Author: Baruch Bavli
The Lashki district in Kremenchuk is traditionally considered gypsy. Why? How long ago did the gypsies settle here? On October 5, 1956, the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR “On the recruitment of gypsies engaged in vagrancy to work” forbade the nomadic lifestyle and equated it with parasitism. According to the laws of the USSR, Roma were imprisoned for up to 5 years for “nomadism and a parasitic way of life”. It was then, as they say, that the Roma began to settle in our city.
However, not everything is so simple: the gypsies have lived in these parts, as they say, “for centuries”. What do we know about this very motley and colorful ethnic group, which plays a noticeable component in the diverse palette of nationalities inhabiting our region? It is believed that the gypsy people developed after the ancestors of the gypsies left India at the end of the 1st millennium AD. e. It is possible that the Muslim invasions served as the reason for their exodus from India.
Initially settling in Asia Minor, the Gypsies lingered for a long time on the eastern outskirts of the Byzantine Empire. In the 13th-15th centuries, they dispersed first in South-Eastern and Eastern, and then in Central and Western Europe, later – in North Africa and North and South America and Australia (by the 19th century). In Western Europe, at the beginning of the 15th century, the gypsies were received kindly. Later, the attitude towards them changed, they began to be persecuted as vagabonds, fortune-telling and begging, outlawed, evicted outside the state or killed. Only at the end of the 18th century, in some European countries, did they become more tolerant.
There was a division into sedentary, semi-sedentary and nomadic gypsies. A nomadic camp is a group advancing through a certain, traditionally established territory and led by an elected leader – a woad. He is the official representative of the camp in front of the administrative organizations of the country where the group of gypsies roam, he also administers the court on internal conflicts.
The position of a woman in the camp is special: she obeys her father, then her husband, she is responsible for the full provision of the family with food. The settled and semi-sedentary gypsies profess the religion and perform the rites of the peoples among whom they live, and easily change their religion upon resettlement. Nomadic gypsies adhere to traditional superstitions and rituals, occult and mystical beliefs.
The first mention of the appearance of gypsies on the territory of Ukraine dates back to the 15th century (in a safe-conduct issued by the great Lithuanian prince Alexander to the gypsy leader Vasily), and their first settlements were in the Uzhgorod region, in Bessarabia and in the Crimea. Gypsies are also mentioned in the Sanotsky Chronicles for 1428 and 1436, as well as in the Lviv Circulars for 1428 and 1455.
Gypsies are believed to have come to the territory of Ukraine from Wallachia and Moldova, and by the 16th century they roamed all over Ukraine. The name “tsigani” appeared in the Ukrainian language at the end of the 16th century; its true etymology has not been established. The self-name of most European groups is rum;, ro;mi. The word gypsy is considered offensive, although it is often used by the gypsies themselves.
According to the 2001 census, 4,067 Roma lived in the Poltava region. In Ukraine, according to the latest data, there are 15 ethnic groups of gypsies, including: Servs, Kalderars, Lovaris, Crimean gypsies (professing Islam), Sinti, Hungarian gypsies, Slovak gypsies, Russian Roma, Chisinau, Ursary, Lyulya and others. Gypsies live in many European countries, as well as in North Africa, North and South America, and Australia. According to various estimates, the number of European gypsies ranges from 8 to 10-12 million people.
Lashki – a small microdistrict on the eastern outskirts of the left-bank Kremenchug – was chosen by gypsy families in the late 60s. The name “Lashki” may come from the Ukrainian “lyakhi” (reduced – “lyashki”). The farm “Lashki” has another name from time immemorial – “Gypsy”. Kremenchug gypsies say: “In India there is the Ganges River, it is also called Gana, so the gypsies used to live there near the river. And then it went, people from Ghana are Ghana. But they didn’t call them Gans, but added the letter “c” and it turned out – gypsies.”
We were surprised how well the Kremenchuk Gypsies are aware of other ethnographic groups of Gypsies. At Lashki, we were told about the differences in language, life, occupations, “laws” and concepts. Moldovan gypsies, for example, know that the language of Russian gypsies has many words borrowed from the Russian language, it differs from the dialect of Moldovan gypsies in the pronunciation of individual sounds and words. There are more gypsy Laets in Russia and they are settled almost throughout the country: “In any region you can meet Russian Roma, even if not many, but there are two or three families, even in the Far North.”
Unlike Russian and Moldovan gypsies, Crimean gypsies profess mystical forms of Islam, so their way of life differs markedly from the life of Russian and Moldovan gypsies. Moldovan gypsies note that Russian gypsies have less preserved old traditions, they are more assimilated. For example, women have long abandoned the traditional costume, go in dresses, and sometimes even
in trousers. Crimean gypsies, on the contrary, strictly adhere to the old “laws”. It was very interesting to hear about the Crimean gypsies. The Kyrymitika Roma got their name from their place of residence – the Crimea, where they moved from the Balkans. It is believed that in the past the Crimean gypsies were Christians, but most likely already in the Balkans, they converted to Islam. The foreign cultural environment affected the culture of the Crimean Gypsies, they are fluent in the Crimean Tatar language, many borrowed Tatar words are noted in their language.
The traditional occupations of the Gypsies of this group were blacksmithing and jewelry making. Among them were also musicians, cabbies, horse traders. Along with fortune-telling, women were engaged in the trade in cosmetics. The Crimean Gypsies have been part of the Russian Empire since the annexation of Crimea.
When the first gypsy camp appeared in Kremenchug is unknown. Most likely, these were representatives who still make up the bulk of the gypsy population of Ukraine today. The Poltava land was also a place of nomadism for other groups of gypsies. So, in the Crimean Gypsies in the passport and other official documents, you can often find the entry “Tatar”, and not “Gypsies”, the Moldavian Gypsies do the same, recording as Moldavians. In Kremenchug, outlying districts remain traditional places of compact residence of the gypsy population. It is under such conditions that the gypsy way of life can be preserved. Gypsies live on Molodyozhny, in Kryukov and on Zanasyp.
During our stay in Lashki, we met almost all of its gypsy residents. Most often, as usual, we turned to the old-timers. The real discovery was Grofo Gaida, one of the oldest gypsies. He was born in 1928 in Moldova, from where the camp migrated to Russia. Today, many of the stories of respected Grofo about nomadic life, family traditions can be called gypsy history. Grandfather Grofo is one of the few inhabitants of Lashki who remembers nomadism on gypsy carts. He is an excellent connoisseur of gypsy folklore. It was from him that we managed to hear stories about how different peoples appeared on earth, why it snows and rains, how spots appeared on the moon, and much more.
Grandfather Grofo says: “The sun is a black hole inside out.” Telling an ancient legend about the appearance of spots on the moon, the old man took us outside. It was already deep evening, and the full moon flaunted in the sky. “See the spots on the moon? That’s where the shepherd is with his sheep. Grofo does not deceive. In the family of Gaida, there is a legend about distant ancestors, to whom it was revealed long ago that their descendants would live in the Poltava land.