Obituary - Vania de-Gila (Jan Kochanowski)

Vania de-Gila (Jan Kochanowski)
August 6, 1920 – May 18, 2007

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge that our dear brother “Kako” Vania de-Gila Kochanowski departed this world on Friday, May 18, 2007, at the age of 86.

This is indeed a great loss to all of us for he was one of the greatest Rom that was; unassuming and humble throughout. Those of us who have had the privilege and pleasure, for indeed it was both for sure, will, I am sure, never forget him. I certainly won't.

May the Gods of our Ancestors grant him the rest and peace he so rightly deserves. Our prayers and thoughts are with his family and friends.

Jan Kochanowski (Vania de-Gila) was born on August 6th 1920 in the forest surrounding the city of Krakow (Poland). His motherly clan came from Latvia and had a nomadic lifestyle wandering from Poland to Bielorussia. So he used to live in tents among horses until the age of nine. His father belonged to a traditional military clan and was an officer in the Red Army, he died while defending the city of Smolensk in 1942.

Vania studied at the Catholic Lyceum of Aglona and passed his final secondary examination in Riga where he also attended his first year university course before the invasion of his country by the Nazi troops. During the war, more than half of his family members were exterminated, he was twice deported and he also escaped twice. He was transferred to France in order to build the Atlantic Wall. From there he joined the Resistance forces in the north of Paris. He received the War Medal 1939-45 of the British Army. Then he chose France, the Human Rights country, as his new fatherland.

Vania was the first Rom in the world and maybe is still the only one to have brilliantly upheld two doctorate theses : the first one in linguistics at the Sorbonne in 1960, the second in ethno-sociology at Toulouse university in 1984. Having to pay for his studies, his exceptional career was accomplished in extremely difficult and precarious financial conditions. He unceasingly kept on informing the civil society about the charity organizations who were supposed to act for the benefit of his People. He was an activist, fighting against the international corruption. He struggled for the recognition of the huge Roma genocide during the Second World War and for the creation of an International Indo-Romani Cultural Center (CICR) in France.

Fighting intensely for his People’s rights, he practically attended every Romani world congress as a member of the Praesidium. He was one of the first researchers to launch interdisciplinary field investigations through the Balkans with his friend Dr Bernard Ely, and also in India, the Roma’s mother country. There, he was invited by the most famous universities and the most well known pundits. He was the only western scholar to attend the official meeting when Hindi was adopted as the national language of the Indian Union. All over the world he was appreciated and recognised by every ethnic group : Gitanos-Kale, Sinte-Manush, Le Roms, Banjaras from India... etc.

He was a member of the Paris Linguistics Society (1955), as well as of the National Council for the Regional Languages (1988), member of the Latvian union in France (2002) and Transparency International (1998), President of Romano Yekhipe France and he had been appointed Plenipotentiary of the Romani Union at UNESCO in 1984.

© M V Smith, May 2007
Biography excerpt © Jean- Claude Megret (Balval)
Photo © Jean-Claude Megret (Balval)

Ronnie Wood given a Romany gypsy caravan for birthday

Ronnie Wood has been given a Romany gypsy caravan for his 60th birthday.

Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie woke up to find the $79,000 traditional painted caravan parked in his drive, left there as a surprise from his wife Jo.

A source told Britain's The Sun newspaper, "Ronnie rolled out of the house in the morning and burst out laughing when he saw it. He's delighted with the caravan.

He has Romany gypsy roots and always said he wanted one."

The ageing rocker joked he might even take the caravan on tour this summer. The source added, "The Stones are playing the Isle of Wight Festival in the summer so he'll have a perfect chance to give it a good road test."

Ronnie, who turns 60 on June 1, was born to Romany gypsy parents and spent some of his childhood living on tugboats.

Former model Jo married Ronnie in 1985. The couple have two children together - Leah and Tyrone - and both have one child from previous relationships.

Maro Temm goes ahead, finally.

After a battle of four long years against the authorities, local and federal, and do-gooders, the first Romani settlement in Western Europe and the probably first ever Romani settlement by Romani for Romani is finally going ahead. The foundation stone for the buildings was finally laid on May 24, 2007, and could there have been a better day for this. May 24 is the central day of the festival of Kali Sara, the “patron saint” of the Romani People.

Maro Temm is a project of 13 homes built by Sinti for Sinti and this settlement at the end of the Diedrichstrasse in Kiel, Germany, will be one were Sinti children can grow up within the Culture and Traditions, without too much interference with the non-Romani world.

