“My Lord, may I only reach Christmas Eve this year!” That was the first line of a lovely story I heard from my dad when I was a child.
My dad would share many stories about his childhood in the sixties. The stories from when he was a young child depict a world of poverty and starvation where they would feel very cold because of lack of clothing and heating.
Having food on the table would be a problem every single day. Most of the days there would be no food on the table at all. My dad’s father would collect scrap metal in a hand truck trolley. His mother was a street cleaner. There were three children including my dad in their family. The house they lived in was built by themselves in the middle of a Roma settlement called “Poppy Street”.
Their family was often starving. My dad would often starve and had a stomach-ache and wouldn’t be able to fall asleep. This is the story he would tell us the most often.
My dad’s deepest story comes from his Christmases in the sixties. Roma adults would beg God daily throughout the year: “Murro Del, ferdi o Krechuno te shay resav kado bersh” - Dear Lord, may I only reach Christmas Eve this year. The question to our dad was “Why would you ask for that?”. His answer was: “Christmas Eve would be an exceptional day. That was the day of the 365 days in a year when despite the loads of challenges there would be plenty of food on the table in every Roma household. That was the only day in the year which was not about starving but about the birth of Jesus and abundance that comes with it. That is the greatest celebration of all Christian Roma.” All Roma, including my dad, would be very thankful for that day to the Lord.
I was very proud to share with my dad in Hungary about my work in the ‘Roma Connections’ project and the event with the 12 Roma women we had on 8th of December 2021 in Oldham.
He was especially interested since he thought that the stories of the 12 Roma women with a similar age to mine in the project are the same as his childhood stories 60 years ago.
We had the first Roma women’s event on 8th of December 2021 in Oldham where Roma women shared some of those stories with the audience in Romany Gypsy and English languages. We organised this event as an introduction to our culture, including traditional Roma food, stories and songs. We also proudly presented the young Roma talent we have in Oldham to the audience. They are the future Roma teachers, midwives, nurses and interpreters whom we dearly introduced to public service providers present at the event.
I really enjoy working with the youth since we inspire each other to grow. I can see and feel their speed, talent, ambition and the firm belief in a better future in England. These youngsters are amazing, as well as their parents. They are simple and innocent people and with this event, run by Roma women, they managed to make a crucial step in the journey of their social inclusion in England.
The decision of the 12 Roma women to engage with the Roma Connections project was a decision made by their own families, a joint decision with their husbands. Since October to December, husbands would give more and more support to their wives every week. At the event they also proudly celebrated their wives and also made an important contribution to the organising of the event: they looked after children in the two days when women were making the wide variety of tasty food for the event.
The families of the 12 Roma women managed to demonstrate commitment and dedication through this journey leading to the celebratory event on 8th of December 2021. The audience, including both Roma and non-Roma, was very happy and satisfied with what they received on the day.
I think the greatest result of the weekly sessions and the celebration event with the 12 Roma women is that the Roma Connections project has become important for Roma families in Oldham. We are building on this enthusiasm and will carry on with more exciting activities next year.
We are grateful to all the supporters of our cause, especially the ones who also attended the event. The Roma Women’s group is thankful for the support to KaskoSan Roma Charity, Oldham Coliseum Theatre, Burning Bush Romanian Gypsy Evangelical Church, Oldham Council, The Ideas Fund, Action Together and the University of Salford.
We will keep you posted about our activities next year. I am wishing everyone an abundant Merry Christmas and a lucky and Happy New Year in 2022! Bachtalo Krechuno tay Nevo Bersh!
Coordinator of the Roma Women's Group in Oldham, Greater Manchester