Friday, May 21, 2010

Gypsy Punk: Renewed Interest in Roma Nations

Oh, man... I double-heart Gogol Bordello and Eugene Hütz even more after seeing this movie -- The Pied Piper of Hützovina. Loved, loved, loved it for three reasons:

1) Mainly because I share a similar passion of getting back to my heritage. My grandparents are from the same general area that Eugene and his family are from; grandma's parents were from Lithuania and grandpa's parents were from somewhere in the present day Slovkia. They played a major role in my life during my formative years -- visiting them 3x/week for my first 15 years; until their passing in '96/'97 -- at their home in a ghost-town of a former coal mining community in SwPA called, Bakerwhitely. In their old age, they still had some of their Eastern European cultural tendencies and superstitions -- ones that had seemed so unassuming to me until I visited Russia/Siberia and saw them first hand for myself as part of everyday life.

As we've been tracing our genealogies, my cousin, Rebekah, and I have hypothesized that our grandfather's family is of gypsy descent... based on the fact that they made special effort to leave the past behind when they came to America and did not tell their children (my grandfather or any of his many siblings) any particulars of their heritage; also based on the family resemblance to photos of certain Roma peoples and because we can only trace the lineage back so far -- to the region where the former Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Ukraine meet. Records changed hands (and languages) so many times in the early 1900s that we continue to experience trouble tracking their name/details down.

2) It reminded me so much of my trek to Siberia in 2007. The limited photos that I took could only capture a small portion of the people, places and things that I experienced. The Gypsy camp in Carpathia that they visit in the documentary looks just like some of the villages on the outskirts of town that we visited daily during my trip. Such a sharp contrast between the 'modern, city-life' and the old country life co-existing in such close proximity. Now I have a video to show to friends and family to help them to see another part of the world and culture as I had seen it. The documentary even follows Eugene to Siberia, to a city called Chita, which is only a little way east of Irkutsk where I spent most of that month in Russia. Very well done!

3) I understand now why I am so drawn to belly dancing and gypsy music. It is the nature of the culture and music... it has almost a spiritual aspect to it. The human spirit -- the history/tragedy of that dispersed and discriminated group of people who even still have a wonderfully contagious resilience to find joy (laugh, dance and sing) in otherwise miserable circumstances -- is so ingrained in the culture and expressed through that music and dancing. It's given me renewed interest in studying the language and culture again... with a new focus on the gypsy nations. I must find ways to return to Easter Europe at least once time per year and connect with more folks who share similar interests in this culture.

 Photo from Irkutsk, Siberia: Babushkas (grandmas) are everywhere, here I am stalking three.

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