gypsies, roma, kosovo

The Woman Who Does Not Exist

Photo by Theo Fründt

Ramiza is the oldest sister. Her brothers and sisters speak of her affectionately, as the most helpless of the whole family, illiterate, married to a good but very poor man who collects carton in Macedonia, near Skopje, in the largest camp in the world, Birimbej-Ilinden. Every now and then, Ramiza calls, her voice broken with tears. She speaks of a great wind coming from Kosovo, where the bodies, she says, lie unburied; this wind makes the Roma sick, the epidemic strikes both children and grownups. And she is unable to understand why her relatives, who live in rich Italy, do nothing to help her and her four children.  

These are the most invisible Roma of all Europe. Due to some strange juridical perversion, Macedonia has not granted papers to about 5,000 Roma born elsewhere in Yugoslavia. Ramiza simply does not exist. 

I know little about the situation. They say Macedonia will soon break up, especially since the elections were won by an unlikely coalition between Albanian extremists and Macedonian nationalists. I also know that the main resource of the Roma - street sales - has been crushed by the government. They say that a country where the people are free to sell shirts or food on the streets is not worthy of joining Europe. Of course, Europe is based on the free market, but apparently only for those who are already rich. 


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