The children of darkness come to light
They are lucky during summer. Because the day is longer. As darkness lays, they light candles. This is how all the five children write and read for the next day at school. They have high grades and higher aspirations. Maria wants to become a prosecutor. And she is convinced she will succeed.
By Hannelore Acârnulesei
Somehow, I slipped among the residents gathered in front of the block of flats and I managed to enter the staircase. The staircase was gloomy and it strongly smelled of fried foods and mold. I climbed the stairs cautiously and almost with fear. Not to collapse, or something to fall over me. The rail was moving in all directions and large pieces of it were missing, so it couldn’t be taken as a safety hold. Luckily, I only had to climb up on the first floor. I entered the small apartment, where I was friendly awaited by a dog and a strong smell of damp. Three children, two girls and one boy, were sitting on the corner sofa made out of synthetic leather, obedient, almost with their hands kept at their back. They also have another sister, who later came from school, and a older brother. The room was clean, even though they didn’t know before about our visit. On the walls, which once were blue-ciel painted, now deteriorated by moist and with the lime fallen, were hanged two carpets representing bucks with lofty horns. On the other side, there was some furniture made out of cheap wood, a TV and a computer. Behind the corner sofa, through a door hidden behind a curtain, there was the entrance to an other small room. Small. I couldn’t get in, because there was room only for the four topped beds, pushed against the misty and mildew wall, in which the children sleep.
The life from the dark
The girls have almost the same age. One is in the fifth grade, another is in the sixth, the third had just finished the eighth grade and the boy is smaller. He had just finished the second grade. The oldest brother is in high school. They all go to school and have good grades. They all do their homework, by candlelight, at the same desk, one by one. “Sometimes I help them, sometimes they help each other”, their mother tells us. The electricity was cut away three years ago. The electrical installation burnt and they don’t have money to be reconnected again at the electric system. The power company asked 10 million lei (old currency) for each apartment to be reconnected to the system. An amount of money which doesn’t even exist for them. “We cannot afford to give that money. Not today, not in several months. I don’t know if we will ever have the money”, the woman says. She doesn’t work and the children’s father died. They survive with the money the children receive from the State for their dead father, from child allowances and social scholarships. In the evening they don’t have many things to do. They stay in bed and tell stories. “We can’t watch TV, or play on the computer”, says the youngest brother. This is the same for all the 89 children that live in that block of flats, in apartments without electricity. “In this building live sick children, children without parents. The people have a difficult life, they don’t have jobs and they live from God’s mercy”, says Maria Raţ. Most of their parents go scavenging for scrap in the slag dumps and live from a day to another from the neighbours or the state mercy.
Maria and the blind justice
Maria is the youngest girl of the family. She, together with her brother – who is already in high-school – is the best learning out of the five brothers. Maria is the second in her classroom and got the first prize. Her teachers and even the school’s principle say that she is a good child, who has high grades and never makes trouble at school. “She wants to come to school, she attended various activities at school, but not only. She is a good pupil”, says Alin Bogdan, Maria’s class master. “She comes to classes, she doesn’t miss school. She didn’t have any compartmental issues” continues Gabriel Ilie, the school’s principal.“I have big grades at school, from C to A”, the girl tells us. She also tells us that, although she is a good student, she has never been to a school contest, because nobody sent her. Maria already knows what she wants to became when she will grow up. She wants to become a prosecutor. Her reason may seem insignificant. “I watch soaps with trials and I like them a lot”, the girl says. However, knowing right from wrong and being determined, Maria is convinced that she will be admitted at the Law University and eventually she will make justice. Even for herself.
The guilt of beeing different
The oldest girl is now in high-school, in the special positions for Roma children. Even if most of her classroom colleagues have the same ethnicity, only three of them had the courage to admit this and to sign up for high-school on these positions. The child says that, since she made this decision, she hears every day, from her colleagues, words as “gypsy” or other “colorful” offensive words. But she is not ashamed. Why? “Because I am… Roma”, the girl says.
This material was produced within the “Voices of the Roma community in society” regional project. The project is implemented simultaneously in Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. The Romanian edition of the project is coordinated by the Center for Independent Journalism.