“We do not want to hide and isolate ourselves”, said Matthaeus Weiss, the leader of the local organization of Sinti and Roma in Schleswig-Holstein of which Kiel is the state capital. In other words he said that the Sinti who are establishing Maro Temm are not out to create a Ghetto.

What, however, is wrong with a ghetto that we, the People, make for ourselves. When the Jews in North London created an Eruf, a virtual Ghetto, everyone applauded but when the Rom ask to do the same and have their own settlements that they own and build and run they are being told that they cannot be allowed to do so because they would be creating a ghetto and people like Brother Weiss have to stand up and say that they are not trying to create a ghetto.

At least the precedence has now been set in an EU country of Rom having won the fight and the right to set up their own settlements. Maybe we can get down to being given such rights also in other EU countries, such as the UK, where we are still being told that we cannot have our own sites as and where we like, with all the excuses of the settlement being too far away from the local town or village or local schools, shops, etc., often even if we are talking of just say a mile or so away from local shops and schools.

The going ahead of the Maro Temm project should give us all a little more impetus to, maybe, just maybe, (continue) to battle for our own settlements elsewhere. It would appear that it can be done.

All one can do now is wish the Maro Temm project all the best and maybe everyone could get together and pool ideas so that such settlements can become reality in others countries.

© M V Smith, May 2007

First EU country sets up concentration camps for Gypsies in modern times

It could not be long that this would start all over again and while all the Rom in Germany are hiding their ethnicity thinking that that will save them this menace is on the march again.


Gypsies to be housed outside of Rome

By Stephen Brown

Rome will build four "solidarity villages" for gypsies outside the city, patrolled by police and equipped with welfare facilities, the government said on Friday, as part of a package of measures to allay concern about crime.

Gypsies - or Roma as they prefer to be known - from Italy and eastern Europe, and illegal immigrants, have been broadly accused in the Italian media of responsibility for a spate of violent crimes.

The media attention paid to the subject prompted one leftist cabinet minister to caution that the country that invented the Mafia should not be too quick to blame foreigners for crime.

City authorities have in the past tried to house Roma in settlements made of prefabricated material or in disused barracks, but many more Roma set up makeshift settlements by the river or beside motorways that local residents say are dens of criminality.

Attempts by Italy's previous conservative government to move them outside Rome's city limits met protests from human rights groups, but the current centre-left mayor, Walter Veltroni, said the new camps would give Roma better access to welfare.

"The new camps will be controlled by police, meaning local authorities will guarantee the camps get the resources they need," said Veltroni.

The European Roma Rights Centre told Reuters that "at first glance, segregating or building special facilities for Roma does not sound like a good idea at all."

"It sounds pretty much in line with what Italian authorities have been doing so far, like building camps around the country for Roma, or "nomads" as they call them," said Savelina Danova of the Budapest-based Centre, which has previously made legal complaints against Italy regarding housing for Roma.

City authorities will take three months to choose sites for the Roma villages and a further nine months to build them.

The security package will provide Rome with 200 more police officers and Milan, the northern city where locals led by the mayor have taken to the streets to protest against crime, with 600 more.

Milan also plans to install video cameras to check vehicle registration numbers and help police track criminals.

Interior Minister Giuliano Amato linked the "security pact", to be extended to other cities soon, to plans to boost social housing that Prime Minister Romano Prodi will detail next week.

"How are we supposed to help the Roma integrate if we don't have houses for them?" said Amato, who recently presented data showing immigrants were responsible for one third of the crimes in Italy while making up only four percent of the population.


Those “settlements” are nothing else but ghettos or concentration camps, by whichever name one might like to call them, and how long before there will be gates that are manned by police officers – and we must remember that most of Italy’s police are “Carabinieri” which are military police – and fence topped with razor wire and watch towers, if they will not be there to start with.

Italy is starting it and, we must also not forget that the “official Gypsy Sites” in the UK could also, under the guise of protecting the residents, be rather quickly converted into concentration camps of sorts (and who was the inventor of concentrations camps after all) and that may also be the reason that they will not allow Rom to create their own settlements. They want everyone to go into the ones that they, the powers that be, can control.

The incident in the Midlands where the Gypsy families were forced to sell the land and site they had set up to the council and then were asked back in as rent paying residents points to the fact that the governments want to control sites.

Italy is, as said, starting it. Italy, one of the founder members of the then European Economic Community which became the European Community and then the European Union. It is also most amazing that it is find when the government wishes to establish ghettos for Gypsies, for those settlements are nothing but; but when Gypsies want to establish their own settlements for their own People then they are told that that would be creating ghettos and cannot be allowed.

