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Country's only Romany shop offers everything from art to card reading
12-09-2003  Ian Willoughby

Romen Just beneath Prague Castle on Nerudova Street a colourful and cosy shop is bringing Romany culture to people who might otherwise never come across it. Called the Obchudek, or Little Shop, Romen, it sells Romany music, jewellery, art, books and clothing. Pavlina Radlova, herself a Romany, describes the reaction of visitors to the only shop of its kind in the Czech Republic.

"I think what surprises people the most is that such a shop exists at all, or that Romany products exist. Our customers simply had no idea that Romanies make such beautiful things."

Romen Zuzana Wirthova manages the shop, which was established with the help of a grant from the European Union. She says that before the Little Shop Romen was opened in December she travelled about making contacts with the people whose products the shop now sells.

"We went on two long tours of Slovakia and we visited Romany settlements where we saw with our own eyes just how much poverty there is there. People there have no way to make a living. We sell their goods here and when a customer buys them they are supporting Romanies who have no other way to make a living."

Romen While the main aim of the shop is to present Romany culture to people who are not familiar with it, Pavlina Radlova says visiting a shop which reflects their own culture gives a great deal of pleasure to Romanies themselves.

"I'd say the most beautiful thing about this shop is how Romanies themselves are wonder-struck when they come here. They are very pleasantly surprised and some of them leave with tears in their eyes. They are happy to be able to speak the Romany language here, to find their own literature and other things. They really get a lot out of it - it's beautiful."

Postcard As well as her regular duties as a shop assistant, Pavlina Radlova reads Romany cards, and will tell you your future for a small fee.

"In the past Romany cards were one way that Romany people could make a living, and Romany women would go from village to village reading cards for people. Mostly they made positive predictions, because people were more willing to pay for good news. And that's the main difference from Tarot cards - there are a lot less negative cards in the Romany deck. I learned how to read them from my father, who had learned from his grandmother."

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