think that now it’s better for the youth; they have boyfriends and
girlfriends, and they know who they’ll marry. We didn’t know; our
parents made the decisions that we should have made. I think that it’s
better now- because you can marry the one that you love.”
I was born in 1942. I have five children; four sons and one daughter. My husband
is from Podujevo, but we have lived in Prizren for 35 years, always in this
Mahala- Podrimska. We are Roma but we are Albanian;
I attended a Serbian school because my father lived in Belgrade after 1942. I finished
primary school. My father is from Prizren; my mother as well.
kind of work did your father have?
My father worked in a factory; he fixed cars there.
holidays do you celebrate?
We celebrate holidays similar to Albanians, but we are Roma; the night of Bibi
we don’t celebrate, but we do celebrate Herdeljez. That’s a good day; my
great-grandfather celebrated Herdeljez. Winter has ended; the summer will come
Our mother would bake cookies; we’d buy a sheep.
We would all get together, girls and
boys, but we had no boyfriends like girls do now; everything is different now.
We’d dance, sing, and on this day we’d go to the Turbe*. We’d pick
flowers, and some of the girls would sing while we went there.mp3
Our mother would wash us in the early morning with a red egg.
refer to the Herdeljez description under Roma Holidays.)
a red egg?
So we’d be healthy like a red egg.
old were you when you were married?
My husband was still in school. Some people came to my father, to ask about me;
I didn’t even know who this guy that I’m supposed to marry was. My parents
decided all that.
that good for you or not?
I think that now it’s better for the youth; they have boyfriends and
girlfriends, and they know who they’ll marry.
We didn’t know; our parents made the decisions that we should have
made. I think that it’s better now- because you can marry the one that you
customs did you follow for the wedding?
My parents agreed to my betrothal; I was engaged for six months. Before I went
(to my husband’s family), they gave me nice clothes and gold. I didn’t have
a wedding dress.
did they (the groom’s family) come to take you from your home?
They brought musicians and a busload of guests (to pick me up). When I got off
the bus from Gjakovë (Serbian: Djakovica), my new father-in-law took me by the
hand and escorted me to the door. When I entered the home, my mother-in-law
gave me sweetened water, and I placed my hand in that water and placed my hand
on the door.
your mother-in-law will then eat from your hand?
Yes. To show that there won’t be problems between us in her house.
are you then allowed to visit your family?
After two weeks.
is the custom when your husband first visits your family?
(My family) will prepare a good dinner. They’ll play many jokes on him;
they’ll make him eat a lot and then he’ll have to go outside to chop
wood. (When he’s outside) they’ll yell, ‘watch out for the dogs! No, wait,
those are wolves!’
Yes. The Turks and Albanians follow this tradition.
else does the family do to the son-in-law?
When he (the husband) is ready to leave, he’ll find that someone’s put
things in his shoes; usually eggs. The wife will try to prevent many of these
things. They (the bride’s family) will give gifts to the son-in-law, for his
family. After another two weeks, the (bride’s) mother will visit her
son-in-law’s family. They’ll have a good dinner and the mother will bring
gold jewelry for her daughter.
does she (the bride’s mother) bring the jewelry?
Out of respect.
on Herdeljez the children would have that symbolic bath with red egg, like I
said, and all the unmarried girls would come together and place things in a pot,
and an engaged girl will come forward and we will swathe her in a red cloth, all
the unmarried girls will be there, sitting in the streets of the Mahala, and we
will place the pot in front of her. The betrothed girl, covered in red, will
remove an item from this pot, and we will sing poetry; the poem will depend on
what the girl has removed.
it’s a shame to ask, “Is it my future husband?”
there differences between Gracanica Roma and other Roma?
There are some differences; I don’t know why. Perhaps because Roma, say, from
Pristina, well that’s a city and they learned trades there. Roma from
Gracanica always work with our Serbs, in the fields. When (other Roma) came
here, the Gracanica Roma began to work in the markets. There are still
differences between them.
many Roma, working privately, employed by Serbs?
Many Roma work like the Serbs work- the ones who finished school do. But Roma
mostly do physical labor.
my time- when I was teenager- Roma parents would arrange these things.
(the parents) would go to arrange marriages with another family. Later, If
the bride’s family lived far away, they’d travel by horse, with blankets
thrown over the horse, and the bride would ride in the cart the horses pulled.
