Children of the Streets: Reminiscences of Jan Yoors

“But a few weeks later there was once more a Gypsy camp and I succeeded in getting very close to it and then getting acquainted with its children. I soon discovered that these were not the Gypsies I had seen the first night, for these were not as beautiful nor as wealthy. The heavy yellow caravans were the same certainly, but how different they looked without the glow of the camp fire. I was sadly disappointed but I did not want to acknowledge it to myself. There were no little fairy-like princes as on the first night. There were only little beggars. But, nevertheless, there was a bond between us. We were of the same age. Those upon whom I looked as my new friends had a brown skin and black hair and they wore rags.(And what rags!) But all the same I could only see them as privileged people, for they could run about barefooted, and obviously were not compelled to have a daily bath, nor even wash or comb their hair if they did not feel like it. That was what one calls freedom, with no school to attend, to Latin, no algebra!

All these boys has traveled in different countries, could speak several languages ​​and were boasting about i t. But I could also speak a few languages: French, Dutch, German, and Spanish. Excited by their jeers and wanting to outdo them I boasted that I could speak Latin and inquired if they could. As a rejoinder they answered that anyhow I could not understand nor speak a word of their language and would in my life would. ‘Why would I never be able to?’ But on that point they remained obstinate: ‘A gajo can never learn to speak Romani!’ Already at that time the mere suggestion that something might be impossible to achieve exasperated me. If never before a gajo had spoken their language (and on that point they were quite mistaken) I was resolved that I would ”.

Yoors, Jan. 1945. ” Reminiscences of the Lovara “. Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society. Volume XXIV. 8-17.