Lovara ( "horse traders" – Hungarian "horse"+the plural of the nomina-agentis-suffix /-ari/) belong to the group Vlach-Roma . They are called Vlach-Roma or Walachian Roma due to the fact that, just like other Vlach-Roma groups, they were slaves or bondmen for centuries in Moldavia and Walachia, parts of present Romania.


The Lovara living in Austria today arrived in two waves of migration: the first group came in the second half of the 19th century from Hungary and Slovakia, while the second group migrated during the so-called "Hungarian Uprising" in 1956. Today, there are no more close ties to Lovara groups in Slovakia, whereas contacts to relatives in Hungary are still partly intact. This is especially true for those who emigrated in 1956.

Until their prohibition, the Lovara who emigrated during the 19th century into the area of today’s northern Burgenland lived from various mobile jobs such as horse trading. Starting in 1909 , authorities took ruthless action against Roma groups, demanding by law that they either be forced to settle or expelled from the country. In order to keep them from travelling on, their draft animals and wagons were taken away from them. What is more, they could only buy horses or donkeys with special permission from the police.

After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the founding of the Republic of Austria following World War I, the Lovara of Burgenland, which has been an Austrian state since 1921, became Austrian Roma. As such, they were exposed to increasing stigmatisation and discrimination during the inter-war period, which finally culminated in Nazi genocide.

The genocide of the concentration camps was preceeded by the destruction of the Roma settlements. At the end of the 1930's, some Lovara families resided in Burgenland, others in Vienna. Out of the old Viennese settlements, such as "Ringelseeplatz" in Floridsdorf, "Hellerwiese" and "Wankostaetten" in the 10th district that hosted many large families, the "Wankostaetten" settlement served the nazis as an assembly camp for later deportation. This camp was destroyed afterwards, while other settlements and homes in northern Burgenland were demolished and re-built after the war. Only a few of the survivors returned to their villages in northern Burgenland. The larger majority tried to gain a foothold in the big city, often taking up their former mobile professions and making a living as second-hand or carpet dealers. Their original horse-trading profession from the inter-war period lost its significance within the first decade following the war. In general, the authorities of the Second Republic refused to recognize the Lovara as victims of the concentration camps. For the longest time, their members were denied the help and compensation granted to other former internees. It goes without saying that the Roma and Sinti did not have any lobby in post-war Austria to stand up for their rights.

The genocide inflicted on the Lovara by the Nazi terror has to be seen as a fundamental breaking point: extended families and thus the group’s basic social structure were destroyed. Moreover, ever since the time of nationalism the Lovara have not had an ancestral area of settlement, which results in the fact that there has been less contact amongst the different families. Instead, individual families have developed various strategies of survival with regard to the majority culture. The Lovara themselves state that they hardly ever meet in bigger groups, except maybe at funerals or at Christmas. Few families or individuals meet on a regular basis.

As exemplified by the groups who immigrated in 1956 and thus were not affected by Nazi genocide, the changed living conditions in the highly industrialized Europe of the second half of the 20th century is another reason for the drastic changes in living conditions of the Austrian Lovara: niche jobs, such as horse-, carpet or second hand-trading lose their importance. The mobility once necessary for survival now turns into an obstacle. As a consequence, permanent settlements evolve in the cities of eastern Austria, primarily in Vienna.

Current Situation

For the most part, the Lovara live in Vienna and other larger cities of eastern Austria. Only a few of them are found in western Austria. The social structure of the first immigrants, which was still intact before the war, has vanished almost entirely. The extent to which traditions are upheld varies greatly from one family to another, and so does the continuity in the use of Romani. By adapting to the majority society, lifestyle and social situation have changed to such a degree that there remain only traces of the typical structure of the extended family and the strong family ties that were once so characteristic of all Roma.

As a result, Lovara children grow up with the majority language, and the process of handing down their own language has been interrupted in most cases. As a rule, the young Lovara are barely interested in the culture and language of their parents and grandparents.

Members of both Lovara groups are generally doing well in a social respect, taking part in the basic national prosperity. Seen from the point of view of the average Austrian citizen, they lead materially secure and regulated lives.

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) Lovara-Romani – Group and Variety. http://www-gewi.kfunigraz[...]t/romani/ling/lov.en.shtm.
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.


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Image Printable version
Image O Rom njerij e benges – The Rom beats the devil (fairy tale)
Lovara passing through (Radkersburg [Austria]), 1920
Ceija Stojka during a lecture in a school (Vienna)
Karl Stojka is receiving the decoration of the Republic of Austria (Vienna) , 2001
Mongo Stojka in the audience during the awarding to Karl Stojka (Vienna), 2001