As adults, the Roma care for their children, making sure they have enough to
eat, and clothing and raising them. Accordingly, it was up to the head (man)
of the family to see after the material security of the family, bringing money
in however he could (wages from work, state social support, by fraud, etc.).
The life of the Roma settled in Slovakia was set in rural camps, which have
survived to the present, particularily in Eastern Slovakia, where wooden
cabins and huts of unfired bricks predominate. Before the Second World War,
many lived in so-called "earthings," simple dwellings sunk into the ground. A
house for a Rom isn't a home. If small children need to have their mother at
home, Roma need to have their people, the whole extended family, at home. Among
them, a Rom feels at home in even a wretched little hut. And a person has to
learn to live in a house. Living in a house may seem simple to us, but the fact
that it isn't so simple can be demonstrated with the Roma, when they suddenly
found themselves in new apartments in housing estates. As part of the program
to eliminate the Romani camps, large families were transported to
flats in huge housing estates in the cities and towns, and had to start living
with a different culture from day to day. The subsequent destruction of these
flats by their Romani inhabitants, frequently featured in newspaper reports and
anti-Roma diatribes, is the result of their attitude towards their "homes."
In these camps, there existed a man respected and honored by everyone, a
chhibalo or vajda, who acted as a guardian of morality and order.
He was often the master of ceremonies who
presided over wedding, funerals and other events. With the disintegration of
social bonds in the post-war period, his authority declined as well. The
foundation of Romani society remains the family, and all activity of the adults
is concerned with the security of the family, in the cities as in the villages
and camps. There are great differences in wealth and ways of life among the
Romani camps, but the residents of these camps are often more free than people
in civilized places. Something is preserved in them which, in today's busy
world where everyone is looking out mostly for themselves, we don't see.
There's an optical illusion at work in Czech towns and cities: it seems that
more Roma than there really are. In comparison with other groups of people, the
much less of their time in their residences, and a lot more on the streets. In
the summer months, life in a Romani encampment also takes place outside: women
cook on stoves carried out in front of their homes, they carry tables outside
as well and eat there, wash there, and hold various celebrations and parties
outside. And outside is where one would hear various Romani songs: one
mourning a mother's death or poverty, another lively, in the Csardas rhythm.