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A Brief Description of Gypsy Culture, Part II

Anne Sutherland, Professor, Macalester College

I think they have a lot of contribution to make. They are hard working, they believe in family, they are very loyal to each other, they help each other out. For example, they'll often pool their income in a household and share it out among each other.

Gypsies don't abandon old people; in fact, they have very high regard for older people. The old people are viewed as sages and extremely important members of the community: not ones that are waning in life, but at the peak of their life. They love children; they're very, very close to their children. They have not been as involved in education, in educating their children, because they live a nomadic lifestyle and so they're not in school as much. But a lot of the Gypsies coming over today from Eastern Europe have been in school, and they work hard.

I visited a group of Bosnian Gypsies who had fled during the Bosnian conflict in former Yugoslavia, and they are now living up in Pelican Rapids in Minnesota working in a turkey factory, which they had never done before. But they held jobs and they lived in villages; there are whole villages in former Yugoslavia that were Gypsy villages. They were often kept segregated, so one side of town would be Gypsy and another side of town would be Croatian or Serbian. But these families have left during that conflict; they were in refugee camps and they were brought to the United States, some of them to Canada.

And this group was a very mixed group. Some were Muslim, some were Christian, but all of them were Roma. They all spoke several languages; they're learning English very rapidly; their kids are in school. The community they are in, Pelican Rapids, was very helpful to them and gave them blankets and clothes and was a very welcoming community; it's a cold place. And they got houses -- some of them are buying their houses now -- and they're working in jobs in this turkey factory that it's hard for the turkey factory to get people who will cut up turkeys all day long. And I went into the factory: the conditions are very clean and so on, but you know, it's tough work. And there's -- the Gypsies are doing a great job there. So they have a lot to offer, I think, in terms of their values as well as their work ethic.