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Posts Tagged ‘romania’

Photo: The Daily Mail
At the Ursul festival, Romany gypsies wear bear skins to ward off evil spirits from the year gone by. This scene in Comanesti, north of Bucharest, is replicated across Romania.

Today I saw a photo in the Boston Globe about an unusual custom in Romania. Inspired to do a Google search, I found a surprising amount of information.

Jay Akbar writes for Mailonline, “In a bizarre ritual every December between Christmas and New Year, Roma gypsies living in Comăneşti, 300km north of Bucharest … put on real bear skins and parade through the streets.

“The festival called Ursul — which is replicated across the country — originated from an ancient Indo-European tribe known as the Geto-Dacians, who believed bears were sacred.

“They and other tribes who lived in what is now Romania and Moldova — then known as Dacia — thought bears were the spirit of the forest and ‘the supreme master of cosmic energy’.

“According to Romanian mythology, the bear possesses the power to protect and heal.

“Villagers would long ago cover a newborn baby with bear fat, to give him strength and luck. And today they believe bear skins protect them from the spirits they are chasing out of the village.”

Read more at The Daily Mail, where you will find lots of terrific pictures.

The Ursul experiences of photographer Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi are at CNN. She recounts how her grandmother used to see Gypsies descending “into towns from the forests in which they lived, bringing with them real bears.”

Up until the 1930s, she says, “Townsfolk would pay the Gypsies in exchange for letting the bear cubs walk up and down their backs — seen as a cure for backache.”

No more live bears today — just people in bearskins.

(Even so, I wonder if I should ask a physical therapist about getting a bear cub treatment.)

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Roma families (also called gypsies, tinkers or travelers) have a hard life in Europe. Recently, Elisabetta Povoledo wrote at the New York Times about some Roma women who are hoping to build a better life for their families by starting food businesses.

“On a muggy July evening, a handful of Italian hipsters milled around a food stand at an alternative music festival in Rome, trying to decipher some of the exotic offerings: mici, sarmale and dolma.

“These Balkan delicacies — barbecued meatballs, cabbage wraps and stuffed peppers — are the basic ingredients of an entrepreneurial scheme cooked up by a group of Roma women looking to better their lives and leave the overcrowded and insalubrious camp in Rome where they currently live.

“They call themselves the Gipsy Queens.

“ ‘Cooking? I’ve been cooking practically since I was born,’ said one of the chefs, Florentina Darmas, 33, a mother of three, who is originally from Romania. …

“Nowadays she is trying to break down some of the barriers faced by her traditionally marginalized group using the universal language of food. …

“ ‘We realized there was unexpressed potential in the community, especially on the part of women,’ said Mariangela De Blasi, a social worker with Arci Solidarietà Onlus, a Rome-based nonprofit organization that works with marginalized people and manages the burgeoning catering business. …

“If their entrepreneurial plans pan out, the Gipsy Queens hope to buy a food truck or rent a kitchen on a more permanent basis — foundations for steady work that will bring in rent money.

“ ‘Getting out [of the camp] is my first priority,’ said Hanifa Hokic, 31, a divorced mother of five children between 8 and 12 years old, who is originally from Bosnia. …

“Maria Miclescu, a 20-year-old mother of two, agreed that to give her children ‘a better future,’ she had to leave. Her husband is trying to establish a small-appliance repair business …

“The oldest member of the group, Mihaela Miclescu, 49, who is a grandmother, was happy to join the Gipsy Queens.

‘I wanted to show Italians that we are not bad people, that we want to work, not to beg.’

More here.

Photo: Gianni Cipriano for the New York Times
Maria Miclescu, left, and Codruca Balteanu at a food stand run by the Gipsy Queens during a music festival in Rome. 

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OK, it’s not really a totem pole, but I was afraid the word kopjafa wouldn’t ring any bells with readers.

Today at church we dedicated a wooden pole that was carved by the minister of our sister church in Transylvania when he visited Massachusetts last year.

A translated Wikipedia entry says that, originally, two kopjafa poles were to used to carry a coffin to a cemetery. The poles were then placed at the head and foot of the mound. But according to my minister, nowadays kopjafa poles are set outside churches and, as in our case, sometimes given to a partner church.

