Roma (Gypsies) are the largest and most discriminated minority in Europe. Their level of education is lower than other Europeans. Their health is poorer, their unemployment rate is higher and their life expectancy are shorter than for other Europeans. The history of Roma in Europe is dark and through the ages they have been subjected to racial hatred and outright extermination.
The last two years Sweden and other rich countries in northern Europe has been subjected for a desperate migration from extremely poor Roma people from Bulgaria and Romania. They have no other solution than to go to Sweden hoping to find a work and get money to pay their debts and feed their hungry children. Within the European Union it's allowed for the citizens to stay up to 3 months in another EU country without work and up to 6 months if you have a work.
The Swedish NGO Heart to Heart (Hjärta till Hjärta) from the Swedish town Linköping wants to be a part of changing the causes of alienation, misery and poverty among the Roma minorities in Romania. Most of the beggars in Linköping, Sweden comes from the village Pauleasca in Romania. Heart to Heart work to find solutions for them to earn their living in Pauleasca. So that mothers and fathers don't have to leave their children in the care of their grandparents, borrowing money to get to Sweden in hope of getting a job and an income. The chance for them to find a job in Sweden is very small and they often end up on the streets begging for coins. Heart to Heart want to change the situation for the woman who begs outside the grocery store and the man who begs at the station. Therefore they have started a new project with the name Team Roma in Pauleasca, Romania.
Nearly 4000 people live in the Pauleasca area. They live in extreme poverty. They have substandard housing. They lack running water, proper kitchen and bathroom. Their food is deficient and many children suffer from malnutrition. Heart to Heart works in this area together with their Romanian partner Somebody Cares Romania, who has been working in Pauleasca since 2002. Most houses in the area are illegal settlements. The residents risk eviction and have their homes demolished. Although many houses were built in the 50s, 60s and 70s with the approval of the old communist government. After the fall of the communist regime in Romania the settlements are considered illegal because the land has gone back to the original landowners.
50% of the adults in Pauleasca are illiterate. Most kids attends school from grades 1-4 and today most of them even continue to grades 5-8. Fewer continue with high school education. And to go to college or university seems to be totally unattainable for all young people in the village. Some of the kids in Pauleasca have no birth certificates and thus no identity, they don't go to school at all. The health problems among people in Pauleasca are big. There are clear signs of malnutrition among children. Poverty diseases as hepatitis, tuberculosis and rickets are common. The access to proper health care are virtually non-existent.
The majority of the inhabitants in working age have no jobs or fixed income. They work as day laborers in agriculture and forestry whenever possible. They own no farmland or forest. The main income for the majority of the families are the small child allowances they get from the state.
Heart to Heart work with the following areas in Pauleasca:
3) Self management (and family maintenance)
4) Structural efforts
Although Roma people has been subjected to persecution and oppression for generations in Europe, they are a happy people as you can see in the slide-show. Despite all the difficulties they have been through, they are always close to a good laugh. Joy and music welds them together and it has become a way for them to escape from all the hatred and oppression that they are constantly subjected to. There's a big revival among Roma in Romania today. According to some sources up 1.000.000 or nearly 50% of the Roma minority in Romania are reborn Christians.
The photos in the slide-show Ederlezi has been taken by the Swedish reporter and photojournalist Mikael Good who works for Heart to Heart. The music has been arranged and performed by the Romanian musicians Catalin Vlad, guitar and Stefanica Gheorghe, cello. They belong to the Roma minority and plays the traditional roma song Ederlezi by Goran Bregovic.
Text and Photo: Mikael Good, Heart to Heart