The post below is signed by Andrej Umansky, Scientific Consultant of Yahad- In Unum, who is accompanying the research trip to Romania.
Translation from French: Yelena Moskovich
For three days now I am with the Yahad team in Romania to investigate in the district of Sibiu.
The first impressions are surprising: Have I really left Germany – has the plane taken two hours to take me to Tirgu Mures from the Rhineland? Cities and villages here have kept their German names: Neumarkt am Mures (Tirgu Mures), Hermannstadt (Sibiu)…
Everywhere I see buses with tourists, especially of older Germans who visit old towns and fortresses where their ancestors had lived, the Sași, the Saxons of Transnistria have been in this region for a long time.
I joined the team in Sibiu, led by Costel Nastasie directing the Roma investigators and translators, Paris, Bebe, Kovac, Arnold. Katia (script), Oscar (cameraman) and Victoria (photographer) are all experienced team members who have participated in many investigations in recent years.
From the very first day, we head out, leaving the cities and highways to look for Roma communities in the villages. The Sibiu District is populated by the Calderari, originally Nomadic Roma, who made objects of copper and steel objects. Their families settled in the district’s villages and they warmly welcome us and share their traditions and their history.
They live a simple and agricultural life, a life behind cities and small towns. We must pass through small roads in the Transylvanian valleys to discover this world which is disappearing little by little in European countries.
I am surprised by the appearance of the Calderari, especially of the men: long white beards and large black hats. They are very proud of their culture and of their craft. Before the war they traveled from village to village with their carts to sell boilers and other products that people asked for. We awaited their arrival with impatience, because they are known to be the best metal-craftsmen and were able to produce objects of any size. The know-how was handed down from father to son who soon learned to use small tools with finesse.
In Avrig, a small town not far from Sibiu, Victor (born 1930) and his son teach us a great deal about the traditions and life of the Calderari in this region. They show us pictures of families with men of different generations. Even today, young people are very attached to the Roma language and culture. Victor also shows us the deportation of his community to Transnistria in 1942. Many families have lost fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. Often due to cold and hunger or illness, sometimes shot by the local police or the Romanian gendarmes.