The minister read the poem below as he spoke about our church’s connection to Transylvanians of the (almost) same religion. The subject is a little sad for what we do at Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog, but it fits with our previous discussions about the value of preserving language and customs in minority communities. (Hungarian Transylvania was handed over to Romania after World War I, and has had some challenges, starting with language challenges.)

“Leave, if you can …
“Leave, if you think,
“That somewhere, anywhere in the world beyond
“It will be easier to bear your fate.
“Leave …
“Fly like a swallow, to the south,
“Or northward, like a bird of storm,
“And from high above in the wide skies
“Search for the place
“Where you can build a nest,
“Leave, if you can.
“Leave if you hope
“Against hope that homelessness
“Is less bitter abroad than at home.
“Leave, if you think
“That out in the world
“Memory will not carve new crosses from
“Your soul, from that sensitive
“Living tree.”

Read about the poem’s author, Hungarian poet Sandor Remenyik, here.

Transylvania-kopjafa-at-sister-church

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A WordPress blogger who clicked on one of my posts has a nifty site, here. The blogger is Razvan, from Romania. Razvan apologizes for a lack of fluency in English, but I am grateful for any amount. Wish I could speak other languages.

You will like Razvan’s origami. Here’s a description of the fruit basket below.

“I want to introduce another model Origami3d origami fruit basket, this 3d origami model  consists of about 3,000 pieces. Origami 3d basket is 25 cm diameter and 9 cm tall and is made of around 1,100 pieces.Pieces are made from rectangles of paper with dimensions of 5.2-3.6 cm and took me about 16 hours to finish. 3D Origami fruit are  made of around 170-500  pieces . Pieces are made from rectangles of paper with dimensions of 3.8-2.7cm and took me about 24 hours all.”

I hope Razvan checks out a couple of my past posts on paper art. This one is from Tokyo Bling. This one involves a stealth project in English libraries. And Peter Gentenaar’s Flying Paper Jellyfish and other paper artworks are gorgeous.

3-D Fruit Basket Origami: Razvan at Razcaorigami.

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Photograph: James Montague for The New York Times
Outside the Vakar Lajos rink, where the Hungarian name of the Romanian ice hockey team, Hoki Sport Club Csikszereda, is printed on the ice.

I don’t follow ice hockey, but a recent article on ethnic Hungarians playing for the Romanian ice hockey team caught my eye.

I already knew that a chunk of Romania is like a little Hungary because my church and a church in Transylvania (20 percent ethnic Hungarian) have a longstanding relationship. Exchanges back and forth occur nearly every year.

So in flipping past the sports section the other day, I couldn’t ignore an article by James Montague on the irony of Romania, a country that under communism repressed ethnic Hungarians, having so many of them on their national ice hockey team. A feeder team in Miercurea Ciuc, Romania, calls itself Szekely Land, after a former province of the Kingdom of Hungary.

“The Szekely Land, named for a warrior tribe that dates to the Middle Ages, is a Hungarian-dominated area of Romania, covering three counties in the center of the country. The roughly 1.2 million Hungarians represent Romania’s largest ethnic minority, about 6 percent of the country’s population. The fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire after World War I marooned millions of Hungarians in what is now Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and Serbia. The Szekely found themselves cut off and subject to a policy of assimilation, including heavy restrictions on the use of their language, under the former communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu.”

Sometimes having so many ethnic Hungarians on the Romania team can lead to unhockeylike situations. The “anomaly reached a critical point during a 2011 game between Romania and Hungary in Miercurea Ciuc,” writes Montague. “After the game, almost all of Romania’s players joined with their opponents to sing the Hungarian anthem.

“ ‘Some of the paparazzi caught it, and it was a big scandal,’ said Attila Goga … who has played for the Romanian national team for a decade but holds dual Romanian-Hungarian citizenship. ‘It’s a little bit strange, but I can see that, too. They don’t understand our situation here.’ ” More.

My advice to autocrats: Don’t try to change people’s language. It always ends badly.

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