Roma and Sinti in Rumania

November 2016
Andrea asks me habla Espagnol? She gestures: she is hungry. The three gypsy girls circle around me like a flock of birds, laughing, chirping. I sit down and try to communicate with her. Her finger count says she is 15 but I doubt it, she could be younger even. I have 2 hours to spend at the Gara (train station) in Brašov in winter on my way to Sibiu.

Bystanders frown upon me, they are gypsies, Roma, ignore them, do not talk to them. They come from Rakosz some distance away and spend their days begging and hanging around here. Later I am told she may have been sent to Barcelona to earn money pickpocketing (under supervision…). Their clothing is not sufficient for the freezing weather.

Suddenly the police appear and take them, grabbing them by their hair and they disappear, fighting like cats, to their station. The police knowns know them and they are not allowed inside. But it is warm there.

Rumanian politia takes Roma girls into custody

Changes since Ceausescu

The Gara is still the same as during my last visit 40 years ago. The big difference is the numerous little shops selling coffee, bread and the usual station fare like tobacco, liquor, etc. Communism forbids private enterprise but now they are back. The pedestrian tunnel from the station hall to the tracks is identical, nothing has changed.

I remember walking here in 1976 next to a thick-set man, by a physique clearly belonging to the German minority in Siebenburgen, the hilly area in the centre of Rumania. He had not uttered a word on the train. But here he took courage and whispered in Saxon german dialect to me how bad it all was. He was the only person we actually had any real contact within those days as everyone knew we were watched by the Securitate.

The pimps are not far away

Outside the station Andrea is around again, two dirty older boys clearly keeping an eye on the three girls. Clearly the leader of the pack she wears a red flower ornament in her hair. She has charisma.

I am told at 12 or 13 they are kicked out by their parents, forcing them to make their own living one way or another. Generally, they do not go to school but they learn quickly on the street. After the horrors of the nazis prosecution, Roma and Sinti were again badly suppressed during Ceausescu times. Often they were forced to live in the Sovjet style apartment blocks and work as cleaners at night. Now they are still seen as a curse to Rumania.

The EU wants to turn our country into a refugee camp for Roma

Rumanians are good at conspiracy theories.

Glue sniffing by Roma girl at Gara Brasov

What I suspected proves to be true, one of the girls is sniffing glue. I see her holding a paper bag and the smell is unmistakable. A dire price for a moment of oblivion: the glue damages the brains in return for a small high, do they realize this? The telltale signs are already visible in her face.

As I take this picture they gesture and pull up their shirt, sure I can take also dirty pictures for money, no problem. They also know a place to go if I want.

No money but food

From the street stall, I buy some mici (Moldovian meat things) and bread, eat one and give the other portions to Andrea and her friends. They are clearly very hungry. Later I buy coffee and 3 hot chocolate for them, this is quite unusual, the bystanders frown again. At least they can eat now (money they will have to give to their young pimps).

Andrea and her friend eating mici

I would like to know more about them but my train is leaving so I wave goodbye. Later I keep thinking of what would become of them. Andrea seems a strong-willed girl and a survivor. For the other two, I have less hope.


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