Albeit it a sensitive subject, it’s one that requires addressing.
Rom or Roma gypsies have lived in the Balkan region for over 1000 years. The gypsies of Europe Roma came from a single group that left northwestern India about 1,500 years ago, and continued their migrations all over Europe, shortly after the Crusades.
They were perceived by Europeans in a somewhat hostile manner, treated similarly as the Jewish population. Their dress and attire resembled that somewhat of the Saracens that the European Christians had been fighting in the Holy Land a few centuries earlier, and thus this appearance alone may have alone caused them to be alienated from the Europeans. Enslavement and subjugations were commonplace, including the penalty of death simply for entering European cities.
Following abolition of slavery in Wallachia and Transylvania in 1856, the Romani gypsies lived in relative harmony with the Romanian populations-trading and laboring, and entertaining. They inherited a caste system from India, which means that Roma gypsies can broken into subgroups of their own, providing different forms of trade and manual labor for each group.
Despite the pogroms of World War Two and their subjugation in the Communist period, their treatment during Ceausescu ‘s period was perceived as fair by the Romanian citizenry. Legend has it that over 70% of the Roma gypsies were employed in 1970s and 80s by the Government in forestry and other agricultural programs.
The collapse of the Ceausescu administration caused massed unemployment to the Romanian gypsies which led to economic migration in the early 90s, followed by a second wave after the accession to European Union.
Many gypsies who had been provided for during Ceausescu’s era brought forth a generation that blended in with the general Romanian population. For the most part, they are still independent traders and laborers, and the trend of educated Romanian gypsies was somewhat reversed just after 1989, but European aid and assistance has since improved their conditions.
Nowadays, there are as more settled Gypsy communities than nomadic ones, and neighborhood surrounding Bucharest town center are composed of entirely modern gypsy communities.
Manele music, traditionally attributed to Gypsies can be heard on the radio, and many have working class jobs such as agricultural workers or road workers. More independent gypsies sell fruit and vegetables from stalls, and inner city gypsies in Bucharest provide themselves working by helping drivers find parking spaces in the hopes of a tip to “protect” the car.
According to a study, Romanian gypsies living in Romania face the least amount of discrimination in Europe. Romanian citizenry has accepted Gypsy representatives in parliament, making it clear that they must accept gypsy heritage as part of Romanian heritage. Many still live in squalor and deep poverty, but at a national level, it must be said that Romania has one of highest poverty rates in Europe.
Although it wouldn’t be recommended to intrepidly head into a Gypsy neighborhood or community as wide-eyed tourist, the inherent risks and dangers of doing so are probably just as equal as in any poor neighborhood around the world.