Kalderaš

History

The Kalderaš are the most wide-spread Roma group. Having left the area of Asia minor, their predecessors first moved on to Moldavia/Walachia. According to common opinion, the majority of the Vlach-Roma did not leave Romanian territory in order to migrate to the west until after the abolishment of slavery in 1855/56. However, there are no indications among the Kalderaš living in Austria today that would point to the existence of Romanian predecessors. If this were the case, at least the grandparents of the immigrant generation should be able to relate to their own grandparents who were born in Romania. However, it is not like that: the common memory only reaches back to predecessors from Serbian settlements. This allows for the assumption that already before the abolishment of slavery in 1855/56 larger numbers of Vlach-Roma left Romanian territory. Today, the Kalderaš live in many countries all over the world: in Europe, they are mostly found in Sweden, France, Belgium, Russia, Poland, Romania and Serbia. In most countries, there exists extensive literature on this group.

In the wake of the work migration of the 1960's, the Kalderaš started coming to Austria from Serbia as so-called "guest workers", following the usual pattern of work migration: first the men come, who, due to the skills specific to their group – as tinkers and coppersmiths –, find employment primarily in the construction and metal industry. Planning to return to Serbia as soon as they have earned enough money, their stay ends up taking longer than intended. As a consequence, the families follow: first come the women, then the children, and in some cases the grandparents and other relatives or members of the extended family follow. In this way, the center of life of an entire clan can shift from Serbia to Austria (to the larger Vienna area).

Current Situation

Kalderaš children grow up in Austria and attend Austrian schools. As they get older, ties to Serbia fade. If at all, those who have grown up here preserve an indirect relationship to the country of emigration of their parents and grandparents. Today, at least, the members of the younger generation are Austrian citizens.

Seen from a social point of view, the Kalderaš are relatively well established, that is, they have at least the same living standards as other Austrians who came as guest workers from the Balkans in the 1960s. Due to their traditional skillsKalderaš means tinkers – many of the men found work in the metal industry. What distinguishes the Kalderaš from other non-Roma guest workers, is the fact that they have always attempted to switch from the typical guest worker jobs to more independent forms of work, or at least find another more independent kind of job on the side, ranging from the founding of businesses such as restaurants or flower shops through to second-hand dealing and flee-markets. Second-hand dealing in fact corresponds to old "Roma-virtues": anything the Gadže throw away as useless is recycled and sold. This urge for independence is a characteristic feature of the Kalderaš, who have always tried to avoid having to depend too much on the Gadže. This attitude has not only benefited the group itself but has also brought advantages for the majority population, who has profited from the fact that the Roma have always filled so-called economic niches.

Despite this apparent partial integration into Austrian society, which expresses itself in a relatively high level of prosperity, ties among the various Kalderaš families are still intact. The Kalderaš form a so-called "closed network" within the urban "open network society": their variety of Romani (the Kalderaš dialect) spoken by the various groups in different countries has remained strikingly homogeneous. Likewise, the social structure among the Kalderaš living in Austria is still intact: ties within the group are strong and reach far across the Austrian border. A foreign Kalderaš is welcomed with a celebration (páciv) and treated like an important and influential person. Money is no issue here. Thanks to this tradition, the travelling Kalderaš can count on a functioning social net in any country he might visit, even if no contacts were made before his arrival. This active social net is furthermore intensified by marriages across the borders. As a result, every family has a good overview of their members’ stays and travels abroad and can rely on their support at all times.

To this day, both extended family structures and traditional celebrations continue to be upheld. It is not rare to have up to 200 people participating at such festivities as abàv (weddings), slava (family celebrations on a day of a particular saint), kris (juridical gatherings under the guidance of the highest respected member of the group in case of internal quarrels), and pomane (death wakes following a strict tradition in certain intervals until one year after the death of the person concerned). The Kalderaš’ openness toward Gadže is remarkable also in this respect: there is lively contact to non-Roma acquaintances; Gadže colleagues and friends are welcome guests at celebrations.

Family structures (early marriages of the young, bridal gift, rituals of courtship, and strict moral codes) are as stable as ever. In fact, the conservative marriage traditions have grown even stronger in the past years. The young continue in the course of their cultural heritage. Mixed marriages are rare due to the fact that Roma who marry non-Roma automatically manoeuvre themselves out to the very margins of their own society.

The Austrian Kalderaš actively take part in public Roma events. Their representatives are primary executives of the Viennese association Romano Centro (Chairman: Dragan Jevremović). Contrary to the other groups discussed in this study, they have had fewer negative experiences with the majority population and thus have remained more open toward non-Roma. Their positive attitude has certainly benefited the ethnic group’s activities of the past years. Most likely it has also contributed to the fact that members of other Roma groups now take part in various cultural, social, and political events.

Text based on

Fennesz-Juhasz, Christiane / Halwachs, Dieter W. / Heinschink, Mozes F. (1996) Sprache und Musik der österreichischen Roma. In: GLS 46, pp. 61-110.
Halwachs, Dieter W. (2004) Roma und Romani in Austria. http://www-gewi.kfunigraz[...]ni/ling/romani-at.en.shtm.

References

Halwachs, Dieter W. (2001) Romani in Österreich. In: Halwachs, Dieter W. / Menz, Florian (eds.) Die Sprache der Roma. Perspektiven der Romani-Forschung in Österreich im interdisziplinären und internationalen Kontext, Graz, pp. 1-37.
Hancock, Ian (1987) The Pariah Syndrome. An Account of Gypsy Slavery and Persecution, Ann Arbor.
Hancock, Ian (1987) Gypsy Slavery and Persecution. New York.
Heinschink, Mozes F. / Hemetek, Ursula (eds.) (1994) Roma. Das unbekannte Volk. Schicksal und Kultur, Wien.
Schindegger, Florian (1997) Lebensweise von Zigeunern in Wien am Beispiel der Festtradition der Kalderaš. Wien.
Vossen, Rüdiger (1983) Zigeuner. Roma, Sinti, Gitanos, Gypsies zwischen Verfolgung und Romantisierung, Hamburg.
Wippermann, Wolfgang (1997) Wie die Zigeuner. Antisemitismus und Antiziganismus im Vergleich, Berlin.
Image Printable version
Image Amare krečunoske adetur – Our Christmas customs
Image Soste, dale, bijandàn ma – Mother, why did you give birth to me (poem by Dragan Jevremović)
Image Dragan Jevremović interviewed by Mozes Heinschink
Image Musik by Dragan Jevremović and Pera Petrović
Dragan Jevremović and his daughter Olivera (Vienna), 2003