* Od 5 do 30 września 2017 r. - piesza pielgrzymka do Santiago de Compostela
* bezterminowo: Akcja społeczna Zielone Bronowice

piątek, 19 stycznia 2018

From Gypsies to Romas

The first historical mention of Gypsies in Europe dates from the mid-eleventh century and talks about the presence of newcomers in Constantinople. They introduced themselves as repentant pilgrims who had once betrayed the Church. At the beginning, they could not be afraid any punishment, as long as faith was given to the assurances of a saintly, penitential character wandering. Their poverty and rags seemed to the local population attributes of penitents and prompted them to give the alleged pilgrims help.

However, the lifestyle of the guests, and the theft by which they tried to get means of subsistence, were already known in Europe, and they were considered undesirable there. Gypsies wandered practicing blacksmithing and divination, enjoying some support and superstitious respect. Gradually their situation worsened as fear of spells and robberies locked the doors. Fortune-telling and fraudulent professions replaced traditional Gypsy craft, which created a difficult legacy for their descendants. In my essay I want to consider the influence of historical events on the Roma position in contemporary Poland.

Among the most important problems that affect this community should be mentioned: stereotyping, discrimination and conflict relations between the acculturation strategies of ethnic groups.

For example, according to the urban dictionary, “dirty gypsy” means a person who lies and takes things without asking. Stereotypes function in every society and it is extremely difficult to fight them. They can have a negative and positive impact on individuals. Every person has a biased world view because we are all limited to a single camera perspective. Three principles explain the tendency to assign specific features to groups and individuals:
1. Stereotypes are aids to explanation: they form to help the perceiver make sense of a situation.
2. Stereotypes are energy-saving devices: they form to reduce effort on the part of the perceiver.
3. Stereotypes are shared group beliefs: they are formed in line with the accepted views or norms of social groups that the perceiver belongs to.

The worst period of persecution was during the Nazi occupation of Poland. The Nazis rounded up the Gypsies for “protective custody,” and shipped them off to concentration camps. Gypsies were forcibly sterilized, made the subjects of medical experiments, injected with typhus, worked to death, starved to death, frozen to death, and gassed in various numbers.

Nowadays, discrimination against Roma refers to various aspects of social life. It touches people at various ages, gender and levels of education or economic status. The community of Romani origin experience lack of cooperation, rejection, and negligence as well as open hostility and aggression from average citizens and representatives of various institutions. They frequently lack education and knowledge of the law.

Moreover, Roma are frequently treated a priori as thieves and perpetrators of various crimes by the judiciary and Police officials. Also in shops, mall centers and restaurants they are a subject of ethnic profiling, and, against their will, they focus the attention of employees and other customers. Countering unemployment among Roma has also seen difficulties from employers, who are unwilling to employ representatives of that community. They do not want Romani employees even in arrangements when their work is fully or partially co-financed from outside and they do not incur any costs. Such an approach is an additional barrier in coming out of unemployment, poverty and social pathology for people of Romani origin.

An acculturative conflict between the Polish majority and Gypsy minority destroyed the natural predispositions of the Roma. Acculturation is identified as a multidimensional process consisting of the confluence among heritage-cultural and receiving-cultural practices, values, and identifications. The Roma were leaning towards separation. They rejected the receiving culture and retained their heritage culture. The Polish government tried to integrate them; from the 1950s, it offered housing and employment to Gypsies, but most continued to wander. Therefore, Gypsies were forbidden to travel in caravans in 1964. This law was strictly enforced, and 80 percent of children were enrolled in school.

At present, Roma in Poland belong to several groups. These differ in dialect, tradition, and customs. Researchers divide the tribes into two main types, the settled and the migrating, which have had different approaches to tradition. In 2000, the government of Poland unveiled its “Aid Program for the Roma Community,” intended to help Roma adapt their living conditions to those of the rest of the society. However, I have an impression that the project is not based on creating opportunities, but on the expectation of unification and assimilation of the Roma.

* Fragment moich rozważań w nawiązaniu do zagadnień poruszanych na kursie z psychologii religii: "Migration and Religion. Past and Present in V4 Countries."

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