Since the beginning of time, whenever a group of individuals, humans or animals, travelled or operated together, there would always be some sort of leadership and followers within the group. This is still a fact today, no matter what system we we live in. It be a democratic or dictatorial system, leaders and followers still exist. So there is no surprise when we learn the Romani people (Travelers) also had leaders, the Patriarchs or some sort of clan chiefs. Head of the family has always been, and will probably still be around for some time. No doubt about that.
However, what puzzles me is that the Romani people still practice this today. It is quite clear, when you start looking closer at the various Romani communities that there are persons who try very hard to become some sort of head of a family/group. Some of these people work very hard to alienate whomever asks uncomfortable questions, in order to cement their leading positions. Exactly the same as we have learned through history.
I am a member of numerous Romani (or Traveler) related groups online, and on Facebook as well. Some of these groups are the official Facebook-groups for the various Romani organizations which the authorities are communicating with. And many of the group members are also paying members of those official organizations. I am one of those paying members. In fact I have a membership in two of the main organizations. And those two organizations receive funding from the state since they are the official organizations the state communicate with.
And here comes the strange thing: none of these organizations send any “end of the year” (or annually) numbers (accounting) to the members. None of the organizations send any update of how many active paying members we are. One of them sent out a simple leaflet with some info and “Letters to the Editor” during the whole of 2021. The other one is more willing to send out quarterly leaflets (letters), other info, and a calendar as well.
The biggest one is the most secretive one. And when I started to ask questions about how many we were, the leaders just simply ignored me. Ignored my mails, facebook messages, and my facebook group posts. They just do not want to talk about this. When I suggested some changes to the official web pages, which is hopelessly outdated and not updated in months and years, again ignored. The bigger group even spent money sending “special” gifts to a small selection of the paying members! What the H…! What about rest of us paying members?
When discussing genealogy on the facebook groups, there is a clear ”I am from a purer Traveler stock than you are”-attitude from many of the members. It is so ridiculus it almost has become a racial debate out of it, which of course is nothing less than madness, when one think of the stigma Romani people have suffered. People discuss other members in the same Forums, disregarding the fact the people they discuss can read it all… ”He/she is not a real Rom”, and ”he/she is not from the famous family with this or that name”. And so on.
Many of the members hype up their own ancestors again and again, making everyone know they are elevated above rest of us. It has gone so far that some of them has used the state’s own system to apply for monetary support, so they can put up memorial stones, plaques, etc, of their own relatives. These funds should of course go to a common cause, putting the Romani people on the map again, and spread information and understanding about their cultural legacy among rest of the population. But nope, many of the funds end up in private pockets. I just hope none of the newspapers will pick up on this, and start digging into what is being done here. It will be devastating in regards to the stigma and the rumors about Romani people again.
It is nothing less than crazy that people who belong to a group of people who has over several centuries been mistreated by the society, because the were looked upon below the standard, are doing exactly the same within their own communities.
No wonder many of my older relatives never want to talk about their background, and their legacy. They are ashamed due to the stigma from the society. And believe me, they would have been even more ashamed if they saw how some of the Romani people today are behaving.
Proud Traveler, Kai Odegard
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