We’d bring nice clothes for the new bride, to show the groom’s parents that
we provided for her; we’d bring the clothes in a wooden chest. It’s
the groom’s parents always pay a dowry?
In some places, yes; in some places, no. It depends on the family; if they
are very rich, they’ll ask for, and give, lots of money.
long time ago, Roma didn’t have money to give; so they gave something else. A
cow, a horse or a sheep…
will happen if a Roma boy loves a Roma girl, and they want to marry, but her
father’s bride-price is too high?
Then they’d need to make an arrangement with the girl’s parents. If parents
want to give their daughter away for free, then okay. There are some Roma that
will really understand when the boy’s father says,
came to ask your daughter’s hand for my son; they love each other. I don’t
have any money to give; I’m not rich. The only person who’s really rich is
there are people that don’t care about any of this; they don’t care for
anything. Then it becomes hard.
about the boy and girl? What will they do?
The only solution- the girl will flee her home and go to the boy that she loves.
She loves him; that’s the most important thing.
family welcomed us with Orange
soda, coffee and unfiltered cigarettes; his father sat on his front steps, his
eyes closed as the sun warmed him on the first real day of spring. He politely
declined an interview; he had things to do, plants and soil to poke around in,
and a chair to repair. The Demiris live on the
outskirts of the Mahala, in a house so pretty and well-kept that some of the
Roma neighbors joke that Serbs actually live there.
just welcomed his first child; his wife gave birth in the Serbian hospital in North
and Sead got the news just before we showed up. Gracanica’s Roma travel there
to give birth; Albanian hospitals have only recently begun treating Roma again,
after 3 ½ years of refusal of services. Roma still don’t trust them. There
are too many stories about Roma lying in the waiting room with untreated knife
and gunshot wounds for the Roma to simply walk in when a doctor says they can
finally, after years, expect treatment.
like Afrim Osmani, prepares the Muslim dead for burial. He is responsible for
the ablution of washing the deceased.
I am from Gracanica.
do you properly prepare the dead for burial, and what customs do you follow
during the burial?
For example: if my father died, the elders would prepare his body and place
him in a waddle* of straw. That night, when someone dies, everyone goes there,
and they will sit all night.
is referring to a deviation of the traditional Islamic rite- the Takfeen. A
deceased Muslim is traditionally wrapped in a Kafan- a white sheet. Males are
wrapped in three; women are wrapped in one. These sheets are precisely
they simply cover the body with a blanket. From the next morning until
afternoon, the family and cousins of the dead will come; all the relatives of
the dead will visit. And in the afternoon the Hodja (an Islamic cleric) will
come to wash his body, and prepare him for his grave. All the funeral guests
will walk together with the Hodja to the graveyard.
With the covering around him. The Hodja will then read the Talkin*.
It answers questions about the next life, and other things from the Koran.
is, in Arabic, Takbeer; it is recited, usually by an
Imam, four times. In Arabic, the burial ceremony is know
as the SalatulJanazah.)
dead- his good or bad works will stay with him, and some say that tomorrow he
will be judged.
that all that you do for him?
Seven days after the funeral, the dead person’s friends and relatives will
gather to pray and eat dinner. Others also do this after 52 days, others again
after six months. Others will gather a year later, but some do nothing at all.
do they do during the gatherings?
days are Sadaka- the family will invite guests and feed them.
a Turkish word. Usually Sadaka refers to alms, or charity.)
the Hodja paid for his services?
We don’t pay. Before we needed a Hodja from Pristina. He was Albanian, so
we paid him 100- 200 Deutschmarks. But now we know how to do these things, and
we do it ourselves.
interview was conducted in the Albanian language.
Osmani requested that we not videotape her.
was very difficult. After school (my husband) worked, but we could only buy one
liter of oil and one kilogram of sugar. We also needed wood, but with wood it
was a question of whether we could afford it or not."
of Adilje’s boys have completed secondary school. None of her daughters have.
