In one town in Romania Sonja & I went for a walk along a river on a dirt road with community gardens, now lying fallow in the fall. We came out onto a residential street, where there were some children playing and two groups of women talking, Romanian women, and nearby a group of Gypsy women. From a distance I threw a tennis ball to the kids. 

(I always carry balls when traveling) they scrambled for the ball and when we came up to the women, the Gypsy women engaged us in conversation. They spoke no English and I no Romanian or Romany. But a language barrier has never been a problem for me anywhere in the world and my very little Spanish has always stood me in good stead. They invited us into their home, Sonja was a bit apprehensive, but I was not. Then they asked us if we would like to have coffee. Sonja again expressed her doubts thinking they might poison us & rob us, but I said nothing of the sort would happen. The house was clean but shabby with a bit of broken-down furniture, etc. Well, they had to go out to a neighbor’s and get coffee & probably the cups too.

Some young Gypsy women then came in and out of their skirts spilled old silver junk, watches, old cane heads, etc. I waved them off and then Ida, the matriarch, chased them out.

(When Gypsies realize that you’re “not a sucker” or a “mark” they can be very sincere, wonderful people.)

Then Ida explained she had an ulcer and wanted “German medicine”.

I told her no, that she should squeeze and drink cabbage juice (with a few Spanish words & pictures).

Then the coffee came, we stood & drank it, there were no chairs in the house, and when that was finished, Ida went over to the far corner and started rummaging around, and when she came back had a beautiful, wooden, handmade, inlaid jewelry box in hand (a specialty of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania) and wanted to give it to Sonja. Sonja looked at me & said she could not accept it, and I said that she must accept it. She did!!

There is not a Romanian, dead or alive, that would believe this story. Gypsies are at times mistreated there and particularly in this area. So, Ida presented Sonja with the really only “decent” thing in her home!!

Ida and I have kept in touch over the past 12 years, she has a scribe write her letters longhand, and in all that time she has NEVER asked me for a thing!! NEVER, not one word. She has mentioned her & her son’s health problems occasionally, and I did send her a photo of Holy Mother and asked her to put it up somewhere and make an offering of food, etc. (so if you ever go to Tirnaveni and see Mother’s photo in a Gypsy home, you’ll know ” Ray and Sonja were here!”).

So a kindness like this is never, ever forgotten. I’ve always wanted to send Ida & her family a token of appreciation, and recently asked the family we stayed with there to do just that, but I never heard back from them. So a few months back I sent her a $100 bill with a card.

In return she sent some photos. Her husband was not home that day, but from the photo I see we had met him in a farmer’s market a day or two before, with other gypsy men who had a beautiful copper still for sale.

It was a great joy for Sonja and myself to meet Ida and her family, a memory and friendship treasured to this day!


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