gypsies, roma, kosovo


Remzija, Miguel, Emir, Reska and Lulzim

It is Christmas eve, the feast - they say at the camp - during which Christians celebrate the new year.  The whole ice-cold night goes by. At dawn, you can hear a strange creaking sound: the prams, loaded with children, are coming back after a night's begging. The whole camp has gone mangela, entrusting its misery and its desires, sometimes false but sometimes dramatically real, to the pity of the world. They are many, too many, competing with each other, there are more Roma than donors in Brescia. So streams branch off into neighbouring villages. 

Reska too goes mangela, once a week in one place only, on market day. It was a hard decision to go; she had lost the art during the years spent in better circumstances, when her father was working and the family was still small. But just as she was beginning to dream how to escape from the camp, she realized that she had no choice: Bajram, who would work one day and the next have to stay at home, is responsible for the upkeep of no less than ten people.  

Reska goes to the market. She sits on a cushion, and lets people see the irons that hold up her legs. She waits for people to come up and give her something. Then, speaking with the sellers, she has them make her small gifts, and each one comes with an anecdote. Reska has a strange charm, a perfect synthesis between beauty and frailty, coming with a strong and straightforward character. Half the market takes a liking to her. Besides actual needs, mangela is this as well: friendships and stories.   

One freezing cold day in January,  Reska is sitting in the market, and a policeman comes up to her.  

"You can't stay here." 

"Why not?" 

"You are making trouble for people." 

That moment, a lady who has a stand at the market calls Reska by her name and tells her she wants to give the girl some blankets and sheets. 

The policeman is curious, and tries to understand the relationship between Reska and the people of the market. 

"But why do you go asking for alms?" 

"Because I am a foreigner and an invalid". 

"But if you are an invalid, how did you get here?" 

"Driving my car." 

"You mean you have a car and go begging?" 

"Do you see my car, parked over there? It is the smallest kind of car there is, it's fifth hand and my father bought it in instalments since the bus stop is two miles away from the camp." 

Reska starts to tell the story of her whole family, the policeman listens and then walks away, turning his head every now and then to look at her, and quietly repeating her name.  


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