Convention stated that it was enough for girls to have a few years of primary
school before they were pulled out, to learn the ways of the home. For Roma
women this is enough work to complete a PhD-level dissertation. Their days go
it gets worse when they are first married. They leave their family homes
forever, and in the groom’s family, his mother runs the show. They have to
prove what they know. The do laundry until their hands crack open and their skin
bleeds. They wash their stepmother’s feet every morning. They run and fetch,
they work until a westerner would break down and cry, and then they keep going.
treats her son’s wife with uncommon kindness. Adilje’s daughters have all
been married off, and they’ve gone to Kosovo Polje, Belgrade,
or just down the road; but they come back often. Every evening Adilje’s home
is full of visitors from the Mahala; they smoke and drink coffee and small,
strong, sugary cups of ruskičai-
Russian tea. Adilje often sits off to the side, ignoring them all as she talks
to her husband on the phone. He works in Italy;
he’s been there for a decade. He’s tried to come back; economics won’t
allow him to stay long, and he always ends up across the Adriatic,
separated from his wife and children and grandchildren. It was harder during the
war; he panicked in Italy
while the bombs fell on them, and the phone lines were dead.
you were born?
Gracanica. I’m 46 years old.
father came here from somewhere around Ferizaj.
old was your father when he died?
He was 77 years old.
My mother died when she was 60 years old. She died 20 years ago.
was the first language you learned?
you attend school?
Yes- until the 4th year of primary school. We were so poor, that
we didn’t have shoes.
On Vasilica we bought a goose to kill; the day before, we baked four or five
different types of bread, and we shaped the bread and drew on it.
Vasilica morning we prepared the goose; we baked more bread, with one Yugoslav
Dinar hidden in it. Whoever finds it will have luck. We’d break the bread into
as many pieces as there were members in the family; 11 pieces. Then there’d
be drinking and singing- the song of Sveti Vasilija.
family knows who their visitors will be. When the visitors come, we feed them
goose; they’ll stay until morning, drinking with the family. And the next day
people visit each other and congratulate each other for the holiday.
your family celebrate Christmas?
On Christmas my family made pastries and bought apples, nuts, pears and other
fruits. In the evening, after dinner, we gave the fruits to the children. The
day after Christmas, people visited one another’s homes.
Herdeljez is the 6th of May. Roma buy sheep and new clothes. On that
day they’ll drink a lot. On the 5th of May, all of them have
collected Kukureg and Dren*. With those flowers, they decorate their homes.
the 6th of May begins, at , all the Roma families will
wake up and bathe in water (with Kukureg and Dren). They’ll build fires and
wait for the butcher to arrive.
the butcher comes, we make him coffee, and he kills and prepares the sheep. Some
people will cook the sheep outside, over a fire.
Yes. It was very difficult. After school he worked, but we could only afford to
buy one liter of oil and one kilogram of sugar. We also needed wood, but with
wood it was a question of whether we could afford it or not.
For the first two weeks of the bombing we stayed here; we slept in the shelters.
Then we left, to Belgrade; we stayed there for only two
weeks before we returned.
Adilje relates three stories that she heard from her family when she was a
relative of my father’s died; they buried him. On the way home from the
graveyard, the dead man returned and appeared in front of the funeral
procession. He beat a drum, and followed them home. The children told him-
home. Go to your new place. If the others see you, they’ll be very afraid. We
just buried you- and yet you appear before us.’
dead man disappeared, but later, when our family rested at home, the dead man
appeared on the roof; he began to beat his drum.
Ajet,’ the family called. ‘Stop, the children
he kept playing his drum, and he played other instruments as well. He played all
night; the family had no sleep.
was from Gracanica- my father’s family. And his name was Ajet.
My aunt told this story to my father.
my father’s mother died, she went to Pristina, and nobody knew that. She went
to my father’s aunt, in the form of a dog.
saw that the dog had opened my door,’ my aunt said. ‘The dog had a
beautiful, bright little chain.’
aunt tried to take the chain from the dog. The dog ran; she tried to catch him,
but could not. She ran and ran, but lost her way, and was far from home. The dog
appeared in front of her, and led her to her home. The dog led her until
My mother told me this story.
Serbian woman died in Pristina. She had five children; two daughters and three
sons. She was my uncle’s wife; she died after a long illness. And when she
passed, the family buried her, but her spirit returned to my uncle and entered
his body. She almost stopped his breathing. When the people heard about this,
was a Serbian, but we buried her in the Muslim graveyard.’
returned, every night.mp3
One night she took a donkey from my family, and all night she rode it. In the
early morning, around 4 or , she took the donkey and tied
him to a tree and left him there.
Roma found the donkey, but they didn’t know who owned it. After awhile, they
knew. And every morning they returned it to my family. That donkey was very
continued for six weeks. She did many bad things; she climbed on the roofs of
day her husband asked her, ‘Why don’t you return to your place?’
replied- ‘I can’t. Because your graveyard won’t have me. You should have
buried me in a Serb graveyard.’