Gypsies of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

M V Smith, May 2007
Gypsy Union

Eastern European Roma and South African Blacks - What do they have in common?

No, I am not talking of genes, LOL, for it is not genes that they have in common. However both have the “the government has to do this and that for me” attitude, in exactly the same manner, be this in regards to housing and when there is a leaky roof or such, or in regards to finding employment and helping with setting up business.

Only a few weeks ago I was listening to BBC Radio 4 on the wireless, as they say here, and heard South African Blacks complaining that the ANC government is not sorting out their housing problems: “Look how the water comes into my home through the roof”, said one of the interviewees, and he said that because of those unsolved issues he would not vote for the ANC again.

So, the party and the government get the blame for a leaky roof and such. Here is what they, the South African Blacks and the Eastern European Roma have in common. The Eastern European Roma, especially in countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia, have the same attitude. The government or charities should repair their leaky roof, their bad windows, clean up the litter, garbage and trash that they, the Rom, leave strewn around their villages and homes, help them set up business, etc.

What is wrong with those people, whether Rom or South African Blacks? The Rom, I even have the feeling, are even worse in this entire aspect than the Southern African Blacks. Have they no pride in themselves? It would appear not.

A leaky roof of the kinds that are on the homes of the South African Blacks and especially on the shacks and bit upmarket homes of eastern European Rom do not require the municipality to come and fix it. All it requires is a hammer, some roofing felt and some felt nails and, maybe, some hot tar to seal the edges. The refuse which the Rom think has to be collected by the municipality from around their homes and neighborhoods, considering especially that, in the majority, many of those Rom refuse to pay charges for such services to the municipality. Why should the municipality bother if the residents cannot be bothered to keep the area clean. No wonder the Gohja have a bad impression of the Rom, of the Gypsy. The majority of our own do not help in that matter one iota. In places like the UK and most western countries per se the Rom are slightly more “civilized” but then again those Rom in most of those countries are not actually Roma but are of Sinti origin and that may account for some of it. Only in recent years have the Romanichals in Britain started to do the same thing, e.g. leaving mess around where they live or have camped; apparently following the bad example of the Irish Travellers, as regards to the rubbish laying about and also they go and fly tip, but the fact that the Irish behave in such a manner is no excuse in my eyes and those misbehaving in such a way must be dealt with severely and ideally this should be by a Romani court.

© M V Smith, May 2007

Mogati Paradoxes

Often, so I have been told, members of the Romani community do not want to wash mens/boys and womens/girls gear in the same washing machine at home and want two machines. So at least, as I say, I have been told. Some people have told me that they want or that they even have two machines so as not to wash the clothes of men/boys and women/girls in the same machine. I must say that I have only been told this; I have not actually seen the homes of those claiming thus.

Obviously there must be separate loads for men/boys and women/girls and also the clothes for the top half and those for the bottom half of the body must be washed separately but to demand and/or have two machines for the purpose is going a little too far – or is it a case of trying to be more Gypsy than others, which I think is more the case, by those that claim to use two machines or wanting two. If they want to be really separating that much then really they would need four machines.

For, nothing seems to be thought of though by going to a laundromat and using machines that have previously had Gohja clothes in them, of all kinds, top and bottom clothes often together. This is rather a paradox to me.

Then there is the issue about medical profession and medical professionals of our own People. It is claimed that we cannot, for reasons of taboo, have our own nurses, doctors, dentists, etc, and that it is against the mogati (marime) taboo.

But then we moan when the Gohja doctors, medics, nurses, health visitors, etc. don't treat us according to our Culture. They do not know our Culture in those aspects and therefore we either need to teach them – O Del forbid – or have our own medical personnel, and the latter is the only thing that makes sense to me in this case.

Many Rom, it would appear, have the same problem as regards to, it would appear, dealing with litter and garbage around the homes and settlements and bags of trash on the balconies, as they see it and claim it to be unclean to handle it and they would get defiled by doing so, while at the same time women and children are sent by many groups to scavenge on landfill sites and rubbish tips. The truth is in this instance that the men are simply to bone idle and lazy to clean up their own trash and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the mogati taboo.

Many could not possibly, so they say, eat food cooked and served by Gohja when they happen to visit there, or the chavies at school, but then they all quite happily, it would appear, traipse of to McDonald's, Burger King, Tapas Bars and other general restaurants not run by Rom, get pizza delivered, etc. without even thinking that that food has been prepared and cooked by Gohja hands and is, therefore, theoretically, ritually unclean, that is to say mogati/marime.

Let's stop being and acting dinlo and let's look at it all from the right angle.

© Veshengro, May 2007