To quote one of the most read websites in the world,
Wikipedia: Romani – ‘Not to be confused with Romanians – Români, an unrelated ethnic group and nation.’
This one phrase alone explains clear enough how these two ethnic groups are not one and the same. However, the confusion created by the little understanding of this differentiation continues to cause problems for both Romani and Romanians.
It is important to develop on the issue of differences between the two groups, especially at a time when Europe celebrates its largest ethnic minority. By declaring the 8th of April as International Roma Day, the world is invited to acknowledge the autonomy and originality of the Romani culture.
So here is a little background history of the Romani and Romanians
Romania is the Romani people’s homeland; so is USA and Brazil. And just as much, Spain and France.
But, because of the phonetic similarities of the words Romani and Romanians the world mixes the two ethnicities together, until it’s almost impossible to convince someone of the differences. And to be fair, that is as much of an insult to the Romani’s culture as it is to the Romanians. It is unacceptable to completely eliminate someone’s identity, by confusing it with someone else’s.
Romani people don’t come from Rome, and they certainly don’t originally come from Romania. They have a history that dates back to the beginnings of time, just as much as Romanians have theirs. While Romani are and have always been travellers, Romanians have always lived in the land of Dacia – somewhere between Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
Today we call Romania the country of residence for the Romani people, which makes it as much their country as the Romanians’. While both share the same land, blending in together on different levels of social and political aspects of day to day life, they are very much different in their cultural and spiritual beliefs.
Romanians speak the Romanian language, the Roma community speaks the Romani language as well as the language of their country of residence – in this case Romanian. The Romani language has dramatically different roots to Romanian; it is similar to Hindi and other Indian languages but with influences from Greek as well. Some Romanians can understand a little Romani, but most can’t speak it.
The list of differences and similarities between the two ethnic groups can go on and on, but I believe you got the picture by now.
Over the past few decades the view on migration has changed immensely with more and more people embracing a ‘nomadic’ lifestyle. European Union has given its member countries the opportunity to experience freedom of movement, allowing them to choose a ‘Country of Residence’ to their liking, just as the Romani people have been doing for thousands of years.
This does not mean that Romani and Romanians will ever merge in as one; nor does it mean that the stigma on Romani people should continue. The point of this article is to argue against the ignorance that surrounds this subject, and state the importance of addressing with the right words when talking about someone’s identity.