Jolana Naterova serves me tea in the office of Hope for Children, which she and her family founded. “I grew up in a Roma family. When I was three, the Communists were trying to assimilate Romas and they razed our village---used water hoses to flood and destroy everything. My parents decided it would be better not to bring me and my brother up as Roma children. We stopped talking Romany at home. Our friends who stuck to Roma traditions wanted nothing to do with us. White people didn’t want us either. Our childhood was one big isolation.
“I married Martin, who is not Roma. We had three children, but we did not bring them up with Roma traditions. I didn’t want my children to feel as I did, that the worst thing that could happen was to be born Roma, unwanted and unacceptable.
But children are children. They kept asking if our family were Roma. I said yes, we are. That was the moment when I started to think again, “Who am I actually? Where do I belong?”
“One day, I saw poor children inside the garbage bins, rummaging. I heard Romany words. I saw their heads amid the garbage. That moved my heart. I started to cry. I realized I cannot forget what I am. I cannot lead my life without paying attention to this. I cannot deny my origin and the poorness of my people.”