short, the station of Romany people in Central and South-East Europe was more favorable than in the western world. In the 16th and 17th centuries Osman Empire spread all the way to South Slovakia and both sides exploited the skills of Romany smiths. They hammered tools, armour, arms. They also worked as servants for castle nobility, as well as musicians or soldiers (which is interesting since their credo was ”Never fight”).

The 16th century is the time when first Romany smiths settled on the suburbs of Slovak towns. What a dramatic change in the behaviour and thinking of Roms! They had been wandering for centuries and suddenly they had to get used to the same mountain scenery, the same water from the same stream and the same gagio neighbours. There were more and more people who stopped wandering because in the 16th and 17th centuries other populous groups, which could not stand their persecutions anymore, came from western Europe. So many of them emerged that governors had to come with other restrictions.


Breakthrough in the relationship to Romanies was the rule of Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II.
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At first Maria Theresa went on with the policy of her ancestors and in 1749 ordered Roms to be expelled from the country. But later she tried to make them farmers and believed in assimilation with the rest of the population. It was the first time in history when Roms were not expelled from Austria, moreover they counted with them as with regular inhabitants of the country.

However, it was an assimilation by force and ultimately it was not so successful. On the one hand, Romanies got their land, Christian names when baptized, they were not called cikání (Gypsies) anymore. Now they called them new farmers (in Germ.: Neubauer, in Hung.: Új-Magyar). Unfortunately the empress could not resist superiority and inequality: they were whipped for wearing their own clothes or using their language. Romanies were not allowed to get married among themselves and children from such marriages were brought up in other farmer families.
Was
Joseph II an admirable enlightener? As far as Roms, he stressed school attendance, learning of crafts, compulsory attendance of a church, improvement of sanitary conditions. Subjects perceived him as a benefactor, Romanies called him ”Second Herod”. Sometimes even well-meant help and interference to natural development does not do any good (which we will see later).
Even in new environment they tried to preserve their own CULTURE.
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This is probably how settled Romanies lived all over Slovakia. Their life style has not changed too much, some settlements exist even today and some of them even look the same way they always did. We can learn more about the housing of Romanies in a separate chapter (see lifestyle).

Majority of Roms in Bohemia was nomadic, new conditions started to be formed in Moravia for their sedantery way of life. In 1698 Dominik Ondřej Kounic called from his property in Hungary to Uherský Brod a man called Štefan Daniel. And it was a success!
Daniel’s children spread and they became far and wide known for their smithing skills. But also other Romany skills were demanded. Therefore other and other families came to this area and settled on the outskirts of towns and villages. These new settlers were able to grow together with the natives, they became just like the others. These Roms also suffered from the fury of Nazis.

The sad side of the story. But let us stress again that a great number of Roms was able to get along with the rest of the population without any problem! They were respected by them, as well as protected. They became “their Roms”.

It was just the Vlach Romanies who went on living strictly nomadic. Till the half of 19th century they were bondmen in the princedom of Wallachia and Moldavia, later they spread all over Europe.
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After the foundation of Austria-Hungary series of anti-romany measures come into existence. In 1889 there is a law which prohibits wandering, there are coercive workshops and penitentiaries and sooner or later people are sent back to their home town. These regulations lasted in Hungary as late as World War I. Reputedly the goal of these regulations was to protect people against vagabond Roms. Every January there was a report worked out by the local governor about ”abatement of a Romany nuisance”, as they called it.

World War I split Austria-Hungary into several countries and a new, modern behaviour towards Romanies was expected as well.
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No way. For example in a newly established Czechoslovakia they prepared an act for restricting wandering and a life of idleness. Why yes, for the spontaneous pressure from the public. Was the spontaneous majority wrong or had the Romanies better think of it?
Everybody knew where this forthcoming act leads to, although there was no reference to Romanies, ever. The law was passed in 1927 and it strictly limited nomadism with so called gypsy identity cards which were issued . On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that in Užhorod the first Romany school was founded!


Europe was, however, anxious due to the rise of Hitler’s power. Nazis dealt with Romanies in a very unscrupulous way.
Racist German laws excluded inferior groups of people: Jews, black people and Romanies. According to these laws they had no right to live in a human society. Let’s remember emperor’s edicts a few centuries earlier!

There was an Imperial Office for the repression of Romanies which was directly under Himmler’s control. There were work camps established in Germany and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. They were gradually renamed to ”gypsy camps”.

Many families were deported from here to concentration camps, in particular to Auschwitz II. – Brzezinky. Since 1943 Nazis focused on Roms from Germany, the Protectorate, Poland, France, Holland, Belgium, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Norway and Russia. During one night on 2nd August 1944 there were 3000 people murdered in gas chambers, especially elders and mothers with children. The deportation often preceded wholesale slaughter of Romanies in Poland, Crimea, Ukraine and other places. Estimates say that during World War II
300 000 European Roms died.