© 2002 Friends of Bosnia  

There are approximately 8 to 10 million Roma (gypsies) dispersed throughout Europe and approximately one million in the US. They are the largest and fastest growing ethnic minority in Europe but still have no representation in international circles. Discrimination against them is widespread in scale and usually brutal.

Originally from India, Roma have been nomadic for centuries. They arrived in Eastern Europe in 1380. They were known to travel with musicians, acrobats, dancers and fortune tellers in highly decorated wagons. Half a million Roma died in Nazi concentration camps in World War II. Kosovo has been their homeland for at least 500 years.

By February 2000, 30,000 Roma were left in Kosovo after more than 100,000 had fled. Now that most Serbs have left Kosovo also, the Roma may soon be the largest minority group there. Approximately 300 communities in Kosovo are identified as Roma. Most live in ghettoes in squalid living conditions. Some have not received aid from international organizations in a timely manner, if at all.

Many Roma worked for Serbs after 1990 when Albanians boycotted all Serbian institutions. Since then they have had a reputation for siding with Serbs. During the war, they were accused of assisting Serbs by digging mass graves. They say they are apolitical, trying to survive, and caught between the struggles of two larger ethnic groups. But Roma have now been harassed, kidnapped, and killed by extremist Albanians. Ironically, Roma typically are Muslim and share the Albanian mother tongue and use Albanian names. Due to their lower class, they have also been forcibly returned to Kosovo by Yugoslav authorities and have been unable to seek asylum in many Western countries.

In July 2000, the Romani World Congress declared itself a “non-territorial nation” with a flag, constitution, and anthem but no borders. A nation without a state. A situation not unlike Kosovo right now.




Above: Roma community in the divided village of Kamenica, living in the “Serb” section.
1) Kasandra Studio –a Roma pool hall and chess club in Kamenica.
2) Education of Romani youth has been suspended due to safety reasons. Kids playing with a traditional deck of cards.